24 September 2013
Review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A 2 for motive, a 4 for scholarship.
With the kerfuffle about the interview on the Fix website regarding Aslan's credentials and the ensuing craziness that surrounded it, I went into the book kind of thinking it was a shame that a possibly interesting read was overshadowed by a nothingburger controversy. Then I read the intro, which at least gives the impression that this is a book less about Jesus and more about a man coming to terms with the "othering," as it were, he felt regarding faith, religion, and Christianity in the United States. That doesn't always lead itself to good scholarship - in fact, I can't say I've ever seen it come to that.
With that said, the book itself is interesting. Jesus is the central figure, as it would have to be, but the meat of the book, and the best parts, are the more contextual histories of the era and the time. It's definitely a look at the historical Jesus as opposed to the spiritual one, which explains a lot of the outrage, but the key points are getting that contextual era straight, and that's where this book succeeds. It's a very basic look, and probably won't be news to people with some information already, but still a different read for people who might have needed it.
Can I recommend it? Depends on what you're looking for, to be honest. I can't speak significantly for the actual scholarship, as this was never really my area, but in terms of history positioned in a certain era, you can absolutely do worse.
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