A history of intellectual gifts is Cahill's theme

Noted writer on religion to speak at Chizuk Amuno

March 05, 2003|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Thomas Cahill, author of pithy and commercially successful histories such as How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews, believes the key to closer ties between Jews and Christians is their common prophetic tradition of social justice.

"The intellectual efforts are very important," said Cahill, who will speak in Baltimore tomorrow on "Jews, Christians and God's Word," focusing on two prophets from each religious tradition.

"But you're only going to get so far talking about beliefs and practices," he said. "I think that the effort to create a more just society should be the next step that Jewish and Christian groups should take together.

"In doing that, I think we would find an enormous contiguity of values. Jews and Christians would find they have a great deal in common."

Cahill's free lecture, sponsored by the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, begins at 7 p.m. at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road in Pikesville.

The Rev. Christopher Leighton, the institute's executive director, said Cahill's evocative work is of particular interest to Jewish and Christian audiences.

"As a writer and lecturer, Thomas Cahill takes on a broad scope of complex historical and religious issues and makes them remarkably accessible and entertaining," he said. "He is one of a very few contemporary authors who has successfully animated cultures that existed up to five millennia ago."

Three volumes of Cahill's seven-volume Hinges of History have appeared to date. How the Irish Saved Civilization, published in 1995, recounts the efforts of fifth-century Irish monks to copy and preserve much of the literature of Western culture.

The Gifts of the Jews, published in 1998, describes how the ancient Israelites broke with the prevailing notion of reality as cyclical and unchanging, and conceived of history where progress and freedom were possible.

In 1998 came the third volume, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, on the influence of Christianity and its founder. The fourth volume, on the ancient Greeks, is scheduled for publication in October.

"What I'm trying to do in this series is to write the history of the evolution of human sensibility in the Western world," Cahill said. "At each juncture, I find great contributions or clusters of contributions that help answer that question.

"So mine is not the history of wars or devastation, but a history of gifts: What the gift-givers of Western history gave at each point to create the values system, the world view of Western world."

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