I love a good book...
Not a great book to read for exegesis, but if one wants to understand the history around the time of Jesus and to better understand how a non-Christian biblical scholar understands Jesus this book is for you.
This book is an easy read and rather enjoyable. Gets its point across clearly. While it is informative and provides several good observations, I could not take it too seriously in a scholarly manner as Mr. Aslan tends to embellish and romanticize events, settings and world views using very descriptive and colorful language. As someone who is interested in scholastic works, I know how difficult it is to make objective assertions about matters that happened two decades ago, let alone millenia. However, Mr. Aslan frequently describes matters as if they were facts. Zealot reads like a Dan Brown novel in my opinion. I personally prefer lectures on the subject that present the historical record, give their views and interpretation of such record along with others', and let the reader/listener come to his/her own conclusions. Mr. Aslan quotes the Gospels quite often as references to Jesus and what he might have been like, yet mentions how erroneous and biased they might be. I was a bit confused by this.
Having read "No God but God" I would say that this book is very comparable in writing style as Zealot. However, Zealot is a bit more enclined to tell a story with a view and a certain moral, rather than being more objective.
This book could very well be made into a movie. It would be more of a drama than a true documentary. I would definetely go see it.
While my inclinations are more towards less subjective works on historical religion, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would definetely recommend it. Although, I would advise to take it with a grain of salt and encourage you to read other publications on the subject.
Better conclusions and less authoritative
The author admits that there is only one non-biblical historical reference to Jesus and then he uses his research into the times surrounding Jesus' life to pick and choose from the New Testament the events that fit his thesis and considers them truth then calls the events that don't fit his ideas: invention, exaggerations, fabrications, lies and fairy tales. Reza references the few documents that have survived the centuries and considers them to be all he needs to judge what is truth and what is not. He does not consider that the people who wrote the Gospels had access to countless documents that have been lost to time as well as letters and first and second hand accounts from eye witnesses to the of events of Jesus' life. So he sits in judgment in 2013 and has the supreme wisdom to draw this conclusion and then call this event a fabrication. As a Muslim turned Christian and then disillusioned into who knows what today, the author decides to discount that there may be more to life than he can comprehend from his little office in 2013. His omnipotent tendencies to speak for "the majority of scholars" on this point or that point is very annoying. If he presented his ideas as possibilities based on his research, this book would be worth reading. But to listen to him chapter after chapter try to lay out his arguments by deciding these verses of the bible make sense to him and these do not, and then definitively saying here this is what happened and this did not is eventually too much to take. Pompous Ass is the only term that comes to mind by the end of the book. If you follow his tweets, you will see that the guy is a real jerk.
Annoying, sneering, pompous
Most of his conclusions.
Aslan states in his preface that the new testament is not a historical account, yet he uses it almost exclusively as a historical source. There is nothing here to prove or disprove anything historical about Jesus of Nazareth.
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.
I really enjoy the books I read and hear!
This book helped me confirm my beliefs in Jesus of Nazareth, the person and how it was to live in the first century under Roman rule. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about Jesus.
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.