The Gifts of the Jews

The Gifts of the Jews

Hardback Hinges of History

By (author) Thomas Cahill

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Paperback $12.84
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell
  • Format: Hardback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 150mm x 234mm x 28mm | 408g
  • Publication date: 1 April 1998
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0385482485
  • ISBN 13: 9780385482486
  • Edition: 1
  • Illustrations note: b/w
  • Sales rank: 682,220

Product description

Taking us first to Sumer in the third millennium, Cahill explores a civilization in which life is seen -- as it was in all ancient societies -- as part of an endless cycle of birth and death: time perceived as a wheel, spinning ceaselessly, never altering its course -- until the ancient Jews dramatically change that perception. When Abraham hears the Voice of God speaking the unexpected words 'Go forth, ' the concept of an unknown future takes hold and Western civilization is born. From this insight the Jews evolve a new vision of men and women with unique destinies -- a vision that thousands of years later will inspire the Declaration of Independence and our hopeful belief in progress and the sense that tomorrow can be better than today.Thomas Cahill narrates this momentous shift with compelling stories, insights, and humor, and draws us closer to such powerful biblical personalities as Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, David, Amos, Isaiah, Naomi, and Ruth.

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Author information

THOMAS CAHILL is the author of the best-selling books, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland 's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, and Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. These books comprise the first three volumes of a prospective seven-volume series entitled "The Hinges of History," in which Cahill recounts formative moments in Western civilization. In "The Hinges of History," Thomas Cahill endeavors to retell the story of the Western World through little-known stories of the great gift-givers, people who contributed immensely to Western, culture and the evolution of Western sensibility, thus revealing how we have become the people we are and why we think and feel the way we do today. Thomas Cahill is best known, in his books and lectures, for taking on a broad scope of complex history and distilling it into accessible, instructive, and entertaining narrative. His lively, engaging writing animates cultures that existed up to five millennia ago, revealing the lives of his principal characters with refreshing insight and joy. He writes history, not in its usual terms of war and catastrophe, but as "narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance." Unlike all too many history lessons, a Thomas Cahill history book or speech is impossible to forget. He has taught at Queens College, Fordham University and Seton Hall University, served as the North American education correspondent for the Times of London, and was for many years a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Prior to retiring recently to write full-time, he was director of religious publishing at Doubleday for six years. He and his wife, Susan, also an author, founded the now legendary Cahill & Company Catalogue, much beloved by readers. They divide their time between New York and Rome.

Review quote

"Captivating...Mr.Cahill's book is a gift." --"N.Y. Times" "This is a valuable book, of interest to everyone, religious or not." --"Washington Times" "A highly readable, entrancing journey." --"San Francisco Chronicle"

Editorial reviews

An engrossing overview of the values and sensibilities of the Hebrew Bible, and of how decisively they have influenced our own. The second (after the bestselling How the Irish Saved Civilization, 1995) of a projected seven-volume series on the evolution of human sensibility shows how the ancient Israelites transformed the idea of religion by gradually introducing monotheism, and equally transformed our sense of time and history. Beginning with Abraham's departure from his Sumerian homeland, the ancient Hebrews broke with the repetitive cyclical image of history assumed by most ancient religions to forge what Cahill terms the "processive" worldview. In this perspective, the present and future become more important than the past, for they are open to change, progress, and hope. Cahill also credits the Hebrew Bible with bequeathing to Western civilization such seminal ideas as the interior self (e.g. in David's Psalms), the universal commonalities of all peoples, and, more dubiously, a focus on interpersonal relationships (e.g. in the Song of Songs). He often manages to turn many a beautiful phrase while being forthrightly colloquial. Occasionally, however, he overdoes the plain talk, missing more profound dynamics, as in noting that he's willing to give God "the benefit of the doubt" for commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22) because "He had to jump-start this new religion and he didn't always have the best material to work with." But he occasionally overstates his case - surely the ancient Greeks were as significant an influence on our values and worldview as the ancient Israelites. Nonetheless, in an age crowded with bloated, pedantic tomes, Cahill offers a refreshingly succinct, illuminating, and readable summary of the Hebrew Bible's enduring wisdom and influence. (Kirkus Reviews)

Flap copy

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.