The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill -- "How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels"
I got this book (along with four others) yesterday when I went to return the 8 books I checked out last time. I had plans to finish the books I have here waiting at home which I received for Christmas and Valentine's, but my "let's just see what they have on the new book shelf" turned into my browsing the other shelves and I came home with books about a journey through the Himalayan passage as told by some adventurous Westerners, ancient India, Jews, Greeks and a Chinese woman. So I started this one yesterday - The Gifts of the Jews - and finished it today while getting sunburned on my arms as I sat outside enjoying the glorious warmth. I jotted down page numbers of things that interested me and here is a bit of that. I may write about more later.
First a quote the author used on a page when he was trying to make sense of God. And found he couldn't.
"We are talking about God. Which wonder do you think you understand? If you understand, it is not God." - Augustine of Hippo (pg. 159)
Then this which makes me think the notion that man has a sin nature was known well before Christianity popularized it.
"Man behaves badly." -- Utnaphishtim
"Never has a sinless child been born." -- Sumerian proverb (pg. 61)
A Lesson from Exile....
27 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the LORD. 29 “In those days people will no longer say,
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31)
No longer will God visit the sins of the fathers onto the next generations. Each person is responsible for his own sins. Individualism -- a difficult concept in a "world of groups, tribes, and nations, in which all identity and validation comes only from solidarity with a larger entity." (pg. 230)
"Democracy...grows directly out of the Israelite vision of individuals, subjects of value because they are images of God, each with a unique and personal destiny. There is no way that it could ever have been 'self-evident that all men are created equal' without the intervention of the Jews." (pg. 249)
So, see, there is a bit of the gifts the Jews gave us. Rather, God gave us all through the Jews. I wonder if this is what God meant when He said the Jews would be a light unto all nations.
I found this rather interesting because I'd been wondering - and asking Amber - where our western sense of individualism came from...tada! The Bible!
Or did it?
What do you think?