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The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (1998)

by Thomas Cahill

Series: Hinges of History (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,819315,093 (3.76)24
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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English (30)  Slovak (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
This book's perspective offers the freshness of a different lens on the history of Judaism. I enjoyed how it allowed me to see a new view of the cultural interactions and developments of the tribe of the nominal Jews and their neighboring ancient civilizations that grew into kingdoms and city states. You learn new information about origins of labels like Hebrew, plus contextual changes in the purpose and way stories were told and recorded. The diverse and often unknown perspective of the authors' purposes in various written histories were discussed. Concepts of faith and Godly power and holy writings, along with the corresponding developments of spiritual practices were unwoven with humor. Presentation is well organized and may be more like an academic lecture than some may appreciate. This was well worth the time for me, as it opened up some new insights regarding the cultural possibilities that fed into the puzzles of early written histories leading up to medieval times. Sorting reality from tradition in the confusing oral histories that were later written seems to be an art and a science across cultures regardless of the continent. The theory of the Jews originating the concept of an individual purpose that developed into Western thought is well developed and proofed. We will fail to get the truth of early history right without a breadth of knowledge and an acceptance that we may never know the whole of what we do not know and how it fed into what we are now. But, I truly enjoyed this piece of the puzzle! ( )
  WiserWisegirl | Dec 2, 2022 |
This book's perspective offers the freshness of a different lens on the history of Judaism. I enjoyed how it allowed me to see a new view of the cultural interactions and developments of the tribe of the nominal Jews and their neighboring ancient civilizations that grew into kingdoms and city states. You learn new information about origins of labels like Hebrew, plus contextual changes in the purpose and way stories were told and recorded. The diverse and often unknown perspective of the authors' purposes in various written histories were discussed. Concepts of faith and Godly power and holy writings, along with the corresponding developments of spiritual practices were unwoven with humor. Presentation is well organized and may be more like an academic lecture than some may appreciate. This was well worth the time for me, as it opened up some new insights regarding the cultural possibilities that fed into the puzzles of early written histories leading up to medieval times. Sorting reality from tradition in the confusing oral histories that were later written seems to be an art and a science across cultures regardless of the continent. The theory of the Jews originating the concept of an individual purpose that developed into Western thought is well developed and proofed. We will fail to get the truth of early history right without a breadth of knowledge and an acceptance that we may never know the whole of what we do not know and how it fed into what we are now. But, I truly enjoyed this piece of the puzzle! ( )
  WiserWisegirl | Dec 2, 2022 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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Dedication
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
First words
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.
Quotations
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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