Zealot’s Claims Only Serve to Reaffirm FaithFebruary 13, 2014
Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American writer and scholar of religions. He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, a Research Associate at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, and a contributing editor for The Daily Beast.
His latest book, Zealot, offers an alternative interpretation of the life and mission of the historical Jesus. A review on his personal website calls the book “fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched as it calls into question everything we thought we knew about Jesus of Nazareth.”
Aslan does write in an interesting narrative style, but you get the sense that you are reading it in the genre of historical fiction rather than factual history. It is comparable to reading the The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. It is like reading a novel charged with emotional and inflammatory language, rather than solid historical analysis.
The author makes a gallant effort at supporting his premise about Jesus with extensive footnotes, all of which support only his point of view, and over half of them have no bearing upon the point that he is attempting to make. He relies heavily on the Antiquities of Josephus, a Jew who betrayed his fellow Jews to gain favor with Rome, and who had little concern for Christians.
He makes several bold assumptions and declarations about the Scriptures, Jesus Christ, and the Jews, for example:
The Old Testament is literature about ethnic cleansing as a means to ensure the cultic purity of the Jews. He further states that there is no cohesive prophetic narrative concerning the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The Virgin Birth of Christ was invented to mask the fact that he was illegitimate, possibly resulting from a rape. He also goes on to say that Jesus was an illiterate man and that he was consumed by profound contradictions.
The Gospels were not written by those whose names are on the books. The Gospels were only fanciful folk tales.
Jesus was a magician with Messianic illusions and ambitions.
The problems connected with the scenes surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus are too numerous to count.
The Resurrection is purely a matter of faith, not history.
Jesus was peddled by a group of illiterate ecstatics.
Personally, after reading well over twenty of these statements, I found myself even more confirmed about the claims Jesus made concerning Himself, as well as a confirmed belief about the authority of the Scriptures. It is my opinion that reading this book will do the same for you.
As for Jesus being a “zealot,” nothing could be further from the truth. In his day there were no fewer than twenty-four sects who were committed to armed revolt against Rome. Jesus, of course, was zealous, but it is a huge leap to say that His life was characterized by “zealotry.” Reza Aslan, a man who freely claims intellectual superiority and authority, is the one who, in the writing of this particular book, finds his personal zeal running way past his knowledge. Get the book and read it for yourself to see if you agree.
Michael Rollwagen holds a Masters of Divinity and has thirty years experience as a pastor and teacher. He strives to forget most of that, though, and concentrate on helping people. Find his blog on the site for the faith-based non-profit, WordWalk, in Pensacola, Florida.