Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth - Reza Aslan

When I got this book in early July from Netgalley, it sounded interesting, and, I’m pretty sure it was one of their “Read Now” selections, which means you can download it without a special request. It had, I thought, an awesome cover, and I suspected it would be a tad controversial. Well, that was long before FoxNews decided to help his sales (Random House went into another printing while the interview aired, I think.) Since then, his non-fiction, heavily footnoted*, religious book has, like most books of this genre, skyrocketed to the number one spot of the New York Times Bestseller list.

 

So obviously, Reza Aslan does not need a good review from me.

 

I saw the interview after I had read a couple of chapters of the book, and honestly, it affected how I read some of the later chapters. The FoxNews interviewer was such a complete idiot, but, in hindsight, I did think that Aslan came off as arrogant and condescending. Don’t get me wrong, that interview was a train wreck; and I’m thinking that maybe Fox news should start scouting for their anchors at actual colleges and universities, as opposed to beauty pageants. But, as I read the book further, I did repeatedly hear a condescending voice, despite his protestations that he is a scholar and a former Christian. Basically, it went something like this… “You know that story, where Jesus did this and then John did that, and then the people all did that? Hogwash!” And yes, I’m pretty sure he used those exact words, maybe. He did describe one story in the bible as “to the level of comedy”, and used the word ridiculous often enough for me to wonder if he needed a thesaurus. The account, in any event, was well-written and interesting. The historical framework he provides often gives more meaning to the bible stories he studies. At times, particularly when dealing with the miracles Jesus performed, I felt like Aslan walked the perfect line between scholarly learning and faith. Almost as if, I thought, ok, he is going to let me believe that.

 

So, I am not a religious fanatic. I am also not someone who believes the bible is a non-fiction diary account. After all, Reza Aslan is not the first person to point out that most of it was written 50 – 100 years after Jesus died. So I think what he means is, that it’s fan fiction. Sort of, yeah, that’s it. Despite all that, I’m still a fan…of Jesus — not so sure about Reza Aslan, but I’m thinking about it. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that a man who wrote a book about Jesus, King of the Jews, has the name of Aslan, the one true King of the world of Narnia? Just throwing that out there, maybe something to think about for your next book, Mr. Aslan.

 

*almost half the book is footnotes – the actual ebook ends at 68%; the rest is chapter by chapter footnotes. And yes, I read them all, well, most of them anyway, a good bit. Hey, I’m no religious scholar.