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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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  • No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam
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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: #12,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

“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: 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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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
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.
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