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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Hardcover – Jul 16 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 8th Printing edition (July 16 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006922X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400069224
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Riveting . . . Aslan synthesizes Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.”The New Yorker

“A lucid, intelligent page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times
“Aslan’s insistence on human and historical actuality turns out to be far more interesting than dogmatic theology. . . . This tough-minded, deeply political book does full justice to the real Jesus, and honors him in the process.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Aslan brings a fine popular style, shorn of all jargon, to bear on the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth. . . . He isn’t interested in attacking religion or even the church, much less in comparing Christianity unfavorably to another religion. He would have us admire Jesus as one of the many would-be messiahs who sprang up during Rome’s occupation of Palestine, animated by zeal for ‘strict adherence to the Torah and the Law,’ refusal to serve a human master, and devotion to God, and therefore dedicated to throwing off Rome and repudiating Roman religion. . . . You don’t have to lose your religion to learn much that’s vitally germane to its history from Aslan’s absorbing, reader-friendly book.”Booklist (starred review)
“Be advised, dear reader, Sunday school this isn’t. Yet Aslan may come as close as one can to respecting those who revere Jesus as the peace-loving, turn-the-other-cheek, true son of God depicted in modern Christianity, even as he knocks down that image. . . . Aslan is steeped in the history, languages and scriptural foundation of the biblical scholar and is a very clear writer with an authoritative, but not pedantic, voice. Those of us who wade into this genre often know how rare that is. . . . Fascinatingly and convincingly drawn.”The Seattle Times
“[Aslan’s] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. . . . A vivid, persuasive portrait of the world and societies in which Jesus lived and the role he most likely played in both. . . . Fascinating.”—Salon
“Accessibly and strongly presented . . . Readable and with scholarly endnotes, Aslan’s book offers a historical perspective that is sure to generate spirited conversation.”Library Journal
“A well-researched, readable biography of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth is not the same as Jesus Christ. The Gospels are not historical documents. . . . Why has Christianity taken hold and flourished? This book will give you the answers.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Aslan] parts an important curtain that has long hidden from view the man Jesus. . . . Aslan develops a convincing and coherent story of how the Christian church, and in particular Paul, reshaped Christianity’s essence, obscuring the very real man who was Jesus of Nazareth. Compulsively readable and written at a popular level, this superb work is highly recommended.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A bold, powerfully argued revisioning of the most consequential life ever lived.”—Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
“The story of Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most influential narrative in human history. Here Reza Aslan writes vividly and insightfully about the life and meaning of the figure who has come to be seen by billions as the Christ of faith. This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“In Zealot, Reza Aslan doesn't just synthesize research and reimagine a lost world, though he does those things very well. He does for religious history what Bertolt Brecht did for playwriting. Aslan rips Jesus out of all the contexts we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical ideologue, an odd and scary and extraordinarily interesting man.”—Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World

About the Author

Reza Aslan is an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions. His first book, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into thirteen languages and named by Blackwell as one of the hundred most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism), as well as the editor of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. Born in Iran, he lives in New York and Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A penetrating and realistic look at the times of Jesus and how his zealot's message (or apocaliptic warning) was set aside by the divisions between James, who insisted on a messianic view within Judaism, and Paul's questionable visions and sidetracking of Jesus' message to what later become the Christian faith, with all its warts and blemish. It is interesting to see how cults develop into world religions, and how they eventually become schismatic.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First and foremost, I generally enjoyed reading this book and it is worth the money I spent on it. It is well written and I learned a lot about the wider Holy Land at the time of Christ. I couldn't, however, get over the problems that I kept encountering.

The biggest of said problems is time and time again, Reza dismisses vast swathes of the Gospels as unhistorical, theological, fabricated etc. Yet he turns around and uses the very same Gospels to prove his points about the "historical" Jesus! One thing that I took particular amusement in was how literal and historical the author treated the brutal passages in the Old Testament...which are arguably the most mythological and widely exaggerated parts of the Bible! It was just too much at times.

For those who think he may be out to attack or completely discredit the Christian faith, you won't find that here. He is respectful (as any honest historian should be) about the Resurrection. It truly is a mystery of history which boggles the mind when you look at the historical evidence surrounding that event (some of which Reza touches upon). What Reza does more is expose the infighting and controversies surrounding early Christianity as opposed to discrediting the religion altogether. Obviously Evangelical Christians or other fundamentalists will have mountains of issues with the book's treatment of Christianity, but for more moderate readers it is quite compelling material. Vehement Atheists will also be disappointed, as miracles are not disproved and left open to the realm of possibility, as, for example, even Jesus Christ's enemies did not question his powers. Basically, the book is agnostic in regards to the supernatural, as any reasonable person should be when it comes down to it.
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By marsha l. reid TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 4 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author seeks to do the near impossible - identify the historical figure of Jesus Christ from the religious figure when, as he admits, there is very little written evidence outside of the Bible to rely upon. Nevertheless, I found his a fascinating, well written book which also provides a lot of detail about the historical environment of the times and the evolution of the early Christian church.
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Format: 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like what I hope was an unbiased examination of the existing historic evidence. It is disturbing for a Christian, because so much of what we have been taught from childhood can not be substantiated by this evidence. We all like certainty, but in the end what we believe is a matter of Faith. If it was fully supported by historic evidence, it would require no faith. Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Light, he that believeth in Me though he were dead yet shall he live. Believe it or not -- It comes down to Faith.
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Format: Hardcover
Loved this book. First I have to say I'm not a Christian, nor do I follow any "religion", therefore I didn't have the emotional baggage that many people will bring to reading this book. I have always had problems with the Bible, other than as a broad overview of the times. Since none of the Bible was written in the actual time Jesus lived, to me it is unreliable. And I'm not a scholar of the man or the times by any means! But how can people who never met the man, who were not even alive at the same time as him, speak for him? Wiki says, "None of the Gospel authors is thought to be an eyewitness, and none claims to be. There is a broad consensus that many of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names are attached to them", and most scholars agree that the New Testament was written between 50-150 AD. Since Aslan, too, is not a Christian, he is free to be unbiased in his view. He has studied religion, and especially Christianity, all his adult life and it shows in this book. Its very difficult to reconstruct a time from when there is little written history, but I think he did a masterful job with this book. I found it easy to read, and definitely had a ring of truth to it. Even if you are Christian, I think you'll find this an interesting description of the life and times of the area, and may give you some realistic background in which to anchor Jesus the man.
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