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The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way… (1998)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385482493, Paperback)Thomas Cahill, author of the bestselling How the Irish Saved Civilization, continues his Hinges of History series with The Gifts of the Jews, a light-handed, popular account of ancient Jewish culture, the culture of the Bible. The book is written from a decidedly modern point of view. Cahill notes, for instance, that Abraham moved the Jews from Ur to the land of Canaan "to improve their prospects," and that the leering inhabitants of Sodom surrounded Lot's lodging "like the ghouls in Night of the Living Dead." The Gifts of the Jews nonetheless encourages us to see the Old Testament through ancient eyes--to see its characters not as our contemporaries but as those of Gilgamesh and Amenhotep. Cahill also lingers on often-overlooked books of the Bible, such as Ruth, to discuss changes in ancient sensibility. The result is a fine, speculative, eminently readable work of history.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:59 -0400)
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.
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