Three years ago I listened to the author's Modern Scholar lecture on early Christianity. On that basis I bought this book. Maybe I would hear that lecture with different ears now, but at the time I thought he was focused on facts.
I agree with the reviewer who said some correction in perspective on America is needed. But do it through facts, not through oversimplification and slip-sliding over inconvenient truths. I just have room here for a couple of examples.
First, re Judah Maccabee, Madden seemed to want to paint him as a friend of the Empire, so since he's painting Hellenized Jews as the good Jews, friends of the Empire, he didn't mention that Judah Maccabee's revolt was in large part a civil war against the radical Hellenizers among the Jews and he didn't go so easy on the moderate Hellenizers, either.
Second, re Jesus, Madden avoided the fact that to the Romans he was just another one of those Jewish Messiah figures--not in this case a military leader--but if, as Madden says, the main threat to the Empire was religious insurrection, then it would be him & others like him the Romans and their Hellenized friends among the Jews especially wanted to execute during those tumultuous years. Not so consistent with who were the good guys according to Madden!
I read a quote from Madden in a Modern Scholar catalog to the effect that knowing the past will help you not to repeat it, but the reverse is not true--current events do not help in explaining the past. If you retroject them back into the past you will get distortions. I think Madden breaks his own rule, and anyway I think it's too easy to make unpleasant generalities about people his audience loves to hate while cutting them--his audience--slack. He just bends over backward to be an apologist for Rome--and America.
When the author gets to the end and talks about the fall of the Roman Empire, he finally says, It's complicated! Well, it's all complicated. More history, less polemic, please!
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