Desire of the Everlasting Hills


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Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill

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This is the paperback edition. The hardcover is also available.

 

Book Description

Third of a projected 7 volume series called Hinges of History, the bestselling Gifts of the Jews follows the first and second volumes, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, and Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. The fourth, also a bestseller, is Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter.

A lucid rendering of the social and political world of Jesus explores the pervasive Greek cultural influences and the oppressive Roman presence that shaped first-century Palestine. 150,000 first printing. BOMC Main.

Introducing us first to "the people Jesus knew," Thomas Cahill describes the oppressive Roman political presence, the pervasive Greek cultural influence, and especially the widely varied social and religious context of the Judaism in which Jesus moved and flourished."--BOOK JACKET. "We see Jesus as a real person, sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, but kind, humorous, and affectionate, shadowed by the inevitable climax of crucifixion, the cruelest form of execution ever devised by humankind. Mary, while not quite the "perpetual virgin" of popular piety, is a vivid presence and forceful influence on her son. And the apostle Paul, the carrier of Jesus' message and most important figure in the early Jesus movement (which became Christianity), finds rehabilitation in Cahill's realistic, revealing portrait of him."--BOOK JACKET. "This unique presentation of Jesus and his times is for believers and nonbelievers alike (for Jews and Christians, it is intended by the author as an act of reconciliation)."--BOOK JACKET.

About the Author

About the Author
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 and The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus is the third volume in a prospective seven-volume series entitled "The Hinges of History," in which Cahill recounts formative moments in Western civilization. The fourth book, also a bestseller, is
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. 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.

In Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Thomas Cahill takes up his most daring and provocative subject yet: Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of Western civilization.

Introducing us first to "the people Jesus knew," Thomas Cahill describes the oppressive Roman political presence, the pervasive Greek cultural influence, and especially the widely varied social and religious context of the Judaism in which Jesus moved and flourished. These backgrounds, essential to a complete understanding of Jesus, lead to the author's stunningly original interpretation of the New Testament--much of it based on material from the ancient Greek brilliantly translated by the author himself--that will delight readers and surprise even biblical scholars.

Thomas Cahill's most unusual skill may lie in his ability to bring to life people of a faraway world whose concerns seem at first to be utterly removed from the present day. We see Jesus as a real person, sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, but kind, humorous, and affectionate, shadowed by the inevitable climax of crucifixion, the cruelest form of execution ever devised by humankind. Mary, while not quite the "perpetual virgin" of popular piety, is a vivid presence and forceful influence on her son. And the apostle Paul, the carrier of Jesus' message and most important figure in the early Jesus movement (which became Christianity), finds rehabilitation in Cahill's realistic, revealing portrait of him.

The third volume in the Hinges of History series, this unique presentation of Jesus and his times is for believers and nonbelievers alike (for Jews and Christians, it is intended by the author as an act of reconciliation). With the same lively narration and irresistible perceptions that characterize How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill invites readers into an ancient world to commune with some of the most influential people who ever lived.

Back Cover

From the Back Cover
"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."
--Washington Post

"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."
--Commonweal

"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."
--Chicago Tribune

"A very good read, a dramatically effective, often compelling retelling of the Hebrew Bible."
--Chicago Sun-Times

"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."
--Jewish Bulletin

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."
--Boston Globe

"When Cahill shows the splendid results of St. Patrick's mission in Ireland--among them the transmission of classical literature and the evangelization of Europe--he isn't exaggerating. He's rejoicing."
--The New Yorker

"Everything he writes turns to gold."
--Il Mondo

Editorial Review

Books on World Religions

HistoryWiz World Religions

From Publishers Weekly
Cahill, no stranger to sweeping historical narratives (The Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus
, Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels; How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe), 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.

From 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, 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.ADavid Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Beliefnet
Thomas Cahill's new book tells his story of Jesus and Christian origins. It combines his accessible and often lively prose with his factual and imaginative work as a historian. It is also a work of passion and piety, signaled by its title: Desire of the Everlasting Hills....Readers of this new book will not be disappointed. Desire of the Everlasting Hills is informed by both imagination and historical scholarship. He tells us what Peter and Paul looked like: the former curly-haired, bear-like and lumbering; the latter smallish, balding, lean, and quick, with the appearance of a long-distance runner. Cahill's historical treatment of the New Testament is indebted primarily to moderate Catholic scholars such as Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and John Meier, and to non-Catholics such as Richard Horsley and Walter Wink. .... Cahill's passion for a world marked by compassion, justice, peace, and equality shows often in the book, and especially in his closing chapter. There he returns to the question announced in his introduction: did (and does) Jesus make a difference?

The New York Times Book Review, Paul William Roberts
...a stunning success. In many ways Cahill does a better job than the canonical Gospels of presenting the root mythology of an expansive idea whose time, evidently, is still coming.

The New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
...Desire [is] divertingly instructive and imparts gratifying dimension to the beginnings of what later became known as Christianity. Most important, it makes of Jesus a still-living literary presence.

From AudioFile
Thomas Cahill's newest book is subtitled "The World Before and After Jesus." In truth, it's his commentary on the New Testament, the way his THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS was his take on the Old Testament. Using language lay readers will find highly accessible, he discusses the historic and social context of the period. Then, in turn, he examines each of the New Testament authors, showing how they were shaped and how they shaped later Christianity. Cahill's writing is straightforward and translates well to audio. Brian F. O'Byrne's Irish accent gives a flavor to the reading without interfering with the material. And when O'Byrne reads passages from different Bible translations, especially the King James, one is glad to be listening, rather than merely reading. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Booklist
This installment of Cahill's Hinges of History series proves to be as evocative, honest, and enlightening as his first two best-sellers, How the Irish Saved Civilization (1995) and The Gifts of the Jews (1998). By critically examining the history surrounding Jesus' own lifetime, he addresses the question, Did the life and death of Jesus make any difference to society, both modern and ancient? In doing so, Cahill counts himself among the retinue of the "historical Jesus" camp, those scholars who feel it necessary to understand Jesus as a historical personage and to decipher the customs of the early church in order to get the gist of Christianity and its "true" message. Yet this book is not bogged down by either heady sophisticated biblical scholarship or theological wanderings. Instead, Cahill presents the Gospel narratives, the Pauline letters, and the history of the early church with an ebullient vernacular that any layperson, Christian or non-Christian, can appreciate. Cahill, perhaps problematically, presents his opinions in such a matter-of-fact way that his hypotheses are presented as proven truths. He occasionally dismisses well-researched, oft-debated scholarship with a single, arrogant hand-swipe, especially if it doesn't reason well with his own theories. Although what Jesus has taught and said may never be agreed upon, the influence Christianity has had on society, even in these postmodern, secular times, is unquestionable. Cahill delights and fascinates in exposing strange twists of history by engaging new and lively perspectives on ancient debates, and here he does it very well indeed. Michael Spinella

From Kirkus Reviews
A middlebrow history of Jesus and the development of the early church, the third of seven projected volumes examining what Cahill (The Gifts of the Jews, 1998, etc.) refers to as the Hinges of History. Almost every life of Christ since Renans has been revisionist as a matter of course and has usually revealed far more about its author than its subject. Cahill writes as a historian, but his is a record of personalities and places rather than events, narrated in a tone of such relentless subjectivity (In Rome I love to climb the Janiculum, which the ancients called the `Golden Mountain' because of its yellow sand'') that at times it seems more autobiographical travelogue than history. The outlines of the story are well known, to say the least. The ancient world, which elevated the personal daring and civil conquest exemplified by Alexander the Great and the Caesars above every other virtue, became in the early years of the Roman Empire increasingly intrigued by a new philosophy that preached humility and restraint and the immortality of each individual soul. Although the author of this philosophy was killed by the authorities while his movement was still a tiny cult, it continued to grow prodigiously after his death, until it became the dominant religion of the Empire. Cahills introduction to the world of late antiquity will be interesting to most lay readers, but even they may be put off by his annoyingly offhand characterizations (Jesus was a first-century Jew, a rural rabbi from Galilee, the Bumblefuck of its day) and his cheap reductionism (An intellectual overachiever, pushed repeatedly to success by a keenly competitive father, Paul had no time for ordinary social niceties and neither gave nor expected to receive normal social comforts). A straightforward, unremarkable rehash. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Christian Science Monitor
"Cahill is insightful, wry, and highly entertaining as he explores the cultural influences, social expectations, and tricky politics of the day. He examines the New Testament in this light, yet remains respectful. His goal, he states early, is to ascertain whether Jesus made a difference. His conclusion is unequivocal."

Amazon.com
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

Chapter One - copyrighted material

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 you—what 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 sinless—let 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 censorship—only 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 needy—the very people they were meant to help—but 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.

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