The Desire of the Everlasting Hills

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The meaning Thomas Cahill attributes to the title of the book he wrote: The Desire of the Everlasting Hills isn’t what I expected. Having taken this phrase from Jacob’s blessing for Joseph, Cahill elaborates his thoughts “Is not the desire of the everlasting hills that they be saved from their everlastingness, that something new happen, that the everlasting cycle of human cruelty, of man’s inhumanity to man, be brought to an end?”(8) I would imagine that the Everlasting Hills could also represent Heaven and the desire for them representative of the desperate need to experience never-ending perfect second life. Beyond the meaning of the title, Cahill’s foremost concern is to ask and thoroughly examine the question: Does the life and death of Jesus make a difference, not only for Christians, but also in our entire world. Whether he believes Jesus is God and is our savior or not, he doesn’t try to explain. The conclusion he does reach is that Jesus is the cause of everything we believe about right and wrong, and therefore is involved in every decision made and woven into our lives regardless of our beliefs. It seems appropriate for Cahill to spend so much time telling the history of the Greeks, Jews, and Romans because there is no doubt how connected and influenced they are by each other. Cahill begins with the story of Alexander the Great. In detail he explains how Alexander came into power. He also emphasizes the relationship between Alexander and his mother. This reminded me of how important Jesus’ relationship with Mary was. Cahill address Mary’s relationship with Jesus more, later in the book. In giving a rather brief history lesson, Cahill describes the beginning of Hellenizing. After telling the rise and fall of Alexander the Great Cahill writes about a familiar player in the Jewish and Roman history: Judas Maccabeus. I didn’t know the full extent of the revolt led by Judas before reading the book. The story somewhat reminded me of the movie 300. Cahill does a good job of touching on both of the religious extremes, the Zealots and the Essenes. After the Greek occupation came the Roman occupation and so the cycle of occupation continued, as I had already learned. However Cahill’s detailed description of the way each nation ruled helped me understand how impossible life must have felt for the devout Jew and how much they wanted a savior, a true Jewish King. After giving his readers a sufficient history lesson Cahill begins to address Jesus from several different perspectives. The first he uses is that of the Apostles to begin addressing the question of what made Jesus think he could get away with teaching things so against the “grain of ancient society?”(71) He follows this question with a reference to John the Baptist, who is an example of extremes. All of this leads to the Cahill’s opinion that a if Jesus were just a crazy man, he couldn’t have convinced Simon, Andrew, James, and John to drop everything, all their responsibilities and just follow him. Cahill infers that he must have been a talented teacher who commanded attention. He doesn’t ignore the other theories about who Jesus might have been, he just questions their credibility and explains that scholars have become reasonably sure of what Jesus taught over the years. Having said this, he moves onto the meanings behind Jesus’ radical teachings. How most of the time his message was simple, and was not as much about rules as it was about intentions. Cahill writes about Jesus’ seemingly higher standards. He believes that Jesus is speaking in metaphors in Matthew (You have heard.. but I say to you”. Through this idea Cahill pushes that the meaning of it all is that the illusion of power and the misuse of it against those without is what makes life unlivable. (83) I like the idea of Jesus constantly trying to simplify things. Everyone kept trying to create more impossible rules and Jesus is the radical because he simplifies things. Cahill points out that Jesus even...
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