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3,896 of 4,122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jesus as zealot, but not a member of the Zealot Party
I've read the book (unlike so many of the "reviewers" who gave it one star) and here are some points.

1) This is a popularization of recent (late 20th-early 21st century) reputable scholarship regarding Jesus. There's nothing in this book that would surprise a person (like myself) who has read pretty much all of the accessible scholarship on Jesus published in...
Published 17 months ago by Deana M. Holmes

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1,195 of 1,335 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent popular introduction to the historical Jesus
As a guy with an undergraduate degree in history and 30 hrs. in graduate bible courses (nine in NT), I stand between the anti- islamic ranters and the gushing apologists. I bought the book to spite Fox, and I found no surprises from what I expected.
A. This is not a work of original scholarship. Like Erhdman and Friedman, this is a popular reworking of more...
Published 17 months ago by Geoffrey W. Dennis


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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 2000+ years overdue., July 31, 2013
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Written by a historian who studied the history of the times: rich in eye-opening details.

It's a good book because the author has taken actual historical writings and evidence, and used them to present Jesus the man.

Whereas many supporters of Christianity, instead, take the theology of Christianity, and use their theology to mine history for whatever data may fit into their beliefs, and discard other facts. Using that thought process, actual history is ignored and often buried for centuries.

After reading this book, I have tremendous respect for the cause and the personal courage of the man, Jesus, and a lot of sympathy for his under-estimating the strength of Rome and the wealthy priestly class at the Temple. I admire Jesus's causes of fair treatment of the poor and dispossessed, for justice in governing, and for being against corruption.

It's important to read this book, and then read the New Testament. "Zealot" will add to your understanding of the New Testament.

By using factual data as a base, the author:

--Explains Jesus's remark in Matthew 10:34: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but the sword." Explains why Jesus preached that the meek would inherit the earth, and the currently wealthy would become poor. Jesus was an activist and a revolutionary, who intended to create a new kingdom on earth, in Jerusalem.

--The book tells of the long history of revolutionary activists in Galilee who were caught and killed by Rome. Jesus was one of those activists. The Galilee of his childhood, with its small farmers, had been changed by the demand for day laborers to build a nearby city, and by taxation. Jesus wished to overthrow the wealthy class of priests in the Temple of Jerusalem, and create a new kingdom, on earth, in Jerusalem, with himself as king.

--Tells of how James the Just, Jesus's brother, continued with the Jesus movement, still adhering to the Jewish faith, but with an emphasis on helping the poor and redistribution of wealth. How this message spread to Greek-speaking people outside Jerusalem and to Rome.

--How Paul added his own egoistic imaginings to Jesus's message. How Paul was called to Jerusalem by James the Just, and told to stop changing the new religion. How the new congregations outside of Israel heeded Peter's and James's warnings to not listen to Paul.

--Tells how the destruction of Jerusalem and all of its people in the year 70 ended the actual Jesus movement, as it was created by Jesus. With the "mother church" and its leaders destroyed, Paul's imaginings were then free to spread without opposition by the actual movement Jesus began, and without regard to reality. The book explains how the Jesus the Jewish rebel of history was thus cast aside.

--Explains who wrote the New Testament, and why, and when. How just a few letters of Peter and James the Just were included, yet a great many of Paul's letters were included among the writings chosen centuries after Jesus's death to become today's New Testament.
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79 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm dismayed by so many copied-and-pasted "reviews", July 28, 2013
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I'm dismayed by so many copied-and-pasted near-identical "reviews" by persons who read a certain commentary at FoxNews.com, so I thought I'd add one that's also from Fox News, but with the author's credentials included:

-------------------------------------

"You're a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?" Fox News' Lauren Green demanded of religious scholar Reza Aslan, author of "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," on Friday.

Aslan responded, "Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim."

The answer did not seem to satisfy Green, so Aslan added, "Because it's my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That's what I do for a living, actually."

[...]

-------------------------------------

Most folks reviewing this book haven't read it, nor have much in the way of credentials other than a passing familiarity with the Christian Bible, so it's my opinion that Reza Aslan's credentials trump all.
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110 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down! Very enjoyable book, July 28, 2013
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This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
This book is a well-researched, wonderful narrative of the life & times of historical Jesus. I had read another good book on this subject (I believe it was written by a professor of Theology at DePaul) years ago, but Mr. Aslan's book is so much more interesting and enjoyable to read. Putting Jesus' life in perspective to the environment and politics of the time was very educational for me. The many pages of "endnotes" and reference sources included at the end of the book added much to Mr. Aslan's credibility on the subject. I will check out other titles by this author for sure!
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200 of 242 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocked & saddened by the spam campaign against this book., July 25, 2013
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This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
I'm rating this book based on the quality of Reza Aslan's writing, and the amount of effort and care he has it into his books, including this one. I rarely write book reviews, but having seen a flood of one-star reviews with little more content than quotes and extracts of an op ed that featured on a Fox News site a couple of hours earlier, this is most disappointing, as I'm now convinced few of those reviewers are motivated by objective literary or scholarly criticism.

For what it's worth, I found the book a good read, and am now planning on buying and gifting a copy of this book for each such one-star review.

In an interview, Aslan was quoted as saying that it's possible to follow Christ when not a Christian, just as its possible to claim to be a "Christian" and not follow Christ. It saddens me that so many rushed to prove that point true.
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168 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting read!, July 28, 2013
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
Well written and extensively researched. I enjoyed reading this book! Some of the negative reviews leave me wondering if the writers actually read the book or if they merely watched Fox News' embarrassing (for Fox News) interview with the author.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Emotions for Zealot, August 2, 2013
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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

In his Author's Notes, Dr. Aslan says that he "found" Jesus at 15 years old after he and his family moved to America. One of the most interesting parts of the Zealot is the Introduction. It is fascinating why Aslan pursued the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He begins his Introduction by,

"It is a miracle that we know anything at all about the man called Jesus of Nazareth."1

Evidently, Aslan's going to tie into that miracle and make it live for us as facts. He further states that, he is not talking about Jesus the Christ, but the man called, Jesus of Nazareth. This is a very important point to remember for readers of this book. To know the man, it is important to know his times, culture, and history. Aslan has done a remarkable job in reporting the history and culture of Jesus' time.

Not at all am I dismayed by Aslan's religion or some opinions with which I disagree. For instance in chapter 3, Aslan describes Nazareth,
"There is no synagogue." 2

He states further,
Luke's "...narrative of Jesus at the (nonexistent) synagogue at Nazareth reading the Isaiah scroll to the astonishment of the Pharisees (Luke 14: 16-22) are both fabulous concoctions of the evangelist's own devising." 3

However, in his Notes he tempers these statements,
"...Despite the stories in the gospels about Jesus preaching in his hometown's synagogue, no archaeological evidence has been unearthed to indicate the presence of a synagogue in ancient Nazareth, though there very well could have been a small structure that served as such (remember that `synagogue' in Jesus's time could mean something as simple as a room with a Torah scroll.)" 4

Another point I'd like to discuss is concerning Jesus' two commandments, the love of God and the love of one's neighbor. Aslan says that one's neighbor, according to Jesus, was only among other Jews. According to Matthew, when Jesus was asked just who was his neighbor, he replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan pointing out to the most hated and rejected people who were anathema to the Jews as their neighbor.

Aslan has an answer to that:
"Christians have long interpreted this parable as reflecting the importance of helping those in distress. But for the audience gathered at Jesus's feet, the parable would have had less to do with the goodness of the Samaritan than with the baseness of the two priests." 5

I do not believe the above; I'll hold to the principle that Jesus was pointing out that everyone is my neighbor.

One of Aslan's discussions concerns the reply that Jesus made to Pontius Pilot,
" My kingdom is not of this world."

Since it was reported that Jesus said more than once that he was from God and that the Kingdom of God is in you and among you, I appreciated what Aslan had to say about the statement below that Jesus' Kingdom was not of this world.
"Jesus was not claiming that the Kingdom of God is unearthly; he was saying it is unlike any kingdom or government on earth." 6

Aslan's above statement resonated with me heartily and I agree with it.

Much more could be discussed about this book, but I'd like to end this very long review by saying that it is a worthwhile book to read for all Jesus scholars and disciples and in Aslan's own words,
"The Jesus that is uncovered in the process may not be the Jesus we expect; he certainly will not be the Jesus that most modern Christians would recognize. But in the end, he is the only Jesus that we can access by historical means. Everything else is a matter of faith. 7

Respectively submitted,
J. Sue Gagliardi
jsue4444@aol.com

1 Aslan, Reza (2013-07-16). Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Kindle Location 110). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
2 ibid (Kindle Location 597).
3 ibid (Kindle Location 744).
4 ibid (Kindle Location 3511).
5 ibid (Kindle Locations 1684-1685).
6 ibid (Kindle Locations 1916-1917).
7 ibid (Kindle Locations 241-242).
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making Scholarship Accessible, July 28, 2013
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Admitting that any understanding of a topic with such little verifiable evidence will have to be in part subjective, Aslan synthesizes and personalizes the most up-to-date secular scholarly research on the historical person of Jesus. This is an enjoyable read for anyone willing to critically reexamine the new testament narrative underpinning the dogmas of Christian faith.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and Balanced, July 28, 2013
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
Aslan writes as a scholar and offers a fair and balanced account of the life of Jesus. I'm not concerned with his faith tradition; I'm concerned with his scholarship. Great book.
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62 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Informative History of Early Christian Times, July 30, 2013
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I would like to start off by saying that any prospective reader needs to discount most of the one star reviews. I read through them all, and most of them are apparently from reactionary Christians who seem to feel slighted because a practicing Muslim dared to write a book about the times of Jesus. Most of this book is NOT about Jesus per se. It is about the times in which Jesus lived. The author starts off the book by clearly stating his own personal beliefs and religious history. He clearly states that he is writing about Jesus of Nazareth, that is, what was going on at the time when Jesus was born, lived, and died, and NOT Jesus the Christ, the religious figure. The author encourages the reader to make their own decisions in that regard. Much of what the author discusses in not new material. What makes this a good read is how the material is presented. The author is a graduate of the Creative Writing workshop (University of Iowa, MFA program) which helps to explain why he is such a good writer. But, he is also is a graduate of Harvard with a Masters of Theological Studies, and a PhD from University of California in the Sociology of Religion. He is well grounded as both a writer and as an academic and it shows in this work. If you are a devout Christian, this work will challenge, indirectly, some of your personal beliefs. It is an interesting read, well written, and provides some interesting insights into the historical period that Jesus lived.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating historical treatment for believers and non-believers alike, July 25, 2013
This review is from: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Hardcover)
I'd loved Aslan's award-winning history of Islam, "No God but god", so had high hopes for this book as well. It delivered and then some.

Make no mistake: this book is first and foremost a carefully researched history, written by a widely respected scholar. I am not a believer or a religious person myself but I do love an informative history lesson and a good story, both of which are contained in "Zealot." Aslan treats the historical Jesus as less an object of faith - although he certainly acknowledges this - and more the product of the complex, turbulent politics of the 1st-century, Roman-occupied levantine region we today call Israel.

This is a story assiduously told by one of the few scholars whom you can trust to both do it justice and to tell it well. Engrossing as well as informative, suited for students of history and the religious faithful alike.

Unfortunately, Aslan has been targeted by a far-right hate group that believes he should not be permitted to write about Jesus and has, among other things, flooded the reviews section here with one-star comments in an effort hurt sales. This is, unfortunately, quite common with histories of the historical Jesus, which seem to offend some ultra-religious Christians who see any scholarly study of Jesus as somehow anti-religious. In fact, the book is a delight for those who want to learn more about the political roots of their faith. I'd advise you to ignore them.
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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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