Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths

Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths

by Karen Armstrong
     
 

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Jerusalem, the Holy City, venerated for centuries by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike; no other city has remained the center of such conflict for so long.

Now Karen Armstrong, author of the best-selling and widely acclaimed A History of God, explains how this came to be as she unravels the meaning of a "holy city" and shows how Jerusalem has become

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Overview

Jerusalem, the Holy City, venerated for centuries by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike; no other city has remained the center of such conflict for so long.

Now Karen Armstrong, author of the best-selling and widely acclaimed A History of God, explains how this came to be as she unravels the meaning of a "holy city" and shows how Jerusalem has become deeply rooted in the identities of all three religions of Abraham.

Throughout, Armstrong helps us understand the mythic nature of Jerusalem's holiness as she explores the "primitive ideal of a sacred space," an ideal that continues to arouse powerful emotions. She describes Jerusalem's richly woven history, tracing its battles, archaeology, and ever-changing topography, which is often designed to reflect a people's inner world.

Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths tells the fascinating story of Jerusalem from its earliest beginnings during the third millennium BCE to the present day, explaining why Jerusalem is still a vibrant, sometimes violent political issue in the Middle East.

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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:
9780694517169
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/28/1996
Edition description:
Abridged, 4 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.13(w) x 7.08(h) x 1.17(d)

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.

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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