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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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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Provocative, eye opening, informational!

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Nathan
  • OREM, UT, United States
  • 10-21-15

Rage against the "Roman" machine

What did you love best about Zealot?

This book really filled in some of the holes in my understanding of the relationship of Christianity and it's Jewish origins. The author does a great job of helping you understand the importance of the temple to the people not just religiously but also economically and politically.
If you are Christian or not you won't regret listening to this book. Well paced, and very well researched.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Zealot?

He brings to light that Pilate was not a torn individual who sympathized with the Jews. He was there to govern and was known for his cruelty. He was eventually removed because of it.

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

His reading was well done. It is his content and he adds the proper context with his easy and clear voice.

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

The point he makes about Jesus being crucified for sedition by the Romans not stoned for blasphemy by the Jews

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  • stephen
  • CHICAGO, IL, United States
  • 10-16-15

Gripping listening

Any additional comments?

Like Reza Aslan I spent plenty of time in Evangelical circles in my youth, so this kind of material always piques my interest. What you learn is that Jesus of Nazareth probably had much more in common with the Taliban than the air-brushed white guy on the cover of my Children's Bible. The Jesus Christ of much of the new testament, Aslan says, was a creation of Paul, who never met Jesus and whose views were significantly at odds with those who did. He highlights passages in different New Testament letters that indicate a feud between Paul and Jesus' brother James over who controlled the truth about Jesus. That was news to me.

I couldn't wait to get back to listening to this book. It goes by quickly and author Aslan paints a vivid picture of the era. At times he appears to take poetic license with the history, given that almost no historical writing about Jesus exists outside of the New Testament. His assertion that Jesus would have been surrounded by MANY other bandits while on the cross, for example, feels like conjecture presented too suredly as fact.

One question the book left me with is, if the traditionally Jewish followers of Jesus who supposedly knew the man himself were so opposed to Paul's teaching that Jesus was God, what were they still following all those years after his death? If they understood Jesus' true mission to be the overthrow of the Romans and their Jewish collaborators, what was the enduring appeal after his "shameful failure" on the cross?

I've been thinking of finally listening to the audiobook of the whole Bible, and "Zealot" provides a very thought-provoking back-story to the New Testament.

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Wow

Lots of great historical information on one of the most important figures of our time Good narration. Beginning chapter hard to get through but the rest of the story is worth the effort.

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  • David
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 09-29-15

Stunning

Has me completely rethinking so much of what I thought I knew about Christianity. I deeply appreciate the author's approach which is very careful to not focus too much on Jesus, because there is so little to be found outside of scripture itself. This book is so much about the cultural and historical context that it makes the whole New Testament make so much more sense. The overall style is excellent, I felt captivated by the authors prose, and carried along by his arguments.

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Excellent book!!!

if you are looking to understand the historical Jesus the real Jesus and submerge yourself into his time and what what's going on at that time when he was around this book is sure. help you accomplish that I think it's extremely enjoyable and very factual and it's easy to tell how knowledgeable and well-documented the author is

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Good portrait of 1st century Judaism

What did you love best about Zealot?

Having taken a degree in Religious Studies and Theology, I appreciate the way Aslan constructs a picture of what Jesus' culture would be. I disagree with some points regarding Paul and early Christian movment.....but this is a fun read with a great performance by the author.

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Fascinating Read

To understand Jesus the man you have to understand the time in which he lived. This book almost perfectly depicts the era.

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good in general

the biok is worth a read. i did struggle with some historical parts that seemed to have required pre-knowledge as the author assumes the reader is already aware of.
otherwise, reza gets very descriptive to paint a picture of how life was like back then.

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Eye Opening!

what a fascinating and historic filled view of a very powerful, larger than life character. I listened to it twice and I'll get more of his books. I especially liked hearing about his brothers and the "real Paul"