January 7, 2014

Zealots Need Not Apply:Reading Reza Aslan

I read this over Christmas. I thought, “Since we are celebrating the man’s birth, we should have a look at his life.  I really enjoyed Aslan’s portrait of Jesus, and it made me think deeper about faith and religion and life. 

Aslan shows that the New Testament was a constructed document, and he looks at the historical context of the life of Jesus.  We learn that Jesus wasn’t the only prophet and miracle-man plying his wares on the Mediterranean shores, but he tries to understand why Jesus endured when his contemporaries did not. 

The simplistic answer is that he was the one true son of God, but there are other figures that are part of Jesus’s narrative who get subsumed into the greater structure of the story, particularly here John the Baptist.  He had competing followers after the crucifixion with the followers of Jesus.  In the familiar telling, he was a harbinger of the Christ, and not a Burger King of messiahs.

When this book came out, it was highly controversial, and in fact that was the main reason I picked it up.  I really don’t see why it was if you can be open-minded about the history of the man so many in this world follow and revere.  I can see that it comes down heavily on Paul, and the New Testament as we have it is pretty Paul-centric. If anything it should challenge you to think deeper about your faith, and see Jesus for the man he was.