Johannesburg, South Africa | Member Since 2009
Did the early Christians transform their leader from a ‘revolutionary Jewish nationalist’ into a ‘peaceful Spiritual leader with no interest in any earthly matter’ in order to gain converts from the gentile Roman world? Reza Alsan, ex-Evangelical Christian turned moderate American Muslim and religious scholar, thinks so. His argument begins at the crucifixion. Accordingly Jesus was crucified as an insurrectionist, just like the two political bandits who hanged next to him. For Aslan Jesus was a Zealot - though he makes it clear that he was not from the later Jewish Zealot party - his zeal for his people and his political awareness made him a threat to the Roman Government.
Aslan points out very early in the audiobook that every gospel account about Jesus was written after the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 C.E. Like most scholars of the New Testament today, he claims that the gospels should be read in light of the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. For Aslan the consequences of the temple’s destruction lead to a very similar outcome in Second Century Judaism and early Christianity. These two movements sought to divorce themselves from the radical messianic nationalism that lead to the war against Rome and the temple’s destruction. Rabbinic Judaism emerged when Jews centred their life on the Torah rather than the temple. Early Christianity divorced itself from the messianic zeal, not only because of being excluded from Judaism, but also because the Romans were now the people from which this movement had to gain converts to grow. Thus Jesus the Zealot had to be made more presentable. Aslan argues basically that he had an image makeover.
In this book Aslan attempts to claim the Jesus of history, the Jesus before Christianity. He tries ‘to reclaim the Political conscious Jewish revolutionary who walked the Galilean country side 2000 years ago, gathering followers as part of his messianic movement with the goal of establishing the kingdom of God, but whose mission failed after he entered Jerusalem, attacked the temple and was captured and crucified.’ His method is to clean the ‘literal and theological’ add-ons of the New Testament up. Starting with the verifiable - Jesus’ crucifixion - he claims to forge a more accurate picture of Jesus, notwithstanding many scholars being sceptic that it cannot be done.
The book is divided into three parts. In Part 1 Aslan presents a summary of Josephus’ History of the Jewish War placing Jesus squarely within the political and social background of his time. He focusses on the various false messiahs, who with their eschatological zeal failed to rise to political power and was suppressed by the Roman Empire. Part 2 focus on what we know about Jesus of Nazareth as a person within history. Aslan begins with the crucifixion as historically verifiable and seems to add Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and some basic claims, like his wonderworking ability and exorcisms to his sketch of Jesus. He also debunks Luke and Matthew’s birth narratives, while describing Jesus as a lowly peasant who spoke out against the great divide between rich and poor in his time. Lastly in Part 3, Aslan debunks Paul and the Pauline branch of Christianity as out of synch with the earliest and truest followers of Jesus of Nazareth, those who accepted James as their leader. He makes the dramatic claim that the Jesus of history died with the martyr Stephen when he called to Jesus as God before his death.
Listening to the audiobook I got the impression that Reza Aslan brought Richard Horsley’s political anti-colonial Jesus with something of Jon Dominic Crossan’s fighter for the poor and oppressed and Burton Mack’s historical consciousness together. He seems to have used Gerd Lüdemann’s argument of great turmoil, diversity and divide within earliest Christianity to construct his picture of the Jerusalem church and the role of James, the brother of Jesus, within the movement.
Here are a few questions that came to my mind while listening to the audiobook: How much would this critical Jesus sketch agree with a similar sketch of Muhammad today? Did I hear a very Lukan construction of Jesus’ agenda? By ignoring the aspect that the gospels as literature, I suspect that he might have projected Jesus’ own agenda ‘the coming of the kingdom of God’ onto John the Baptist. How does he know that the above came from John? If Pontius Pilate was sending almost every Tom, Dick and Harry to the cross, doesn’t it undermine Alsan’s historical reconstruction of a very politically active minded Jesus? Isn’t there too much focus of the discontinuity between various New Testament books, thus ignoring the continuity within those same books?
I think that Aslan’s book describes a type Jesus that could only be constructed listening to the most critical of Jesus scholarship. This allows him to strip Jesus down to the bare minimum. While adding a lot of the insights from New Testament scholarship over the last few years, this enables him to conceive a zealous Jewish and very political Jesus, who seems to me might have a modern-day agenda. His style of writing, often using a word as “ludicrous” or “absurd” when dealing with historical improbabilities within the gospels, feels very confrontational at times. This is the type of language that places you within a group or outside it. Thus using insider and outsider language, Aslan effectively wants the listener to see things his way, if not, well then… you are probably an idiot?
The value of Aslan’s book lies within bringing a vast array of research - though be it in my opinion a bit biased - together, thus producing yet another “mostly” American portrait of Jesus. The portrait is valid and for most of the part Aslan seems to stand on sturdy ground. Yet he reduces Jesus to very little and seems to fill it in with those aspects that might fit the founder of Islam. The book is written in short chapters bringing over time and again the point that Jesus was a Roman insurrectionist who was crucified by the Roman authorities. At some point it felt like a mantra. Yet Alsan has placed a book on the table that has popularised minimalistic critical New Testament scholarship, making it accessible to John and Jane Dow.
Reza Aslan narrated the audiobook himself. I couldn’t help to think of the fervour of Shane Clayborne while listening to Aslan. He read with zeal. It comes across that this Jesus that he has constructed is really the Jesus he believes in and defines his understanding of how to follow him.
This is one of those books that you might need to take note of. It could shape popular opinion about who Jesus is or was for some time to come. Listen to it with a critical ear.
Ellen Kushner's ability to weave a net of intrigue is to be admired. In 'Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners' the listener is introduced to a mysterious university student that hits it off with a swordsman in the city slums called Riverside. You are quickly reminded in the story that it is not the Middle Ages, but a place where the chivalry of the Middle Ages are blended with modern issues and snobbish aristocracy creating an eerie world within which it plays off.
Kushner is a master of misdirection, suspense and surprise. What I found difficult however was to identify with one of the characters, they felt so otherworldly that I completely felt left out. Maybe I am too conservative in my views, but I found that there was a huge gap between my values and those portrayed by the prominent figures in the book.
The book seems to be a mix between an audio drama and a book. The scenes where voice artists played out the little intrigues were exquisite. It is candy for the ear. Yet I had to tune my ear in to Kushner's reading and identifying of a character that suddenly had her voice and not the male voice of once of the scenes. It made it difficult for me to follow - especially at the beginning - but I while I got more used to it towards the end, I cannot say that it didn't hinder. That said Kushner's own reading was superb.
If you like intrigue, civil nastiness where tea parties are more important than city council meetings and the flare of sword fighting this book might be for you. It is woven together very intricately like a tapestry, so be careful not to get lost by missing a thread. (Listen to it... with manners.)
I was pleasantly surprised with "Enchantment." Based on an array of old versions of the fairytale of sleeping beauty, Orson Scott Card was able to create a powerful story that pulls you in.
Vanya and his parents lives in the USSR. One day when he came from school his parents informed him that his real name is Yitshak Shlomo and that they are going to immigrate to Israel. As they are waiting for visas the Shlomo family stays over at one of his mother's cousins on his farm. It was here that he discovered the sleeping beauty in the woods. But soon they immigrated...
Card sets up the characters in such a way that they find themselves often enough in humorous situation, maybe to soften the dark side of this Americanised fairytale. It seems that the seed of many of the ideas in 'the Gate Thief'-series are found in this fairytale. Card balances the humour successfully with the darker parts and like any fairytale (tarnished by the brothers Grimm) it has a happy ending.
I am not sure if I am getting tired of Stefan Rudnicki's voice, but I don't think that he is the best voice to match with this story. Having listened to a view of Card's books, almost all read at least partly by him, I find it difficult to picture new characters in Card's stories as the writer's style and Rudnicki's voice makes it feel as if some characters are just the same but with a different name. Danny in 'The Gate Thief,' Ender of 'Ender's Game' and Vanya/ Ivan/ Yitschak could just as well have had the same name, except that the libido of Vanya and Ender Wiggins is more subdued. So by the way, there is a woman also reading parts of the story (I didn't catch her name, but she sounds familiar), which did quite a good job.
I would recommend this book to both die-hard Orson Scott Card fans as well as someone who has not heard or read any of his books. It is an excellent, vibrant, humoristic and at times dark story with the power of a fairytale.
According to Orson Scott Card "Ender's Game" is actually the introduction to the much deeper story you will find in "Speaker for the Dead." I am not sure if I agree with this statement. However, I do find the idea of someone speaking the truth about a dead person on or after his funeral very appealing, maybe because I am myself a minister of religion and has buried a lot of people. The basic premise of Card's story is that the truth brings in some or other way healing.
In "Speaker for the Dead" you will meet Ender thousands of years after his great victory over the "Buggers" on his way to the only planet with a different intelligent life form instead of humans in the universe. After the "Piggies" killed one of the members of the human community that has settled on the planet, a call is made by a bitter woman to come and speak the dead person's death. Andrew Wiggins as a Speaker for the Dead responds to the call leaving his sister behind for the first time.
What will the butcher of the "Buggers" find? Meet Ender far off in the future - a changed man - in a new role. The book comes highly recommended. I completely understand why it has won the Nebula award on its hey day.
Like usual David Birney and Stefan Rudnicki does an excellent job with the narration.
I have pictured Sir Terry Prachett very much in the same stage of his career as Albert Uderzo after his previous two discworld novels. It seemed that some of the puns got better, but the storyline shoddier. It is with pleasure that I can announce that I am COMPLETELY WRONG!
Moist von Lipwig - the rascal from ‘Going Postal’ and ‘Making Money’ is back… with a HUF and a PUFF! In ‘Raising Steam’ Lord Vetinari - the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork - calls in the help of the scoundrel of scoundrels to work miracles thus ensuring that the new invention - the steam locomotive - becomes the new buzz around the Discworld.
For die-hard Discworld fans, the basic story is very much the same as that of “The Truth.” A new invention comes along, there is a threat to the invention, the obstacle is eliminated and everybody lives happily ever after with the invention changing the city or the Discworld. (With Überwald in the picture, you might say that it is “The Truth” but bitten by a black ribbon vampire.)
In this story you will meet the dear sir Harry King the king of pooh (without an ‘h’) leaving his toilet humour behind and becoming a Railway Baron. Obviously the blackboard monitor, commander of the watch, Sir Samuel Vimes has to use his talents for getting the criminals to talk. But the biggest difference is that this time Ankh-Morpork’s bureaucracy are not the enemy. It is throwing in its weight behind the steam kettle and getting its hands dirty.
In the end the Discworld has once again changed… but is it for the better?
What I like about this book is the way Terry Prachett’s uses the ‘lore’ of the Discworld to create a fun-filled adventure. He brings together a lot of Discworld strains. However, if you have never read (or listened to) any Discworld novels, you will still be able to enjoy it.
Stephen Briggs - as always - performs the story terrifically. (This is definitely more than just reciting a book aloud.) Once again he brings the Discworld and its people to life.
For those who love the Discworld, especially when Sir Terry Pratchett is at his best, this book is a return to the good old ways (but with a new jacket). It is so good I think it will make an excellent gift to someone dear to you. If you are a new comer to the Discworld you could start here and later enjoy the rest. It comes highly recommended.
Do you have to listen to the audiobook of ‘Ender’s Game’ if you had listened to the audio play ‘Ender’s Game Alive’ and want to further immerse yourself in the so-called ‘Enderverse’? A lot of die-hard Ender fans seems to swear by it judging from the reviews. I disagree.
While ‘Ender’s Game’ is probably the best option for the purist, ‘Ender’s Game Alive’ gives you the whole story and more, since Orson Scott Card has seemingly incorporated some ideas from ‘Ender’s Shadow’ in the audio play. Furthermore die-hard Enderverse purists should start with ‘First Meetings: in the Enderverse’ which contains the original novelette. Personally, I prefer ‘Ender’s Game Alive’ due to the actors and the ripening of an old classic into its current form.
Yet this review is about ‘Ender’s Game’ which is itself an excellent production which also deserves five stars.
The story while along the same lines, are more inward focussed. Much is left implicit and it seems that the listener is caught up in the mind of the boy Ender Wiggin. The listener sees the world of Battle School through the eyes of Ender and your emotions are closely linked to the way he experiences things. The audiobook also provides you with more elaborate scenes especially after the great war against the ‘Buggers’ are won.
The bonus material added to the audiobook ‘Ender’s Game’ might tip the scale in buying the audiobook and not the audio play. Orson Scott Card discusses how ‘Ender’s Game’ came into being for more than half an hour. It is indeed an interesting listen which also gives you some insight on how the film came into being. In another added recording at the back of the audiobook, Card addresses young listeners/readers about the truths found in Ender’s Game and how it apply to their world. If you care for these things, the audiobook might be the best choice. If not, you are faced with a difficult decision - both ‘Ender’s Game’ (the audio book) and ‘Ender’s Game Alive’ are excellent productions that brings alive the Enderverse. Enjoy Ender’s universe, just don’t buy both versions of Ender’s Game.
Before now, I have never read or listened to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game epic. It is possible that I might never have done so, was it not for the hype created by Audible releasing the first three chapters of “Ender’s Game Alive” before the official release this full cast audio drama. It was while listening to the first free chapters that I got seriously hooked.
I understand that Orson Scott Card rewrote his original Ender’s Game into this audio drama. Performed by a full cast directed by Gabrielle de Cuir this is probably one of the best audio drama’s I have listened to. A good story coloured presented by an excellent voice cast and music specially adapted for this audio drama makes it not only a winner, it becomes an addiction. Be warned, you might not stop listening until the very end. This is one of the best audio drama’s I have ever heard.
The storyline is very basic. The listener finds him-/herself in the Wiggin’s home on earth some years in the future. One is aware that something is amiss because married couples may only have two children. You become aware that the genetically engineered Peter and Valentine Wiggin’s parents are allowed to have a third child, because Peter and Valentine weren’t completely the right material to enter Battle School. Thus came about Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. All humankind’s hope seems to be fixed on him to free the human race from an extra-terrestrial threat called the Formics. To do so, however, Ender Wiggen is admitted to Battle School at the age of 6 years.
The audio drama is based on these formative years of Ender. What makes it very effective is the way the line between what is real and what is practise are blurred until almost the very end when the pieces of the puzzle falls in place. I thought it was done neatly and convincingly.
This audio drama is an excellent suspense drama wrapped in a science fiction cloak. I believe that those who have enjoyed Ender’s Game in the past as well as those of us who are new to this science fiction classic will enjoy a five star performance of a five star story.
Tony Robinson has the ability to blow life into any Discworld abridgement in such a way that you won't even miss the titbits cut out by the abridger. In the case of 'Night Watch' the niceties found in Terry Prachett's sideway remarks and such colourful characters as Constable Buggy Squires, Sergeant Anqua and Captain Carrot Ironfoundersohn are almost completely absent. The abridgement seems also a bit more children friendly with words like 'arse' changed to its more suitable counterparts.
Fortunately enough of Terry Pratchett's wit is left to make this Night Watch novel just as enjoyable as the unabridged version.
The story is solid, with sir Samuel Vimes, commander of the Ankhmorpork City Watch, chasing a cop murderer into the past to ensure that justice will serve. Pratchett catches the camaraderie between Police officials splendidly and vividly. When the arch-criminal and cop murderer Carser becomes one of the gang, the plot thickens and Vimes has to choose between going back to his time of serving justice. Typically Discworld style Vimes chooses against what you and I would have.
I thoroughly enjoyed this recording of 'Night Watch.' You might want to buy it for Tony Robinson's performance and for being child safe, otherwise the unabridged version should be seriously considered.
Sean Pratt seems to be a established narrator of audio books. He reads with a clear voice but gosh, he started of slowly in this book. So much so, that I thought I would never get through the book. Maybe it is just I, but in the beginning of the book I found it extremely difficult to follow, mostly due to the way he read the book... v--e--r--y s--l--o--w--l--y, you struggled to grasp thought units. In all fairness, he improved a lot towards the end of the book. Yet he should be banned from pronouncing Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and even Latin words.
About the book: Joel L Kraemer has written a solid scholarly and very well informed biography. This book might become the Authoritative work to consult in years to come about the Jewish physician and philosopher, Moses Ben Maimon. It is a critical history and the author aims to place Maimonides within his times. Kramer did especially care to do so.
Much of Maimonides' life is reconstructed through letters he wrote that were preserved in the Cairo Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Kraemer has consulted a vast array of Arabic literature that bears on Maimonides. His proficiency with Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic impresses.
Kraemer introduces Maimonides systematically. His multi-faceted personality is almost divided into various parts eg. Maimonides the scholar of Jewish Law; the Physician and the Apostate etc. I found his method of 'publishing' his books in a pre-print time very intriguing. Earlier authorised copies, though endorsed by him didn't carry the same amount of weight as later ones.
I would recommend this book to someone who wants to know a bit more of Judaism in the Middle Ages and the coexistence of different religions with one another during this time. It will also be of great value to the Jewish historian, but be warned you might have to endure something similar to 'narrative torture' for just under a quarter of the book. Yet I suggest persevere.
Saul Mayzlish and Leon H Charney gives an overview of how the two Talmudim, the Bavli and the Yerushalmi, came into existence. For most part it seems to be and excellent overview of these two books.
Furthermore George Guidall does a superb job of reading the book.
I found the prejudice in the latter part of this book towards the Talmud Yerushalmi a bit disappointing. I could not help to suspect an 'religious-political' agenda which sings the praises of the Talmud Yerushalmi over against the Bavli, just because the Yerushalmi propagates a literal an physical return to the country of Israel. It didn't convince me.
What I do appreciate about the book is the interesting tit bits about how the two Talmudim developed. I found it especially interesting that the Yerushalmi only has one extant manuscript in which it is preserved.
Maybe, because I am not Jewish, a lot of this book's significance might have passed me by. It is definitely biased, yet interesting.
While not as focussed as his course on the 'book of Genesis' (probably because of this study field being vast) Prof. Gary A. Rensburg does a splendid job in introducing the Dead Sea Scrolls in 24 lectures aimed at those who are almost ignorant of this material.
He covers various aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls, from how and when it was found, to its ancient history, its significance and contributions to especially Old Testament/ Tanach scholarship as well as halackhic (Jewish law) issues. Prof. Rendsburg represents and presents the majority view of scholars throughout this course. In lecture 12 he engages with significant as well as sensational alternative views and claims that have surfaced over the years. The course is structured around all of the important Dead Sea Scrolls and Prof. Rendsburg often quotes and discuss these scrolls' content.
A great strength that is sometimes absent from similar introductions is the bird's eye-view of everyday life at Qumran that Prof. Rendsburg provides. On the other hand he significantly downplays the controversy that surrounded the scrolls since its discovery.
When comparing this course to a similar course in the 'Modern Scholar Series' presented by Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, I find that the two courses covers almost the same content with different accents often complementing each other. Because both scholars are Jewish, it does seem that their focus and I presume passion, is more on the Jewish significance of the scrolls. Prof. Schiffman seems to have a better grasp on the New Testament and how the Dead Sea Scrolls enlightens it. On the other hand Prof. Rendsburg's presentation is more polished than Prof. Schiffman's. I would suggest for someone interested in the Scrolls also to obtain Prof. John J Collin's 'The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography.'
If you are interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and want an comprehensive overview, this course comes highly recommended.
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