Saturday, November 2, 2013

Zealot by Reza Aslan

An Evangelical Christian who converts to Islam writes about Jesus Christ.

If you're adult enough to get past that opening salvo, you might enjoy reading Aslan's book. This book is full of notes (while all at the end of the book and not footnotes) and interesting interpretations of the history of Palestine.

Make no mistake, I enjoyed reading this book. I love reading about the culture of First Century Ancient Israel - the politics and social points. Aslan points out the many men who attempted to claim to be Messiah and how the atmosphere during Jesus' time was just ripe with anticipation of The Anointed One.

He brings up thoughts that ought to be contemplated - Paul vs James, did Jesus view himself as God's Messiah, what really happened between Jesus and Pilot. But here is where I would roll my eyes: Aslan has stuck with a narrow narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. If there is a story or a statement that does not line up with this narrow narrative/agenda then the Christians must have added it into the actually historical truth.

Aslan does what many, if not all, Bible readers do - he picks the Scripture that supports his views while dismissing as "theological additions" to the Scripture that runs counter to his view.

Now this isn't to say his statements are without value. He does bring up some great thoughts on the "agenda" for each of the Gospel writers and for Paul himself. His inclusion of other historical documents add some weight to his book.

But when I read books like this and anything by Marcus Borg, I always find myself wondering, "why can't it be both? Why does it have to be either or?" Luckily N.T. Wright has a few Paul books coming out soon so I'll jump on those to get another view.

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