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There are currently 7 reader reviews for The Gifts of The Jews
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This book is one of the top books of the last 50 years. It clearly elucidates how a simple Jewish thought - you can learn and become more than your parents were - has completely transformed western society. If you read this book through to the end, and interesting question arises: What happens when the western concept of independent thought, independence itself, collides with the asian concept of harmony and group think!
I'm not a reader of religious material by choice, but the bookclub I just joined was reading this book. It was interesting to delve into the first books of the old testament and to understand them better. It has given me a chance to look into my beliefs about the bible and it's story.
I believe that Cahill is basically just producing the bible in his own words, and basically any one could have done so with a large amount of time.
The Gift of the Jews, like Mr. Cahill's other two books, offers more information and insight than can be absorbed through a single reading. Like the Bible from which he draws so much of his material, serious readers are encouraged to refer to his source materials (e.g., Fox's translation of the Five Books of Moses) for a more complete understanding. While I don't agree with everything the author has to say, all of it deserves careful thought and reflection. Some readers may feel that -- by providing academic, popular, alternative descriptions of issues central to our religious and secular worlds -- Mr. Cahill is playing with fire. I for one welcome the light and heat these books provide. I can make up my own mind and Mr. Cahill's books bring me closer to understanding people from other cultures, religions and times. And that might be the greatest gift of all.
I believe that Mr Cahill does describe Eastern thought, religion, philosophy (take your pick) simplistically. He may do so perhaps more as rhetorical device to advance his thesis. I agree that this flaw weakens slightly the impact of his presentation. However, his core idea that now any person, as a distinct entity, could access eternity, just as any god could, by sustaining a personal relationship with a god who jealously demands it, sounds valid to me. i.e. Let's not get religious about this! It is a book that put light on some dark corners for me. I remain an atheist.
The author doesn't convince me of a single thing. Rather it seems more likely that the Jews assembled their personal and religious ideas from the more advanced nations around them.
Cahill could not be further from the truth in his assessment of the Old Testament. His arguments attest the the fact that the mystical interpretation of the Old Testament is completely in keeping with the mystical traditions all over the world. The circle of life is as evident in the old testament as in any other tradition, though he argues to the contrary. This view of the world is the ultimate expression of hope, not hopelessness, as he contends. And yes we are all individuals as is also expressed in it. Cahill obviously has an agenda, and agendas don't cut mustard when it comes to the essence of ultimate truth.