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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth | [Reza Aslan]

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

From the internationally bestselling 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. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    JK-NJ Lawrenceville, NJ United States 10-20-14
    JK-NJ Lawrenceville, NJ United States 10-20-14
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    "Surprising historical facts"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Zealot to be better than the print version?

    yes


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Zealot?

    Surprising historical facts that seems to be well documented. But the author explains how this happened and that is also interesting .


    What does Reza Aslan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Very well narrated. The book contains a lot of footnotes to explain how this was researched. The narrator is able to juggle and present all this and still keep the story interesting and moving along.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Bible stories teach great lessons but are not necessarily true.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer SAN CARLOS, CA, United States 06-14-14
    Amazon Customer SAN CARLOS, CA, United States 06-14-14 Member Since 2012

    Avid marathoner and hi tech market analyst. Lover of Ken Follett, Christopher Moore, Timothy Zahn and any book that pulls me in.

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    "Excellent account of Jesus' time"

    I know many of the faithful won't like this book or the message it delivers but I'm more a history fan than a religious bigot and as a result found this book fascinating. Excellent historical account of the times of Jesus and how the politics and cultural environment he and the apostles found themselves in led to the new testament we read today. This context sheds new light on the writings and the reasoning of those stories. I absolutely loved it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas A. Morgan GROVE CITY, OH, United States 02-23-14
    Thomas A. Morgan GROVE CITY, OH, United States 02-23-14
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    "Fair and Mostly Unbiased"

    Strictly a portrait of Jesus from an historical prospective. Facts are interspersed with probabilities and likelihoods, but this book held my attention from beginning to end. This is one man's perspective based upon extensive work and study. In my opinion, it should be combined with the studies and reflections of others in forming one's opinions and beliefs.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rubi HINESVILLE, GEORGIA, United States 02-11-14
    Rubi HINESVILLE, GEORGIA, United States 02-11-14
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    "Changed my view of Jesus the historical character"
    What did you love best about Zealot?

    I really enjoyed the historical aspect being explored in such a way that I wasn't accustomed to. I decided to read the book after the initial controversy that was generated, but instead found an incredibly informative and interesting account of the historical Jesus.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce Selzler San Jose, Ca 01-13-14
    Bruce Selzler San Jose, Ca 01-13-14 Member Since 2012

    SezWho

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    "Excellent Historical Analysis"

    I read Aslan's previous work "No God But God", which is a similar text that focus' on Islam and Islamic traditions.

    Zealot is very much in the same mold and quite enlightening. Its well written, well read, and I have the sense that the content is well researched. Apparently with the written text you can look up the source material through the appendices.

    Regardless of your take on Christianity and who you feel Jesus was, this is a good, professionally written, scholarly, and respectful text. It can get a little confusing and it speaks to confusing times. But Aslan does a great job staying on track and elucidating the key events critical to early Christianity.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. Onopa Virginia 12-27-13
    N. Onopa Virginia 12-27-13 Member Since 2015

    VTWarrior11

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    "I'm Catholic and Loved It"
    What did you love best about Zealot?

    That the author was reading it and I got the book to check the notes he mentioned. Uses an incredible collection of sources


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Zealot?

    Learning about Jesus's brother, James.


    Which character – as performed by Reza Aslan – was your favorite?

    N/A


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Not really but the book did not change my beliefs, it actually gave me more confidence in them.


    Any additional comments?

    This does not diminish the Christian Religion at all if you listen to the book in its entirety and know what is most important in the Christian faith.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simone 12-23-13
    Simone 12-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Deeper and Broader than the Title Suggests"

    If Aslan were to ask me "Who do you say I am?" I would answer "You are a scholarly bull in a theological china shop." There is an energetic recklessness about this well written book, as he goes from point to point, flinging solid scholarship and wild conjecture in equal measure like stones from a sling. He really nails the popular history genera, and the book is on the best seller lists for a reason. His thesis, that Jesus was a zealot (not a Zealot, as one might have guessed from the title) and His intent one of temporal revolution, is really just a framework for a much broader discussion. What Aslan does in this book is to take a hard look at the life of Jesus and the early church in the context of Second Temple Judaism and first century Palestine. First century Palestine is something Aslan knows quite a bit about, and he's not shy about filling gaps in the source material with well-reasoned, and often fascinating, conjecture. If you have an interest in the subject, it’s a great listen, and I'd recommend it. That said, I'm never really sure now to take books like this. Sound and well established scholarship is interspersed with scholarly fabrication without any break in the pace or rhythm of the narrative. One moment he's describing Masada using Josephus' exact words, the next he's talking about Jesus’ apprenticeship in Cephorus, or his 40 day reunion with John in the desert. It's history, much of it, but there's no way to tell from the tone of the text when the history stops and the compelling, but oftentimes entirely unattested, conjecture begins. Often it reads like an historical novel. There is a faint aroma of revisionism to the whole business, but I disagree with the reviewers who think there is some ideological axe being ground here. I think it's just commerce. The title and the tone were intended to raise hackles, and he tends to neglect evidence that weakens his positions. Most popular history is written like this now. They push our buttons. It sells books. Still, I like Aslan. I think he's sincere, he writes well, and he brings a lively scholarship to the subject. At one point he recommends we "Put aside for a moment, centuries of exegetical acrobatics....” which I think is exactly the right way to listen to this book. Grant Aslan a bit of intellectual elbow room, and you may find that much of his conjecture has a ring of truth to it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly Schmidt Fort Worth, TX 11-21-13
    Kelly Schmidt Fort Worth, TX 11-21-13 Member Since 2013

    Kelly Schmidt

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    "Great story. All Christians should read"
    What did you love best about Zealot?

    That the author read it.


    What other book might you compare Zealot to and why?

    No other book that I have read it quite like it.


    What does Reza Aslan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    That he wrote and read the book.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No extreme reaction. It was good to hear another perspective and other facts about Jesus.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PT PA 11-16-13
    PT PA 11-16-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A Great Read For The Curious"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Zealot to be better than the print version?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Reza Aslan’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the first time I have heard this narrator. I thought he did an absolutely excellent job.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard D. Shewman Erie, PA United States 11-04-13
    Richard D. Shewman Erie, PA United States 11-04-13 Member Since 2009

    rshewman

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "well researched and gripping story of Jesus"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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