Archive for October, 2013

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Friday, October 18th, 2013

By Reza Aslan

The Short Take:

This is a fascinating exploration of the cultural, social, and political pressures impacting then-Palestine during the decades preceding, during, and after the life of Jesus. There’s been a lot of controversy because Aslan is Muslim, but I found little to disturb any but the most literal of New Testament readers — and a lot of intriguing insights.

Why?

I admit that the favorite sermons of my youth were when historical context was given to different Bible verses. Basically, that’s what Aslan’s book does with the New Testament and, to a lessor degree, the Old Testament as well.

This context enriches the New Testament experience. You can take from it what you will, bring your own interpretation to certain points, or reject some observations out of hand. That’s the reader’s — and the believer’s — prerogative. However, I found much that made me see things in a more informed light and brought new understanding of history, Judaism, and early Christianity.

Aslan’s book includes a ten-page bibliography and 53 pages of notes. It is deeply researched by a scholar who has spent his life studying religion ever since his days as a youthful Evangelical Christian.

A Little Plot:

Interestingly, while Jesus is the subject matter, it is all the forces that surround him, and his followers, that forms the majority of this book.

Pretty much everyone knows the story of Jesus to some extent. What we often do not understand is the degree to which Roman occupation infuriated the Jews and inspired rebellions and numerous would-be-saviors. It’s a fascinating story in itself. Well worth learning about.

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