Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths

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Overview

Jerusalem has been venerated for centuries as a Holy City by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. How this came to be and what it means both to the people of Jerusalem and to millions around the world is now richly told by the author of the best-selling and widely acclaimed A History of God. In every major religion, a "holy place" has helped men and women define their own place, indeed their own importance, in the world. Karen Armstrong shows how Jerusalem has become that defining place for adherents of the three ...
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1998 Hard cover Illustrated. New. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. Contains: Illustrations.

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Overview

Jerusalem has been venerated for centuries as a Holy City by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. How this came to be and what it means both to the people of Jerusalem and to millions around the world is now richly told by the author of the best-selling and widely acclaimed A History of God. In every major religion, a "holy place" has helped men and women define their own place, indeed their own importance, in the world. Karen Armstrong shows how Jerusalem has become that defining place for adherents of the three religions of Abraham. She makes us see that the city has been not only a symbol of God but also a deeply rooted part of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim identity. She traces Jerusalem's physical history and spiritual meaning from its beginnings during the third millennium BC to its politically troubled and violent present. She explores the underlying currents that have played a part in Jerusalem's long and turbulent past, and she considers as well its archaeology and ever-changing topography. Throughout, Armstrong helps us understand the profound mythic sources of Jerusalem's holiness, its continuing power to arouse passions, and why the primal ideal of sacred space is once again a vital issue in Middle Eastern politics.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
British religious scholar Armstrong A History of God has written a provocative, splendid historical portrait of Jerusalem that will reward those seeking to fathom a strife-torn city. Her overarching theme, that Jerusalem has been central to the experience and "sacred geography" of Jews, Muslims and Christians and thus has led to deadly struggles for dominance, is a familiar one, yet she brings to her sweeping, profusely illustrated narrative a grasp of sociopolitical conditions seldom found in other books. Armstrong spares none of the three monotheisms in her critique of intolerant policies as she ponders the supreme irony that the Holy City, revered by the faithful as symbol and site of harmony and integration, has been a contentious place where the faiths have fought constantly, not only with one another but within themselves, in bitter factions. Her condemnation of Israel's 1967 annexation of the Old City and East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War "It was impossible for Israelis to see the matter objectively, since at the [Western Wall] they had encountered the Jewish soul", however, pushes too far her theme of sacred geography as the physical embodiment of motivating myths and legends. May
Library Journal
On the 3000th anniversary of David's capture of Jerusalem, Armstrong A History of God, LJ 9/15/93 wrote this book "to find out what a holy city was" and to see how it is holy to the Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Her work is a historical commentary based on contemporary accounts from the earliest mention of Jerusalem to 1995, thus differing from Hershel Shanks's Jerusalem LJ 11/15/95, which focuses on archaeology, and from City of the Great King LJ 2/15/96, which highlights specific aspects of religious attitude as reflected in art and intellectual history. The concepts of replacing God with the sacred, mythology as an ancient form of psychology, and the symbolism of sacred geography, architecture, and rituals as expressing truths about the inner life are all interwoven throughout the text. Though Armstrong overvalues speculation in promoting her own ideas, e.g., she confidently bases her argument that David and Solomon's court and society in Jerusalem was Jebusite on an elaborate sequence of "perhaps," "could also," and "may have been" statements, her narrative is sprightly and interesting. For academic libraries.-Eugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley
Kirkus Reviews
A weighty but not evenly weighted study of monotheism's sacred geography and the inglorious history of Jerusalem's turf wars.

Armstrong (a former Catholic nun and author of the bestselling A History of God, 1993) begins by desanctifying her setting as a Bronze Age high place of paganism called Rushalimum. Even King David's Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is said to be a Jebusite holy city turned Jewish by biblical chroniclers named J, E, D, and P, who were highly subjective and "cavalier" with their sources. While Israelites are dismissed as Canaanite idol worshipers and even Trinitarians (whom Armstrong graces with belief in Christian typologies), early Christians are depicted as rising above Jerusalem's savage and exclusivist Temple "cult." The author's critical tone recedes as she depicts how the apostle John "saw Christ, mysteriously identified with God himself, seated on the heavenly throne" in a New Jerusalem, a celestial city where Christ had taken the place of earthly Jerusalem. Centuries later, Christianity takes a revolutionary turn from the concept of a Heavenly Jerusalem after the Byzantine "discovery" of the tomb of Christ on Golgotha (whose historicity is unchallenged). Armstrong's tone nearly rises to reverential when the bloody Crusaders are displaced by Muslims, who are depicted as Jerusalem's most tolerant, nonviolent, and monotheistic rulers. We learn that inside the Dome of the Rock are Koranic "verses denying the shocking notion that God sired a son," but we're never reminded how aggressively Islam rewrites and coopts Jewish and Christian scripture and history. While both Christians and Muslims used the Temple Mount as a garbage heap, Armstrong closes with concern that today's Jewish state, whose "claim to the city was dubious," not continue its "sterile and deadly struggle for sovereignty" in the Holy City.

A History of God is a hard act to follow, and this lucid but unbalanced sequel on God's hometown may not be popular with many of those readers most eager to make a literary pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517331231
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 471

Meet the Author

Karen Armstrong, author, scholar, and journalist, is among the world's foremost commentators on religious history and culture. Her books include the bestselling A History of God and The Battle for God, as well as Buddha and Islam: A Short History.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Diagrams
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Zion 3
2 Israel 22
3 City of David 37
4 City of Judah 56
5 Exile and Return 79
6 Antioch in Judaea 103
7 Destruction 125
8 Aelia Capitolina 153
9 The New Jerusalem 174
10 Christian Holy City 194
11 Bayt Al-Maqdis 217
12 Al-Quds 245
13 Crusade 271
14 Jihad 295
15 Ottoman City 323
16 Revival 347
17 Israel 371
18 Zion? 398
Notes 429
Bibliography 445
Index 457
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Reading Group Guide

1. Has reading Jerusalem changed the way you view the city or any of the three faiths that claim it as their own? In what way?

2. Given the passion aroused by Jerusalem’s sacred sites, do you think it is possible for a practicing Jew, Christian, or Muslim to view the city objectively? Do you think that Armstrong views it objectively?

3. Have you ever experienced a place as “holy” or “sacred”? If so, what was that experience like? What sort of thoughts and feelings did you have?

4. In the book’s introduction, Armstrong defines mythology as “an ancient form of psychology.” What does she mean by this and do you agree with her definition?

5. Compassion is central to the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and yet has been sadly missing throughout Jerusalem’s history. Why do you think this is so?

6. Since social justice and peace are central to the ideal of a “holy city,” can Jerusalem—given its violent history—truly be regarded as “holy”?

7. After reading Jerusalem, do you think that one faith lays a greater claim to the city than the others? If so, which one and why?

8. “Suffering does not necessarily make us better, nobler people. All too often, quite the reverse,” writes Armstrong. Nonetheless,we have many cultural myths about how suffering has the power to soften the hardest heart. In your opinion, which of these opposed viewpoints is more “true”?

9. For centuries, Jews did not consider the Western Wall to be sacred. Christians did not develop a devotion to the Stations of the Cross until the early 1600s. Only 150 years after the Prophet’s death did Muslims claim that Muhammed ascended to heaven from the Dome of the Rock. In short, these sites were not originally regarded as holy, but only became so later in history through a sort of general consensus of the faithful. Does this surprise you? Does it change the way you view the world’s sacred sites? How?

10. Armstrong believes that there is a deep human need to regard certain sites as holy or sacred, even in the modern era. Do you agree?

11. Throughout Jerusalem’s history, construction was used as an “ideological weapon,” “a means of obliterating the tenancy of the previous owners,” writes Armstrong. Do you think that this has been true in other places as well? When and where?

12. For all of Jerusalem’s dishearteningly violent history, there have also been long periods when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived peacefully side by side. Today, that is decidedly not the case. How much do you think this change has been due to the creation of the state of Israel and how much to the tension among the faiths that has been growing for the last few centuries?

13. In ancient times, pilgrims visited Jerusalem to “see” God in the holy sites. In modern times, pilgrims—and especially Christians—visit Jerusalem to see historical evidence that “proves” their faith. Yet, as Armstrong writes, archeology provides no clear answers. In light of this, can ours truly be called a more rational age or has one set of beliefs simply been replaced by another?

14. “Zionism would be a secular movement, inspired for the most part by Jews who had lost faith in religion,” writes Armstrong. Does this statement surprise you? Do you agree with it?

15. In late 1996, Armstrong wrote: “As of this writing, the prospect of peace looks bleak.” Do you think that Jerusalem’s prospect for peace has improved, deteriorated, or remained more or less the same since then?

16. Have you visited Jerusalem? Are you more or less likely to visit—or return to—the city after reading the book?

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Customer Reviews

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