The Gifts of the Jews

The Gifts of the Jews

How A Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels

Book - 1998
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The author of the runaway bestseller How the Irish Saved Civilization has done it again. In The Gifts of the Jews Thomas Cahill takes us on another enchanting journey into history, once again recreating a time when the actions of a small band of people had repercussions that are still felt today.



The Gifts of the Jews reveals the critical change that made western civilization possible. Within the matrix of ancient religions and philosophies, life was seen as part of an endless cycle of birth and death; time was like a wheel, spinning ceaselessly. Yet somehow, the ancient Jews began to see time differently. For them, time had a beginning and an end; it was a narrative, whose triumphant conclusion would come in the future. From this insight came a new conception of men and women as individuals with unique destinies--a conception that would inform the Declaration of Independence--and our hopeful belief in progress and the sense that tomorrow can be better than today. As Thomas Cahill narrates this momentous shift, he also explains the real significance of such Biblical figures as Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Pharaoh, Joshua, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.



Full of compelling stories, insights and humor, The Gifts of the Jews is an irresistible exploration of history as fascinating and fun as How the Irish Saved Civilization.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Nan A. Talese, c1998
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385482486
0385482485
Branch Call Number: 909.04924/CAH 4565nf 2

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byoneoka
Mar 21, 2016

Cahill is perhaps the most original religious historical thinker today. In this brilliant book, Cahill argues that monotheism and individuality are two sides of the same coin. With the Jews creating monotheism, they also create the idea of individuality and of a social morality to help the weak and the poor. Freed from the primitive notion of life as frozen in cycles, individuals as insignificant, and rule of arbitrary gods, man and woman emerge as important agents who live their own evolving lives, while caring for the less fortunate in our society. The little gods do not control the world, who must be appeased by ritual. Instead, it is our own efforts that determine success in this world. This message is powerful, eye-opening and astonishing in its originality. A great read.

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DorisWaggoner
Oct 17, 2015

Cahill's a stunning writer, and this book, like "How the Irish Saved Civilization," is a page turner--even when you know how the story turns out. His depth of research and understanding are fantastic, and he almost lives up to his subtitle. He takes his subject seriously, yet with great warmth and humor. Cahill's very clear about the importance of the Hebrew Bible to Western civilization, to believer and nonbeliever alike. This isn't "The Bible as literature," but more like "the characters of the Bible as they learn about relationships." The image of the cyclical "wheel" of the Sumerians as it is developed over millenia by the Israelites into the forward movement of historical time makes crucial the first chapter looking at Sumer, the original home of Avraham.

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wyenotgo
Aug 03, 2015

Cahill is the most interesting historian I know of. Beyond the depth of research one expects of a historian, Cahill enlivens his accounts by exploring the peculiarities, obsessions, social practices, lifestyles, dietary traditions, family structures, sexual habits, religious beliefs, etc. that reveal what an ancient culture was really like. In this case, Cahill leaves one with an entirely fresh perspective of the history of the Jews.

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fred98115
Jul 04, 2011

This book is chockfull of original thinking and presents ina clear, concise way the contributions of the early Jewish people to covolization. Cahill shows how the Jews moved us from a cyclical to a processive worldview. They gave us the concept that time has a start and an end, and replaced the world seen as a wheel by a world as a journey. Life came to have value and people developed a conscience. All of this and the Ten Commandments too. This book is a must read and buy.

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