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The True Herod

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Overview

Who was Herod the Great? How did he come to govern one of the most politically tumultuous regions in the world? Was he the heartless baby-killer of Matthew's Gospel, or does this popular tale do Herod a great disservice?

Geza Vermes, whose work on the Historical Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls has made him one of the most recognisable names in Biblical and Jewish studies, provides a new portrait of Herod. Vermes examines Herod's legacy as a political leader, and a potentate, a man of culture, and an all-round smooth operator. Vermes opens up the fascinating character of Herod, from his sizable and fragile ego to his devastation at the execution of his beloved wife, an execution that Herod ordered himself. Beginning with the key historical sources (notably Josephus) Vermes moves on to consider Herod's greatest legacy and testament - his extensive building works, which include the Temple in Jerusalem, Masada and Herodium. Colour images, combined with Vermes' lively prose make this new picture of Herod an enticing and informative guide to one of Ancient History's most misunderstood figures.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
05/19/2014
If the name Herod elicits the static image of a two-dimensional villain for you, read this by the late Vermes, who was a professor of Jewish studies at Oxford University and much published author (Jesus in the Jewish World). Generously illustrated with images from the time (coins, architectural fragments, mosaics, and documents) as well as maps, later paintings, sculptures, and reliefs, and based on the author's lifetime of scholarship, the text fleshes out this much maligned character from biblical history. Vermes not only gives context for Herod's negative reputation but also provides a fresh perspective for appreciating admirable accomplishments (for example, renovating the Jerusalem temple) and qualities (loyalty, savvy political instincts, fondness for the learned Jews of his time). Still, readers looking for a rehabilitated Herod will not find him here. In this chronological account of Herod's historical context, life, and successors, Vermes also includes all the juicy bits of madness, paranoia, brutality, and heartbreak. The result: a clear and winning introduction to a man both larger than life and fully human. (May)
From the Publisher

"Vermes (Professor Emeritus, Jewish studies, Oxford Univ.; Jesus the Jew), who died in 2013, uses archeological, historical, and religious sources to present a carefully nuanced portrait of a commoner-become-king, surpassed in the Roman Empire of his time only by his friends Augustus and Agrippa. Herod (d. 4 BCE) was generously concerned for the welfare of his subjects (Jewish and otherwise) but was also ruthless against his rivals and opponents who included his family members. Vermes refers to his subject as a "genuine tragic hero" and points out his dazzling architectural achievements (e.g., rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem), his raising the world prominence of the Jewish nation, and his very skillful diplomacy. Both Christian and rabbinic sources have denigrated Herod’s memory, explains the author; none of his offspring accomplished—for great or ill—as much as he did. After his Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, Herod faded largely from prominence except in biased and often apocryphal accounts (e.g. the Gospel of Matthew’s story of his slaughter of the innocent babies shortly after the birth of Jesus). VERDICT This lavishly illustrated text beautifully written "for all and sundry" justifies Herod’s moniker, "the Great," revealing his almost larger-than-life deeds of both good and evil. For academic and lay readers."Carolyn Craft, emerita, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA, Library Journal  “What is most engaging about this volume isn’t the historical information; it is the way that vermes tells the tale. His book is artistically beautiful and aesthetically amazing. The book is meant for all, with no prior requirement beyond a basic education. Students new to historical education will learn the facts of Herod’s life and legacy from one of our generation’s most gifted scholars. Seasoned academics will relearn facts long-forgotten and how to express those facts to readers in a sensible, clear and concise way.” –Savannah Jones, SirReadaLot.org

Library Journal
★ 06/15/2014
Vermes (Professor Emeritus, Jewish studies, Oxford Univ.; Jesus the Jew), who died in 2013, uses archeological, historical, and religious sources to present a carefully nuanced portrait of a commoner-become-king, surpassed in the Roman Empire of his time only by his friends Augustus and Agrippa. Herod (d. 4 BCE) was generously concerned for the welfare of his subjects (Jewish and otherwise) but was also ruthless against his rivals and opponents who included his family members. Vermes refers to his subject as a "genuine tragic hero" and points out his dazzling architectural achievements (e.g., rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem), his raising the world prominence of the Jewish nation, and his very skillful diplomacy. Both Christian and rabbinic sources have denigrated Herod's memory, explains the author; none of his offspring accomplished—for great or ill—as much as he did. After his Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, Herod faded largely from prominence except in biased and often apocryphal accounts (e.g. the Gospel of Matthew's story of his slaughter of the innocent babies shortly after the birth of Jesus). VERDICT This lavishly illustrated text beautifully written "for all and sundry" justifies Herod's moniker, "the Great," revealing his almost larger-than-life deeds of both good and evil. For academic and lay readers.—Carolyn Craft, emerita, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780567575449
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 5/22/2014
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 244,937
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Géza Vermes was Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford, UK and was one of the world’s greatest experts on the historical Jesus, Christian beginnings, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. With the publication of Jesus the Jew (1973) he introduced the idea of Jesus as a 1st century Jewish holy man to the general public. His book The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1962) introduced the English reader to the Scrolls, going on to sell over half a million copies.

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Table of Contents

Part I: A Bird's Eye view of Biblical History
1. From King David to the start of the Hellenistic Period
2. From the arrival of Hellenization in Judaea to the outbreak of the Maccabaean Uprising
3. The Maccabee Trio: Judas - Jonathan - Simon
4. The Hasmonaeans from John Hyrcanus to Mattathias Antigonus
Part II: Herod the Great
Prologue: The main events of Roman history during Herod's age
Introduction
1. Herod prior to his appointment as king (73/2 -40 BCE)
2. Herod, king of the Jews (40 - 4 BCE)
(a) Herod consolidates his rule (37 - 25 BCE)
(b) Herod, the builder (25 - 13 BCE)
(c) The decline (13- 4 BCE)
3. Herod the Villain or Herod the Great
(a) The portrait of Herod
(b) Herod's character
(c) Evaluation of Herod's positive and negative achievements
Appendix: Herod in literature and cinema
Part III: The Descendants of Herod in the New Testament and Josephus
1. Herod Archelaus (4 BCE - 6 CE)
2. Herod Antipas (4 BCE - 39 CE)
3. Herod Philip (4 BCE - 33/4 CE)
4. Herod Agrippa I (41 - 44 CE)
5. Herod of Chalcis (41-48 CE)
6. Herod Agrippa II (50 - 92/3 or 100 CE)
Conclusion
Chronology of Herod's life
Bibliography
Index

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