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)
I expected something different, and while I really wanted to get through this book, I couldn't. It literally feels like I am sitting in a lecture hall in college, doodling on a pad and letting my mind wander. The premise of the book was something that I yearned for and if the delivery of the subject matter (and performance, which isn't a performance at all) was conveyed as the dynamic story that it truly is, I would have been all in. As it is, guilt kept my going as long as I could, but in reality, I need more than an oral presentation of facts and figures to become invested. This is about Jesus Christ! I expected so much more.
I expected more insights into the real Jesus. But it gave a non-christian like me instigation to dig deeper regarding why Christianity became so successful.
Because Paul is almost the villain in this, set against Jesus' brother James. Aslan makes a compelling case concerning how far afield modern Christianity is from the probable teaching of the historical Jesus. And the reason? Paul, who never met Jesus and got into a real tussle with James over the conversion of the gentiles. I, for one (having read a good bit of the New Testament) had apparently glossed over the passages Aslan uses to demonstrate this. Aslan, perhaps a bit shy, perhaps a bit sensitive because of his Muslim background, never actually comes out and states the thesis of his book: That Christianity, as a religion apart from Judaism, was sort of made-up after its prophet's death by a guy Jesus might not have approved of. So, forewarned is forewarned.
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While I was aware that the gospel was not necessarily Jesus's word but more the creation of the church to fits its existence. Always thought Jesús was a messenger of brotherly love, & "turn your other cheek". This books paints him in very different light, and that almost everything is but a creation of the church.
As per the book, Jesus was only interested in Jews and not creating a new religion, which was work of Peter & church. Who knows what the truth is.
This book had some controversy when it came out, and some hard-liners may not enjoy this book, but this tale of the historical Jesus is fascinating and epic! Reza Aslan does a wonderful job of really telling a fascinating story, putting a new context of Jesus and his life, and it really makes a lot of sense about the development and foundations of Christianity at the very earliest period, and taking the true historical nature of Jesus, and what he stood for. For Christians, people interested in religion, and even Romanophiles, this is a great epic tale!
It is rare that I find a book that I would consider a complete wast of time but I have now found it! I could not even finish this. I tried for about 3 hours and had to throw in the towel.
Researching early Christian history is basically a hobby of mine so I'm no stranger to the basic ideas this book is based on. If you are, I suggest the fantastic "Jesus Interrupted" by Bert Ehrman as it introduces the critical historical method of reading the New Testament from the standpoint of an everyday Christian.
That said, books of this sort will always make an attempt to place Jesus in his time and place, but the author offers a fresh perspective that illustrates a deep understanding of Jewish culture in the first century and its tangled relationship with Rome. Jesus and his apostles fit neatly into the picture he paints as revolutionaries who have a lot in common with other Jewish zealots. While I've often read about the Kingdom of God mentioned in early Jesus sayings as being an eschatological event, the author's suggestion that this was a revolutionary message about a coming theocracy is thought provoking.
His message about James is also very insightful. He describes his conflict with Paul in vivid detail and even shows what appear to be clear steps he took to undermine him. That said, the author's assertion that his epistle as a sermon of his is needlessly shaky.
That said, I recommend this whole heatedly. I always love when the author reads their own work and this book is no exception.
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