Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
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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
From the Hardcover edition.
Magicians in the Greco-Roman World. London: Routledge, 2001. Edwards, Douglas R., and C. Thomas McCollough, eds. Archaeology and the Galilee. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. Edwards, George R. Jesus and the Politics of Violence. New York: Harper and Row, 1972. Evans, Craig. Jesus and His Contemporaries. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1995. ———, and J. A. Sanders. Luke and Scripture: The Function of Sacred Tradition in Luke-Acts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. Festinger, Leon. A Theory of
heaven and earth was born in the form of a helpless child. The child grew into a blameless man. The man became the Christ, the savior of humanity. Through his words and miraculous deeds, he challenged the Jews, who thought they were the chosen of God, and in return the Jews had him nailed to a cross. Though he could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die. His death was the point of it all, for his sacrifice freed us all from the burden of our sins. But the story did
however, was his agreement with the zealots that God’s reign required not just an internal transformation toward justice and righteousness, but a complete reversal of the present political, religious, and economic system. “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are hungry, for you shall be fed. Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall soon be laughing” (Luke 6:20–21). These abiding words of the Beatitudes are, more than anything else, a promise of
maintaining the Temple’s daily rites: the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, the sounding of trumpets, and, of course, the sacrificial offerings. The priesthood is a hereditary position, but there is no shortage of them, certainly not during festival season, when they arrive in droves from distant lands to assist in the festivities. They cram the Temple in twenty-four-hour shifts to ensure that the fires of sacrifice are kept aflame day and night. The Temple is constructed as a series of
Paul writes. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, though not before God. Rather, what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ ” (Romans 4:1–3; see also Galatians 3:6–9). James may not have been able to read any of Paul’s letters but he was obviously familiar with Paul’s teachings about Jesus. The last years of his life were spent dispatching his own missionaries to Paul’s congregations in order to correct