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Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (The Hinges of History #3)

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,795 Ratings  ·  168 Reviews
From the bestselling author of How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews, his most compelling historical narrative yet.

How did an obscure rabbi from a backwater of the Roman Empire come to be the central figure in Western Civilization? Did his influence in fact change the world? These are the questions Thomas Cahill addresses in his subtle and engaging inv
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Anchor (first published 1997)
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CV Rick
Nov 19, 2009 CV Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
It's a pleasure to read Cahill's books. Firstly he writes on transitional histories, subjects about which he's both passionate and knowledgeable. Secondly he brings those eras to life with new (to me) information and brilliant texture for the settings and the subjects.

In Desire of the Everlasting Hills he brings the transitional event of Jesus of Nazareth to new light. In exploring the essential Jewishness of the place and of the people he shows that this man's teachings were a new doctrine and
Apr 28, 2015 Emily rated it liked it
Apparently, I did read this book a long time ago. Well, I listened to it on audiobook again this week and I have new thoughts. I also liked the book more for being on CD.

This book was recommended to me over a decade ago by an ex-boyfriend. I wouldn’t have picked it up except that I saw it in the stacks while browsing the audiobooks in the library. It is perfectly delightful to come across books this way. Most of what I read is from my long to-read list or from close friends and family’s recommen
Mar 27, 2013 Nathan rated it it was ok
This book started out so well! It got me all excited to see how he was going to develop the way Jesus changed the landscape of western civilization, and then as soon as he started getting into the text of the Bible, it's all this liberal theology. It was pretty depressing.

The first 65 pages are the real strength of the book. Cahill's prose is easy to read and engaging at the same time. You really get a sense that the world before Jesus was a brutal place where might makes right. It leaves you lo
Nov 11, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing
I'm definitely a Thomas Cahill fan. He describes Jesus Christ and his teachings into the historical setting just prior to his birth and following his death. Gave me a better understanding of the scriptures and the early days of the first believers. Details the research on the authors of the Gospels and the impact Paul had on interpreting Christ to the early followers of the "Jesus Movement". Made me want to study more carefully the teachings of Paul.

I need to remember: "...those of us who have '
Apr 06, 2016 A. rated it did not like it
Shelves: essays
Review: Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Heretics and Heroes

The Hinges of History is a series including the above books plus Mysteries of the Middle Ages and a volume yet to be published. I am treating them together because, as one might expect, they share many strengths and weaknesses of the author, Thomas Cahill.
Heretics and Heroes was the first book I read, it being a gift, and, therefore, re
Aug 02, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christians and non-Christians
[T]his book is part of a series on cultural impact. And the great question about Jesus must always be: Did he make a difference? Is our world--in the century that began with the Turkish genocide against the Armenians, reached its nadir with the "scientific" holocaust of six million Jews (and five million others), not to speak of the slaughter by their own governments of Russians and Chinese in the scores of millions, and now comes to its end with genocides in central Africa and "ethnic cleansing
Oct 21, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing
The third Cahill book I read this summer. And like the previous book, the Gifts of the Jews, this ought to be required reading in high schools and colleges. For similar reasons as the previous book. Those these books have religion as an important component of the works, requiring them does not mean requiring belief in religion. However, our educational system falls short in ignoring the importance of religion, its importance, and what ideas that spring forth of it that sets the West apart from o ...more
May 31, 2009 Tifnie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Tifnie by: Shawnah
I actually started taking notes while I was reading this book for 2 reasons. 1 - this wasn't my book and 2 - I wanted to remember some key points. There are so many points to cover - where do I start?

Desire of the Everlasting Hills isn't about The Fate of Human Societies like I originally thought, that book will appear later on my list, it's about Judism and Christianity. More importantly, it's about discrepancies among the disciples. What one disciple heard in a crowd of people, no one else hea
Sep 20, 2010 Kurt rated it liked it
Really more like 3.5 stars. This was a good book overall, definitely learned something. I really had a tough time with some of the historical research methods of identifying writing and style. It was good because it helped me think about my preconceived notions that were based on no knowledge, but I was disappointed by ideas like the assertion that certain books attributed to Paul within the text itself could not have been written by him simply because of the academic consensus was that the idea ...more
Apr 26, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: sociology, history
So this one would’ve been good, had I not been a Christian. I guess. There was a lot of liberal theology in here and a lot of trying to say that parts of the Bible were written later than they claim to be. This always bothers me since we actually have a lot of very early manuscripts.

Overall not worth it. I already knew everything except this one thing: before Jesus there was no rooting for the underdog. Those who were weak like women, children, slaves, the poor, and defeated nations, these were
Bish Denham
Jan 31, 2016 Bish Denham rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Cahill describes humans beings in this book, real people dealing with real issues. In bringing the apostles, and Jesus, down to earth, he makes the Gospels and the rest of New Testament much more relateable, at least for me. His interpretation of the Book of Revelations was particularly interesting and made a lot of sense.
Sep 03, 2014 Brenda rated it it was amazing
On this Good Friday in 2014 it seems appropriate to consider the impact of Jesus on our history, culture and thought. Thomas Cahill in his continuing series on the Hinges of History takes up the question of Jesus and his impact on Western history and thought in The Desire of the Everlasting Hills, the third book in this projected 6-7 volume series. For Cahill, this series is a means to explore the stories of the “great gift givers who throughout history entrusted to our keeping one or another of ...more
Casey Carr
Feb 22, 2014 Casey Carr rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, dense as these books tend to be bet a very good presentation of the story of Jesus. Mr Cahill does what many historians do which is give more credence to the historical and "factual" nature of religious texts, which simply cannot be known and is dubious at best, and he sets up a lot of false choices ("Either there was something about these experiences that left the minds of the recipients clouded as to time and circumstance, or the experiences themselves were of such a timeless n ...more
Oct 05, 2014 Rochelle rated it really liked it
Thomas Cahill set out to answer the question of the actual significance of Christ on Western Civilization. He also wished to acquaint readers with the Jewishness of Jesus as well as the Jewishness of the synoptic gospels, an often significant oversight by anyone who wishes to understand the development of what is known today as Christianity. The subject matter (a mere two thousand years of history) is complex and its scope is truly epic. Thomas is to be commended for making it very accessible to ...more
Tonya King
Mar 04, 2014 Tonya King rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Cahill's book is a wonderful historical reflection on the far-reaching effects of the life of a "remote rabbi" in the Meridian of Time that not only changed the world but ushered in the Christian world and values we now enjoy. This is another incredible book in the "Hinges of History" series.
Jun 14, 2016 Jann rated it it was amazing
The hinges of history is a fascinating series. Mr. Cahill has attempted to illuminate historical events that he feels have had a positive effect on human development. It reads like a extended opinion article. This is not a bad thing. Many of the historical events are well known to most readers (even to me and I'm not any kind of historian), but Cahill ties them together in a way that helps readers understand how major and sometimes minor historical events and personalities have had a profound in ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Not a theological book, this actually is cataloged as "Biography" in the Catloging-In-Publication data on the title verso. The title comes from Jacob's blessing of Joseph in Genesis 49:26.

So don't read for the theology, read for the language. One of my favorites is that the word translated "inn" in Luke's account of the nativity is actually a word that usually refers to a family homestead. The homestead would have been full--of Joseph's relatives, who as Cahill says, could "count to nine" and gl
Jun 17, 2008 Morris rated it really liked it
Cahill's drive to explain miracles somewhat dampens the beauty and the brilliance of this book. Also, at times he seems to believe that the church has little to do with Jesus. Never fear, soldier on to the end and I think you will find it was worth it.
Bob Rehfeld
Jan 01, 2016 Bob Rehfeld rated it really liked it
The book does a good job of: gaining a better understanding of St Paul; explaining how Christian philosophy permeates modern democratic principles and finally creates an argument for the relevance of Christianity in a modern culture.
Nov 10, 2013 Ed rated it did not like it
Shelves: theology
A disappointing book -- very engagingly written, but in the end it is merely another attempt by a modern writer to recreate Christianity in his own image and likeness.
Ryan Hathaway
May 02, 2014 Ryan Hathaway rated it really liked it
Thomas Cahill is a fine author. His holistic approach to history/theology/mythology examines the transitions of human consciousness. In this third installment of his series, he focuses on the Jesus movement and what it has brought to the world.

I found this to be a worthwhile experience. Cahill balances the micro -- with an examination of the life and times of Jesus -- and the macro -- with his overall thesis on how a short moment in history changed the very trajectory of mankind forever.

Not only
Richard R., Martin
Feb 25, 2016 Richard R., Martin rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book and got a number of new insight from it. I also was encouraged with his insistence that Christ's call to us was to, as Pope Francis says, reach out to the people on the periphery of society, especially the poor and disadvantaged. But I also had some problems with the book. The author was quite critical of liturgical religions. Now granted there has been some who have taken it the excess, to where they ignore the poor, but as a Catholic the Mass for me is the "source and summit ...more
Don Camp
Jan 09, 2015 Don Camp rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the combination of poetic prose and scholarship of Cahill. His scholarship, in particular, is impressive. Regarding the content, Cahill provides a very readable and respectful version of modern scholarship's interpretation Jesus. Cahill also provides a good review of the impact Jesus and the movement that followed had upon world history, ending with a wonderful description of the Trastevere community in Rome. (The latter is a great model for all who want to develop a missional church t ...more
David Donnelly
Feb 01, 2014 David Donnelly rated it really liked it
Cahill's Hinges of History series of works chart the development of Christianity from its Mesopotamian roots through the renaissance with his latest volume. The point of view is decidedly literary and intellectual and will appeal most directly to the educated Catholic. Marketing of How the Irish Saved Civilization, etc. creates some dissonance when one encounters the material for the first time as it is not what one expects. After reading the entire corpus of work I have begun to appreciate Cahi ...more
Mar 11, 2010 Matt rated it liked it
Cahill's history writing doesn't make the cut among scholars, probably for the same reason that reading him is so enjoyable: he is a good storyteller in a discipline sorely lacking them. Nevertheless, this book left me wanting. After an interesting but cursory glance at the world and value systems that preceded Jesus, Cahill approaches this mysterious figure through the lenses of the principle gospel authors. It's a good read for anyone wanting an introduction to the gospels, but Cahill's messag ...more
Kerry Hennigan
Nov 02, 2013 Kerry Hennigan rated it liked it
One of the volumes of Thomas Cahill's series The Hinges of History, Desire of the Everlasting Hills tells the story of the Jewish world of the Middle East before the coming of Christianity and of a young Jew named Jesus whose philosophy gave rise to groups of followers who became the first members of a new world faith.

It is a violent world, a world of Roman overlords and the Jewish leaders who accommodate them. It is also a world or zealots and revolutionaries. Jesus was one of the latter, it ha
Jul 19, 2008 terry rated it it was amazing
Cahill's writing style is as accessible and engaging and his scholarship is vast. I especially like his use of small margin notes with additional thought, translation, history, commentary. Here is a sample of his language related to Jesus's baptism scene, which has led me to think of it as a compelling view for adoptive christology:

As he breaks the surface of the water, he sees the heavens torn open and God's Spirit "like a dove, descending..." Mark fails to tell us if anyone but Jesus saw and
Jul 07, 2011 Joan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who appreciate history and its influence on culture
This is, as one my friends says, ". . . my kind of book!" Cahill has the writing style to really enhance history and he has definitely done this in "Desire of the Everlasting Hills." It is a beautiful, lyrical discussion of the eras just before, during, and after the time Jesus walked the hills and countryside--including Jerusalem--of Israel.
Cahill starts with the era of Alexander the Great, his conquests and influence on the lands he conquers. To see the world being prepared--literally--for the
May 03, 2013 Kathleen rated it liked it
Shelves: history-quasi
This is book #3 in the Hinges of History series. It's fairly interesting and thought-provoking at times. Cahill describes how the message of Christ changed civilization. He attributes to Christ (and to Christians) the gradual propagation of widespread principles of mercy, forgiveness, and second chances (opposed to the eye-for-an-eye system of retribution). He also attributes to Christianity the eventual spread of literacy and bringing an end to human sacrifice in some cultures. Cahill was a lit ...more
Tim Dorman
Dec 18, 2010 Tim Dorman rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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  • Jesus before Christianity
  • Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship
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  • The Roman Way
Born in New York City to Irish-American parents and raised in Queens and the Bronx, Cahill was educated by Jesuits and studied ancient Greek and Latin. He continued his study of Greek and Latin literature, as well as medieval philosophy, scripture and theology, at Fordham University, where he completed a B.A. in classical literature and philosophy in 1964, and a pontifical degree in philosophy in ...more
More about Thomas Cahill...

Other Books in the Series

The Hinges of History (6 books)
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization
  • The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels
  • Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter
  • Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe
  • Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World

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“In the cities of the Jewish diaspora (especially Alexandria, Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, and Rome), Jews were widely admired by their gentile neighbors. For one thing, they had a real religion, not a clutter of gods and goddesses and pro forma rituals that almost nobody took seriously anymore. They actually believed in their one God; and, imagine, they even set aside one day a week to pray to him and reflect on their lives. They possessed a dignified library of sacred books that they studied reverently as part of this weekly reflection and which, if more than a little odd in their Greek translation, seemed to point toward a consistent worldview. Besides their religious seriousness, Jews were unusual in a number of ways that caught the attention of gentiles. They were faithful spouses—no, really—who maintained strong families in which even grown children remained affectively attached and respectful to their parents. Despite Caesar Nero’s shining example, matricide was virtually unknown among them. Despite their growing economic success, they tended to be more scrupulous in business than non-Jews. And they were downright finicky when it came to taking human life, seeming to value even a slave’s or a plebeian’s life as much as anyone else’s. Perhaps in nothing did the gentiles find the Jews so admirable as in their acts of charity. Communities of urban Jews, in addition to opening synagogues, built welfare centers for aiding the poor, the miserable, the sick, the homebound, the imprisoned, and those, such as widows and orphans, who had no family to care for them. For all these reasons, the diaspora cities of the first century saw a marked increase in gentile initiates to Judaism. Many of these were wellborn women who presided over substantial households and who had likely tried out some of the Eastern mystery cults before settling on Judaism. (Nero’s wife Poppea was almost certainly one of these, and probably the person responsible for instructing Nero in the subtle difference between Christians and more traditional Jews, which he would otherwise scarcely have been aware of.) These gentiles did not, generally speaking, go all the way. Because they tended to draw the line at circumcision, they were not considered complete Jews. They were, rather, noachides, or God-fearers, gentiles who remained gentiles while keeping the Sabbath and many of the Jewish dietary restrictions and coming to put their trust in the one God of the Jews. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, however, could turn out to be a difficult test of the commitment of the noachides. For here in the heart of the Jewish world, they encountered Judaism enragé, a provincial religion concerned only with itself, and ages apart from the rational, tolerant Judaism of the diaspora. In the words of Paul Johnson:” 0 likes
“In the words of Paul Johnson: The Temple, now, in Herod’s1 version, rising triumphantly over Jerusalem, was an ocular reminder that Judaism was about Jews and their history—not about anyone else. Other gods flew across the deserts from the East without much difficulty, jettisoning the inconvenient and embarrassing accretions from their past, changing, as it were, their accents and manners as well as their names. But the God of the Jews was still alive and roaring in his Temple, demanding blood, making no attempt to conceal his racial and primitive origins. Herod’s fabric was elegant, modern, sophisticated—he had, indeed, added some Hellenic decorative effects much resented by fundamentalist Jews who constantly sought to destroy them—but nothing could hide the essential business of the Temple, which was the ritual slaughter, consumption, and combustion of sacrificial cattle on a gigantic scale. The place was as vast as a small city. There were literally thousands of priests, attendants, temple-soldiers, and minions. To the unprepared visitor, the dignity and charity of Jewish disapora life, the thoughtful comments and homilies of the Alexandrian synagogue, was quite lost amid the smoke of the pyres, the bellows of terrified beasts, the sluices of blood, the abattoir stench, the unconcealed and unconcealable machinery of tribal religion inflated by modern wealth to an industrial scale. Sophisticated Romans who knew the Judaism of the diaspora found it hard to understand the hostility towards Jews shown by colonial officials who, behind a heavily-armed escort, had witnessed Jerusalem at festival time. Diaspora Judaism, liberal and outward-minded, contained the matrix of a universal religion, but only if it could be cut off from its barbarous origins; and how could so thick and sinewy an umbilical cord be severed? This description of “Herod’s” Temple (actually the Second Temple, built in the sixth century B.C. and rebuilt by Herod) is more than a bit overwrought. The God of the Jews did not roar in his Temple: the insoluble problem was that, since the destruction of the First Temple and, with it, the Ark of the Covenant, God had ceased to be present in his Temple. Nor would animal sacrifice have disgusted the gentiles, since Greeks, Romans, and all ancient peoples offered such sacrifices (though one cannot help wondering whether, had the Second Temple not been destroyed, it would today be ringed from morn to night by indignant animal-rights activists). But Johnson is right to emphasize that Judaism, in its mother city, could display a sweaty tribalism that gentiles would only find unattractive. The partisan, argumentative ambience of first-century Jerusalem, not unlike the atmosphere of the ultra-Orthodox pockets of the contemporary city, could repel any outsider, whether gentile or diaspora Jew. Perhaps most important is Johnson’s shrewd observation that Judaism “contained the matrix of a universal religion.” By this time, the more percipient inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world had come to the conclusion that polytheism, whatever manifestation it might assume, was seriously flawed. The Jews alone, by offering monotheism, offered a unitive vision, not the contradictory and flickering epiphanies of a fanciful pantheon of gods and goddesses. But could Judaism adapt to gentile needs, could it lose its foreign accent and outlandish manners? No one saw the opportunity more clearly than Luke; his gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, present a Jesus and a Jesus Movement specifically tailored to gentile sensibility.” 0 likes
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