KAREN ARMSTRONG. Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
DAVID B. GALBRAITH, D. KELLY OGDEN, ANDREW C. SKINNER. Jerusalem: The Eternal City. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996.
Two summary histories of Jerusalem, the Holy City, both written in 1996 on the eve of the three-thousandth anniversary of David’s establishment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, could scarcely be more different. One is written by a former Roman Catholic nun who left her order to study at Oxford and later taught at Leo Baeck College for the Study of Judaism. She has written a biography of Mohammed, a history of the Crusades, and more recently, her History of God. The other study is a collaboration written primarily for a Mormon audience by three LDS educators, all of whom have served for various periods on the faculty of the BYU Center for Near Eastern Studies at Jerusalem.
The subtitles of both books give us a clue as to their theses. Armstrong writes of Jerusalem as “one city, three faiths.” With the smooth prose of a seasoned storyteller, her history recounts man’s repeated inhumanity to man in the Holy City. Galbraith, Ogden, and Skinner, on the other hand, see Jerusalem as “the eternal city,” constantly in God’s mind and purposes. One is secular history; the other is providential history.