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Zealot Audiobook

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

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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

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Terri 02-18-16
    Terri 02-18-16 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Like listening to a lecture"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay Agoura Hills, CA 02-10-16
    Jay Agoura Hills, CA 02-10-16

    Jay

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    "It's alright"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gucci Mane Buffalo, NY 01-21-16
    Gucci Mane Buffalo, NY 01-21-16

    VforRussell

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    "Truly wonderful"

    A comprehensive, rigorous review of old text reveals a historical Jesus and successors worth believing in

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad Johnson 01-21-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Agree with him or not..."

    I think his ideas and perceptions about Jesus and the NT are important for believers and non-believers alike to understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    aspaeth 01-17-16
    aspaeth 01-17-16 Member Since 2015
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    "I hope you don't like Paul"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suresh R Chitturi Hydrabad, AP India 01-14-16
    Suresh R Chitturi Hydrabad, AP India 01-14-16 Member Since 2017

    Deal with millions of Chicks, for a living. Photographer. Traveller, Tech Buff, love APPLE, Steve Jobs.

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    "A very different presentation of Jesus"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karl E. Misulis Jackson 01-08-16
    Karl E. Misulis Jackson 01-08-16 Member Since 2013

    Bookworm

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    "Awesome book! Very informative and moving!"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve White 12-29-15
    Steve White 12-29-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Wasted time?"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Long Island, NY 12-24-15
    Thomas Long Island, NY 12-24-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Good intro to the historical Jesus"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Krieg 12-17-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Excellent!"

    This story was wonderfully told and researched! Of course, I would expect nothing less from Reza Aslan.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Elizabeth
    Lancaster, United Kingdom
    9/3/13
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    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Nell
    Ferny Grove, Australia
    12/15/13
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    "Brilliantly done"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    10/16/13
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    "Holy Moly!"

    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!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • max ward
    2/22/17
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    "Excellent Glimpse into the world of Jesus"
    Where does Zealot rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Being a big fan of Reza Aslan and his work (particularly his talks, which I watch often), his narration of this book worked for me really well. Reza Aslan has done a great deal to make learning more about world religions, and in this case Jesus 'the man' both incredibly interesting and accessible, whilst also upholding robust scholarly study, backing up his claims with a plethora of sources.

    It is Aslan's story-telling style that really elevates this audiobook from being an interesting historical study into an exciting and deeply thought provoking story that really made me think about the historical context in which Jesus lived in a new light.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Reza Aslan's reading of this book really brought the story to life.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. N. J. Houchin
    10/2/15
    Overall
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    Story
    "Very thought provoking and interesting."

    Brings to life a fascinating time and place in history. One of the best audio books I've read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • FBCOL
    1/18/15
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    Story
    "Great"

    Brilliant, as near to the truth as I think you will get. Totally plausible and well researched story, read by the author himself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Stuart
    10/9/14
    Overall
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    "Speculative but sometimes interesting"
    Would you listen to Zealot again? Why?

    No, because I got all I needed from one listen


    What about Reza Aslan’s performance did you like?

    Well read, and it's always nice to hear the author read their own work.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • gintare
    2/3/17
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    "Amazing book and very well written"

    I could not stop reading it. Amazing book full of interesting facts about early christianity

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • M. C. Elson
    11/25/16
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    "Should be compulsory reading in schools."

    Chronicles the beginning of the religion that has been the cornerstone of western culture. If this book was compulsory reading it just might change the world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    11/24/16
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    "Well researched, compelling and believable."

    This is a book on Jesus that atheists can take seriously, which does not deal only in historical fact, but which goes on the probability based on his time and location, that certain of Jesus' views and actions are historical rather than merely scriptural. I've listened to it twice now and enjoyed it equally well both times. Highly recommended to anyone interested in Jesus the man, rather than those willing to take as literal everything written in the New Testament.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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