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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,084 Ratings  ·  189 Reviews
Cahill's most daring and provocative subject yet: Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of Western civilization.

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 pol
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Anchor (first published 1997)
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Mar 27, 2013 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
CV Rick
Nov 14, 2009 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
Jul 07, 2014 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
The hinge in history that has been the central pillar of Western civilization is not a cultural change nor a particular people but one man, Jesus of Nazareth. Thomas Cahill explores the developments of thought before and after Jesus in Desire of the Everlasting Hills through the lens of Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures, his mother Mary, Paul, Luke, Early Christians, and John to reveal how one life both continued and changed the progression of Western thought.

Over the course of 320 pages, Thomas C
Jun 12, 2007 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
Aug 03, 2010 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
Nov 11, 2011 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 '
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It provided a lot of insight into the context of Jesus and the birth of Christianity. The most amazing parts of the book are the translations of the Gospel from the original language. I've never seen translations like this, they are so fresh and alive. Also, the authors ability to really dive into the difficulties of translating a meaning or idea from one language to another was fascinating.

Overall I thought it provided a great deal of historical context which is wha
Thomas Stama
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely recommend this to anyone who has studied the New Testament. While I might not agree with some things he observes, I so think this is a book for a thinking Christian. It will help tweak the depth of your understanding and Faith journey. I believe I now have read all the books in this series. Very gifted series which every well educated person should read to have a better perspective on our culture, civilization and Faith journeys.

May 21, 2009 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 25, 2009 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 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
Dec 18, 2012 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
Jul 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Cahill's work is as much a bold historic narrative as it is a theological commentary. Using a scholarly yet approachable style, his pithy explanations of some of the more labyrinthine mysteries of the early Christian church help to bring this foundational period closer to us. It is also a joy to read, Cahill is a good writer and his prose is easy and illustrative.
Bish Denham
Jan 17, 2016 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.
Bob Rehfeld
Jan 01, 2016 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.
Tonya King
Mar 04, 2014 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 17, 2008 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.
Oct 31, 2013 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.
Jordan Ivie
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly engaging. I flew through this book and found it as un-put-down-able as a novel. Cahill makes the figures and texts of the New Testament come alive as nothing I’ve ever read has done. I think this is because he approaches the Bible as, first and foremost, a human document. This enables him to tease out the very human quirks and foibles of the text without sacrificing its centrality as a piece of religious literature.
I think Cahill does a nice job of remaining objective, and this is a
Ben Vore
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like his other Hinges of History volumes, Thomas Cahill’s Desire of the Everlasting Hills is an engaging, erudite and lively piece of scholarship which starts broad (the political and cultural trends of the ancient world in the centuries preceding the birth of Jesus) and circles in on the intimate. I was struck by how this volume is more about the people around the historical Jesus — for example, how the personalities of the four Gospel writers established unique claims about Jesus (Cahill is pa ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm thinking that our clergy miss opportunities to educate us about the different audiences each gospel was intended for. For as long as I have been going to church, reading and thinking about things ecclesiastic, I learned several basic facts about the main characters of the New Testament (to quote game shows on NPR) that I should have learned in school, had I been paying attention. Citations and references are included for further reading.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book several years ago but was compelled to read it again. It is a great look at the world during the time of Jesus. I think that trying to understand scripture without this background is just plain futile. Having this background, laid out so well by Thomas Cahill, is a huge help. I highly recommend this book.
Shelley Alongi
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Informative historically since my weak spot is Greek, Persian and Roman history. I think that's only half of history if history starts with Mesopotamia? Scholarly ok. Biblically questionable. But it has some good points.
Bill Carter
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. Learn about the geopolitical background around the time of Jesus. Truly one of the hinges of history.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love, love, love this whole series (Hinges of History).
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, theology
A good overview of the influence of Christianity in Western civilization, I believe.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read it twice. Great introduction to christianity.
Tim Dorman
Dec 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book, a lot. Some things I would, personally, look into more or word differently, but overall, I learned a lot and feel this is an amazing book (as so far I've enjoyed all Cahill's books in this series).

Examples of things you'll find:
1) A reference to Reynold Price's translation of Mary the Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses on Easter Sunday:
Entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right dressed in a white robe and they were much stunned.
But he said to them "Do
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  • Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture
  • Paul: The Mind of the Apostle
  • Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity
  • What Jesus Meant
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  • Backgrounds of Early Christianity
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  • Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths
  • How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now
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  • As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History
  • In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How it Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture
  • Jesus before Christianity
  • Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship
  • From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Christ
  • 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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“Jesus was no ivory-tower philosopher but a down-to-earth man who understood that much of the good of human life is to be found in taste, touch, smell, and the small attentions of one human being for another.” 1 likes
“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
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