Thomas Cahill, author of the bestselling How the Irish Saved Civilization
, continues his Hinges of History series with The Gifts of the Jews
, a light-handed, popular account of ancient Jewish culture, the culture of the Bible. The book is written from a decidedly modern point of view. Cahill notes, for instance, that Abraham moved the Jews from Ur to the land of Canaan "to improve their prospects," and that the leering inhabitants of Sodom surrounded Lot's lodging "like the ghouls in Night of the Living Dead
." The Gifts of the Jews
nonetheless encourages us to see the Old Testament through ancient eyes--to see its characters not as our contemporaries but as those of Gilgamesh and Amenhotep. Cahill also lingers on often-overlooked books of the Bible, such as Ruth, to discuss changes in ancient sensibility. The result is a fine, speculative, eminently readable work of history.
From Library Journal
Cahill argues that the greatest gifts of the Jews are the linear theory of history (vs. the cyclical theory of other ancients), with its implication that life can get better and avoid decline and the idea of the equality and dignity of each individual that culminated in the declaration that "All men are created equal." Other gifts include the concepts of universal brotherhood, peace, and justice. (LJ 3/15/97)
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