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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Zealot - insightful and informative
I read Zealot because I was looking for insight into the life of the historical figure of Jesus. Jesus the human being, rather than the myth. How was he different from all the other "messiahs", healers and magicians of his time? What was it about this man that inspired a whole new religion to grow up around him? A religion that advocated love, sacrifice, peace and...
Published 11 months ago by Elizondo

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, but not riveting
I found the chronology jumped around too much, which made it confusing at times. But found it an interesting read.
Published 4 months ago by Rhonda Willis


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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Zealot - insightful and informative, Aug. 1 2013
By 
Elizondo - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I read Zealot because I was looking for insight into the life of the historical figure of Jesus. Jesus the human being, rather than the myth. How was he different from all the other "messiahs", healers and magicians of his time? What was it about this man that inspired a whole new religion to grow up around him? A religion that advocated love, sacrifice, peace and healing, so different a message from the brutality and violence of the times. So different a message from that of the Old Testament.

I was hoping to find in this book reference to historical source material that would separate the man from the myth. How did the historical Jesus compare to Jesus Christ the divine Son of God? But I was disappointed in this regard. It turns out that there really is no historical record of Jesus the man. Other than the record of his execution and that of his brother James, history records virtually nothing of the man himself.

If we wish to understand Jesus the man, we really have no choice but to turn to the scriptures. As the author points out, our best option is to rely on the most reliable of the gospels as our source of information. This generally means the earliest works. But even these shed little light on the real man, as the purpose for which the gospels were written was really something entirely different from what I was seeking.

So, while I didn't find the wealth of historical information on Jesus that I was looking for, I did learn a lot about the times in which he lived. I also learned a lot about the books of the New Testament, who wrote them, when and why. The author, Reza Aslan, has some ideas that are thought provoking and interesting. This book gave me a greater understanding of the context of Jesus's life and the documents written about it.

As for the writing style of the author, this book is not necessarily an easy read. Being a scholarly work, a great deal of this text is devoted to a discussion of sources, historians and their varying opinions on the topic under discussion. In fact, the last 30% of the book consists of notes on the previous chapters. It can sometimes be confusing as different and often contradictory points of view are discussed.

At times I found the author's style to be somewhat over bearing, as he tends to pound points home with rather more heavy-handedness than necessary. However, all in all I finished the book with a lot more knowledge and insight than when I started. I recommend The Zealot for anyone looking for an objective and realistic look at the turbulent times that led to the creation of one of the world's great religions.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extracting Historical Facts from Biblical Narratives, Sept. 13 2013
By 
G. Poirier (Orleans, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
In this book the author attempts to tease out historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth from the biblical Jesus of the Christian faith. He points out that there is very little historical information about Jesus outside of the Bible - Flavius Josephus being a rare if not the only ancient author to fleetingly mention Jesus in his `Antiquities'. Consequently, the gospels are what remain. After pointing out that these contain many inconsistencies, fabrications and fictional stories - these, apparently, to artificially attribute to Jesus the characteristics necessary to satisfy certain religious requirements - he proceeds to extract as much historical information from them as possible. Given that he pointed out that the gospels are unreliable as historical documents, that they were written decades after the events that they describe and that many of them were written in light of ones that already existed (hence a lot of copying/repetition), it is unclear to me why the author has put so much weight on them in his quest for historical facts.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book, particularly because it contains a lot of documented history of the period. The author is clearly very knowledgeable in his subject matter. His prose is clear, friendly, free of specialized jargon, lively, quite accessible and engaging. The book should appeal mainly to those who have an interest in the history of religion - in this case, Christianity. For me, the bottom line is whether the author was reasonably successful in separating the historical Jesus from the Jesus of Christianity. In my non-expert opinion, the author did his best, but for the reasons cited above, I wonder if doing this convincingly is at all possible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good thought provoking reading, July 17 2014
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Good thought provoking reading. This study goes a long way towards understanding who Jesus really was and how he came to be perceived throughout history up to present times.
I have always had curiosity about Jesus and the bible in general but with so many interpretations, all claiming to be the truth, I knew without a great deal of study I would never be at ease with Jesus and his legend.
This book takes the reader from the old testament to the new. Along the way it explains why history has turned out the way it has.
Incidentally, I became interested in this book because I watched the Youtube video of a Fox news anchor making a fool of herself trying to criticize this accomplished scholar and writer because he is Muslim and had the temerity to write about a Christian topic. Aslan has an impressive background in religious studies, he has written competently about many religions.
Unlike Fox news Reza Aslan does research, he has done his homework.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read!, June 21 2014
By 
Farrah (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
This book offered a great perspective on the Jesus Christ we know today, and how the journey of Jesus the boy from Nazareth morphed into Jesus Christ; religious icon, and arguably one of the most impactful person ever to live.
After getting into the meat of the book I was struck with out slippery, and uncertain a time period this was to write about a specific person living in it. The author paints a picture of the political, and religious landscape to give perspective on the status quo, and mind of the Palestinian. The author outlines some compelling early sources portraying Jesus as a peaceful, zealous revolutionary, and the last chapters are focused on those who shaped Jesus into how he is conventionally seen.
A great book for anyone looking to get an objective glimpse into who the real Jesus likely was.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Dec 16 2013
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
Well-written, well-researched, fantastic. Only downside (which isn't entirely even a downside) is that the book is written from a somewhat atheistic perspective, despite that Aslan is, or was, a Christian. You keep hoping that he will contextualize some of Jesus' works into the realm of divine, if not just for the possibility, or recognition of the legitimacy of the flip-side of the argument, but at the very least to reconcile his own faith.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth by Reza Aslan, March 31 2014
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
This wonderful book uses history to deconstruct the Christian and Jewish faith. It is a narrative about the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. It is a story about how faith encapsulated the world at this period in history. At present we can examine faith in the west and faith around the world. This is neatly done by reading this book.

If deconstructing faith through historical accounts is valuable, construction of faith through the use of beliefs can be accounted as important. Hence the recent revival of stoicism and philosophical tracks. Highlighting these tracks in religion are done very clearly in this book: the key tracks noted are working the ten commandments, giving people a chance to have faith in some degree is always supportive, and all faiths are ripe with good practice. In this sense all readers can benefit from the knowledge in this book. A respect of group religion and individual faith is always useful in understanding and the application by others who may practice a serious belief.

Works are mentioned as important by James the Just. Being a student and applying faith in one’s own life is a good way to express the proper use of impressions. Lastly, my personal faith is about accepting the works of myself and others as long as no harm is done to anyone. To uncover ways that reveal the truth about oppression, poverty and other forms of violence are a rich way to practice wisdom and faith and recover from the problems of day to day affairs. I hope everyone who reads this book enjoys it half as much as I did. And good luck practicing your works in your daily life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What really happened two millennia ago., June 9 2014
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The first part recounts what is known about the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the milieu of the Jewish Temple, where the scoundrels in charge plundered the assets of the temple and shipped enormous amounts as tribute to Rome. Like many other zealots, Jesus aspired to purifying the life of the Temple and lifting the scourge of Roman rule. He died for acts that, according to the author, were interpreted as seditious, i.e. as attempts to undermine Roman rule. The Biblical account of Jesus is different from the author's account, the fruit of detailed scientific scholarship. The second part of the book shows the transformation of Jesus from a Jewish prophet, reviled by Rome, to Jesus Christ, a God, principally through the leadership and ideas of Paul. The author emphasizes that the historical Jesus is important to humanity today, independently of what was done to his legacy after his execution. The book offers a fresh appreciation of a truly great man.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Feb. 13 2014
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
Scholarly material that should not be rejected based on the religion of the writer. Great read that provides a different perspective.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent analysis, Dec 12 2013
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Intelligently written; valuable insights; a must read for anyone interested in understanding the early evolution of Christianity and the deification of the historical figure that was Jesus.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides fascinating context for scripture., Aug. 11 2013
This is a very good book that seemed pretty much unbiased and definitely without hyperbole. It is mostly about history but makes many references to scriptural accounts as well. I would definitely recommend this to anyone raised in non-fundamental Christian tradition. However, for my friends who view scripture to be literal truth, there is no point to reading this book as it assumes the reader is interested in understanding Jesus and scripture in context.
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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (Hardcover - July 16 2013)
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