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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Reza Aslan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Aug 2013

Good Housekeeping • Booklist • Publishers Weekly • Bookish

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 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. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.
Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion.

Praise for Zealot
“Riveting . . . Aslan synthesizes Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.”The New Yorker

“A lucid, intelligent page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times
“Fascinatingly and convincingly drawn . . . Aslan may come as close as one can to respecting those who revere Jesus as the peace-loving, turn-the-other-cheek, true son of God depicted in modern Christianity, even as he knocks down that image.”The Seattle Times
“[Aslan’s] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. . . . A vivid, persuasive portrait.”Salon
“This tough-minded, deeply political book does full justice to the real Jesus, and honors him in the process.”San Francisco Chronicle

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD: 7 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group; Unabridged edition (20 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080419257X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804192576
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 13.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,855,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Number One New York Times Bestseller

'Aslan's riveting biography ... synthesises Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.' The New Yorker

'A lean, fast-paced account of First Century Palestine, often revealing and always finely written, which attempts to locate Christ within his historical landscape. It deserves special praise for the endnotes, which dispense with page references in favour of informal essays, and provide an overview of the whole field of contemporary "Christology".' Nicholas Blincoe, The Telegraph

'A vivid, persuasive portrait of the world and societies in which Jesus lived and the role he most likely played in both ' Salon

'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.' Publishers Weekly

'A well-researched, readable biography of Jesus of Nazareth.' Kirkus

'Aslan brings a fine popular style, shorn of all jargon, to bear on the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth ... [Y]ou don't have to lose your religion to learn much that's vitally germane to its history from Aslan's absorbing, reader-friendly book.' Booklist (starred review)

'A bold, powerfully argued re-visioning of the most consequential life ever lived' Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

'This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and sceptic alike will find surprising, engaging and original' Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

'[A] tough-minded, deeply political book...' --San Francisco Chronicle

'If little is certain about Jesus's life, rather more is known about his times, which Aslan evokes with commendable diligence. Zealot becomes, in part, a handy primer of first-century Middle Eastern history. ... Aslan clearly admires Jesus, and, at the risk of inflaming the wrath of Fox News, his freedom from any obligation to buy the son-of-God stuff permits fresh and refreshing contemplation ... At its core, Zealot is a gentle dispute with the modern notion of Jesus, whom we are generally encouraged to perceive as a forgiving and boundlessly tolerant sort.' --New Humanist

'If little is certain about Jesus s life, rather more is known about his times, which Aslan evokes with commendable diligence. Zealot becomes, in part, a handy primer of first-century Middle Eastern history. ... Aslan clearly admires Jesus, and, at the risk of inflaming the wrath of Fox News, his freedom from any obligation to buy the son-of-God stuff permits fresh and refreshing contemplation ... At its core, Zealot is a gentle dispute with the modern notion of Jesus, whom we are generally encouraged to perceive as a forgiving and boundlessly tolerant sort.' --New Humanist --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Reza Aslan is an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions. His first book, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam, has been translated into thirteen languages and named by Blackwell s as one of the hundred most important books of the last decade. Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
125 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars let the blind see 30 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I think that a book should be judged by the quality of its research and argument not on whether the author is a Muslim or a Christian. As a professional academic this is no more relevant than whether the author is left or right handed. I have studied 1st century palestine history and politics and jesus role within it at a postgraduate level and I can say confidently that this author is taking a proper and correct approach based upon current historical and scriptural research and his research is meticulous. I can also write this with authority as a priest who accepts Christ as Saviour. When we love we can see the truth a little clearer. Reading this book will help many Christians to understand scripture more accurately.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reza Aslan has performed a public service with this readable review of the life and times of Jesus the Nazarene. As a scholar of religion and a teacher of creative writing, he has managed to hit a high note in a field both swamped with demented polemics from religious cranks and overgrown with pedantic exercises in obfuscation by bookish bores, all of which has fed a forbidding forest of obstacles to writers like Aslan. His new book is about as exciting as a monograph backed by a solid list of academic references can be, and it tells the story with a spin that begs for a Hollywood movie treatment by a team that can do justice to his thoroughly modern vision.

Zealot is the story of a politically engaged Jesus in a world where religion and politics were inextricably entangled. So the tale has a striking resonance in the turmoil currently gripping the Mideast region, and Aslan as a confessed Muslim is coming from the right corner to tell it. The Jewish struggle for freedom from Roman rule two thousand years ago finds a disturbing mirror in the modern Palestinian struggle to break free of Israeli domination, and although the contrast between the two struggles is so great as to make the second seem a wild inversion of the first, the parallel is revealing. Aslan is wise enough to do no more than hint at this side of his story and to focus on the old struggle. He presents the vivid facts surrounding the narrative in order to set in sharp relief the unknown details that have been blurred into mad minefields by endless polemics between various believers. What we see is a profile of Jesus that makes the Christian confabulations surrounding his life look transparent. No reasonable person can fail to see through the threadbare veils of faith to the shadow of the man behind them.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for zealots 6 Aug 2013
When analyzing the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, if you remove faith from the equation you're left with a few hard facts and a lot of historical context.

This book is as more about the times Jesus lived in than Jesus himself. He lived in an era of brutal Roman occupation, failed rebellions, false messiahs, Jewish nationalism, rampant illiteracy, a corrupt Jewish priesthood, and massive differences between rich and poor.

60 pages of notes and research references document both sides of academic arguments. This is not a haphazard book of opinions. It's a meticulously researched, balanced analysis.

Jesus lived in a time of apocalyptic visions, culture clashes, and competing religious orthodoxies. Judging from the debate and attacks this book has inspired, so do we.

The author is respectful of his subject. His final conclusions is that "Jesus the man is every bit as compelling as Jesus the Christ ... He is, in short, someone worth believing in..."

People of faith as well as `ye of little faith' will find this a fascinating read. Believers have an opportunity to deepen their faith. Skeptics and non-Christians have an opportunity to increase their understanding. Only zealots will find reason to be offended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Failed deconstruction 23 Mar 2014
By becks
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read a stack of books on Jesus and early Christianity over the years. The historical Jesus is variously concluded to be a Jewish religious teacher, Jewish Mystic, Jewish Apocalyptic preacher, Messianic revolutionary, Essene, Nazarite, etc, or purely mythological, all deduced by different scholars from the same available evidence.

Aslan now makes him out to be a Zealot, a radical religious fundamentalist nationalist, who wanted to see an overthrow of the corrupt and exploitative temple priesthood and the Roman domination system and usher in the “Kingdom of God”, a Jewish theocracy based on the Torah, -along the lines of the mythical Kingdom of David and the more historical Josiah. According to this view of Jesus, if he had been a Muslim it would make him an Islamist in the modern sense.

Even without believing in Jesus as the Son of God, modern followers look to him as teacher of moral values, behaviour towards others as well as guide to experiental spirituality. All this Aslan strips away from his historical Jesus.

However, his book is wholly unpersuasive. Whilst it exudes scholarship in some places, it is superficial in others and leaves large gaps, in places where other scholars mined evidence and have drawn different conclusions, e.g. Burton Mack, Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg and others. As such, Aslan’s book reads as if it is peppered with confirmation bias.

I find the book lacks credibility for the following reasons:

1.Aslan bases the idea of Jesus being a political revolutionary on the fact that he was crucified, and had the inscription “King of the Jews”. He says this is good evidence because Romans only used crucifixion for the crime of sedition and used inscriptions literally, not sarcastically, to announce the crime.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing historical narrative rediscovered
It is an amazing account of Jesus the man and not Jesus the God as he has been falsely portrayed for 2000 years.
Published 13 days ago by Z. Elsahli
4.0 out of 5 stars Do not read if religious in any way.
Written without religious bias and looking purely at the potential factual points. References made to the Bible and other religious texts.
Published 1 month ago by Geoff the bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars Only for the open minded!
Good read and if you study the period historically without the religious mythology its a reference work.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars This book certainly makes one think. It seems to ...
This book certainly makes one think. It seems to be very very well researched. Will keep it in my book collection always.
Published 1 month ago by A. M. Mc Neil
4.0 out of 5 stars Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ?
Reza Aslan along with other writers attempting to trace the development of Jesus, the inspiration for Christianity, admits that the only sources of academic research on the man is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mic Le Critique
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely encourage you to read this book
Really great read: thoroughly enjoyed, very informative and well written. Also, the writer holds a completely impartial stance when commenting and analysing.
Published 1 month ago by Fraser Nicol
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but with a fatal flaw?
This is clearly a very well researched work which proposes an alternative "historical" view of Jesus of Nazareth: not the biblical Christ, but a zealot intent on... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Doctor T
3.0 out of 5 stars You've gotta believe it.
It all happened a long time ago in an area rife with fireside fairy stories, foremost of which the tales of the Arabian Nights springs to mind. Read more
Published 2 months ago by HAROLD E CROOK
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally absorbing
I love this book and cannot put it down (I am halfway through), it is extremely well written and a real eye opener. Read more
Published 2 months ago by honey bee
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Well researched and written. Loads of evidence for the atheist and agnostic. The latter should read Dawkins' God Delusion. End
Published 3 months ago by christopher womack
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