From the Publisher
"With grace, skill, and erudition, Cahill summarizes obtuse semantic and historical arguments, highlights the findings most relevant to lay readers and draws disparate materials together in his portraits of Jesus, his mother, Mary, and the apostle Paul."
"Desire of the Everlasting Hills imparts gratifying dimension to the beginnings of what later became known as Christianity. Most important, it makes of Jesus a still-living literary presence."
New York Times
"Each of his books also offers moments of genuine insight into the workings of culture, literature, and the human heart....For a book about Jesus and the early Christians, Desire of the Everlasting Hills is itself a gift."
"Cahill's ability to bring life to people of a faraway world ensures that this book will be an interpretive history accessible to believers and non-believers alike."
Los Angeles Times
Praise for The Gifts of the Jews:
"Captivating...persuasive as well as entertaining...Mr. Cahill's book is a gift."
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"He exalts his ancient subjects; their hearts, minds and experiences resonate in his compelling contemporary narrative."
"A very good read, a dramatically effective, often compelling retelling of the Hebrew Bible."
"Thomas Cahill looks at history with the rigor of a scholar but explains it simply, with the skill of a gifted teacher...He conveys with a fresh lens a legacy 'so much a part of us' that we scarcely recognize it."
Praise for How the Irish Saved Civilization:
"Charming and poetic...an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure."
Richard Bernstein, The New York Times
"Cahill's lively prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history."
"When Cahill shows the splendid results of St. Patrick's mission in Irelandamong them the transmission of classical literature and the evangelization of Europehe isn't exaggerating. He's rejoicing."
The New Yorker
"Everything he writes turns to gold."
Most of Europe has been Christian for more than 1,000 years. And as Europeans have conquered and colonized in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia, they have imposed various forms of their religion on the people they encountered to the point where Christianity is, today, the most dominant monotheistic faith in the world. But so what? What does it mean? Did Jesus actually change anything?
This last question is the central query of Thomas Cahill's Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and to get at his answer, Cahill examines the Greek, Roman, and Jewish worlds of the centuries immediately before and immediately after the life of Christ, frequently flitting to more recent centuries for details of comparison.
Cahill's Hinges of History series, which includes How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews, is not focused on telling the details of the past. Instead, Cahill wants to explore themes and trace patterns of profound influence through centuries of development. To that end, Desire of the Everlasting Hills is not a history of Christianity, but the story of Jesus' influence on history. That Christ's name has been used for centuries to justify almost all of the world's most barbaric acts of aggression and neglect is not at issue in Cahill's book. Rather, he asks what those naked acts of inhumanity, still thriving around the world today, reveal about Jesus' impact.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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 cheek--she 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. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews, gives us a wonderfully interesting but curious book on "the historical Jesus" and the early church. Written from a conservative perspective, the work is a readable synthesis of Jesus scholarship. Beginning with a fascinating portrayal of Alexander the Great, Cahill helps us understand the Greeks, Romans, and Jews as providing context for Jesus' life and teachings. He examines the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, and he engagingly describes Mary as a strong young Jewish woman. Curiously, however, despite many helpful sidebars on ancient terms, ideas, and persons, and despite his deep knowledge of New Testament scholarship, Cahill tends to smooth over thorny debates about the differences among the four Gospels. Still, the reader is generally treated to an articulate and sweeping account. Written in an intelligent and devotional style, this book is highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.--David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Cahill's book, the third in the series, deals with the historical Jesus in terms of His times. The first pages set the scene for His birth, beginning with Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. This look at the extent of Alexander's conquests and, later, at the Roman Empire, shows the unimportance, geographically, of the area in which Jesus lived and died. Nevertheless, the politics were complicated: states and rulers came and went, as did tribes, sects, and various peoples over the centuries. Although it's hard to keep track of all of this, the writing is so lively that one really doesn't care. Even the footnotes are interesting. Much of the book deals with the Gospels and how their writing fit into the century after Christ's death. Paul and the four Gospel writers are limned and their writing styles and content put into the context of their personalities and times. Thus, readers see how very radical Christ's message was for its time. In the last chapter, Cahill answers the question posed in his introduction: has the life of Jesus made a difference? While pointing out counterarguments, he answers in the affirmative. One of the book's strengths is the absence of proselytizing, while at the same time showing what a different world this would be had Jesus not lived.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
New York Times Book Review
Cahill accomplishes something the church itself would like to achieve: to wipe the slate clean…and start over again with the original intention…A rare and inspiring book.
Read an Excerpt
Of the many enigmas of John's Gospel nothing is more mysterious than the story that does not belong there. It interrupts the flow of John's tightly stitched scheme of narration, and though, like many Johannine episodes, it gives a starring role to a woman, its supple Greek has all the characteristics of Luke's pen:
At daybreak, Jesus appeared again in the Temple precincts; and when all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them. Then did the scribes and Pharisees drag a woman forward who had been discovered in adultery and forced her to stand there in the midst of everyone.
"Teacher," said they to him, "this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now, in the Torah Moses ordered us to stone such women. But youwhat have you to say about it?" (They posed this question to trap him, so that they might have something to use against him.)
But Jesus just bent down and started doodling in the dust with his finger. When they persisted in their questioning, he straightened up and said, "He among you who is sinlesslet him cast the first stone at her." And he bent down again and continued sketching in the sand.
When they heard this, they went away one by one, starting with the oldest, until the last one was gone; and he was left alone with the woman, who still stood where they had made her stand. So Jesus straightened up and said, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," answered she.
"Nor do I condemn you," said Jesus. "You are free to go. But from now on, avoid this sin."
This entire passage sounds like the Synoptics and could easily be slipped into Luke's Gospel at 21:38, where it would make a perfect fit. It was, in fact, excised from Luke, after which it floated around the Christian churches without a proper home, until some scribe squeezed it into a manuscript of John, where he thought it might best belong. But why was it excised in the first place? Because the early Church did not forgive adultery (and other major sins) and did not wish to propagate the contradictory impression that the Lord forgave what the Church refused to forgive. The Great Church quickly became far more interested in discipline and order than Jesus had ever shown himself to be. This excision is our first recorded instance of ecclesiastical censorshiponly for the best reasons, of course (which is how censors always justify themselves).The anarchic Johannine church had had good reason for its reluctance to attach itself to the Great Church, which it knew would clip its wings; and for all we know, it was a Johannine scribe who crammed the story of the aborted stoning into a copy of John's Gospel, thus saving it for posterity.
The passage itself shows up the tyrannical mindlessness that tradition, custom, and authority can exercise within a society. The text of the Torah that the scribes and Pharisees cite to Jesus is Leviticus 20:10, which reads, "The man who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife will be put to death, he and the woman." Jesus, doodler in the dust and reader of hearts, knows the hard, unjust, and self-deceiving hearts he is dealing with. He does not bother to dispute the text with them, by which he could have asked the obvious question "How can you catch a woman in the act without managing to catch her male partner?" He goes straight to the heart of the matter: the bad conscience of each individual, the ultimate reason no one has the right to judge anyone else.
How marvelous that in the midst of John's sometimes oppressive solemnities, the wry and smiling Jesus of the Synoptic gospels, the Jesus the apostles knew, the holy fool, still plays his holy game, winning his laughing victory over the stunned and stupid forces of evil. This is the same Jesus who tells us that hell is filled with those who turned their backs on the poor and needythe very people they were meant to helpbut that, no matter what the Church may have taught in the many periods of its long, eventful history, no matter what a given society may deem "sexual transgression," hell is not filled with those who, for whatever reason, awoke in the wrong bed. Nor does he condemn us.