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.
As other reviewers have noted, Aslan does a fine job of pulling together the material on Jesus of Nazareth from all available first and second century sources both religious and secular. His conclusion is that Jesus of Nazareth saw himself as a messiah through which God was going to bring about the Kingdom and see justice done. This puts him in opposition to Rome and its representatives, such as the Temple leadership. He also does a nice job of helping the listener to see how the Christ of the Gospels and Epistles took shape from the life of Jesus and subsequent events in Rome and Israel that created the context in which Christianity emerged.
Nothing in the book is radically new but it is well written and the story told by Aslan is not only well researched but gripping. Rarely have I enjoyed a book on theology or scripture studies as much as Aslan’s Zealot.
The author also serves as the narrator, which usually proves to be a major ingredient in a recipe for disaster. However, Aslan did an excellent job of reading his book. I didn’t realize it was the author who had been reading until I finished the book and checked to see who the narrator was. He read with an appropriate mix of excitement and seriousness, drawing the listener into his vision of the historical Jesus and the world in which he lived.
As an author and researcher Aslan is also honest. His forward discusses his religious history, including his Islamic roots, an involvement with Evangelical Christianity in his youth and an eventual return to Islam. This allows the listener to be sensitive to any influences on the book from his life history. The resulting vision of Jesus that emerges is probably closer to the Islamic perspective on Jesus, as human and prophet, than the traditional Christian perspective, which divinizes Jesus. Yet, if the historical record supports the Christian tradition, he accepts that position, as with the death of Jesus by crucifixion. The final result is a reasonable, etic perspective on the historical material and well argued conclusions.
Jesus has become such an untouchable, unquestioned, lightning rod of a figure that any honest look at his life without the stench of agenda(for or against) seems almost an impossible task. The threat of Blasphemy, or the ax to grind from a bad religious experience, and the effect of our very cynical times all taint an honest look at a man who was different, who was enlightened, who may even be much of what is forced down our(christian) throats to believe. Aslan does a good job following his curiosity vs any pre-determined conclusion(jesus is god or Jesus is a myth) by turning stones and reporting what he finds...what he finds reaches no definitive conclusions and as you might expect, most of what he finds is contradictory and confusing, but it's rarely dull. Through common sense and due diligence to pull the best possible historical portrait of Jesus, Alsan adds missing human dimension that puts this man in his time and in his place in history....a human being struggling as all of us do, to struggle for what he believes in, a person who makes mistakes, who tries to do the right thing, but also does not always succeed.
Reading this book has made Jesus more interesting and real to me now, not a mythical, pasted over, untouchable revised version that seems so fairytale like. I have no doubt he was an inspiring, brave, enlightened figure that faced a brutal Nazi-like roman empire with courage and profound depth right up to his death...and possibly beyond.
Regardless of what image you believe; the mythical guy floating down from a cloud appearing like a roadside oil painting on black velvet or a buddha-like enlightened being with a transcendent message for all of humanity, this book will add dimension and depth to the man(or god)....your choice.
Non-fiction it what I like.
Uderstand the historical context of Jesus! Be prepared for your conception to be overturned, just like the money changer's tables were at the temple.
Reza Aslan's writing was so easy for me to understand. The author narrated his own book and did an execellent job.
If your interested in history and religion this is highly recommended.
So...you're telling me I can pay people to read books to me whilst I do other things?
Like it or not, Aslan creates a plausible portrait of the historical Jesus. (Sounds like Jesus's brother James was more Jesus-like than Jesus, but...whatever).
The real question is, how/why did Saul/Paul of Tarsus co-opt this historical Jesus into this new Roman-friendly religion? If anyone wants to argue that there was divine intervention for Christianity at some point, I think you could argue it's through Paul...
If you're a fundamentalist Christian, you'll find holes in Aslan's theories; if you're agnostic, I think you'll find it interesting.
No matter what you believe, I highly recommend this book...you won't be disappointed!
Great performance and detailed information. This audiobook makes me wanna discover more about this subject area.
Audible obsessed lifelong learner.
Attempts to take on discrepancies in the Gospels by stating the Bible wasn't written as a historical document since the writers had no concept of historical writing at the time. The authors used poetic license to make points according to Aslan to support the young religion. Aslan backs up his up his claims with quotes from the Bible and historical facts we know about Rome and the Middle East at the time.
Not sure where this young man got his information but in the first ten minutes he made gross historical errors and it only became painfully worse. I am sure that if he was a true follower of Christ, he would have a deeper understanding of the truth, instead he only shames himself.
I saw Jesus in a new light as an organizer and leader with vision and integrity. Jesus was willing to take the shot.
Reza put some old ideas together to form a new, unique approach to ideas in the New Testament.
Well done, good job. I especially like the clarity and emotion Reza puts into the narrative. The audio version must be a thousand times better than the print version.
The true story of Bethlehem near the beginning got my attention. I love the Christmas Carol "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem." This year I'll have to adopt a new carol, something like "Onward Christian Soldiers."
I hope Reza can do a sequel about the theme of Empire that we find throughout the Old and New Testament. I think that then he will realize the true mission of Jesus, the one he wrote about in Zealot..
Tell us about yourself!
I couldn't resist getting the book that Fox News interjected itself into controversy, to learn for myself what all the bugaboo was about. After getting thru the first chapters I was convinced the detractors of this author are invoking pure animus toward the author while ignoring the merits of the book. Being a former catholic and one who has studied biblical exegesis and theology, I conclude the book is a legitimate socio-historic treatment of the subject. In fact it covers material that would be quite familiar to any New Testament exegetical scholar. Any catholic (Roman, Anglican, Orthodox, Lutheran) would likely be right at home with the material. This is not a theological, dogmatic catechism. It's a very interesting treatise that does precisely what the author set out to do - provide a glimpse into the life and times of the historical Jesus, his impact, and place in history as a historical figure.
I highly recommend the work to anyone who is interested in the study of the formation of religions and in particular, the one related to a Jewish man named Yeshua. I would dare to say, had the author submitted this, it would receive an Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from the Catholic Church.