Have you ever pondered the future, what tomorrow will bring, or perhaps 5 years from now, or the spouses and careers of your kids (or a spouse and kids for you!)? “Sure”, you say, “what’s the big deal about that?” Apparently, this sort of thinking has not always been around, and perhaps is not the way other streams of culture view life.
You have perhaps heard of Thomas Cahill, or his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization . It was fairly popular among different circles in the last 10 years or so. What you may not know is that that book is only one of several books he’s written in a series Cahill calls Hinges of History. This is a series of history books that study various slices of history and the way they have shaped the Western world as we know it. It’s quite interesting to discover that the way you think or things you observe and don’t give a second thought to…thinking that’s just the way things are and have always been…have not always been that way. Additionally, with the series’s specific focus on the Western world, you realize anew that other cultural streams in the world today have some vastly different roots and therefore what’s “normal” to them may seem quite abnormal to us!
I just finished the 2nd book in the Hinges of History series, entitled The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. This was a fabulous book, not the least because of the premise:
- time as a continuum
- the idea of destiny
- the concept of a future
All these were handed down to us via the Jews.
Without giving too much away, it seems that time simply traveled in circles for many ancient peoples and the Jews were the first to break out of that. What that has unleashed in the annals of history is fairly mind-blowing!
If you’re among those who have read a fair amount of the Bible, this book is also quite interesting in the way it looks historically at the Jews through the lens of the Bible and other historical sources. It’s amazing how much insight this brings to familiar Bible stories.
If you’ve never cracked a Bible in your life, not to worry. This book neither requires a theological degree, nor offers to give one. It does, as the title says, offer an explanation of why we think the way we do.
Thomas Cahill’s writing style is also not “historically dry.” In fact it’s a bit raw and racy at times, but then, as a historian, Cahill doesn’t put anyone on a pedestal. Human greed and lust respect no cultural boundaries, and skeletons rattle in everyone’s closet. It could be regarded as a “thinking man’s” book. Though, if one likes to ponder…as I do…it can be good sometimes to know why one ponders what one does. I commend this book to you as one possible source for an answer to that question.