Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

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.Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom...

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Title:Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Author:Reza Aslan
Rating:
ISBN:140006922X
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:296 pages

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Reviews

  • Hadrian
    Jun 19, 2013

    Like most people here, I first heard about this book thanks to the

    interview they conducted of the author and the further

    performed on him by Glenn Beck in the following days. It goes without saying that these attempts all backfired and the book is now a New York Times bestseller.

    The main points of his argument can be found in Chapter 10, "May Your Kingdom Come". In it, he summarizes his main point that Jesus Christ was a Zealot

    Like most people here, I first heard about this book thanks to the

    interview they conducted of the author and the further

    performed on him by Glenn Beck in the following days. It goes without saying that these attempts all backfired and the book is now a New York Times bestseller.

    The main points of his argument can be found in Chapter 10, "May Your Kingdom Come". In it, he summarizes his main point that Jesus Christ was a Zealot - that is, a Jewish rebel who advocated violent sedition against the Roman Empire. The Romans crucified him because of his claims to The Kingdom of God, and as a threat to an established order.

    However, Aslan claims, the stories of his life were adapted and spread by Greek-speaking Jews, notably Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul), who preached a more inclusive Christianity led by a divine Jesus, but one at the expense of the Jews.

    Now biblical studies is not my forte at all, so I asked around and sent a few emails to staff in the Near Eastern Studies Department, and what they thought of his thesis. Their opinions were mixed at best.

    The short paraphrasing answer I can give is that the broad sweep of the argument, 'Jesus as a political rebel' is

    , but there are

    within the text, most notably his views on Jesus' own comparison with King David and his lineage, the dating of the gospels, Jewish belief in the resurrection, and so on.

    As for the assertion that the 'original' Jesus of Nazarea was exclusively a Jewish preacher who refused to treat with Gentiles, the repeated existence of other parables and miracles (The Good Samaritan, The Centurion and His Slave) seems to be a serious gap in this line of thinking. They might or might not be later insertions, but again I simply don't know about this one.

    The book has a forceful and elegant writing style, and it is easy enough to get swept away in the force of Aslan's argument. However, there are too many serious historical flaws which prevent me (transmitting and condensing the view of the experts) from recommending this book seriously.

    As for more accurate books, I honestly can't say, but I can pass along what else I've heard.

    and

    are good, so I've heard. Perhaps we could start there. If we want to have a historical discussion about one of the most influential figures in history, we'd better start on more solid ground.

  • Mario Sundar
    Jul 15, 2013

    Oh. My. God.

    I'm just done with Part I of this book, which is a breathless roller-coaster of a narrative that seems to meld the painfully bureaucratic themes of "The Wire" with the ferocity of "Game of Thrones" to describe the world that was Jerusalem under Roman occupation before, during and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

    The author's attempt here, unlike Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, is not to ridicule the contradictions in the New Testament, but to rather present as historic

    Oh. My. God.

    I'm just done with Part I of this book, which is a breathless roller-coaster of a narrative that seems to meld the painfully bureaucratic themes of "The Wire" with the ferocity of "Game of Thrones" to describe the world that was Jerusalem under Roman occupation before, during and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

    The author's attempt here, unlike Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, is not to ridicule the contradictions in the New Testament, but to rather present as historical a narrative as possible to describe the world of Jesus. And through that painstakingly detailed research concludes which parts of the New Testament seem plausible and which parts just cannot be.

    But frankly, once you start reading you just fall under the spell of the masterful writing and are swept into a part of the world at a moment in history, during the life and times of one man, whose teachings defines the belief of a third of the people living on the planet today.

    Highly, highly recommended reading.

    --

    Completed the rest of the book overnight. It's that good.

    Parts II and III, delve deeper into the contradictions of the early church; something I had to learn for myself through many other books but one that Aslan pulls together in a compelling and concise narrative that makes for an entertaining read.

  • Diane
    Jul 18, 2013

    This is a fascinating look at the historical, social and political context of the First Century in Palestine and of Jesus the man. The information will be familiar to religious scholars, but Reza Aslan writes so well and synthesizes so much knowledge that he makes it accessible to the layperson.

    The book begins with a touching author's note, which tells how he first became interested in Jesus. It happened when Aslan was attending an evangelical summer camp in California:

    "For a kid raised in a m

    This is a fascinating look at the historical, social and political context of the First Century in Palestine and of Jesus the man. The information will be familiar to religious scholars, but Reza Aslan writes so well and synthesizes so much knowledge that he makes it accessible to the layperson.

    The book begins with a touching author's note, which tells how he first became interested in Jesus. It happened when Aslan was attending an evangelical summer camp in California:

    "For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, [Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection] was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God. In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable. After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran. My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or drawer somewhere. But for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God. That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed. Jesus, on the other hand,

    America. He was the central figure in America's national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American."

    Aslan, who became a religious scholar, goes on to explain his interest in the origins of Christianity:

    "The moment I returned home from camp, I began eagerly to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I'd just met and with strangers on the street: those who heard it gladly, and those who threw it back in my face. Yet something unexpected happened in my quest to save the souls of the world. The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the gospels and the Jesus of history -- between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth. In college, where I began my formal study of the history of religions, that initial discomfort soon ballooned into full-blown doubts of my own. The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant. The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions -- just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of hands across thousands of years -- left me confused and spiritually unmoored."

    After sharing his personal background, Aslan sets the stage for the First Century in Palestine, which was teeming with political activity and zealotry. The Romans were in control and demanded high taxes from everyone they conquered, which often led to revolts. Anyone charged with sedition against Rome was put to death. Meanwhile, the Romans disliked the Jews and tried to wipe them out. In 70 C.E., Roman soldiers stormed the gates of Jerusalem, massacring Jewish citizens and setting the city on fire.

    This is important to note because Aslan is trying to correct the long-held belief that the Jews killed Jesus, when it's more historically accurate to say that the Romans put Jesus to death because he was a revolutionary and was threatening sedition by trying to be "King of the Jews."

    Aslan goes through the Gospel stories and explains how and why they were written. For example, the Book of Mark has a story that Pontius Pilate offered to release a prisoner to the Jews, and instead of picking Jesus, the Jews demanded the release of a murderer named Abbas. Aslan argues that the scene makes no sense, especially since Pontius Pilate was "a man renowned for his loathing of the Jews, his total disregard for Jewish rituals and customs, and his penchant for absentmindedly signing so many execution orders that a formal complaint was lodged against him in Rome."

    So why would Mark write such a fictitious scene, one that Jews would have recognized as false? "The answer is simple: Mark was not writing for a Jewish audience. Mark's audience was in Rome, where he himself resided. His account of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth was written mere months after the Jewish Revolt had been crushed and Jerusalem destroyed ... Thus, a story concocted by Mark strictly for evangelistic purposes to shift the blame for Jesus' death away from Rome is stretched with the passage of time to the point of absurdity, becoming in the process the basis for two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism."

    That's just one example of how knowing the historical context of the New Testament helps to better understand what was really going on. There are many other insightful details in the book, such as addressing Jesus' birth, his baptism, the prophecies, the title of Messiah, how Jesus died, and the stories of his miracles and resurrection. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of Jesus' life, and Aslan references the religious texts and historical documents to better understand it.

    Perhaps I should share that I do not belong to a religion, although I was brought up in the Christian faith and spent my share of childhood in Sunday school. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I loved learning the details of what some biblical phrases and stories really meant. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Christianity.

  • Marvin
    Jul 28, 2013

    Let"s face it. Theologians and religious historians will never get along. I am reminded of a scene in Clifford Simaks' clever time travel novel,

    . The inventor of a patented method of time travel is met by a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister who wants to buy the exclusive rights of travel to the time of Jesus Christ. The inventor says, "That's wonderful. You three can go back and find out the truth about Jesus." But the three have other plans. They want to totally close off ti

    Let"s face it. Theologians and religious historians will never get along. I am reminded of a scene in Clifford Simaks' clever time travel novel,

    . The inventor of a patented method of time travel is met by a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister who wants to buy the exclusive rights of travel to the time of Jesus Christ. The inventor says, "That's wonderful. You three can go back and find out the truth about Jesus." But the three have other plans. They want to totally close off time travel to that period. For them, and for the faith of their followers, it was better not to know. In this area, the three leaders of the these religions agreed that ignorance is best.

    When it comes to the "real world's" search for the historical Jesus. I think there is a similar form of friction involved. A lot of people simply do not want to read historical facts especially if it conflicts with their faith. Aslan is bound to have to confront

    like the now notorious one he was subjected to at Fox News. I'm sure evangelists are already gearing up the cottage industry of rebuking the points of

    now that it is a best selling book. But hopefully cooler heads will prevail as people read this book and examine Aslan's evidence for his claims about Jesus.

    But they are not really his claims. Aslan presents no earth-shaking revelations and no new information that has not been dug up by historians before. Where the author excels is taking all this information about the time of Jesus and presenting in a coherent, detailed and very entertaining format. Aslan researches the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew living in a time where Rome rules over Jewish territories, and rules often cruelly. It is a time when prophets claiming to be the Messiah abound and the religious hierarchy is often corrupt. Jesus is one the men claiming to be the Messiah, yet the author shows where his message differs and how his followers changed that message after his death. The main point here, and the one that is going to rile up the faithful is that Jesus is portrayed as not only Jewish (no big surprise there) but one of the Zealot teachers who preached the return of Jewish rule and an earthly "Kingdom of God", not one in the hereafter. Christianity actually arrives about 50 years after his death when Paul redesigns it into a religion for Gentiles and not the exclusive Jewish message that Jesus and the apostles originally meant it to be.

    But Aslan's real triumph isn't his claims about Jesus but how well he enacts the place and time that all this took place. For a non-fiction work of this kind, it is the most easily read and most engrossing one that I've experienced. It really comes alive as he describes the cultural, religious and political environments. Both minor and major characters are dealt with in amazing care and details. And I think this is where Aslan really helps us understand. Placing the actions of Jesus, Paul, the apostles, Herod, Pilate and the rest of the cast firmly in context with the historical reality helps us understand what was really happening.

    But if you are dealing with events that are only documented in Gospels which were not written by their namesakes and written 70 to 100 years after the fact, you have to make some judicial assumptions. Aslan uses other writings of the time to evaluate what is myth and what is fact. In some cases, he shows how certain events could not happen due to what we know historically; for instance The slaughtering of children by Herod after Jesus' birth that has no basis in fact as Herod the Great's history was highly documented by contemporary historians and no such event is recorded to have happened or the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in which most scholars agree he was actually born in Nazareth and the story of his birth in Bethlehem was placed to justify certain aspects of the Messiah prophecy. But other times, Aslan discredits events, such as the resurrection, as being "Faith events" and not one of historical relevance for study. Of course, this is where people of faith will protest most and use aspects of Aslan's own upbringing to discredit him as we have seen in the fore-mentioned Fox interview. Yet what it should come down to is whether the author's own research is credible and validated. Aslan's research does hold up extremely well with what I've already known yet he also gave me a lot of facts I was not familiar with and did it in a way that kept me guessing as if this was an exciting suspense tale; the perfect combination of historical research and narration.

    What it really comes down to, as you read this excellent book, is that you will accept or not accept it based on your own ability to have an open mind and to question your own beliefs and assumptions. And that's fine. What a person will do with the insight in this book is totally up to the individual. But it is an important book to read and I cannot recommend it too highly for persons of all faiths...or none.

  • Darwin8u
    Jul 29, 2013

    ― Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

    Let me just throw in here now that Fox skeptics need not worry, while this book was written by a Muslim, it wasn't written by that damn lion from Narnia.

    The books good points: com

    ― Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

    Let me just throw in here now that Fox skeptics need not worry, while this book was written by a Muslim, it wasn't written by that damn lion from Narnia.

    The books good points: compelling, well-written, challenged a lot of well traveled myth-making by Christianity, Islam, etc., about the life and acts of Jesus of Nazareth. The bad points: there wasn't much NEW history here. This isn't groundbreaking history about Jesus, simply a rehash of ideas of other Early Christian historians that have been kicked around for the last 50 years.

    The challenge a historian faces with writing a biography of Jesus is there are only a couple real facts you can hang your reputation on: Jesus lived. Jesus died on a cross. The rest is hearsay, myth, reflections, faith, hope and stories. All you have left to do, as a historian, is: examine the times, try and use templates of similar men to approximate what Jesus was like, examine others who have more of a historical footprint (Paul, Peter, etc), and then enter triumphantly into FOX News and overthrow the tables of the producers and drive out the lamb-like anchors. Fox New prefect Rogerios Aīlātos is not impressed and washes his hands of Aslan.

  • Stephanie
    Jul 31, 2013

    "Hello there! Jesus of Nazareth.....Right?"

    "Um, yes that's me, and you are?"

    "Stephanie, nice to meet you."

    "How did you know my name?" Said Jesus "And what the devil is that contraption you're sitting on?"

    "This is a time machine, a lawn mower/laptop, freak lightning strike.....and ta da! Time machine. A friend of mine let me borrow it so that I could come to your time and talk with you. See, I read this book about you and I decided to stop by here because there's some stuff we need to get straig

    "Hello there! Jesus of Nazareth.....Right?"

    "Um, yes that's me, and you are?"

    "Stephanie, nice to meet you."

    "How did you know my name?" Said Jesus "And what the devil is that contraption you're sitting on?"

    "This is a time machine, a lawn mower/laptop, freak lightning strike.....and ta da! Time machine. A friend of mine let me borrow it so that I could come to your time and talk with you. See, I read this book about you and I decided to stop by here because there's some stuff we need to get straight."

    "That was nice of your friend to lend his machine to you."

    "Oh, nice isn't the word I would use. It came at a hefty price."

    "Wait a minute, a book about me? Why? I'm just a working class Joe. What could possibly be so interesting about me that could result in an entire book?"

    "Well, there have been many books written about you. One big book, called the bible, has you as it's central character, which has made you a pretty big deal. It's called Christianity."

    "Really? I don't understand. 'When' are you from Stephanie?"

    "I'm from the year 2013, which is roughly 2013 years after your birth. See, we started keeping track of the years by using your miraculous birth as a starting point."

    "Miraculous? What was so miraculous about my birth?"

    "In the bible there is a story that you were born to a virgin, Mary, and your papa is God Himself.....making you the son of God....and a virgin. Don't ask me how THAT happened exactly, but that's the story many believe as literal, even though it was entirely made up to make you fit the description of the Messiah according to Jewish prophecy."

    "My mother is a great person, but she wasn't a virgin, I've got siblings! Look, see the tall guy with the long hair and wearing sandals over by the camel?"

    "Yeah."

    "That's my brother James." We all wave.

    "Hey." Says James.

    "Oh, I read about him in the book I mentioned, Zealot, he played a big part in early Christianity but then he was downplayed because of the whole virgin Mary story." I said.

    "That's odd. I know about the Messiah that your talking about, many other guys have been 'The Messiah' with many disciples of their own. Can't swing a sheep around here without hitting a Messiah. Whether or not we are 'The Messiah', we all want the same damn thing....to kick some Roman ass! Those bastards have occupied us for long enough!!" Said Jesus.

    "I read the story about how you go into the Temple and wreck the money changers tables, you were pissed. Good for you! You are quite the political revolutionary. In the bible, you are portrayed as a peace loving, hippie type."

    "Really? Man, I can't stand those rich Roman bastards, taking everything for themselves and leaving so little for my people. I like peace and all, but that's not going get these Roman bastards the hell out of here. Uh, what's a hippie?"

    "Never mind that. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but, the Romans are going to arrest you for that stunt. Your Governor, Pontius Pilate, is out to get you." I said.

    "I know. I'm sure that the murderous jerk will crucify me along side the rest of the Messiahs." *sigh*

    "Sorry, but that is what is going to happen. When the Romans adopt Christianity as their Religion they make Pilate a sympathetic character who calls for you to be saved from the cross. They make it appear as if your fellow Jews are the ones who call for your death instead."

    "What the...why?"

    "Because the Romans can't appear as the bad guy in this after turning Christian."

    "What?? That's just nuts!! Why would my people want me to die? No one will ever believe that.....will they?" Asked Jesus.

    "Sadly, they do Jesus. Some Christians believe the Bible is THE word of God and not a book of parables, this resulted in a lot of ugly antisemitism over the years. Many were persecuted and killed because it was believed that it was they who killed you."

    "That makes me so sad." Said Jesus

    "Me too."

    I liked this book. Aslan obviously knows what he's talking about, as he pointed out in that unfortunate interview on Fox, he has a few degrees on the subject of religion. I think anyone would find this book fascinating. I did.

    I particularly like how he ended this book....as I quote here.

    I agree.

  • Jim Marshall
    Aug 08, 2013

    I was raised and educated as a Roman Catholic, so I don’t know if people from other faith traditions would be as surprised and grateful as I am for the insightful revelations made in this book about the historical Jesus. Aslan is careful to distinguish this Jesus—the historical Jesus—from the Christ who was constructed almost entirely from the writings of Paul, who had never met or seen Jesus, and whose epistles were written between 20 and 40 years after Jesus was killed. The historical Jesus is

    I was raised and educated as a Roman Catholic, so I don’t know if people from other faith traditions would be as surprised and grateful as I am for the insightful revelations made in this book about the historical Jesus. Aslan is careful to distinguish this Jesus—the historical Jesus—from the Christ who was constructed almost entirely from the writings of Paul, who had never met or seen Jesus, and whose epistles were written between 20 and 40 years after Jesus was killed. The historical Jesus is the one who was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, who had sisters and brothers, one of whom was the most important leader within the Jesus movement in Jerusalem after Jesus died. The historical Jesus was a Jew speaking to Jews his entire life with a mission to reform the toxic relationship between the ruling Romans and the high priests of the Jewish temple. This Jesus was tortured and killed because he represented a threat, not only to the Romans, but also to the high priests who profited so well from doing the Romans’ bidding. Aslan makes his arguments through the close reading of the Old Testament Prophets, the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of Paul, and the extant non-bibical manuscripts that describe the history and politics of Judea during and just after Jesus’s short life. It is detailed, compelling scholarship, balanced in its judgments but sharply critical of scholars who have chosen to ignore the evidence he has produced

    Aslan’s most significant observation is that all the gospel material—all that we think we know about Jesus’s life and ministry--was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that anchored it, that is, after the Jewish people had been entirely dispersed from Palestine. That meant that the Jewishness of Jesus had to be dissolved, even rendered invisible, so that a non-political, ahistorical, god-like individual could be presented to a Gentile audience. That Jesus, the one called Christ, would be unrecognizable to the historical Jesus and his immediate followers. Theirs is a different story, grounded in reason and carefully rendered scholarship.

  • Marina Nemat
    Aug 19, 2013

    Mr. Aslan has a thesis, and he has written Zealot to prove it. As we soon find out while reading the book, Aslan intends to accomplish his mission at any cost, sometimes even at the cost of betraying logic and the very historical facts he claims to draw his conclusions from.

    Very early in the book, Aslan clearly lays out his thesis: Jesus was “a zealous revolutionary swept up, as all Jews of the era were, in the religious and political turmoil of first-century Palestine—[he] bears little resembla

    Mr. Aslan has a thesis, and he has written Zealot to prove it. As we soon find out while reading the book, Aslan intends to accomplish his mission at any cost, sometimes even at the cost of betraying logic and the very historical facts he claims to draw his conclusions from.

    Very early in the book, Aslan clearly lays out his thesis: Jesus was “a zealous revolutionary swept up, as all Jews of the era were, in the religious and political turmoil of first-century Palestine—[he] bears little resemblance to the image of the gentle shepherd cultivated by the early Christian community.” Then Aslan goes on to try to prove his theory and tells us: “Crucifixion was a punishment that Rome reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition. […] Jesus’s crime, in the eyes of Rome, was striving for kingly rule (i.e., treason), the same crime for which nearly every other messianic aspirant of the time was killed. Nor did Jesus die alone. The gospels claim that on either side of Jesus hung men who in Greek are called lestai, a word often rendered into English as ‘thieves’ but which actually means ‘bandits’ and was the most common Roman designation for an insurrectionist or rebel. Three rebels on a hill covered in crosses, each cross bearing the racked and bloodied body of a man who dared defy the will of Rome. That image alone should cast doubt upon the gospels’ portrayal of Jesus as a man of unconditional peace […]”

    Aslan goes on to give us a list of the names of the rebels, revolutionaries, and bandits of first century Palestine who saw themselves as “messiahs.” They took up arms not only against Rome but also against the chief priests of the Temple in Jerusalem. The chief priests had deep pockets and exploited the population, deepening the gap between the rich and the poor. Some of the violent revolutionaries were Hezekiah the bandit chief, Simon of Paraea, and Judas the Galilean. These men and their followers robbed armories and fought the Romans and the Jewish elite with swords, spilling blood. Then came the Sicarii (Daggermen), zealots who “had begun their reign of terror. Shouting their slogan ‘No lord but God!’ They began attacking the members of the Jewish ruling class, plundering their possessions, kidnapping their relatives, and burning down their homes. By these tactics, they sowed their terror into the hearts of the Jews so that, as Josephus writes, ‘More terrible than their crimes was the fear they aroused, every man hourly expecting death, as in war.’”

    Here, I will briefly break down some of the flaws in Aslan’s thesis:

    1. Aslan expects us to believe that because the other “messiahs” of the first century Palestine were violent zealots, so was Jesus. This is despite the fact that the most violent act Jesus ever committed was to overturn a few tables of money exchangers in the Temple in Jerusalem. A few pigeons and goats were freed, but, from what we can tell, no one was seriously hurt in the process.

    Jesus was, in a unique way, a revolutionary; his words and actions did not threaten the political establishment but challenged the priestly elite who used religion to get rich and gain more and more power. However, Jesus was not violent. On the contrary, what made him so dangerous was that he claimed his powers came directly from God, and he had his many miracles to prove this. Aslan admits that Jesus did perform many miraculous deeds like curing the sick, but he dismisses Jesus’s miracles as “magic” and says that many other “messiahs” were doing amazing things during the first century. Aslan tells us that what made Jesus different was that, unlike the others, he performed miracles for free. So, Jesus was indeed different from the rest. A question then arises: Why did Jesus perform his miracles for free when all the other healers charged for their work? If he were another violent revolutionary, wouldn’t he need money to fund his movement and arm his disciples?

    To further prove that Jesus was a violent revolutionary, Aslan quotes the Gospel of Luke: “If you do not have a sword, go and sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36) This sentence has been discussed thousands of times, and it feels ridiculously repetitive to talk about it again, but here goes. We have to look at this quote in its context: “And he said to them, ‘When I sent you out without purse and bag, you did not lack anything, did you?’ And they said, ‘No, nothing.’ And he said to them, ‘But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to me has its fulfillment.’ And they said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’” (Luke 22:35-38) Jesus was known for speaking in metaphors. Here, he’s telling his disciples that even though during the time he has been with them, they have lacked nothing, the time will come, after his death, that they would have to take care of themselves and be well prepared for their difficult and challenging mission. If Jesus really meant to arm his disciples, would he have told them that two swords were enough? Two swords are enough for what exactly when facing the Roman Empire and the chief priests? Some “messiahs” who had picked up arms around the same time had robbed armories! In the Gospels and all recorded history of the life of Jesus, there is only one time when one of his disciples uses a sword. This happens at the time of Jesus’s arrest when tens of armed men sent by the high priest, Caiaphas, come to the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus and his disciples have taken refuge after the last supper. Peter panics, pulls a sword, and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52) Are these the words and actions of a violent man? Jesus often preached about loving our enemies and praying for them.

    2. Because Jesus was crucified, we have to assume he was a violent revolutionary.

    As Aslan tells us, Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine at the time of Jesus, was a coldhearted man who had no patience for any of the Jews’ religious beliefs and especially for their “messiahs” who saw themselves as kings and thus challenged the power of Rome. During his time as governor, Pilate had seen many so-called messiahs preach about the end of the oppression of the Jews, perform magical acts, begin violent movements, and spill blood. These actions destabilized the region and were a challenge to the power of Rome and the Emperor. It was Pilate’s job to put an end to these movements with an iron fist once and for all, but they kept sprouting.

    The image that Aslan paints of Pilate sounds relatively accurate, but his conclusions are illogical. There is more than one way to see the situation. For example: Pilate is the Roman governor, and he is cruel. In addition, he is fed up with the “messiahs” and their followers. The Jewish elite despise the Romans, but they have no choice but to work with the occupiers. After all, the top priests’ main goal is to fill their pockets. The Romans can help them do just that as long as the Empire’s share of the profit is guaranteed. It is to the advantage of the priests and the Romans to get along and work together, but serious disagreements are unavoidable, and sparks fly. When Jesus eventually finds his way to Jerusalem from the countryside, the priestly class is alarmed before the Romans are. Romans do not speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus, but the priests do. Jesus has not been violent, so, at least for the time being, he has not set off alarms for Pilate, who is quite busy being the governor of a difficult region. But, of course, Pilate has heard of the peasant who cures the sick and attracts large crowds. However, this peasant has not picked up arms, so the Romans have tolerated him while they deal with more serious threats—and, by Aslan’s own admission, there are many. The priests, on the other hand, are getting more worried by the day. Jesus has some dangerous claims. Even though he doesn’t exactly call himself the messiah yet, he has directly challenged the power of the Temple and the priests. He has cured the “unclean” and has even forgiven their sins! The Temple priests have a complicated ritual when it comes to cleansing “unclean” individuals, a process that is financially lucrative for Temple authorities and demands that the “unclean” offer many sacrifices to the Temple. Who does this Jesus think he is? He might be non-violent, but he is extremely dangerous. After all, he has called himself the Son of Man. The other “messiahs” have never called themselves that. Jesus is different and a threat, yet the Romans are not aware of the terrible problems he can cause. The high priest, Caiaphas, takes it upon himself to make sure this threat is eliminated. In short, Jesus seems to represent a religious threat to the Jewish priests, not a political or military threat to the Romans.

    3. Aslan tells us that Jesus didn’t call himself messiah or Son of God. Instead, in the Gospels, Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man” about 80 times, “an enigmatic and unique” title. Aslan traces the origin of the term to the Book of Daniel. Son of Man, at least in the context that Daniel and Jesus have used the term, doesn’t just mean “human being”; it is much more than that. In a vision, Daniel sees “‘the Ancient of Days’ [God] sitting on a throne. Thousands serve him as he passes judgment, and this is when Daniel sees ‘one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion shall be everlasting; it shall never be destroyed.’” Aslan concludes that “because he [Jesus] failed to accomplish any of his messianic functions on earth,” early Christians came up with the idea that the Kingdom of God, which Jesus directly linked to his identity as the Son of Man, is not from this world.

    As Aslan quotes from the Gospels, Jesus “goes on to describe how the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected before being killed […]” These hardly sound like the words of an ambitious and violent revolutionary who wants to oust the Romans and become king. If we go back to the description of the Son of Man in the Book of Daniel, we can easily see that the Son of Man, at least the way Daniel and Jesus see him, is not exactly a worldly figure and is not a “normal” king. Daniel’s Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven and stands next to God. The Son of Man has dominion and glory and a kingdom and all people eternally serve him. Jews knew very well that even the kingdom of David had ended. Eternity is Godly; it is not from this world. Aslan finds Jesus’s descriptions of the Son of Man contradictory: “He is powerful (Mark 14:62) yet suffering (Mark 13:26). He is present on earth (Mark 2:10) yet coming in the future (Mark 8:38). He will be rejected by men (Mark 10:33), yet he will judge over them (Mark 14:62). He is both ruler (Mark 8:38) and servant (Mark 10:45).” Aslan sees all of these as contradictions, because he is trying to sell us the idea that Jesus wanted to become an earthly king. However, Jesus’s message and approach are fundamentally different. Let’s put all the words that describe the Son of Man together: powerful, suffering, present, coming in the future, rejected by men, judge over men. When these words are put together, just like Daniel’s description of the Son of Man, they vividly describe a king whose kingdom is literally out of this world and challenges old belief systems. This idea seems to confuse Aslan and sends him into ranting loops that make no sense. Aslan’s problem is that he desperately tries to fit Jesus into the earthly mold of a violent man who uses the sword to get his way.

    4. Aslan claims that “The gospels present Pilate as a righteous yet weak-willed man so overcome with doubt about putting Jesus to death that he does everything in his power to save his life, finally washing his hands off the entire episode when the Jews demand his blood.” Aslan adds: “Either the threat posed by Jesus to the stability of Jerusalem was so great that he is one of only a handful of Jews to have the opportunity to stand before Pilate and answer for his alleged crimes, or else the so called trial before Pilate is a fabrication.” Basically, Aslan claims that either Jesus was a violent revolutionary whom Pilate insisted on executing, or the narrative of his trial in the Gospels is not true at all. In other words, if Jesus were not violent, it would simply mean that he was never brought before Pilate.

    What seems to be a fabrication here is not at all the Gospels’ description of the last hours of the life of Jesus but is Alsan’s conclusion. These are the same Gospels that Aslan quotes time and time again when he feels he can manipulate them to serve his agenda and prove Jesus to be a mere revolutionary armed with a lot of zeal and a sword, basically what we might call a terrorist today, more or less, a member of an Al-Qaeda style movement in the first century, fighting the Romans.

    As Aslan has quoted the Gospel of Matthew many times, I carefully read the part of it that has to do with the trial of Jesus. Aslan has claimed that it would have been impossible for Pilate to give a man like Jesus so much of his time, and that even if Jesus were brought in front of Pilate, his trial would have been very quick. Reading the Gospel of Matthew, it is difficult not to notice that Jesus’s trial was indeed very short and arbitrary; the whole episode is described in about 6 lines, which Aslan calls it a long trial, and, as a result, a fabrication and a creation of the Gospel writers.

    5. Aslan writes that crucifixions were performed very often and served as a deterrent to others who might wish to defy the state. This is why crucifixions were carried out in public and usually on hills and at crossroads where everyone who walked by could see; “The criminal was always left hanging long after he had died; the crucified were almost never buried. Because the point of the crucifixion was to humiliate the victim and frighten the witnesses, the corpse would be left where it hung to be eaten by dogs and picked clean by the birds of prey. The bones would then be thrown onto a heap of trash, which is how Golgotha, the place of Jesus’s crucifixion earned its name: the place of Skulls.”

    From what we can tell, it is true that the vast majority of those who were crucified were left on the cross, as Aslan tells us. But there are exceptions to almost any rule. The Gospels, which Aslan has quoted time and time again, tell us that “And when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given over to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.” (Matthew 27:57-60) Thousands of people had followed Jesus, and even though he had 12 main disciples, he had many friends and followers, some of whom were rich and powerful. He had cured many, and these individuals had families and neighbors. From this story, we can tell that Joseph cared deeply about Jesus, and this is why he gave him his own tomb. Pilate allowed it, as he probably just wanted to get done with this whole Jesus thing even if the main reason for it was that his wife had been nagging about it! There were many other corpses left on Golgotha to serve as a deterrent to dissidents and revolutionaries.

    6. Aslan writes: “Then something extraordinary happened. What exactly that something was is impossible to know. Jesus’s resurrection is an exceedingly difficult topic for historians to discuss, not least because it falls beyond the scope of any examinations of the historical Jesus. Obviously, the notion of a man dying a gruesome death and returning to life three days later defies all logic, reason, and sense. One could simply stop the argument there, dismiss the resurrection as a lie, and declare belief in the risen Jesus to be the product of a deludable mind. However, there is this nagging fact to consider: one after another of those who claimed to have witnessed the risen Jesus went to their own gruesome deaths refusing to recant their testimony. That is not, in itself, unusual. Many zealot Jews died horribly for refusing to deny their beliefs. But these first followers of Jesus were not being asked to reject the matters of faith based on events that took place centuries, if not millennia, before. They were being asked to deny something they themselves personally, directly encountered.” Aslan goes on to tell us: “It was precisely the fervor with which the followers of Jesus believed in his resurrection that transformed this tiny Jewish sect into the largest religion in the world.”

    Indeed, many have dismissed Jesus’s resurrection as a lie, and we can see that Aslan would have loved to do the same. Yet, as he puts it so well himself, there is a “nagging fact to consider.” Jesus’s disciples, the ones who knew him personally and had claimed to have seen him after his resurrection, bore witness to what they had seen, even under torture and to horrific deaths. This is a truth worth pondering.

    History can be used and abused, shaped and reshaped. It is sometimes extremely difficult to separate fact from fiction, even when it comes to what happened last year, let alone two thousand years ago. Many times, we are left with not much more than witness testimonies. Are witness testimonies perfect and entirely accurate? No. Memory filters everything, emotions affect the way we remember, and trauma can distort images. Yet, there is something powerful about the witness, especially a witness who would rather die than recant his testimony. Maybe this is exactly where the truth lives in all its mystery.

    As other reviewers of Aslan’s Zealot have mentioned, this book, which now sits on top of various bestseller lists, would not at all have received so much attention if it were not for the controversial Fox interview conducted by Lauren Green that has been viewed a million times on YouTube. Green demands to know why a Muslim such as Aslan should be interested in the life of Christ. To me, as a writer and reviewer, Aslan’s religion doesn’t matter. If I have issues with a book, I address them in a direct and civilized manner after reading all the book and carefully analyzing its arguments. It is amazing how many of the people who have very strong opinions about this book have not read it. But, there are a few well-written reviews about it available. For example, in his review of Zealot for The Telegraph, Nicholas Blincoe writes: “It is a politically charged interpretation with a grand narrative sweep but, too often, the decisions underpinning it feel arbitrary.” And Stuart Kelly says in The Guardian: “To take just one example: the Romans are said to display ‘characteristic savagery’ on page 13 and are ‘generally tolerant’ on page 14. Aslan contends that an illiterate ‘day laborer’ called Jesus was part of an insurrectionary tradition in Israel, and the story of this Che Guevara of the early Middle East was co-opted by the dastardly Saul of Tarsus, aka Saint Paul, who defanged the zealot and turned him into an apolitical metaphysician. Frankly, parts of it are closer to Jesus Christ Superstar than any serious undertaking.”

    Marina Nemat

    Author of Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran

  • Riku Sayuj
    Dec 07, 2013

    For the Exhaustive Review:

    , there was a Great Empire. At its very edges, hardly noticed, was a small region. A minor kingdom in fact. A Theocracy of sorts, now. The Empire was not too concerned about them, but they knew in their hearts that they were the Chosen People. Their religious books and prophesies told them as much. They believed fervently that one day a savior will come and return the kingdom of god and

    For the Exhaustive Review:

    , there was a Great Empire. At its very edges, hardly noticed, was a small region. A minor kingdom in fact. A Theocracy of sorts, now. The Empire was not too concerned about them, but they knew in their hearts that they were the Chosen People. Their religious books and prophesies told them as much. They believed fervently that one day a savior will come and return the kingdom of god and overthrow the alien rule. All they needed was zeal - complete abandonment to belief in god’s words and in the millenarian prophesies.

    They might be small and backward but their zeal was great and wave upon wave of revolutions started to crash and break on the great shield of the Empire as the Millennium drew near. Their conditions were bad and oppression was great. But, all this only contributed to their zeal. The corrupt priests, who were supposed to preserve god’s rule in the Holy Land, was also hand-in-glove with the oppressive alien rule. The zealots (filled with zeal) targeted them as much as the alien rule - both were inseparably mixed by now. It was a proletariat uprising of sorts against all oppression and oppressive regimes. All they wanted was their Messiah to come, for the prophesied Davidic descendant to reclaim their throne and restore His rule, The Kingdom Of Heaven.

    Unfortunately, the Empire was too strong and crushed every uprising with almost uncaring ease. Zealots were hung up on the cross to die, one after the other. A full procession of them.

    One among them was a Jesus, of Nazareth. Born in an oppressed class, believing in the same zeal and crusading with a few followers, against The Temple and The Empire. There was noting much to differentiate him from the rest of the self-professed Messiahs. His story didn’t even fit any known prophesies well enough. To top everything, he himself was just a disciple to the famous John The Baptist. This carried on for a few years, probably in parallel with other zealots and messiahs. He had a decent following and was important enough to be noticed, but not enough to be given much notice on written records. Hardly any written records survive even though many of his predecessors and contemporaries have more detailed histories.

    In time, Jesus grew bold and mounted a direct attack on the Temple. Heresy of heresies, he was reported to the Empire. The Empire summarily did what it always does to people like Jesus. It was an act of treason to proclaim oneself Messiah/King as it implies an overthrowing of the current rulers and to be punished in the standard way - death by crucification. Jesus might have been important enough to be given a trial by one of the most notoriously cruel Pontius Pilate, but was judged guilty and sentenced to death.

    Jesus was then crucified along with dozens of other ‘bandits’ or revolutionaries in a mound filed with such crosses. He died and was probably picked clean by the vultures.

    Another failed revolutionary dead. With none of his promises even remotely fulfilled. Another Messiah would probably take his place soon, first on the streets and then on the cross. This would continue until the Millenarian zeal passes away and the eternal Empire carries on, as ever, hardly concerned about this small region. The story should have ended there and thus.

    It did not.

    How did Jesus became God? How is it that a scarcely known, itinerant preacher from the rural backwaters of a remote part of the empire, a Jewish prophet who predicted that the end of the world as we know it was soon to come, who angered the powerful religious and civic leaders of Judea and as a result was crucified for sedition against the state—how is it that within a century of his death, people were calling this little-known Jewish peasant God? Saying in fact that he was a divine being who existed before the world began, that he had created the universe, and that he was equal with God Almighty himself? How did Jesus come to be deified, worshipped as the Lord and Creator of all?

    That is the real story. Much more interesting and much more adventurous. History was written, modified and made in the construction of this story.

    Instead began the centuries long resurrection of Christ and the burial of Jesus. This is the real exploration. The search for the ‘Historical’ Jesus - conveying by the very naming convention that the known Jesus is not historical, but mythical, constructed.

    To the revolutionaries, filled with Zeal, Jesus was what he was. A failed Messiah, not to be wasted time on. They continued their zeal and their insurrections, their half-crazed fight against the greatest Empire on Earth, armed only with their complete faith, their Zeal.

    Jesus was succeeded by other Messiahs, some more successful, some less but all more and more loud. Then finally culminating in the famous Zealot movement. There was no turning back now. The Jews had just declared war on the greatest empire the world had ever known. Thus, eventually the lumbering Empire turned its head, and decided to swat of the irksome fly. Caught in its own worries, the Empire chose Judaea as a good place to make an example of. Just as they had been exceptionally lenient until now, now they were exceptionally cruel. Somehow, for an Empire that had lost its one enemy, Carthage, long ago, for an Empire that loved to define themselves in opposition to its enemies, The Jew provided a pervasive and hateful figure. Across the Empire the Hate spread, just as the Jews themselves were scattered across, homeland destroyed, banished forever.

    Such was the come-down on the Jews that the Jews themselves realized that the only way to survive was to distance themselves from their on violent recent-past. They settled down into their religion, their Torah and became a different species altogether, No longer the millenarian fantasists but just a minority, getting by. The eternally prosecuted, the eternal victims. The image was not just cultivated, it was embraced. But the hatred was too deep-rooted, it never seeped away but collected in rivulets and drains, to explode sporadically in the rest of the violent history of this small ‘promontory’ of Asia.

    Meanwhile, the Jews who followed the cult of Jesus, soon to be called Christians, had begun separating themselves entirely from Judaism, and in very creative ways. Survival is the mother of creativity.

    It is not easy to figure out when which distortions began and ended but the direction was already there from the very early days. This is partly reflected in the progression of the gospels - radically departing from the ‘synoptics’ (the first 3 gospels - gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and becoming rapidly spiritualised in each subsequent installment.

    As described, the first century was an era of apocalyptic expectation among the Jews of Palestine, the Roman designation for the vast tract of land encompassing modern-day Israel/Palestine as well as large parts of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Countless prophets, preachers, and messiahs tramped through the Holy Land delivering messages of God’s imminent judgment. Many of these so-called false messiahs we know by name. A few are even mentioned in the New Testament.

    In the midst of all this, a small cult tried to stay true to the fallen Messiah. The very act of staying true to Jesus meant that the long history of reinterpretation of Jesus’s life had to begin right there - to make sense of the irreconcilable fact that Kingdom of God was NOT upon them. To follow and to gain followers to a failed Messiah, when there was an over-abundance of ‘false’ Messiahs was no easy task.

    The earliest manifestation of this tendency must have been the Resurrection. By this single act, Jesus Messianic ambitions are transformed and transposed - from the earthly sphere to a heavenly one.

    This was an essential cog in the wheels and absolutely necessary for getting new converts, for who would follow a dead Messiah (read future King). The need for conversions meant that the process of reinterpretation had to be speeded up to build a whole new mythology around Jesus and his message. His life and purpose had to be made part of the ‘prophesy tradition’ and the scriptures. This was not easy Jews happened to be especially well read in the scriptures, especially the city-dwellers. This meant that the first conversions had to be from the rural areas, the ones who were ignorant enough of the traditions, prophesies and scriptures to not question the contradictions in the adapted Jesus story. Stephens is the perfect example for this sort of convert. He accepted Jesus quickly as the Right Hand of God and accepted the reinterpreted version of Kingdom of Heaven as a spiritual kingdom to be established by a Messiah who will ‘return’.

    The problem was that this was a big stumbling block for the educated, tradition-immersed city Jews and they cracked down hard on this small cult. Sparking the mutual hatred that was to continue for centuries. Stephen was again the prime example. Stoned to death for his assertions of Jesus as God made flesh, for blaspheming.

    The process was accelerated by the Diaspora Jews who spread out and started preaching the Gospel (good news) of Jesus far and wide, far also from the Temple. The repression only fueled the more fanatic believers in the new religion to fan out further and further.

    The Temple persecution continued, the preaching continued, but most importantly the insurrection by the new Messiah’s continued.

    Finally came the first-century Jewish revolutionary party (of the Essene sect) known as the Zealots, who helped launched a bloody war against Rome; and the fearsome bandit-assassins whom the Romans dubbed the Sicarii - who together brought embarrassment on the Roman Empire. And the Grand Retaliation that blew the Holy City off the face of the planet.

    Now we can finally come to the question - Why would the gospel writers go to such lengths to temper the revolutionary nature of Jesus’s message and movement?

    James, Jesus’s brother was the last link to the original movement. He stayed true, as much as possible and despite the necessary modifications, to Jesus’s message and intent. But Saul (later Paul) represented a new breed - an entirely new Christian.

    Reaching out to this particular audience required a bit of creativity on the part of the evangelists. Paul was the man to do it. In open revolt against James, Saul went in the face of almost all of Jesus’s teachings and invented his own new religion - Christianity.

    Preaching almost exclusively to the Diaspora Jews and soon to the Roman citizens plus the Gentiles, Paul had an audience who had no idea about the traditions he was supposed to be talking about. He could basically make up the story on the fly. And, he did.

    Thus,

    it was Paul who finally solved the great dilemma of reconciling Jesus’s shameful death on the cross with the messianic expectations of the Jews -

    Also, in accordance with the doctrine of Virgin Birth, James, the now prohibited Brother, too fades away after his death.

    From then on, the rest was history. Divorced from history, but yet history.

    How can a Muslim write about Christianity? Sorry, but Muslims are allowed to write History too.

    Serious historians of the early Christian movement - all of them, no matter what their religion - have to spent many years preparing to be experts in their field. Just to read the ancient sources requires expertise in a range of ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and often Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic, not to mention the modern languages of scholarship (for example, German and French). And that is just for starters. Expertise requires years of patiently examining ancient texts and a thorough grounding in the history and culture of Greek and Roman antiquity, the religions of the ancient Mediterranean world, both pagan and Jewish, knowledge of the history of the Christian church and the development of its social life and theology, and, well, lots of other things.

    Scholars who has spent all the years needed to attain these qualifications are the ones who are truly qualified and respected by their peers. Your religion is not a qualification required at the university for conducting historical research. So, shelve that argument. Or should we go about redacting every historical research conducted by any scholar on any historical piece with religious implications that did not meet the exacting requirement of religious qualification. The field would be much poorer for this.

    Reza Aslan could (and should) have been much more exhaustive in the presentation to really bring in all the facets of his research and reinforce the conclusions. But, there is the need for an accessible yet scholarly work on this and Aslan has stepped up admirably. But in that quest, he leaves a few holes and makes a few sweeping assertions that makes the serious reader slightly uncomfortable in accepting all the assertions, especially when a good deal of them, by necessity, have to be conjectures. Intelligent and well-grounded conjectures, the very basis of historical study, but still conjectures.

    For example, consider the following assertions:

    Statements, nay grand assertions, such as these makes one slightly doubtful and want to consult other historians. It hinges on too few concrete facts in the end.

    Ultimately, the only point to ponder is the historicity of the narrative.  Aslan constructs an almost leakproof argument but there are grey areas - the biggest one being “Why Jesus? - Why of all the zealots that roamed, pick Jesus?

    Aslan does not explore this angle fully. To me, the answer could lie in the “messianic secret” that Aslan explains away as pure subterfuge on Jesus’s part, born from a desire to avoid direct confrontation, not entertaining the possibility that Jesus might actually have had different ambitions and hence tried to avoid this expectation. Jesus’s

    actually have been a genuinely different teaching - still an outgrowth of the times but something could have marked Jesus out from the ‘zealots’ and hence qualified him for being the symbol of peace and love when required. So the resurrected jesus might not then have been so far off from the historical Jesus after all. I accept most of Aslan’s historiography. But, I would like to preserve for myself the personality of Jesus that I have always found admirable even when far removed from any theology - and this conclusion to the review is an attempt to salvage that from my reading.

    It might be quite vital to entertain this possibility.

  • Alejandro
    Apr 13, 2014

    Some fellow reader friends recommended me the book and also I noticed the author in a documentary series "Secrets of the Bible" on History Channel since he was one of the people making comments there and identifying him as the writer of this very book. So, I thought that it was destined to read it at some point. Happily I was able to do it sooner that I thought.

    This is a research book that Reza Aslan, the author, made a 20-years' investigation about all the possible sources about

    Some fellow reader friends recommended me the book and also I noticed the author in a documentary series "Secrets of the Bible" on History Channel since he was one of the people making comments there and identifying him as the writer of this very book. So, I thought that it was destined to read it at some point. Happily I was able to do it sooner that I thought.

    This is a research book that Reza Aslan, the author, made a 20-years' investigation about all the possible sources about Jesus' life. The author did a remarkable job merging the scriptures on the Bible with info from Greek and Roman historians, portraiting the political ambiance, religious background, military situation and social affairs of the times were Jesus lived. Not only the years when he was alive but also the key years before his birth and the following events not only the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire but also the conversion of that reign to Christianity.

    I think that's obvious but I want to mention that any reader who decides to read this book or any similar, well, they will find contradictory facts with the ones on the Bible. I mean, I am Catholic, I believe in God, but I don't find anything wrong to read research books since my faith is so strong that knowing that biblical events may happened in a different way won't diminish my believing on a higher power.

    Victors are the writers of history. And you have to take in account that the Roman Empire devastated Jerusalem around the year 70, the few remaining Jews there exiled and even the very Roman Empire was converted to Christianity several years later. Well, to put simply, the Christian history was written by Romans. That's not even shocking but logical.

    Also, even the books from the Bible, Old and New Testament has been edited, wrongly translated, manipulated, etc... that at this moment, it's very unlikely to know for certain what happened on those ancient times. Of course, to be fair, I found curious, how the Bible is always attacked for not being reliable as a historic source but other books from historians like Josephus and others are taken as fact without any doubt... not a single doubt. I mean, if the Bible has to be taken with doubt, I think that that same questionable doubt should be put upon those other books too. If the Bible lacks of hard evidence, that other books are in the same situation. Having an open mind is not only putting in doubt the Bible but any other book. A sound and reasonable doubt will let you to find the truths in the middle of the writings.

    I really enjoyed the narrative style of Reza Aslan. He is able to write in such entertaining way that you really get to know in a simple and logical way how the events may happened on those ancient times. Honestly I think that now I have a clearer scenario on my mind of who, what, where and how, the events that generated the creation of the Christian religion.

    And all the manipulation involved isn't a issue for me. Since religions are ruled by imperfect human beings.

    My faith in God is above of all that.

    Highly recommended!!!