Reviews for Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Booklist Reviews 2013 August #1
*Starred Review* Aslan brings a fine popular style, shorn of all jargon, to bear on the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth as only a man. What's more, as he pares the supernatural or divine away from Jesus, he refrains from deriding it. He isn't interested in attacking religion or even the church, much less in comparing Christianity unfavorably to another religion. He would have us admire Jesus as one of the many would-be messiahs who sprang up during Rome's occupation of Palestine, animated by zeal for "strict adherence to the Torah and the Law," refusal to serve a human master, and devotion to God, and therefore dedicated to throwing off Rome and repudiating Roman religion. Before and after Jesus, such zeal entailed violent revolution, but Jesus proceeded against Rome in the conviction that zealous spirit was sufficient. It wasn't, and Rome executed him. This depiction of Jesus makes sense, as we say, though many Christians will find holes in its fabric; indeed, Aslan grants one of the largest, the fact that no one who attested to the Resurrection recanted. But you don't have to lose your religion to learn much that's vitally germane to its history from Aslan's absorbing, reader-friendly book. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2014 July
Jesus's proclamation of "the Kingdom of God is a call to revolution, plain and simple," argues Aslan (No god but God, CH, Dec'05, 43-2130) in this popularization of historical Jesus research. Aslan seeks to "pry the historical Jesus away from the Christian Christ." The Jesus whom Aslan discovers is a zealot and magician/miracle worker. Aslan dismisses the teaching of Jesus as largely beyond reconstruction. The book's first section presents the political context of early Palestine, and part 2 presents Jesus as one of many anti-Roman, messianic figures who were summarily executed as insurrectionists. The last section examines the perplexing survival of the Jesus movement as largely due to Paul's break from the Jerusalem community led by Jesus's brother, James the Just. Scholars of early Christianity will find nothing new, and will judge the main text problematic in its simplification of the evidence. While not all of Aslan's judgments hold up, the bibliographic notes for each chapter are nuanced and useful. General readers will find an engaging entrance into the field of historical Jesus studies, but will need to look elsewhere for a guide to Jesus's teachings and for an explanation of historical methodology. Summing Up: Optional. Lower- and upper-level undergraduates; general readers. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates. S. Young McHenry County College Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 July #1
A well-researched, readable biography of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth is not the same as Jesus Christ. The Gospels are not historical documents, nor even eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life. In fact, most of the incidents in them are pure fiction. Aslan (How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror, 2009, etc.) has made the study of religion his life's work, and it shows. After explaining the origins and evolution of Islam, the author now turns to Christianity and its unlikely beginnings. The Gospels weren't written during Jesus' lifetime, but rather between A.D. 70 and 120, and they certainly weren't written by the men whose names are attached to them. In fact, every word written about Jesus was written by people who never knew him in life--even though Paul claimed to know Jesus intimately, not as man, but as God. Jesus neither fit the paradigms nor fulfilled scriptural prophecies to meet the requirements of being a messiah. As he described himself, the historic "Jesus…was a Jew, and nothing more." He was concerned only with Israel and his fellow Jews. For readers who believe that the Bible is the true word of God and its meaning must be taken literally, Aslan's book will awaken doubt. The ancients did not see a difference between myth and reality, and eyewitness history did not exist; it was all propaganda. The authors of the Gospels were writing for the express purpose of explaining that Jesus wasn't just another professional wonder worker; one thing set him apart. Why has Christianity taken hold and flourished? This book will give you the answers in the simplest, most straightforward, comprehensible manner. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 July #1

In his notes section, Aslan (creative writing, Univ. of California, Riverside; No god but God) remarks that he is heavily indebted to John Meier's multivolume A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Like Meier, Aslan analyzes historical information from first-century Palestine in order to situate Jesus within the turbulent social and political context of his time, appreciating the man for who he really was: one of many itinerant peasant preachers and teachers who sought to reinvigorate the Judaism of his day with eschatological and spiritual fervor. Aslan takes a somewhat dim view of Pauline Christianity, arguing that Paul's concept of a divine, cosmic Christ is at odds both with the Jerusalem church of James, brother of Jesus, and with the Gospel of John. Likewise, Paul's approach, Aslan believes, is at odds with sacred Jewish norms, e.g., circumcision, and with eyewitnesses who saw Jesus as reviving Judaism. But following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE, claims Aslan, "the Christ of Paul's creation utterly subsumed the Jesus of history," giving the world the Christianity we have today. This perspective is hardly new but is accessibly and strongly presented here. VERDICT Readable and with scholarly endnotes, Aslan's book offers a historical perspective that is sure to generate spirited conversation. For Christian history buffs of all stripes.--Sandra Collins, Byzantine Catholic Seminary Lib., Pittsburgh

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 June #2

The person and work of Jesus of Nazareth has been a topic of constant interest since he lived and died some 2,000 years ago. Much speculation about who he was and what he taught has led to confusion and doubt. Aslan, who authored the much acclaimed No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, offers a compelling argument for a fresh look at the Nazarene, focusing on how Jesus the man evolved into Jesus the Christ. Approaching the subject from a purely academic perspective, the author parts an important curtain that has long hidden from view the man Jesus, who "is every bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ." Carefully comparing extra-biblical historical records with the New Testament accounts, Aslan develops a convincing and coherent story of how the Christian church, and in particular Paul, reshaped Christianity's essence, obscuring the very real man who was Jesus of Nazareth. Compulsively readable and written at a popular level, this superb work is highly recommended. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates (July)

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