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The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way… (1998)

by Thomas Cahill

Series: Hinges of History (2)

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2,473284,703 (3.77)20
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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Just read the last chapter for his conclusion. The rest of the book is a pseudo Jewish history lesson of the oral tradition with YHWH (God) playing the lead. ( )
  Keith62 | Jul 12, 2021 |
This was one of the books I read in the summer of 1998. Cahill's books are excellent works of history, and I have enjoyed reading them over time. ( )
  bloodravenlib | Aug 17, 2020 |
Engagingly written and lively. I adored Cahill's writing and storytelling. ( )
  ErinCSmith | Jul 24, 2020 |
Success is inter-generational...
  Kevin.Bokay | Aug 5, 2018 |
I so enjoyed Cahill's "How The Irish Saved Civilization" that I looked forward to "The Gifts of the Jews" with great anticipation. However, this book falls short. In "Irish," Cahill claimed that Irish monks were responsible for the preservation of written language during the Dark Ages; in "Jews," he claims that ancient Israelites were the first to think of themselves as individuals and to see the world not as cyclical, but as processive. I'm not sure that theory really holds up. Cahill makes some assertions that he doesn't support with facts, and while this is interesting light reading, it's not so much a history as an essay. ( )
  mrsmig | Jan 19, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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To Kristin. How but in custom and in ceremony Are innocence and beauty born? Ceremony's a name for the rich horn, And custom for the spreading laurel tree.
The Elster - DeFlaun Family
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The Jews started it all--and by 'it' I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and gentile, believer and atheist, tick.
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The Sabbath is surely one of the simplest and sanest recommendations any god has ever made; and those who live without such septimanal punctuation are emptier and less resourceful.
But this gift of the Commandments allows us to live in the present, in the here and now. What I have done in the past is past mending; what I will do in the future is a worry not worth the candle, for there is no way I can know what will happen next. But in this moment--and only in this moment--I am in control.
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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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