- About the Book
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Good Housekeeping Booklist Publishers Weekly BookishFrom the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth. Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the Kingdom of God. The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal. Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God. Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of historys most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotrya fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy. Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious King of the Jews whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity. Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareths life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion.Praise for Zealot Riveting . . . Aslan synthesizes Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.The New YorkerA lucid, intelligent page-turner.Los Angeles Times Fascinatingly and convincingly drawn . . . 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.The Seattle Times [Aslans] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. . . . A vivid, persuasive portrait.Salon This tough-minded, deeply political book does full justice to the real Jesus, and honors him in the process.San Francisco Chronicle
Reza Aslan's provocative exploration of the short but compelling life of one of the best known, but perhaps least understood religious and political figures in history.... For political junkies, Zealot is a fascinating account of the infighting between Peter and Jesus' brother James, who viewed themselves as devout Jews, to reign in the growing influence of in their view Paul's liberal interpretation of Jesus' ecumenical message to the masses.... Zealot is sure to have its scholarly critics. But Aslan has provided an engrossing look into the life and times of Jesus. Most important, it does what any good, intellectually honest discussion of religion should accomplish by faithfully raising questions.
—St. Petersburg Times
—St. Petersburg Times
Mr. Aslan tells a very compelling story, which resonates with the struggle against tyranny down the ages, including our own. However, much of this history is drawn from the first-century Jewish writer Josephus (who also railed against Jewish leadership for his own purposes), but Mr. Aslan accepts that version as historical, without analysis. "Zealot" is an attempt to discover "Jesus of Nazareth," the "man" from Galilee, in contradistinction to "Jesus the Christ," the "god" of Christianity. Unfortunately, Mr. Aslan has taken the traditional path of older -- and outdated -- theology and scholarship by reconstructing Jesus in juxtaposition to the Jewish priesthood.
Aslan is a highly qualified academic. And while his thesis is hardly unique...Zealot has reinvigorated a perpetually important discussion about the identity and meaning of Jesus the man, and Jesus the Christ.... The problem of Jesus' biography is one of admissible evidence, and Aslan both dodges the problem and offers a reasonable solution, by employing what is essentially a New Historicist reading.... In the end, Aslan's central argument is debatable but valuable. Just as traditional interpretations of Jesus resist an inarguable certainty, except in the realm of faith, so do alternative interpretations, such as Aslan's.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Mr. Aslan's book has been greeted with unwarranted controversy. Some conservatives seem offended by merely the idea that a Muslim scholar would write a book about Jesus. This should be no more controversial than a Christian scholar's writing a book about Islam or Muhammad. It happens all the time. Nor is Mr. Aslan's thesis controversial, at least among scholars of early Christianity.... Mr. Aslan's thesis is not as startling, original or entirely new as the book's publicity claims. Nor is it as outlandish as described by his detractors.... A real strength of the book is that it provides an introduction to first-century Palestine, including economics, politics and religion.... Zealot shares some of the best traits of popular writing on scholarly subjects: it moves at a good pace; it explains complicated issues as simply as possible; it even provides notes for checking its claims.... But the book also suffers from common problems in popularization, like proposing outdated and simplistic theories for phenomena now seen as more complex.... Zealot is not innovative or original scholarship, but it makes an entertaining read. It is also a serious presentation of one plausible portrait of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
—New York Times
—New York Times
Zealot by Reza Aslan is a fascinating book, and no doubt will be chosen by many a well-meaning and hurried gift-giver who imagines a devout Christian recipient will be delighted. 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.... The short life and chaotic times of the most famous Nazarene are fascinatingly and convincingly drawn by Aslan...