[Homeschool Product Review] ~ The Wars of the Jews

I absolutely love studying history from primary sources. So I was thrilled when I recently was given the opportunity to review The Wars of the Jews Set from Memoria Press.

What is a primary source? It is an account of something that happened from a person that actually saw the events unfolding. Unlike a story based on true events, a primary source is going to give an eyewitness account of exactly what they saw.

I received the set The Wars of the Jews, which included a copy of the translated work "The Fall of Jerusalem" by Josephus, a Student Guide and the Teacher Guide.

Josephus lived between 37 and 100 AD. He was born a Jew and fought against the Romans. He was spared death because of a prophesy he predicted and became a translator for the Emperor of Rome. He was granted freedom and became a friend of the Emperor's son and witnessed the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He recorded Jewish history in the first century and focused on the First Jewish-Roman War.

The book The Fall of Jerusalem was translated by William Whiston, and picks up in Book V, Chapter 6 and continues through Book VI. There are 129 pages to read in the text. The translation is at the high school level and not that hard to read.

The story begins with the two Jewish groups fighting each other: the zealots are led by John and the revolutionaries are led by Simon, who was denied a powerful position, so was trying to gain this power by force. The divided Jews were not as strong as they would have been if they were unified and the Romans continued to advance on the city, breaking through the outer wall. Through the story you see excellent examples of Roman warfare and their strategies. You also see stories of bravery and sacrifice: the Jews were desperate to keep their city and the Romans also just as motivated by their leader, Titus, to take the city. The Romans eventually laid siege and the Jews were trapped.

Josephus writes that during this time even he tried to convince the Jews to surrender by telling them of their history and how God had sustained them. But they refused to listen and continued to fight. And we all know that the Romans did succeed and eventually Jerusalem fell.

The accompanying student guide is a consumable workbook. The text is divided into in ten lessons, with the student reading between 10 and 15 pages per lesson.

Each lesson has two to three sections:

Facts to Know: This part is very helpful. I actually began reading the text before looking at the student guide and was a bit confused about the two Jewish men fighting each other. But after a page or two I decided to check out the student book and was very happy to see each of the main character's names and what role they played in the war. In each lesson important characters are given a brief explanation in this section.

Comprehension Questions: This is exactly how it sounds, questions about the text that are to be answered. The questions are thought questions and ask about battle decisions, statements made by characters, the actions by the Jews and Romans, and cause and effect type questions.

Vocabulary: This short section gives vocabulary words to fill in the definitions for. I was sad to see that there are only five vocabulary words in the entire student guide, even though this is for high school students, I do feel that there could have been more vocabulary words to define.

There is a three page comprehensive review at the end of the guide; this has the vocabulary words, people to identify and places to identify quotes from the book. There are also some comprehension questions and  a map where the student needs to identify parts of the city.

The Teacher Guide is simple and is exactly the same as the student guide, except it has all of the answers to the questions and review test at the end.

This month, I officially do not have any high school students. I do have a middle schooler, but felt this was too advanced for her. So I sat down and reviewed this, and in the process learned quite a bit about The Fall of Jerusalem and Roman warfare.

I read the text and completed the first four lessons in the student guide. I did though, read the entire text. I found the story fascinating, and had to keep reminding myself that this was not someone's guess as to what happened, but an actual eyewitness account. That really made parts of the text very real and at times, disturbing. Let me tell you, I am so very thankful I was not there! The Jews were especially desperate to hold on to their city, and went to extreme measures to keep it.

I really appreciated the details in the text and the way it was told. There are also illustrations and maps in the text which I was happy to see.

The Student guide was nicely done also. Many times I did need to re-read the text to find the answers to the questions - this is a high school level course and so being very attentive to the details in the text is important.

I spent about an hour to an hour and a half on each lesson. Since there are ten of them I could see doing this twice a week and finishing it in six weeks, or you could do a lesson weekly and do it for 12 weeks. Either way, I could see counting this as a quarter high school credit in history. This would be perfect to begin a year's study in Early Church history, or to be used during your students study of Ancient Times.

There are other products that reviewers used from Memoria Press check out what they reviewed and what they thought by clicking below.

Classical Writing & Spelling, American History & Jewish Wars {Memoria Press Reviews}

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