Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus Nazareth

By: Reza Aslan

 

Reza Aslan is an internationally acclaimed scholar of religions.He holds a PhD in the sociology of religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara.He spent twenty years in researching the material which he used in writing this book.He has an excellent bibliography, extensive footnotes, a full index, a map of first century Palestine and a beautiful precedent of providing a historical chronology that begins at 164 B.C.E. and ends at 398 C.E.Aslan did not write in isolation.He wrote in dialogue with a community of the leading scholars on the origins of the Christian movement as well as the experts in the history of first century Palestine.These scholars come from Santa Clara University, Harvard University and The University of California of Santa Barbara.More skilled in Koine Greek than many clergy who only needed introductory course in the language to complete divinity school requirements, Aslan under the supervision of a Greek specialist did his own translation of the Greek New Testament.A professor of Aramaic and Hebrew completed the translations of those language passages in the book.

 

In writing in a meticulous and scholarly manner about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, Aslan presents to the reader Jesus as a Jewish peasant; whose teachings challenged the rule of Rome, the most powerful empire the world had ever known.As a result of this action Jesus was crucified by Rome.Aslan effectively bases this presentation of the historical Jesus on exhaustive, detailed research.Critics of Aslan reject the thesis of Jesus as an advocate for the poor and oppressed.They want the Constantinian Christ of the Nicene Creed that codified Jesus as the literal son of God.The exponents of the Nicene Creed were not interested in the historical Jesus, whose roots were in first century Judaism.Hellenistic preachers discarded the jewishness of the historical Jesus and introduced a more mystical, cosmic, and spiritualized version of Jesus as revealed in the writings of Paul.

 

The Grecian-Roman world view rejected a vision of a Jewish nationalist anchored in the religion of Moses and the 8th century prophets that fought against Rome for a Pauline vision that divorced itself from the historical Jesus to a cosmic Christ of mystical idealism that found Roman acceptance.However, scholars are debating this issue.Some say that Paul was a devout Jew who remained loyal to his Jewish heritage, but who attempted to adapt messianic Judaism to a gentile audience.Others say that Paulís doctrine of Christ was basically an entirely new religion in contrast to original Palestinian Christianity.

 

Personally, I lament Paulís lack of interest in learning about the historical Jesus.I am indebted to Reza Aslan for his major work on the life and times of Jesus.Every reader of the New Testament and every student of the Jewish Jesus will be given a strong historical context in which they can draw their own conclusions about Jesus.

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† J. Alfred Smith Sr., Pastor Emeritus

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, California

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Professor of Preaching and Church Ministries,

American Baptist Seminary of The West, Berkeley, California