To appreciate the Bible properly, we cannot begin with it. All definitions must limit or set boundaries, must show what the thing-to-be-defined is not. So we begin before the Bible, before the Jews, before Abraham--in the time when reality seemed to be a great circle, closed and predictable in its revolutions. We return to the world of the Wheel.
*Recently, the designations B.C.E. (before the common era) and C.E. (common era), used originally in Jewish circles to avoid the Christian references contained in the designations B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anon domini, in the year of the Lord), have gained somewhat wider currency. I use B.C. and A.D. not to cause offense to anyone but because the new designations, still largely unrecognized outside scholarly circles, can unnecessarily disorient the common reader.
Excerpted from The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill. Copyright© 1998 by Thomas Cahill. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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