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Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (Hinges of History) Paperback – February 13, 2001

4 out of 5 stars 182 customer reviews
Book 3 of 6 in the Hinges of History Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Desire of the Everlasting Hills is another present from the pen of Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews. In this third volume of the bestselling Hinges of History series, he knits together history, politics, sociology, and faith with contemporary insights that yield remarkable results.

After painting with broad brush strokes an entertaining picture of the Greek, Jewish, and Roman world, Cahill focuses on Jesus. With illuminating deductions and clever speculation, Jesus is seen though the eyes of his biographers in their Gospel accounts. Each of these authors' lives is reconstructed in such a way that the richness of their writing and their subject matter is wonderfully enhanced.

The section on Paul, detailing how his life and letters shaped the early church, should be required reading for every student of the Bible. From his beginnings in the cosmopolitan city known as Tarsus through his calling, like the patriarchs and prophets before him, he becomes "the perfect vehicle for this moment in the development of the Jesus Movement." His mix of Greek reasoning with rabbinical training casts the stories of the early church into a thoughtful theology. He is seen here as the earliest egalitarian who not only impacted the early church but all of western civilization.

Cahill challenges many traditional religious ideas while also taking on some of the more radical contemporary interpreters of biblical literature. As with the other volumes in this series, the marginal notes are filled with a wealth of interesting information. Combining his own fresh translation of many New Testament highlights with respect and humor, Thomas Cahill's book is for the believer and nonbeliever alike. --Tracy Danz --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Cahill, no stranger to sweeping historical narratives (The Gifts of the Jews; How the Irish Saved Civilization), triumphs again with this imaginatively written account of Jesus and the early Christian Church. Cahill begins in the manner of most Jesus books, with the Greco-Roman world of the three centuries before Jesus, but here Greece and Rome come to life in Cahill's depiction of their violent despotism. Cahill has an eye for the common person's experience of war, famine and religious upheaval, and it is with this vantage point that he shows readers why Jesus' message of peace and forgiveness was so very startling. Cahill is familiar with biblical scholarship of the origins of the Gospels and their various theological differences, but he is more interested in how ordinary folks might have received Jesus, whom he portrays as "no ivory-tower philosopher but a down-to-earth man" who "hugely enjoyed a good dinner with friends." Although this idea is by no means original, Cahill presents Jesus with infectious energy, and his take on Mary is certainly fresh. "With her keen sense of retributive justice," as evidenced in the Magnificat, Cahill writes, Mary was disappointed with Jesus' odd admonitions to turn the other cheekAshe had been "counting on something with more testosterone in it." The best chapter of all is on Paul, whose theological contributions are beautifully recapitulated for the layperson (Cahill also rightly highlights "Paul's perceptiveness, even craftiness, in dealing with other human beings"). There are a few glosses in the book, including instances in which Cahill elevates pious legend to fact; for example, he asserts that the remains of Simon Peter's home "may still be seen at Capernaum, when in fact the home's history has by no means been stablished. Overall, however this is an engrossing portrait of Jesus through the eyes of His family and followers.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Hinges of History (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385483724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385483728
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Cahill, former director of religious publishing at Doubleday, is the bestselling author of the Hinges of History series.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I think that my fellow reviewers have been much harsher on Cahill than they need be. What Cahill does--which is popular history in the best sense of the word--is very admirable, and the fact that he brings so much gusto and personal opinion to this account of Jesus is par for the course. I mean, which would you prefer--yet another dryly academic treatise on Jesus that summarized all the facts in 800 pages and showed little or no emotion (so that you don't even know if the author is religious or not), or something much more colorful, but that does away with the tight and uncomfortable trappings of scholarly tomes? If you prefer the former, I can only recommend that you learn German, since you can then devote the rest of your life wading through such awfully boring (please pardon my choice of word) stuff as, say, the maddeningly trivial dating of a certain event related in the Bible. But if you choose the latter, then I can say that I don't quite know too many books like Cahill's: concise, engrossing, interesting, and, yes, always fun. If the book does nothing else but engages the reader's interest, then I think it has achieved a noble purpose. Whether you agree with Cahill's opinions or not is of course something else entirely. But then, do you always have to agree with an author's opinion to enjoy his or her book or to benefit from reading it?
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Format: Hardcover
Desire of the Everlasting Hills, like Mr. Cahill's earlier two books, offers more information and insight than can be absorbed through a single reading. While I don't agree with everything the author (or Paul, for that matter) has to say, all of it deserves careful thought and reflection. As in The Gift of the Jews, Mr. Cahill sets the stage for the focus of the book by reviewing events that lead up to the main events. This isn't some "Chariot of the Gods". The author provides not unfounded speculation, but scholarly explanations that are consistent with what is known about how people lived and acted 2000 years ago. Some readers may feel that -- by providing academic, popular, alternative descriptions of issues central to our religious and secular worlds -- Mr. Cahill is playing with fire. I for one welcome the light and heat these books provide. If this book helps readers understand people from other cultures, religions and times, then it can also bring us closer to understanding each other in our own time. And that might be Mr. Cahill's greatest gift of all.
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Format: Paperback
So much intellectual discourse has been written in these reviews about this book. Allow me to give you a layman's review! Thomas Cahill's book is a smart, collegiate look at the times that surrounded Jesus, and it doesn't disappoint.
He examines the different Gospels and their approach to the story of the Jesus, and how each author tailor made the stories to suit a different audience (hence, the sometimes contradictions within the Gospels themselves), which I found delightfully enlightening.
His section on Paul was riveting, painting a picture of how a simple man could be so transformed by an event to change his life entirely. He also works to dispel some myths about Paul, particularly his sexist bias in his letters. He also bravely takes on some church doctrines that are apparently "Bible based", more power to him!
I did find the first chapter difficult to get through at times. I felt that Cahill was using terms and historical names that I wasn't too famililar with, and therefore, left the reader in the dark by failing to explain these people/events/terms. The muddy water soon clears, so just steer a course through the words and trust that your comprehension will come back!
Overall, Cahill's book summed up and affirmed much about what is known about Jesus and his times, and provides an inspiring look at Biblical events in the contexts of world history, leading to a deeper understanding of the Son that has transformed much of our own world.
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Format: Paperback
Thomas Cahill's "Desire of the Everlasting Hills" is an engaging but somewhat disappointing work. In short, Cahill's discussion of the "world before" Jesus is more carefully considered than that of the "world after," with the author's treatment of the person of Jesus himself being an equivocation. Was Jesus merely human or was he both human and divine? I wouldn't have minded a clear argument for either position, but Cahill's narrative seems to hedge between the two. "Desire" sees Jesus as a radical visionary, to be sure, but does not have the courage to either affirm or deny the element of transcendence in the Gospel accounts. Ultimately, though hints of possible transcendence abound, the person of Jesus is reduced to what nearly everyone can affirm (that Jesus was a "great moral teacher"), and when I finished the middle chapters of the book I found myself asking "is that all?" It is true that during Cahill's later discussion of the "world after" Jesus, Paul is described as someone who unquestionably viewed Jesus as divine, but here Cahill fails to make a definitive connection between Paul's theology and the historical figure of Jesus. And the further the book proceeds into the "world after," the more selective Cahill's scholarly sources become, a selection seeming to support a mostly negative bias regarding the institutional Church. This is especially apparent in his discussion of John's Gospel, which is impugned as being anti-Semitic, and is posited to be the primary inspiration for later anti-Semitism in the history of Christianity.

Still, there is much to admire in this work. As I have said, I found the book to be engaging.
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