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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Reviewed on 12/23/13 by Nancy Corcoran, csj
Possibly the most controversial book I’ve read this year is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. I had viewed the now infamous interview by Fox’s Lauren Green, who badgered the author, a scholar of religion who happens to be Muslim, with questions suggesting that because of his religion he could not possibly write a book about Jesus. Needless to say, the interview went viral, (and like the bishops’ banning of Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God,) Zealot is now an Amazon best seller.
For those of us who have not kept up with scholarship on the historical Jesus, this book is an easy read compiling the research of the past forty years. Aslan writes to be read, especially by those who might be put off by lots of footnotes, and therefore he places the footnotes (which are as interesting as the first two hundred pages) at the end of the book. As someone with a degree in theological studies, I love reading a book by someone outside of my belief system. I am challenged by the findings of scholars who affirm the human-ness of Jesus, and the historical reality of what we know he actually did and did not do. Aslan calls himself… a follower of Jesus- the man who was serious about helping an oppressed people to become fully human in a society which attempted to deny them of their worth. Perhaps that is what my formation director meant when she asked me “If Jesus were not divine, would he be worth following?” Zealot suggest that he would.