The Gifts of the Jews

By August 30th, 2013

Family & Friends,

While in Africa, my teaching partner, Matt, recommended Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews. This follows Cahill’s, How the Irish Saved Civilization, and made me want to read his third in the “Hinges of History” series called, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. Ironically, Cahill made the O.T. narrative new and fresh for me despite the fact that he is not sure what part of it actually happened. Only 20% of the book is actually on the contributions of the Jews and 80% on his vivid retelling of Old Testament stories with new insights. But, “What are the “gifts of the Jews”? Here are the ones I found most convincing:

1. The Jewish Bible changed history by literally creating history. (rather than an endless cyclical wheel of repetition).

2. The Hebrew God, unlike every god before, “cannot be manipulated,” and this God “is a real personality who has intervened in real history, changing its course and robbing it of predictability.”

3. The idea of human freedom rather than fatalism.

4. Ten Commandments, “for the first time . . . human beings are offered a code without justification”.

5. Jews gave the world a day of rest. The Sabbath is unique.

6. Israel was “the first human society to so value education as a universal pursuit.”

7. Judaism’s credo, “God is one,” led to “the possibility of modern science.” (the natural world has no regularity if it is determined by many conflicting gods).

Now, how did the Irish save civilization? I think I’ll find out.


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