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

(The Hinges of History #3)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,225 ratings  ·  197 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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3.95  · 
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 ·  2,225 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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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
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the 3rd in Thomas Cahill's Hinges of History series. Like its predecessors, this book is well written and researched. He examines the impact of the teachings of Jesus on Western culture, through an in-depth analysis of the writings of Peter, Paul, Luke, and John. It is an interesting and insightful book,
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 '
Sep 16, 2018 added it
Shelves: must-reread
I've see-sawed time and time again with the religions of the world. Too bad they are mostly of the world and not-so-much of the spirit governed by a group of people who co-opt the name and leave all the caring concepts - love, gentleness, inclusivity, non-judgement - entirely out of the picture.

I believe in honor, justice, compassion. These are disappeared by corrupt, power-hungry forces exerting crushing influence on the lives of ordinary people. Major religions are what my father said in conce
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the last century millions were killed in genocide, a hundred million in armed conflicts, fifty million more in political purges. Has Jesus, acknowledged as the most influential person in world history, really made any difference?

Thomas Cahill begins to answer this question in Desire of the Everlasting Hills by considering the written record of Jesus’ life and the other documents his earliest followers left behind. He doesn’t make the mistake of homogenizing the four gospels into one bland acc
Justin Nichols
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.7 -- History meets theology and religion visits with sociology in this well-crafted book. Cahill writes with a flair for bringing the ancient past within walking distance, with an unusual confidence in the way things were, but with a profound hope in turning the lessons we learn from our predecessors into relevant, reformed thought and action today. He takes time to unearth the necessary context surrounding Jesus's birth and ascension into ministry that few care to take. Many authors and histo ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This book traces the development of the early Christian church from its setting in the ancient world of Greek and Roman hegemony and Jewish roots through the life of Jesus through the writing of the New Testament and the developing of theology across the first 100 years. Cahill is a believer, but he's a scholar as well, and he points out that not everything taken for granted as dogma was understood as such at every stage of development. I only had a vague understanding of the ways Christianity c ...more
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
Courtney Anne
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have enjoyed all of Cahill’s books immensely, and this one is no exception (in fact, it may be my favorite so far). Whether you hold any Judeo-Christian beliefs or not, Cahill makes a compelling case for their influence on the modern Western world. He is a fabulous storyteller who is insightful and just.

I noted that many “conservative” or “fundamentalist” Christian reviewers took exception to his presentation of some interpretations of the “facts” as they know them in the Bible. I found his pr
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one more than The Gifts of the Jews. Maybe I just understand Cahill's writing style better. You have to understand it's basically a secular, neutral-point-of-view book that analyzes the Gospels and their impact on Western society. What Cahill does that I enjoy most of all, and the same was true for his other book I read, is that he does a great job of educating the reader of the historical context. He goes all the way back to the conquests of Alexander because, ultimately, he had ...more
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
Quaime Lee
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A highly accessible text that reawakens one’s understanding of Jesus

This is my third Cahill text and there is a clear rhythm to them. He brings us to a world before these pivotal figures and people and then proceeds to string cords across time and people that connect the subject’s influence. As a longtime Christian who has read the Christian Bible several times and continues to, Cahill has left me much to ponder and I appreciate that.
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.
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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

Other books in the series

The Hinges of History (6 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 
  • 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
“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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