This work reveals the critical change that made western civilization possible. Within the matrix of ancient religions and philosophies, life was seen ...Show synopsisThis work reveals the critical change that made western civilization possible. Within the matrix of ancient religions and philosophies, life was seen as an endless cycle of birth and death; time was like a wheel, spinning irrevocably until ancient Jews began to see time differently, as a narrative whose triumphant conclusion would come in the future. From this insight came a new concept of men and women as individuals with unique destinies, and our hopeful belief in progress and the sense that tomorrow can be better than today.Hide synopsis
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I recommend reading this before reading the old testament. Cahill's work is an indispensable compact history of the Hebrew people, and brings out their unique contribution to the philosophy of individualism.. The timeline at the back makes everything fall into place.
The useful picture of pre-Biblical society does not excuse the Author's inaccurate suppositions regarding the personalities, character and motivations of Biblical characters which conflict with boat-loads of primary sources. Overall, it's a silly book.
Unlike his book "How the Irish saved Civilization" (which I found fascinating), Thomas Cahill's book "The Gift of the Jews" lacks scope and scholarly deapth. The author makes to many assumptions (often from his skewed opinions) about the Jews, the Bible and G-d. I was sadly disappointed with Thomas Cahill's poor representation on the enigmatic topic of the Jews and the Holy One of Israel.
Cahill's "Hinges of Civilization" series addresses the intriguing issue of what special "gifts" particular people, places and times have given to the advancement of civilization. The first volume, "How the Irish Saved Civilization," tells the little-known story of how Irish Christians saved ancient languages, culture, writings and attitudes towards culture during the European Dark Ages. This second book examines the story of the Old Testament to determine how the Jews changed the way in which people, through their religion, saw themselves and society.
The book is a fascinating read, and it puts together many insights into the Old Testament in a way that has newer been done before. Cahill acknowledges the problems with the Old Testament as a historical document, but he still teases out from its contens some interesting conclusions that do not seem to depend on any definitive resolution of the disputes over the source document.
I would give the book five stars but for the fact that it is a bit too overtly theistic to appeal to everyone. Still, I would say that the analysis of the changes in the world-view of the Jews reflected in the Bible is worth reading even for someone who does not find a Biblical God necessary to his or her life.
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