Book Review: Zealot

I finished reading Zealot by Reza Aslan last night.  The book claims to be a look at the historical Jesus (as opposed to the theological or christological Jesus) and it does site a few other sources outside the gospels and epistles.  It mostly consists, however, of the author’s projections (or imaginings) of what was likely true based on the general trends and truths of the time that Jesus lived.
I did find the chronology interesting, specifically the sequence in which the gospels were written and what else was going in, specifically the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans after a Jewish rebellion.  I’m don’t hold the view that every word of the bible was divinely inspired, and even if it was the version that I read isn’t in the original Greek or Aramaic, so there was some human interference some where along the way.  So I think an understanding of the political and social forces that may have influenced the writers (and translators) of the bible is useful to make sense of what is there.

I also found the closing chapters that focused on the tension/fight between James and Paul in the decades after Jesus’ crucifixion to be interesting as well.  James seemed to be of the view that to be a good follower of Jesus, you had to be a good Jew AND also follow Jesus’ teachings.  Paul thought that all you have to do is follow Jesus.  Aslan makes the argument that the Pauline views won out in the early second century since they were more palatable to the mostly gentile (and pagan) converts that the church was trying to attract.
Overall, it was a good (not great) and quick (216 pages plus notes) read that gave me a few stubs to do some more reading on.  However, it didn’t really live up to its promise of being a biography of Jesus with most of the narrative projected / imagined instead of being based on the historical record and first hand accounts.
Next up in my stack: heading back to read some more of Godel, Escher and Bach.  Had to put that one down for a while to let my brain relax.  Ready to dive back in now I think.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *