Sunday, December 5, 2021

Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (The Hinges of History #3), by Thomas Cahill (author), Brian F. O'Byrne (narrator)

Random House Audio, July 2000

Between 1995 and 2013, Thomas Cahill released a series of books called The Hinges of History, about, as one might guess, critical turning points the history of western civilization. This book, the third in the series, is about the impact Jesus, his teachings, and his followers had on history.

Cahill presents the Mediterranean world before the birth of Jesus, what we know about his life--and yes, historians that have studied his time agree he existed--and how his teachings and his followers changed the prevalent worldview after him. He examines not just what the New Testament tells us directly, but what textual analysis tells us about the New Testament. This includes when the Gospels were written, the clear evidence that different Gospels were written at different times, closer to or further from the death of Jesus, that some parts of the New Testament were apparently based on an earlier source document closer to Jesus' own lifetime, etc. And of course, Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul all show different cultural, social, and economic backgrounds, reflected in how they tell Jesus' story, including what incidents they tell or omit, or emphasize or de-emphasize.

Interwoven with all this is the broader history of the region and era, how this affected the Jesus movement as well as broader Jewish culture--because for much of this period, the Jesus movement was simply one of many Jewish splinter belief groups. Of the many Jewish denominations of the time, only two, the Pharisees and the Christians, survived the end of the ancient world. Unfortunately, they became fratricidal enemies, with the Christians, in the long run, doing overwhelmingly most of the damage.

Cahill is at all times both careful and respectful, valuing every culture's contributions. The previous volume in this series was The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, while the next one was Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. This is a serious look at an important piece of our history, not an evangelical work. It's well-written, thoughtful, and in the case of this audiobook edition, I liked the job the narrator did.


I bought this audiobook.

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