BR 14:02, Apr 1998
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, its not often that books about the Bible rate the label best-seller. But, although it will never match Steeles and Kings million-copy sales, Regina Schwartzs 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 Schwartzs 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 ideologythat God is on our sidedominates in certain areas of western political thought, especially European and American nationalistic movements. She posits a causal relationship: that the Bibles understanding has given rise to ours.