From the internationally best-selling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Two-thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the "Kingdom of God". The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal.
Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God.
Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history's most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry - a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious "King of the Jews" whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime.
©2013 Reza Aslan (P)2013 Random House
"In Zealot, Reza Aslan doesn't just synthesize research and reimagine a lost world, though he does those things very well. He does for religious history what Bertolt Brecht did for playwriting. Aslan rips Jesus out of all the contexts we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical ideologue, an odd and scary and extraordinarily interesting man." (Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World)
"A bold, powerfully argued revisioning of the most consequential life ever lived." (Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief)
"The story of Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most influential narrative in human history. Here Reza Aslan writes vividly and insightfully about the life and meaning of the figure who has come to be seen by billions as the Christ of faith. This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original." (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power)
In the introduction the author points out how the New Testament was never intended to be a historical book and should not be interpreted as a historical book, and then proceeds to interpret the New Testament as a historical book for the rest of the novel. Of course, if the author did not do this, there wouldn't have been much to say other than provide a sense of the culture at the time Jesus lived. I initially thought the book might be worthwhile since it seemed to provide some historical context to the New Testament, however, given the author's propensity for pure speculation about Jesus, I now question the authenticity of the historic background provided in the novel, and wonder how much of that is also speculation. In addition, the author never seemed to question the accuracy of Josephus' writings, even though Josephus' history often times is at odds with archeological findings. Whenever there seemed to be a discrepancy between Josephus and another source, the author always sided with Josephus. Although many references are provided for the novel, the author's interpretation of the references and tendency toward conjecture lead to the low rating of this book. If this is what passes for biblical scholarship, I feel sorry for the field.
i have been struggling with belief for years. i qm from the caribbean and if you reject the teachings of christianity then you are an atheist. I am really glad this book was written. it gives perspective on the this religion and educates as well. really liked it.
I like this book, and it made me appreciate Jesus the man much more. I think most history buffs and those critical of religion will like this book too.
I was disappointed by "Zealot" and its foundation. The author Reza Aslan opens the story by raising doubts about the historical accuracy of the Gospels. Then, he proceeds to use these texts as a historical source. But, if they're not to be trusted, then why use them? And, if there is no real source available, then why attempt a historical review?
Mr. Aslan is easy to listen to, and I like his auditory style. However, I would hesitate to try another book by Mr. Aslan due to the conclusions I came to while fact-checking this book. Namely, that he presented his opinions and misguided critiques of the historical Jesus as historical facts.
Honestly, there's too much to cut out because many of his premises are based on old, re-hashed arguments about the historical Jesus, and Mr. Aslan presents one side of the arguments as historical facts when in reality, he has too much of his own opinions mixed in. He approaches one side of an argument that sounds really compelling and proceeds to proclaim this one side as absolute truth, without any attempt to consider the historical facts and variables around the issues. To be quite frank, this book is nothing more than a modern-day flat-earther.
For anyone and everyone like me who simply could not reconcile the Old Testament God with New Testament Jesus. Reza Aslan walks the reader step by step through the transformation of Historical Jesus to Jesus Christ. Many thanks to Mr. Aslan for authentic, historic truth.
Compelling history of Jesus the man vs the Christ figure and the making of a new religion in the cultural context of Jewish life in a Roman Empire. It dispels the simple myths and stories of Christianity as truths and delves deep into the motivation of the followers creating a new religion over many hundreds of years. A must read in understanding the role of religion in the human quest for power and dominance.
Haven't read the print but the audio is well narrated - unusual for an author narration but the author is very engaged and engaging and the material is well researched and well told.
Not really a religious spiritual book but a great historical/biblical account of the times and events surrounding the life of Jesus.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
Let me just throw in here now that Fox skeptics need not worry, while this book was written by a Muslim, it wasn't written by that d@mn lion from Narnia.
The book's good points: compelling, well-written, and challenged a lot of well traveled myth-making by Christianity, Islam, etc., about the life and acts of Jesus of Nazareth. The bad points: there wasn't much NEW history here. The book was written to challenge, but not support. It isn't as much a biography of Jesus as a history of early Christianity, an examination of Jerusalem around the time of Jesus, a longish academic piece on Jewish Zealotry, and a examination of some of the other major players that might have reflected (James) or tilted (Paul) our view of who Jesus was. This isn't groundbreaking history about Jesus, and a rehash of ideas of other Early Christian historians that have been kicked around for the last 50 years.
The challenge a historian faces with writing a biography of Jesus is there are only a couple real facts you can hang your reputation on: Jesus lived. Jesus died on a cross. The rest is hearsay, myth, reflections, faith, hope and stories. All you have left to do, as a historian, is: examine the space around the hole. Look at the times, the place. Use templates of similar men to approximate what Jesus was like. Examine other figures who have more of a historical footprint (Paul, Peter, Pilate, etc), and then enter triumphantly into FOX News and overthrow the tables of the producers and drive out the lamb-like anchors. Fox New prefect Rogerios Aīlātos now washes his hands of Aslan of Tehran (and now California).
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).
This is a fascinating and impressive take on the early history of the major world religion that is Christianity. I found Aslan's arguments persuasive and he reads his own work with an engaging enthusiasm. Not all the ideas are new, but I liked the way he pieced things together. I also liked the respect that he shows to the Christian faith; this is a secular text, but it is not aggressive in its secularism - at least, not more than it needs to be.
I learnt a lot about Judaism that I didn't know before, and the book constructs a clear picture of the political tensions that simmered in Jesus' lifetime. The parts that really captured me were the description of the temple in Jerusalem and its rituals, the conflicts between early leaders (especially between Paul and James; that was a real eye-opener!), and the important differentiation Aslan makes between Jesus the man and Jesus the Christ, which really forms the backbone of the book. The title 'Zealot' refers to the Jewish concept of 'zeal', which is similar to the more common, colloquial understanding of the term, but not the same. I'm not an expert on world religions but in my limited understanding, it reminded me a little of the Islamic concept of jihad: both involve religious passion, both imply a struggle against something, and both can lead to violence, but don't always.
I can imagine that some Christians may have a problem with Aslan's book, because its content strongly shows that men, not gods, make religions. But he never disrespects the faith of others or tries directly to debunk anything that is based on faith: rather, he places this faith into historical context. The way that he does so reminds us of a key fact about Jesus that ought to colour our view of him but too often doesn't. He was not a Christian; he lived and died a Jew. What's more, he did so in a time and place where being Jewish could cause you problems, especially if you were inclined to dislike the Romans.
"Informative,but more questions than answers."
I have surprisingly enjoyed this audio book. I have long been interested in the real truth and the fiction hidden within the Bible. Reza Aslan narrates his book with enthusiasm. I must admit that I wouldn't make it to the end of the written book, but the audio version is more bearable. I didn't fully understand all of the threads which he references throughout, but I picked up the general gist. It is a revealing book but you have to have an interest in the subject to make sense of it. It's not a book for someone unfamiliar with the Bible in my opinion. It has made me ask more questions than finding answers.
So, who does this Jesus fella think he is? I’d never bought the whole middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road pacifist guru-magician image that was thrust down our throats at school; I couldn’t quite see how that ancient Jewish peacenik could’ve inspired billions of people across thousands of years and cultures to such heights of beauty and horror. But, the Jesus portrayed in this book is one I like! A complex and charismatic Angry Young Man filled to the brim-stone with revolutionary zeal, with a talent for whipping up a crowd with his rhetoric and sleight-of-hand - this is someone worth reading about. Picture Jesus as a Jewish Nationalist Socialist (oh, the irony …) taking on The Roman Man with his mob of illiterate, fundamentalist peasants - it’s quite an image. And then throw him into the wonderfully described world of spirits, magic, gods, and the starkly brutal and bloody politics of Imperial Rome, and you’ve got one helluva story! That that Jesus was swept aside for early Christian PR reasons is a tragedy we may never recover from ...I like and respect Jesus of Nazareth much more than Jesus the Christ, and the Son of Man has a lot more to offer us than the Son of God does. An excellent and thought-provoking book - Amen!
"Very thought provoking and interesting."
Brings to life a fascinating time and place in history. One of the best audio books I've read.
Brilliant, as near to the truth as I think you will get. Totally plausible and well researched story, read by the author himself.
"Speculative but sometimes interesting"
No, because I got all I needed from one listen
Well read, and it's always nice to hear the author read their own work.
The best part of the book is the first bit, setting out the cultural milleau in Roman Palestine. As for JC himself, Aslan is convinced that his take is sensational and new; but it's not the ground-shaker he thinks it is. The specifics where he diverges from other attempts to historicise Jesus are in Aslan's attempting to locate him in the Zealot tradition (rather than an apocalyptic as he's usually seen). But his evidence for this largely relies upon his own exegesis of biblical passages. In one particularly excruciating section he goes into details of the exact etymology of the Greek verb in “render/give/return unto Caesar...” in order to show what Jesus really meant by it; in the process apparently rather forgetting his own previous emphasis that JC would have spoken little if any of this language, and the word in the NT is not that that he would have uttered himself.
Similarly, he shows how the trial before the Sanhedrin as recorded in Mark contradicts the rabbinical procedures for such trials. He then admits that the trial took place in the second temple period, before the emergence of the Rabbinic/Mishnaic tradition, but quickly points out that Mark *was* written within the Rabbinic tradition. A bizarre position: that the author of Mark ought to have rewritten his oral sources to make them conform to the standards of his day, and that because he did not this is evidence that the events could not have occurred as the traditions described them.
These are both typical of its approach: it presents itself as falling within the scholarly rather than christological tradition, yet ultimately relies upon exegesis and substantial interpretative assumptions rather than painstaking and careful critical comparison.
Not a bad or deliberately dishonest book, but he has a prior agenda (JC the militant anti-Roman), and cherry-picks and interprets the sources to back it up.
Very well researched book. I think we all know the story of Jesus but what this book did was to put it into a social context of the time.
I was shocked at the society at that time - groups fighting each, massacres, foreign invaders. I was left with the thought that it doesn't look as if much has changed since then - just the names are different.
When the Romans came back after the rebellion with the express intent of "pummelling" the local population to teach them a lesson. I was shocked at the cruelty.
Great book to listen to.
"The True Jesus"
Excellent book on who Jesus really was and believed in. Christianity belongs to Paul not Jesus!
a beautifully written / produced piece. a compelling read for those with or without faith.
Good book, compelling facts, and smooth narration makes it a very nice experience to enjoy.
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