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Josephus, the Essential Works: An Illustrated Condensation of Jewish
Antiquities and The Jewish War by Paul L. Maier

Kregel Publications
PO Box 2607
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501

I actually had this book on my Christmas list and did not receive it this past year. So when it appeared in a list of items needing to be reviewed, I jumped at the chance. I have not been disappointed.

I never realized how much information could be gleaned from Josephus. This compilation of information from two of his historical books gives much background information that goes along with the Bible. True, his accounts of early Jewish history do not exactly jive with the Bible in all details, but as the time he is covering gets closer to his own time (1st century AD), his account meshes more and more with the Bible. Josephus was writing for the Romans, and he was not a Christian or apparently even a devout Jew. He does mention Jesus twice in this compilation, both times favorably, but Christianity was not his focus. Josephus, however, is considered the most authoritative ancient source for illuminating the people, places, and events recorded in the Old and New Testaments, allowing for more understanding of the times.

Dr. Maier is Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, and this is not his first compilation and condensation of Josephus's writings. He has also written numerous books about the rise of Christianity and the Roman Empire. This particular book covers Josephus's account of the Jewish Wars, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, and up to the siege and mass suicides that happened in Masada.

The book is filled with photographs, maps, charts, and illustrations and is fairly easy reading. It can be read straight through or used as a reference for Jewish history, especially starting at the time of the Maccabees, the Roman conquest, and through the time of Jesus to about AD 70.

Even though the stories of the early Jewish leaders and prophets are not exactly correct in all details, I still recommend this book to anyone, teen or older, who seriously wants to understand Jewish history and Biblical times.

Product review by Nancy Wagner, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, May 2007

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