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.
It is written novelistically, but with plenty of reference material interspersed with the story to lend credence to the arguments. Very thought-provoking. I am sure there are other interpretations besides this one, but the author makes his interpretation(s) quite convincing.
Yes, this would have been a book I could have listened to in one sitting. However, it is so packed with ideas, it does merit stopping once in awhile to let the ideas sink in.
It was fantastic. It was fascinating see how thoroughly Paul's teachings have divorced Jesus the Christ from Jesus the Nazarene. Putting the so-called Messiah squarely into the time and place where he lived and looking at his life through that lens paints a very different picture of him than what any modern Christian church teaches. What most people don't realize (I know that I never had) is that not only was Jesus on of many self proclaimed Messiahs in his day, our understanding of what the Messiah was has almost nothing to do with the Messiah of Jesus' day.
As a person raised in a Christian tradition, I actually found the revolutionary Nazarine more compelling than the Christ that persists today. Reza Aslan sums it up best with the final line of his book, "...the one thing any comprehensive study of the historical Jesus should hopefully reveal is that Jesus of Nazareth—Jesus the man—is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in."
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?
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.
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).
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.
A pragmatic and unsentimental work. Pieces history together in a rational way, making sense of the politics and movements during the time of Jesus and the time when Christianity was emerging as a world religion.
"Kind of missed the point."
People who are sure that the Church is full of conspiracies and into sensationalism in some way.
Enjoy would be the wrong word. It was amusing to recognise where his conclusions were based upon misunderstanding and lack of proper scholarship
I'm not really sure that it does. How often does the average man believe in the written word, just because it is written and the author lays claim to authority that he doesn't possess or more dangerously, misleads the facts about his authority. (Check out the realities of his degrees as they would apply to being a biblical scholar, especially if you've ever seen someone misrepresent a resume for a job they weren't really qualified for but needed.)
In today's world of the Internet, self publishing, and lack of academic critical review before getting published, it has been my experience that we must spend as much time researching the credentials of the scholar who publishes, as we do in researching sensational assertions. There is a danger as an author of settling on a hypothesis and then focusing on proving that hypothesis rather than collecting information objectively and completely and then seeing what hypothesis that information might suggest.
This author appears to have fallen into these traps and so based upon the other scholars I have read, along with my personal research over a 5 year period, I'm not sure there is much value in this work any more than the works that Dan Brown used for the themes of the Da Vinci Code.
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