Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weekly Book Post: Zealot


After the author Reza Aslan appeared on The Daily Show for an interview that was almost fawning in how much interviewer John Oliver said he had loved the book, I put Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth on my TBR list.  Then there was his interview on Fox, which I heard all about (Buzzfeed calls it "the most embarrassing interview Fox has ever done").  All that buzz bumped it up my list and I bought it on kindle rather than wait in line for the copy from the public library.

And I wanted to really like it, I really really did.  It starts off with almost theatrical flair in an incredible prologue that describes the assassination of the high priest in the courtyard of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Aslan's writing is very engaging and has great storytelling value.

But that was the problem, too ... it was sooo dramatic and confident that I found myself wondering how much I could trust the historical validity of this book that is supposed to be about the historical Jesus.  And then Aslan presents a lot of analysis of the gospels as a way to read through them to the kernel of truth they were based off .... but once again there was so much confidence in the one interpretation without much (any?) discussion of how that interpretation can really be done like that.

In the end I find myself agreeing a lot with the review published in The Jewish Review of Books, which throws a lot of doubt on Aslan's overall serious scholarship, while agreeing that his writing is engaging and entertaining.  It was an interesting read, and definitely more entertaining than your average scholarly history book, but I don't know that I trust this interpretation of the historical Jesus all that far.

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