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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Paperback – 3 Mar 2014
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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
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.
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It paints a rich picture of the turbulence of the First Century. You can begin to see how Jesus could emerge and seed a new religion. It is not a new idea that Jesus can be seen as just another preacher/miracle worker whose story stopped abruptly when he was executed before he had chance to bring the Kingdom of God but then was resurrected (by various earthly scribes) and transformed into an entirely different person and proposition- not Jesus the Man but now Jesus Christ.
However you have to realise that once you accept that Jesus was brought back from the dead then you are dealing with mysticism and faith. Academics can't write books about deities because we don't really know anything about them. So inevitably this book is about how Jesus can be understood as a man. It doesn't enlighten Christians in anyway because they don't believe in that. In essence the book un-picks the teachings and writings of Christianity so don't read it unless you are interested in looking at things that way.
Also - as various other critics have alluded to - it is very very difficult to find out the facts. There is a great deal of conflicting material; people didn't bother much about facts or accuracy in those days; many others clearly - blatantly - were distorting things to fit their agendas; very significant interpretations depend on tricky issues of translation and context; and so on. Zealot looks a valid attempt at re-constructing history but is, at the end of the day, speculation.
This is not an easy subject, the author recognises such and the huge gaps in historical data and knowledge of the time, however the piece trips along at a great pace, chapter by chapter.
In the end while offering little new about the life lived by Jesus it offers and new prism through which to view that life and as the author says there are few more interesting men in history to re-examine than the life of Jesus.
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