Sunday, August 26, 2007

Review of Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem

Friday's Church Times carried a glowing review of Martin Goodman's recent Rome and Jerusalem:

Both cock-up and conspiracy
Cally Hammond on the ruin of Jewish religious practice by the Romans
. . . The excellences of this book are many — clarity, readability, scholarship, balance; the skilful working of original source material into a continuous narrative. As well as the overall approach, there is also polish in the detail. Goodman observes that in many cultures the primary pleasures include eating, drinking, sex, and shopping, before looking at how the Jews differed from the Romans regarding the acceptance of ostentatious consumerism. Material for the preacher here, I think . . . .

1 comment: said...

Unlike Levick's cryptic style on Vespasian, Goodman's is easier to read. But like Levick, Goodman is a naive literalist in his interpretations of the writings attributed to Josephus. Both writers fail to deal with the obvious - that Josephus's original writings were turned into Roman propaganda.

Thus Josephus was made a Jewish commander who 'wisely' saw fit to surrender to superior Roman forces, that is apparently after watching all but one of his Jewish confederates kill each other on the basis of drawn lots. The strange thing is that Josephus's geographical description of Jotapata is a perfect match with that of Qumran - to me a sure indication of skulduggery. The taking of Masada is another classic example of Roman propaganda - the so-called circumvallation wall was obviously built to keep attackers out, not defenders in.

For me the most remarkable thing I have found so far in Goodman's book is the picture facing page 210 of "A typical brick-faced apartment block from Ostia, the port of Rome". Goodman continues: "In Rome itself, three-story blocks were common". Such it appears was the 'house' of Acts in which the earliest Christians 'went upstairs to the room where they were staying'. the house held about 120 brothers - no doubt Jewish ones from all over the diaspora. Thus most were not yet 'believers' but were about to go over to the Spirit that filled 'the whole house'.