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The doctor lay mutilated in his living room while his wife and daughters turned the swimming pool red. Sick and twisted hatred swelled to strike again!
Perfectly suited to readers of Bernard Lewis and Karen Armstrong, God Against the Godsis a dramatic and eye-opening epic of the final struggle between monotheism and polytheism in the ancient world. It was a war fought by an Egyptian pharaoh, a Jewish king, and a Roman emperor-charismatic, visionary, and violent men battling in the name of the Only True God. Jonathan Kirsch demonstrates how the world of classical paganism was in fact based on religious liberty and diversity and how the advent of monotheism brought-in the name of true belief-holy war, crusades, martyrdom, and inquisitions. The last stand of paganism in the tumultuous fourth century is a rare example of a moment when two men-the Roman emperors Constantine, who initiated the Christian revolution that formed the future, and Julian, who later tried but failed to restore paganism-literally changed the history of the world. God Against the Gods, breaking a long-lived taboo, reveals monotheism's dark side and polytheism's bright one, illuminating the ancient roots of today's most bloody conflicts as well as the cherished idea of religious liberty.
The old Egyptian and Roman gods and the new religion of the Hebrews and Christians have a history. Much of it occurs during the six hundred years or so of the Roman Empire.
The Surprising History and Legacy of the Inquisition The renowned historian and critic Jonathan Kirsch presents a sweeping history of the Inquisition and the ways in which it has served as the chief model for torture in the West to this day. Ranging from the Knights Templar to the first Protestants; from Joan of Arc to Galileo; from the Inquisition's immense power in Spain after 1492, when the secret tribunals and torture chambers were directed for the first time against Jews and Muslims, to the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent women during the Witch Craze; and to the modern war on terror--Kirsch shows us how the Inquisition stands as a universal and ineradicable reminder of how absolute power wreaks inevitable corruption.
Sex. Violence. Scandal. These are words we rarely associate with the sacred text of the Bible. Yet in this brilliant new book, Jonathan Kirsch shows that the Old Testament is filled with some of the most startling and explicit stories in all of Western literature. These tales of seduction and rape, voyeurism and exhibitionism, intermarriage and illegitimacy, assassination and murder have been suppressed by religious authorities throughout history precisely because they are so shocking. "You mean that's in the Bible?" is the common reaction of the contemporary reader to the stories that Kirsch retells and explores.In The Harlot by the Side of the Road, Kirsch recounts these suppressed and mistranslated tales in the grand storytelling tradition. Here is the tale of Dinah, the young Israelite daughter raped by a princely suitor. The price for her hand in marriage? The circumcision of every man in his kingdom. Here, too, is the story of Lot's daughters, who, when faced with the possibility that they are the last survivors on earth, must copulate with their drunken father to continue their race. And the story of Tamar, the harlot by the side of the road, who must disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce her father-in-law in order to bear the child who has been promised her. Kirsch places each story within the political and social context of its time, and delves into the latest biblical scholarship to explain why each story was originally censored. He also brings to light when and where each story was first written down, and how it found its way into the Bible. And he shows how these stories have something important to say to contemporary readers who might never pick up a Bible.Kirsch reveals that the Bible's real power lies in its unflinching lessons in human nature. And he illuminates the surprising modernity of the Bible's characters: these were, like us, people delicately balanced between their destructive and generous natures. Certain to excite controversy and ignite intellectual debate, The Harlot by the Side of the Road will undoubtedly be one of the year's most talked-about books.From the Hardcover edition.
A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilizationby Jonathan Kirsch
"[The Book of] Revelation has served as a "language arsenal" in a great many of the social, cultural, and political conflicts in Western history. Again and again, Revelation has stirred some dangerous men and women to act out their own private apocalypses. Above all, the moral calculus of Revelation—the demonization of one's enemies, the sanctification of revenge taking, and the notion that history must end in catastrophe—can be detected in some of the worst atrocities and excesses of every age, including our own. For all of these reasons, the rest of us ignore the book of Revelation only at our impoverishment and, more to the point, at our own peril."<P> The mysterious author of the Book of Revelation (or the Apocalypse, as the last book of the New Testament is also known) never considered that his sermon on the impending end times would last beyond his own life. In fact, he predicted that the destruction of the earth would be witnessed by his contemporaries. Yet Revelation not only outlived its creator; this vivid and violent revenge fantasy has played a significant role in the march of Western civilization. <P> Ever since Revelation was first preached as the revealed word of Jesus Christ, it has haunted and inspired hearers and readers alike. The mark of the beast, the Antichrist, 666, the Whore of Babylon, Armageddon, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are just a few of the images, phrases, and codes that have burned their way into the fabric of our culture. The questions raised go straight to the heart of the human fear of death and obsession with the afterlife. Will we, individually or collectively, ride off to glory, or will we drown in hellfire for all eternity? As those who best manipulate this dark vision learned, which side we fall on is often a matter of life or death. Honed into a weapon in the ongoing culture wars between states, religions, and citizenry, Revelation has significantly altered the course of history. <P> Kirsch, whom the Washington Post calls "a fine storyteller with a flair for rendering ancient tales relevant and appealing to modern audiences," delivers a far-ranging, entertaining, and shocking history of this scandalous book, which was nearly cut from the New Testament. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Black Death, the Inquisition to the Protestant Reformation, the New World to the rise of the Religious Right, this chronicle of the use and abuse of the Book of Revelation tells the tale of the unfolding of history and the hopes, fears, dreams, and nightmares of all humanity.
David, King of the Jews, possessed every flaw and failing a mortal is capable of, yet men and women adored him and God showered him with many more blessings than he did Abraham or Moses. His sexual appetite and prowess were matched only by his violence, both on the battlefield and in the bedroom. A charismatic leader, exalted as "a man after God's own heart," he was also capable of deep cunning, deceit, and betrayal. Now, in King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel, bestselling author Jonathan Kirsch reveals this commanding individual in all his glory and fallibility. In a taut, dramatic narrative, Kirsch brings new depth and psychological complexity to the familiar events of David's life--his slaying of the giant Goliath and his swift challenge to the weak rule of Saul, the first Jewish king; his tragic relationship with Saul's son Jonathan, David's cherished friend (and possibly lover); his celebrated reign in Jerusalem, where his dynasty would hold sway for generations. Yet for all his greatness, David was also a man in thrall to his passions--a voracious lover who secured the favors of his beautiful mistress Bathsheba by secretly arranging the death of her innocent husband; a merciless warrior who triumphed through cruelty; a troubled father who failed to protect his daughter from rape and whose beloved son Absalom rose against him in armed insurrection. Weaving together biblical texts with centuries of interpretation and commentary, Jonathan Kirsch brings King David to life in these pages with extraordinary freshness, intimacy, and vividness of detail. At the center of this inspiring narrative stands a hero of flesh and blood--not the cartoon giant-slayer of sermons and Sunday school stories or the immaculate ruler of legend and art but a magnetic, disturbingly familiar man--a man as vibrant and compelling today as he has been for millennia.
Lawgiver and liberator. Seer and prophet. The only human permitted to converse with God "face-to-face." Moses is the most commanding presence in the Old Testament. Yet as Jonathan Kirsch shows in this brilliant, stunningly original volume, Moses was also an enigmatic and mysterious figure--at once a good shepherd and a ruthless warrior, a spiritual leader and a magician, a lawgiver who broke his own laws, God's chosen friend and hounded victim. Now, in Moses: A Life, Kirsch accomplishes the wondrous feat of revealing the real Moses, a strikingly modern figure who steps out from behind the facade of Sunday school lessons and movie matinees.Drawing on the biblical text and a treasury of both scholarship and storytelling, Kirsch examines all that is known and all that has been imagined of Moses. In these vivid pages, we see the marvels and mysteries of Moses's life in a new light--his rescue in infancy and adoption by an Egyptian princess; his reluctant assumption of the role of liberator; his struggles to wrest his people from the pharaoh's dominion; his desperate vigil on Mount Sinai. Here too is the darker, more ominous Moses--the sorcerer, the husband of a pagan woman, the military commander who cold-bloodedly ordered the slaying of innocent people; the beloved of God whom God sought twice to murder.Jonathan Kirsch brings both prodigious knowledge and a keen imagination to one of the most compelling stories of the Bible, and the results are fascinating. A figure of mystery, passion, and contradiction, Moses emerges from this book very much a hero for our time.From the Hardcover edition.
Who is a Jew? In this colorful, eye-opening work, bestselling author and lecturer Jonathan Kirsch takes us on a three-thousand-year tour of Jewish identity and diversity and offers answers to this complex and difficult question. Kirsch reveals that Judaism has never been a religion of strict and narrow orthodoxy. For every accepted tradition in Jewish faith there are countertraditions rooted in biblical antiquity: the Maccabee freedom fighters who closed the Bible and picked up swords, dervish-like ecstatics who claimed to enjoy direct communication with God even after they had been excommunicated by a distrustful rabbinate, and courageous men and women who were the forgotten heroes of the Holocaust. With drama and narrative verve, Kirsch explores these and many other "Judaisms" that make up the rich tapestry of Jewish identity.
Study of Old Testament history.
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