Thomas Cahill is the former director of religious publishing at Doubleday. He divides his time between Rome and New York City.
Cahill, no stranger to sweeping historical narratives (The Gifts of the Jews; How the Irish Saved Civilization), triumphs again with this imaginatively written account of Jesus and the early Christian Church. Cahill begins in the manner of most Jesus books, with the Greco-Roman world of the three centuries before Jesus, but here Greece and Rome come to life in Cahill's depiction of their violent despotism. Cahill has an eye for the common person's experience of war, famine and religious upheaval, and it is with this vantage point that he shows readers why Jesus' message of peace and forgiveness was so very startling. Cahill is familiar with biblical scholarship of the origins of the Gospels and their various theological differences, but he is more interested in how ordinary folks might have received Jesus, whom he portrays as "no ivory-tower philosopher but a down-to-earth man" who "hugely enjoyed a good dinner with friends." Although this idea is by no means original, Cahill presents Jesus with infectious energy, and his take on Mary is certainly fresh. "With her keen sense of retributive justice," as evidenced in the Magnificat, Cahill writes, Mary was disappointed with Jesus' odd admonitions to turn the other cheekÄshe had been "counting on something with more testosterone in it." The best chapter of all is on Paul, whose theological contributions are beautifully recapitulated for the layperson (Cahill also rightly highlights "Paul's perceptiveness, even craftiness, in dealing with other human beings"). There are a few glosses in the book, including instances in which Cahill elevates pious legend to fact; for example, he asserts that the remains of Simon Peter's home "may still be seen at Capernaum, when in fact the home's history has by no means been stablished. Overall, however this is an engrossing portrait of Jesus through the eyes of His family and followers. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"Divertingly instructive--gratifying--. [Cahill] makes Jesus a still-living literary presence."--The New York Times
"Engaging--. Cahill strips away the pious accretions of 2000 years so that a picture of Jesus as an actual human being emerges."--BookPage "A deft march through time and through theology in the making--. [Cahill's] own gift-giving is his ability to climb inside the scholarship and enliven it."--Philadelphia Inquirer "Cahill constructs his stories as occassions for celebration...He seeks to encourage a sense of appreciation for the gifts offered the present from the past...Each of his books offers moments of genuine insight into the workings of culture, literature, and the human heart." -Luke Timothy Johnson, Commonweal "Compelling--powerful--. Cahill is a convivial storyteller."--Portland Oregonian
Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews, gives us a wonderfully interesting but curious book on "the historical Jesus" and the early church. Written from a conservative perspective, the work is a readable synthesis of Jesus scholarship. Beginning with a fascinating portrayal of Alexander the Great, Cahill helps us understand the Greeks, Romans, and Jews as providing context for Jesus' life and teachings. He examines the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, and he engagingly describes Mary as a strong young Jewish woman. Curiously, however, despite many helpful sidebars on ancient terms, ideas, and persons, and despite his deep knowledge of New Testament scholarship, Cahill tends to smooth over thorny debates about the differences among the four Gospels. Still, the reader is generally treated to an articulate and sweeping account. Written in an intelligent and devotional style, this book is highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.ÄDavid Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
YA-Cahill's book, the third in the series, deals with the historical Jesus in terms of His times. The first pages set the scene for His birth, beginning with Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. This look at the extent of Alexander's conquests and, later, at the Roman Empire, shows the unimportance, geographically, of the area in which Jesus lived and died. Nevertheless, the politics were complicated: states and rulers came and went, as did tribes, sects, and various peoples over the centuries. Although it's hard to keep track of all of this, the writing is so lively that one really doesn't care. Even the footnotes are interesting. Much of the book deals with the Gospels and how their writing fit into the century after Christ's death. Paul and the four Gospel writers are limned and their writing styles and content put into the context of their personalities and times. Thus, readers see how very radical Christ's message was for its time. In the last chapter, Cahill answers the question posed in his introduction: has the life of Jesus made a difference? While pointing out counterarguments, he answers in the affirmative. One of the book's strengths is the absence of proselytizing, while at the same time showing what a different world this would be had Jesus not lived.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.