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"zealot" By Reza Aslan--Accurate?

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I would like to hear educated opinions about Reza Aslan's book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." In my previous readings, which have been extensive for a layperson, I haven't read as full a description of the context of Israel / Roman rule / Judaism during the 3-4 decades prior to Jesus' public ministry, for instance--fascinating! Is that historically accurate, as much as is possible from the vantage of 2014?

 

What about Jesus being a disciple of John the Baptist--more than I had ever considered before--accurate, do you think? I had thought Jesus returned to Galilee shortly after his baptism and wilderness experience, which I imagined to be Jesus alone, and not with the Baptist. "Zealot" would have Jesus and the Baptist in the wilderness together, and suggests a longer time that Jesus spent as a follower of the Baptist before returning to Galilee--much more influenced by him than I had thought.

 

Spong, Borg, and others support the idea of Jesus' being much more political than traditional Christianity might suggest--in fact, being crucified for political reasons rather than as God's plan for atonement for human sin. "Zealot" takes the political to another level! What do you think?? Has Aslan used credible sources and interpreted them with credibility?

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I read Zealot awhile ago, so am trying to remember Aslan's best points. I can't say I have looked into his assertions anymore than reading his book. I found his interpretation/understanding of Jesus's life to be plausible,feasible, and perhaps even likely. However, I think one needs to be cautious about 'facts' from that period and locale, because there just doesn't seem to be a lot about. I think there was some supposition on Aslan's part, but it did seem to make more sense to me than any other understanding I have had of Jesus' life.

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I would like to hear educated opinions about Reza Aslan's book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth."

To me, it doesn't seem to make any difference in my journey whether Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist or not. Once I realized there were so many different options, I accepted that I could never really know the answer to those questions for sure because they are all plausible. Other than curiosity, how important is the answer to ones journey?

 

Joseph

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I'm currently reading "Zealot" and believe it's relatively accurate based on my general study of early Chrsitianity. When I studied the New Testament in a master's class, though, we didn't go as deeply into the history of rebellion in Judea as Aslan does. So, like you, I wondered if Aslan's emphasis on the political turmoil of the time was overstated. When I did some some online research, I found a New York Times review of the book written by a professor of religious studies at Yale. Here's what he wrote:

 

 

Mr. Aslan’s thesis is not as startling, original or “entirely new” as the book’s publicity claims. Nor is it as outlandish as described by his detractors. That Jesus was a Jewish peasant who attempted to foment a rebellion against the Romans and their Jewish clients has been suggested at least since the posthumous publication of Hermann Samuel Reimarus’s “Fragments” (1774-78). The most famous case for the thesis is the 1967 book by S. G. F. Brandon, “Jesus and the Zealots.” Mr. Aslan follows Mr. Brandon in his general thesis as well as in many details, a borrowing that should have been better acknowledged. (Mr. Brandon gets only a cursory mention in the notes.) And the basic premise that Jesus was zealous for the political future of Israel as the kingdom of God on earth is neither new nor controversial.

 

SNIP

 

A real strength of the book is that it provides an introduction to first-century Palestine, including economics, politics and religion. Mr. Aslan uses previous scholarship to describe the precarious existence of Jewish peasants and the lower classes, and how the Romans and the Jewish upper class exploited the land and the people. He explains not just the religious but also the economic significance of the Temple, and therefore the power of the priestly class controlling it.

 

SNIP

 

But the book also suffers from common problems in popularization, like proposing outdated and simplistic theories for phenomena now seen as more complex. Mr. Aslan depicts earliest Christianity as surviving in two streams after Jesus: a Hellenistic movement headed by Paul, and a Jewish version headed by James. This dualism repeats 19th-century German scholarship. Nowadays, most scholars believe that the Christian movement was much more diverse, even from its very beginnings.

 

There's more at this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/books/reza-aslans-zealot-the-life-and-times-of-jesus-of-nazareth.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

I'm liking the book a lot, but I would love to find something more in depth about the diversity of the early Christian movement.

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I've just put the book on hold through my Library. I'm #16 in line, so maybe sometime next week I will get the copy.

 

I read the description of the book on Amazon and it looks intriguing. I like the idea of a history being discussed from civic records rather than records of testimonials.

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There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus was a political revolutionary and to get to the core of the Gospels, one has to consider the audience they are speaking to. This fact in itself should turn followers of Christ topsy-turvy, instead we are somewhat in bed with our current American Empire; wholly satisfied to our tax exempt status as church. Reza asks what made this man Jesus separate from the rest of all the other Messiahs--that alone is quite an amazing story.


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