Monday, March 28, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Gifts of the Jews

Week 13: A book you own but never read

The Gifts of the Jews 
(Hinges of History Book 2)
by Thomas Cahill

What a Letdown

I had high hopes for this book. I mean, I agreed with the premise of the book going in, so what's not to love?

A lot, it turns out.

I almost didn't make it past a couple chapters in because of the porn scene. Um, not what I signed up for! Cahill could totally clue me in to the (possibly) sexual nature of ancient Sumerian worship/sacrifice without giving the detail he does. I felt like I was back reading the final chapters of DaVinci Code. Ugh. I was concerned that kind of thing would be throughout the work, but thankfully there's just that one occurrence in the book. I did think he included too much sexual detail other times, though, and he used crude language unnecessarily.

Those issues alone make me get rid of the book. If I want to read something sexy (which I don't) then I'll check out a sexy book. But its definitely not what I want in a more academic work.

Except that's another issue. Cahill makes a lot of assertions, but doesn't provide footnotes or resources to show where he got his information. You can't do that. It's not scholarly, and it mars your credibility.

His belief regarding God and the Bible is also one of the most unique I've encountered when reading a book. He tries to tread the ground between the-Bible-in-inerrant-and-infallible and (the-Jewish/Christian-)God-is-not-real. He doesn't believe the Bible is accurate (except for when it is); he believes many Bible stories are retellings of Sumerian legends (believes the Greeks did the same thing), eg Noah's flood is a rip-off of the Gilgamesh epic. He does believe God is real and you can have a relationship with him, but a lot of what God is described as doing in the Bible is "obviously false". Honestly, his whole stance is confusing. If the Bible isn't accurate, how do you know when it is accurate? When it feels right? What if something feels right to me but not to you? Truth isn't relevant to our feelings, either something is or it isn't. The Bible is either trustworthy, or it isn't. God is either who he says he is, or he isn't. This balancing act Cahill tries to do just doesn't work. and it brings a lot of questions to mind irrelevant to the book Gifts of the Jews. 

That's not to say he doesn't make some excellent points. There were definitely times I had "a-ha!" moments, but a lot of what he said was not revolutionary as I already knew some information and had contemplated other points previously. So all in all, the book was pretty disappointing. It was easy to read, and the premise behind his work is a great one, but the execution could have been better.

Before reading this book I was pretty excited about his Hinges of History series. Now I'm just Meh about it. Will I read other books in this series? I might check them out of the library, but I won't be buying any more.

2 stars.

This book is part of the Reading Challenge 2016, to see other books in the challenge, click here.

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