Bible Review 4:2, April 1988

Bible Books

Raising Cain

The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism

Regina M. Schwartz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997) 211 pages, $22.95 (hardcover)

In this age of Danielle Steele and Stephen King, it’s not often that books about the Bible rate the label “best-seller.” But, although it will never match Steele’s and King’s million-copy sales, Regina Schwartz’s The Curse of Cain comes about as close to “bestseller” status as any book of biblical scholarship can, with its own Internet home page and reviews in major newspapers and in magazines like The New Yorker and The New Republic. The reason is Schwartz’s provocative thesis: that the biblical understanding of the one God, Yahweh, who chooses one people, Israel, to live in one promised land has implicit within it an ideology of divine exclusivism, whereby God divides the world into the favored “us” versus the despised “them.” Schwartz argues that this same ideology—that “God is on our side”—dominates in certain areas of western political thought, especially European and American nationalistic movements. She posits a causal relationship: that the Bible’s understanding has given rise to ours.

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