The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History, Vol. 2)
The Gifts of the Jews How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels - Hinges of History, Vol. 2 Author:Thomas Cahill 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 revea... more »ls 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.« less
jjares reviewed The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History, Vol. 2) on + 1956 more book reviews
This is the second time I've read this book; I thought it was such an important story (when I read it in 1999) and wanted to see if I had any new thoughts 20 years later. Originally, I read the book; this time I listened to the reading by Claire Bloom. I did not enjoy her interpretation/reading.
Until recent history, humans saw life as an endless cycle of birth and death. Everything was predestined to happen the same again. Cahill starts his explanation of the gifts of the Jews by telling of the worldview through ancient texts and even the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Then he shows that the Jews began to see things in a more linear way: A beginning, middle and an end. Cahill does an excellent job of explaining the viewpoint and factors of the Old Testament. When God sent Abraham into the wilderness, he helped the Jews see that, by following his word, the Jews had hope for a better future.
God explained to the Jews about Spirit. Before, people only believed in what they could see. Now, God was telling the Jews about an interior life; maybe the real Temple of God was in each person. The Jews created a written language to explore new ideas and to share with the present and future generations the truths learned. They valued books. When they were enslaved in Babylonia, they took their books. When they were released (and ventured back to their home in Judea), they again took their books. They were exploring the importance of personal sin and personal salvation; that they were individually accountable for each individual's life.
Knowing they were the Chosen People of God, the Jews started to think about, 'Why must a good man suffer?' They started to think deeply about their relationship with God. The individual is responsible for his sin, not the whole tribe or group.
One of the most interesting things I learned is that Cahill believes that democracy and capitalism could not have come from Eastern religions.