Books: Yahweh & Sons A HISTORY OF THE JEWS

by Paul Johnson < Harper & Row; 644 pages; $25

Paul Johnson balefully examined the 20th century in Modern Times (1983). What he found in the barbaric follies of the nation-state and the quack logic of Marxism and fascism was a desecration of the rational tradition he now celebrates in A History of the Jews. Johnson navigates from a fixed position: that the People of the Book reasoned their way to monotheism and so invented Western thought. A thirst for first causes and a moral universe led to ethics and law that the Hebrews codified and refined in the Torah and the Talmud.

The sages were not always consistent. Johnson points...

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