The book did not present facts about Jesus, but mere speculations and twisting of what the Gospels present who Jesus was.
Anger, this book should not be in the Christian genre.
This book failed miserably to do the research promised on Jesus. What this book does well is present the time and events that surrounded Jesus during his ministry. The fact is that outside of the Gospels there is very little light as to who Jesus is, everything outside that is pure speculation which this author does very well to paint Jesus in a different light under the tones set by the events during his ministry. If you are looking to find who Jesus really is, pick up the Bible.
I will finish the book, most likely, because it's somewhat interesting.
It's not approvable as a dissertation. I've only read about 1/3 and am distracted by mistakes like Aslan's assertion that the Zealots arose around the the Temple resistance in the latter half of the 1st century. He also claims that Jerusalem was called Aeolia Capitolina after Vespasian's triumph (it was 60 years later under Hadrian). He says that Jesus "the Christ" began with John Mark in 70CE (Pauline epistles use the term extensively and they were written in the 50s).
His preface says that this is the fruit of 20 years of research which is something I cannot buy.
For anyone who knows little about the 1st century, just be prepared for some exciting fiction a la The Davinci Code, which I also enjoyed, once I could overcome the offensiveness of the fantasy.
It's about as historically accurate as The DaVinci Code but not nearly as entertaining.
First and foremost…consider the source ; Reza Aslan is a practicing Muslim. I wanted to learn something from this book… I really did. However, I could not get passed the author’s clear bias and lack of facts to back his broad brush assumptions. When discussing Jesus’ teachings of the “golden rule” and “turn the other cheek” he asserts that these maxim were directed solely at other Jews (gentiles be damned); he provides no facts to support this notion, merely his opinion—but it is presented as fact. He is constantly referring to the Jewish religion as a “cult”; it almost comes across as having an axe to grind. I suppose I would expect the same thing if a Christian and religious scholar decided to write a historical piece on Muhammad. Like I said; and especially when reading any book on history… to fully understand a work on history, you must understand the point of view of the author.
New discovery or facts. As he actually admits, there is nothing new in this book and it has all been said and debated before. He simply tells us his particular viewpoint of what he accepts from higher criticism and what he does not.
He claims to have "researched" the book for more than 20 years and is a "New Testament scholar" - then clearly admits he doesn't have a full command of Greek. How can you be a scholar of an ancient text that you don't have a complete grasp of it's original language? He claims to have been a Christian, converted at an evangelical camp around a blazing fire where he heard the story of how Jesus was born in Galilee. What evangelical camp would have introduced him to Jesus born in Galilee? Evangelicalism is steeped in the teaching that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea - a completely different district of Palestine. He says that it was not until college, when he discovered the "numerous errors" and "contradictions" of the Bible that he rejected his faith in anger (the acknowledgement that he is angry at Christianity is a clue). But anyone who has studied the Bible extensively has heard these accusations of supposed "contradictions" and each of them has been laid to rest as rubbish for centuries. As for the errors, there are very few and they are well documented and non-consequential to the story of the Bible; every second year Bible scholar has done this exercise. Therefore, his supposed autobiography of faith is the tell that he clearly has an ax to grind; perhaps he hoped to make a buck in the process. Very sad.
I have recently increased my study of the bible and this as lead me to crisis of faith. I know God is real, but if the bible is "literally true" why are there errors of omission and inter-book discrepancies? This book has helped to answers this very difficult questions that I, in truth, was afraid to ask in church.
I now understand so much of what was distorted by the influence of Paul from Tarsus. I must now read the Epistle of James the Just. The absolute mandate to serve the poor is something worth believing in - unlike the "faith is all you need" doctrine that took over many of those who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth.
Thank you Reza Aslan for this amazing piece of work. Unfortunately, I fear for the safety of the author as some fundamentalists might issue an evangelical "fatwa" (in the commonly understood meaning of the word rather than the Arabic "opinion") because he is a Muslim. So sad that this brilliant work will be judged by some through this distorted lens.
I read Aslan's previous work "No God But God", which is a similar text that focus' on Islam and Islamic traditions.
Zealot is very much in the same mold and quite enlightening. Its well written, well read, and I have the sense that the content is well researched. Apparently with the written text you can look up the source material through the appendices.
Regardless of your take on Christianity and who you feel Jesus was, this is a good, professionally written, scholarly, and respectful text. It can get a little confusing and it speaks to confusing times. But Aslan does a great job staying on track and elucidating the key events critical to early Christianity.
That the author was reading it and I got the book to check the notes he mentioned. Uses an incredible collection of sources
Learning about Jesus's brother, James.
Not really but the book did not change my beliefs, it actually gave me more confidence in them.
This does not diminish the Christian Religion at all if you listen to the book in its entirety and know what is most important in the Christian faith.
If Aslan were to ask me "Who do you say I am?" I would answer "You are a scholarly bull in a theological china shop." There is an energetic recklessness about this well written book, as he goes from point to point, flinging solid scholarship and wild conjecture in equal measure like stones from a sling. He really nails the popular history genera, and the book is on the best seller lists for a reason. His thesis, that Jesus was a zealot (not a Zealot, as one might have guessed from the title) and His intent one of temporal revolution, is really just a framework for a much broader discussion. What Aslan does in this book is to take a hard look at the life of Jesus and the early church in the context of Second Temple Judaism and first century Palestine. First century Palestine is something Aslan knows quite a bit about, and he's not shy about filling gaps in the source material with well-reasoned, and often fascinating, conjecture. If you have an interest in the subject, it’s a great listen, and I'd recommend it. That said, I'm never really sure now to take books like this. Sound and well established scholarship is interspersed with scholarly fabrication without any break in the pace or rhythm of the narrative. One moment he's describing Masada using Josephus' exact words, the next he's talking about Jesus’ apprenticeship in Cephorus, or his 40 day reunion with John in the desert. It's history, much of it, but there's no way to tell from the tone of the text when the history stops and the compelling, but oftentimes entirely unattested, conjecture begins. Often it reads like an historical novel. There is a faint aroma of revisionism to the whole business, but I disagree with the reviewers who think there is some ideological axe being ground here. I think it's just commerce. The title and the tone were intended to raise hackles, and he tends to neglect evidence that weakens his positions. Most popular history is written like this now. They push our buttons. It sells books. Still, I like Aslan. I think he's sincere, he writes well, and he brings a lively scholarship to the subject. At one point he recommends we "Put aside for a moment, centuries of exegetical acrobatics....” which I think is exactly the right way to listen to this book. Grant Aslan a bit of intellectual elbow room, and you may find that much of his conjecture has a ring of truth to it.
As a professional nonfiction writer, I am well aware of the advantages of "print" books over audio. I like audio for books that I'm going to listen to linearly – start-to-finish. Print is better for skipping around and dodging boring bits. I do not regret getting this in audio. There was no reason to move outside of the path of the text. It made sense and was developed coherently, and all of that. Plus, I thought the narration was as good as it could possibly have been.
I have had strong feelings about the disciple Paul ever since I read his writings in the Bible. They just didn't seem to fit with the teachings of Jesus. And, sure enough, this book arrives at much the same conclusions as I did. So it was nice to have confirmation of what I have believed for the last half century. And that is: Paul was all about setting up rules and conduct for the church. This was far and above the teachings part of the Gospels.
This is the first time I have heard this narrator. I thought he did an absolutely excellent job.
Well, for a nonfiction book, there were many "interesting" passages. For instance, all of the killing that went on in those days, and executions, and the rebellion in 66 to 70 A.D.– much of that was new to me.
I was raised Christian. Baptized in my early teens, became a member of the church. Went to church most Sundays, Bible school in the summers. Hated all of it.
I read the New Testament in my early 20s. I read the Old Testament a year ago. What an eye-opener. This book is a perfect complement to that kind of inquiry, filling in an awful lot of perspective that is not available in the Bible.
As a habitually critical reader (with a degree in journalism), I kept thinking the whole time about what the "true believers" would offer to counter what is in this book. Of course, people tend to believe what they want to believe. And I'm sure "the other side" would have plenty of arguments against this book. But I have a feeling those arguments would be flimsy and based mainly on wishful thinking and not on available facts and research.
The book claims not to be "anti-Jesus," but rather to be an examination of the historical record with regard to the life of Jesus of Nazareth. And I think the author sticks to that premise and behaves very responsibly. It's just that he has amassed so much evidence in favor of that argument that it may sound biased. I don't see any bias. And I am encouraged to try to find other books like this to take my investigation further. And of course I can always reread the Bible. (I have the NIV in Kindle for iPad.)
I definitely feel this book was worth my time. Outstanding.