Zealot : The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

By (author) Reza Aslan


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#1 "NEW YORK TIMES" BESTSELLER NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY "Good Housekeeping - Booklist - Publishers Weekly - Bookish" From 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 history's 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 zealotry--a 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 Nazareth's 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 Yorker" "A 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" "[Aslan's] 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"

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  • Hardback | 296 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 33.02mm | 612.35g
  • 19 Nov 2013
  • Random House USA Inc
  • English
  • maps
  • 140006922X
  • 9781400069224
  • 18,616

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Author Information

Reza Aslan is an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions. His first book, "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, " has been translated into thirteen languages and named by Blackwell as one of the hundred most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of "How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror" (published in paperback as "Beyond Fundamentalism"), as well as the editor of "Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East." Born in Iran, he lives in New York and Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

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Review quote

Advance praise for "Zealot" "A bold, powerfully argued revisioning of the most consequential life ever lived."--Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" "The story of Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most influential narrative in human history. Here Reza Aslan writes vividly and insightfully about the life and meaning of the figure who has come to be seen by billions as the Christ of faith. This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original."--Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" " " "In "Zealot", Reza Aslan doesn't just synthesize research and reimagine a lost world, though he does those things very well. He does for religious history what Bertolt Brecht did for playwriting. Aslan rips Jesus out of all the contexts we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical ideologue, an odd and scary and extraordinarily interesting man."--Judith Shulevitz, author of "The Sabbath World"

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Customer reviews

A non-historical piece of creative writing

I read this book hoping to gain an insight from an academic point of view on a historical Jesus. Reza Aslan proves to be neither a historian, nor someone interested in presenting an academic argument, often quoting bits of scripture he deems suitable to support his argument, and then rubbishing the rest of it (often from the same author) when it does not. This book should be read as Aslan's INTERPRETATION of Jesus of Nazareth, and nothing more - not the authoritative truth, not even a historical account, but a piece of creative writing by someone who thinks of Jesus in a certain way, based on a semi-educated guess. Reza Aslan does not use other sources well, often opting for scholars with extreme views, or simply omitting engagement with other scholars and opposing views and debates when it does not suit him. Most importantly, for all the work Aslan does to say that Jesus Christ and the Jesus of history are completely separate people, he fails to address the most crucial elements of the Christian narrative, that is, the resurrection, the change in the lives of the disciples, the claims the Jesus of history claims regarding his Godhood, and the miracles and good works performed by him. Reza Aslan's book is informative at certain points, definitely easy to read and entertaining, and it is not hard to see he excels at creative writing (which he has qualifications for, as opposed to Christian history) - but it is nothing more than his own interpretation of the Christ, riddled with errors, questionable assertions and inconsistencies.show more
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