A Gripping Historical Novel of First-Century Jewry

The Hungarian Jewish novelist György Spiró’s Captivity tells the tale of a Roman Jew named Uri who travels to Jerusalem as part of an official delegation. To Wesley Hill, the novel lacks literary sophistication but makes up for this deficiency with large doses of historical erudition and excitement—and a deftly executed appearance by Jesus, with whom the protagonist briefly shares a cell in Pontius Pilate’s prison:

Uri is less a three-dimensional person than a vehicle for Spiró to demonstrate his dizzying knowledge of 1st-century Jewish life and his knack for narrative cliffhangers. Uri’s trek from Rome to Jerusalem and Alexandria and back to Rome is a curio cabinet displaying Bildungsromanische baubles. . . .

At times, Spiró’s improbably broad reading seems to serve cliché: Uri encounters multiple luminaries of the ancient world, arriving at historical hinge points just long enough for Spiró’s lens to render a cameo. These cameos provide little new insight into any of the famed Jewish or Greco-Roman personages who cross paths with Uri at multiple junctures—with perhaps one exception. . . .

[B]y having Uri articulate [his rejection of Christianity] only after his return to Rome—after his tour through the pluriform Jewish communities of Judea, after his exposure to the shimmer of Alexandria’s temples and the treasures of its library, and after his eyewitness experience of that city’s frenzied pogrom in 38 CE—Spiró makes clear that his “Jesus novel” is something subtler than a picaresque with cameos. Spiró has plotted a kind of not-“Jesus novel,” in which Jesus is one more all-too-human victim of the world’s insatiable need to make messiahs of its heroes and of the world’s concomitant, relentless persecution of the Jews. To boot, it’s the most enjoyable swashbuckling-Jews-with-swords and not-“Jesus novel” likely to be written for a very long time.

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Read more at First Things

More about: ancient Judaism, Ancient Rome, Arts & Culture, Fiction, Jesus

 

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin