Make no mistake: We're all mammals here.
After seeing the way he handled Fox News ignorance, I was looking forward to reading Aslan's book. I can't say that I was disappointed, but I can't say that I was overly impressed, either. People who have never been exposed to literary/historical biblical criticism, or those who have never looked into the historical Jesus really would benefit from reading Zealot. But for those who are part of mainline churches, there's not too much here that's completely new.
I suppose what underwhelmed me was the author's seeming lack of realization that there are millions of Christians who are continually confronted with the tension between (as he differentiates them) Jesus the Christ and Jesus the Zealot. It is this very tension that causes our faith to grow and thrive, and the doubt it creates forces us to be tolerant of other viewpoints.
As all authors do - even in scholarly works - Aslan manipulates words, research, and data to prove his point. One point in the book stands out, and that is his treatment of the baptism of Jesus. He very cogently examines how this event in the life of Jesus is dealt with in each of the four gospels, moving from an explicit reference to John being the baptizer to no direct connection at all between Jesus' baptism and John. I found it very thoughtful and meaningful until Dr Aslan suddenly referred to Christianity's "frantic" attempt to disassociate John from the baptism of Jesus. Does he not realize that this is nothing new to mainline Christians, that we don't see anything "frantic" about this phenomenon, and that we are well aware of the greater popularity of John and the possibility that Jesus started out as his disciple?
In closing, there's nothing about this work that I find incorrect. After all, Dr Aslan is a greater scholar than I'll ever be. But I would just advise the reader that even excellent scholars can choose subjective words to manipulate the reader's (or listener's) opinions.
Laypersons reading this book would do well to discuss it with their pastor. In so doing, may would discover that much of what the author talks about has already been incorporated into the thinking of their denomination (especially if it's the UCC, ELCA, PCUSA, UMC, ECUSA, ABC etc).
I'm an avid reader of many genres and issues. Audiobooks sometimes bring books into 3D , and when that happens its brilliant!
I have been reading historical Jesus books for many years, as an Australia pastor to encourage informed exploration of both Jesus and the gospels.
I must say that I enjoyed much of the content of this book, and Reza's vivid description of Jewish & Roman politics in the 1st century CE. He offers a very interesting reading of Jesus which clearly separates a an understanding of Jesus in his matrix with the Christ of faith ( blamed largely on Paul). Perhaps this is because his own faith story - becoming Christian and then returning to Islam??
However, there are a number of excellent of theologians who need to be read alongside "Zealot" e.g. John Dominic Crossan & Tom Wright to look at the impact and theology of Paul in the emerging Christian movement.
Reza argues ( and reads) persuasively and interestingly, but in the end I had a whole lot of questions about his purpose in constructing this interpretation.
I gave it three stars overall because of these hesitations. It would be a good discussion book though.
Three things set this book apart.
1) It is entertainingly written and passionately narrated.
2) The author's ability to make you feel like you're in Galilee and Judea, in biblical times.
3) You get to hear a balanced non-christian view of the new testament.
The descriptions of the places and times of the events really bring the gospel narratives to life and give you a sense of what it may have been like, the day to day goings on of ordinary folk, the violence of the time, the brutality of the roman reign, the politics of the temple, and so on. And its delivered mostly in a way that accepts the detail of gospels as pointers to historical truth while reminding us the bible does not really seek to present "history" as we know it, but truth. Occasionally the author's opinions jar the senses, but hey, this is a great book for promoting discussion about the gospel, so what could be bad about that?
Anyway, extremely well written, worth a listen.
The title drew me. I'm always looking for information that helps make Christ more real to me....
Unfortunately what's starts out as a promise to help the listener understand the times and environment that Christ lived in, quickly degenerates into an attack on the person of Christ and His disciples. Motives are questioned, and fantastic suppositions made, characters are trashed (I'm being modest) and the New Testament is essentially left in the dog house. I really tried to stay the course with this book, but it became a bit unbearable around chapter 11-13.
If you want to arm yourself with unbelief and scorn in the deity of Christ and everything else that a Christian may hold dear, this is the book for you. The author does a thorough job of it. Bravo!
Aslan does a great job narrating ZEALOT. Now I want to get the printed version so I can examine the sources for this work. While the narrative of Jesus's life was what first attracted me to getting this book, the story behind the rivalry between the Church Leaders in Jerusalem and Paul was enlightening. I've read the New Testament a few times and the contradictory teachings always left me scratching my head. The explanation of the Messianic era and the Roman occupation of that part of the world was really concise.
I really love the fact that the author is also the narrator. I could hear his enthusiasm and passion through the book, that really helped keep the book interesting even at the parts that were a bit dry. Overall really well done and definitely worth the read or listen!
I enjoyed this book but with a major caveat. Please understand that I only listened to the book, I didn't read it, but I relistened to the majority of it. But I came away with the sense that the author didn't acknowledge the true greatness that some individuals possess. I won't pretend expertise in ancient history or language as to argue with any specifics. But there have been modern day individuals who have defied expectations as to their understand and grace and have not adhered to what "historically" would have been expected from them. This book is a good history but history falls short in knowing an individual's true nature. Some individuals have insights and genius that most of us could never fathom. I suspect Jesus was one of those people. Inspired or of God? Let your own faith determine that.
I've finished this audio book twice now and it's easily one of my favorites. Reza Aslan, the author, reads from his own book and takes us on an in-depth walk through the colorful history of the Christian religion. Having grown up under the faith myself, there were many inconsistencies in The New Testament of The Holy Bible which made me uneasy about "belief" in Jesus Christ. This book cleared up everything I'd read in The New Testament that didn't shake out on its own and gave me a new perspective on Jesus's life and His affects on the world following His death. My ideas and knowledge about Jesus and His Jewish heritage were forever changed, stabilized, and strengthened after reading this explanation of history and I could not be more grateful. Everyone should know this book if they claim to know Jesus.