DESIRE OF THE EVERLASTING HILLS: The World Before and After Jesus
by Thomas Cahill
Lion Publishing, 2001, 320pp, $26.95. Available from AD Books)
No person is better known throughout the pages of history than Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians call "the Christ". The stories of his life, as recounted in the pages of the New Testament, have been read and reflected upon for almost two thousand years. Desire of the Everlasting Hills is the third in the "Hinges of History" series by Thomas Cahill and is a sequel to his best-selling The Gifts of Jews, which explored the influence Jewish culture and thought has had upon civilisation.
Cahill begins his work on Jesus by exploring the Graeco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds. The examination of Jesus is structured around an examination of the corpus of New Testament books, which offer certain perspectives on Jesus. Cahill begins his portrait with a discussion of Matthew's and Mark's Gospels, then examines Paul's portrait before examining Luke's and concluding with John's.
In his analysis of Jesus, Cahill seems on the whole to accept much of modern scholarship relating to the New Testament, such as a late-dating for the Gospels; however, he frequently calls into question some of the more liberal strands within contemporary Biblical scholarship. He also offers fresh and interesting insights into the person of Jesus as presented in the writings of the New Testament.
Desire of the Everlasting Hills concludes with an answer to the challenge raised in the preface: has Jesus made an impact for the better upon civilisation? Cahill argues that despite shameful episodes in Christian history, Christianity bequeathed to the world a thirst for justice and peace and it is not without significance that democracy and understandings of human rights arose in countries that were Christian.
Cahill concludes that one way of appreciating the positive impact Jesus has had on this world would be to look at the Community of Sant'Egidio. This group of volunteers, founded in Rome by students in 1968 as an attempt to live out the demands of the Gospel, is currently engaged in numerous charitable works.
Jesus comes alive in Cahill's amusing, entertaining, yet engaging portrait, which should appeal to a wide cross-section of readers, ranging from non-believers to practising Christians.
Michael Daniel teaches at a Melbourne independent college.