The Chosen People, 1971

The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish History from the Exile until the Revolt of Bar Kocheba was published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1971 in hardback and as a paperback by Panther Books in 1973. It tells the history of the Jews from the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587 B.C. to the Second Jewish Revolt of A.D. 132. John bases his account on traditional texts – books of the Old Testament, Josephus, Philo Judaeus, Dio Cassius, and others – and sets out the complicated parade of plots, counter-plots, betrayals, and insurrections in a brisk and highly readable sequence. His main theme is how the conception of the Jewish nation as a divinely chosen race was planted as a political ambition among the exiled Jews. Bringing together old customs and stories, the idea was fired by the longing of the Babylonian Jews for their traditional homeland. Many of them grew prosperous outside Palestine, and their wealthy communities manipulated the wish for identity into the idea of an exclusive Judaism embodied as a political state and fighting for autonomy against local and imperial neighbors – more dream than fact. John wrote:

When the ‘new Judaism’ came to be hammered out after the return from captivity, it was around these ancient customs and a historicized mythology that it was fashioned. And the mainspring for this romantic movement came not from the bleak, desolated Jerusalem of reality, but from the emotions of Babylonian Jews feeding their imaginations on unhistorical traditions about their origins and paying fervent homage to an exclusive religious cult very largely of their own devising. (The Chosen People, p. 39)

The Chosen People was published by:

Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1971 – Hardcover 1st Edition
Doubleday & Co., Garden City, N.Y., 1972 – Hardcover 1st US Edition
Panther Books, St Albans, U.K., 1973 – Paperback