There’s a new best-seller out there which claims to give us “the real story” on Jesus.
It’s called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and it is one in a long line of books challenging the portrait of Jesus given in the gospels.
The author is giving interviews in the major media, promoting his book, and people are asking questions about it and how to respond.
Here are 14 things to know and share . . .
1) What is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth?
It is a book authored by Reza Aslan and published by Random House in July of 2013.
With the power of the Random House marketing machine behind it, the book quickly shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list.
The book is billed as a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.
In keeping with Aslan’s creative writing background (see below), much of it is written in a casual, narrative style that does not stop to cite sources, mount arguments, or consider alternative viewpoints.
It reads rather a lot like historical fiction, with Aslan inviting us to imagine the colors of the curtain of the Jerusalem temple, how scene at the temple would have sounded, and even how it would have smelled (rather putrid, according to Aslan).
2) Who is Reza Aslan?
Aslan is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California Riverside. He lives in Hollywood.
He was born in Tehran, Iran but raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
His family background is Muslim, though not devout.
He himself experienced a conversion to Christianity in his teens but later lost his faith.
He has a doctorate in the sociology of religions from the University of California Santa Barbara.
3) Is Aslan trying to hide his Muslim background?
He has been accused of doing so in television interviews, but this seems unfounded.
He certainly does not hide it in the book. In fact, there is an “Author’s Note” at the beginning of Zealot that explains his religious background very forthrightly.
Aslan’s Muslim background is not very relevant to the views he proposes in Zealot, and given the dynamics of TV interviews, it wouldn’t make sense for Aslan to discuss this unless he were specifically asked about it.
4) Is Aslan giving us a Muslim re-reading of Jesus?