Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review: Zealot The Life & Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth

Author: Reza Aslan
Title: Zealot: The Life & Times Of Jesus of Nazareth
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: July 16, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: 
From the bestselling author of No God but God comes a provocative & well-researched biography challenging long-held assumptions about Jesus.

2000 years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher & miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish the Kingdom of God. The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was executed as a state criminal. Within decades of his shameful death, followers would call him God.

Sifting thru centuries of mythmaking, Aslan sheds light on one of history’s most influential & enigmatic characters by examining Jesus thru the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: 1st-century Palestine, an age of apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers & would-be messiahs wandered thru the Holy Land, bearing divine messages. This was the age of zealotry—a nationalism that made resistance to Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. Few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both imperial authorities & their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy. Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against historical sources, Aslan describes a man of passionate conviction, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist & faith healer who urged disciples to keep his identity a secret; & ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. He grapples with how Jesus understood himself, the mystery at the heart of subsequent claims about his divinity.

Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radically transformative nature of Jesus’ life & mission. The result is an elegant biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a portrait of a man, a time & the birth of a religion.

Review: I have a story to go along with this book. My mother, my nephew and I, all watched Reza when he was on The Daily Show in July talking about this book. My mother is elderly and blind from her diabetes, and no longer is able to read, but she wanted to read this book. So I immediately went to Amazon and purchased it and over the last few months began reading it to her.

This is not a biography of "the historical" Jesus, but rather a well researched documentation of what Jesus was like as well as the origins of the Christian faith...actually the birth of Catholicism. I would also say if you are a Christian that doesn't have an open mind regarding faith and religious matters, you aren't going to like this book, because as you read, Reza pretty much tells you that Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, while being rooted in the same individual seem to be two very different people with different motives.

This book really made me examine my faith. I've always had some issues with Catholicism, and though I'd never switch to any other religion, I found what Reza wrote about Jesus and what he really did and how his following grew after his death to almost strengthen my faith. (If only the priests would be as good as James, who was really the first leader of the Jesus Movement)

There is so much in this book that explains things that happened in this time period that couldn't have happened as the New Testament puts it. Of course, to the questioning person, some of these facts are obvious, but Reva offers documentation as to the hows the wheres and most importantly the whys.

Some of the things that people who are a bit casual with their religion may get all up in arms about: there was likely not a trial in from of Pilate, James, the brother of Jesus was the true head of the Jesus Movement after the death of his brother. (Yes, I said brother..and I am one that believes Jesus had brothers) and that Paul's teachings were totally separate from what the original apostles were preaching and my favorite, what the Jewish people felt the messiah was supposed to do. (Saving us from our sins is not it).

Jesus was a Zealot. He was a rebel, who wanted to liberate the Jews from the hold of the Roman empire. He wasn't planning on starting his own religion. (read about Paul to understand more about this)

To some, this book may come across as dry, but remember this is not fiction, it is non-fiction. Plus there is little about what Jesus was like outside of gospels that were written between 30 - 70  years after his death. (And considering most of his apostles couldn't read or write themselves..)

The best part, is that though some may feel Reza is trying to make you step away from your beliefs, he isn't. He ends the book saying "Because the one thing any comprehensive study of the historical Jesus should hopefully reveal is that Jesus of Nazareth-Jesus the man - is ever bit as compelling, charismatic, and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ. He is, in short, someone worth believing in."

I don't usually read non-fiction, but this book was definitely worth reading.

Rating: 5 flowers


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