As a firm believer in lifelong learning, I pride myself on always being open to new ideas and new experiences.
So, when I heard about the buzz being created by ‘Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth’, I had to read the book.
Having now devoured Reza Aslan’s account of the historic Jesus, I understand why fundamentalists loathe it.
I also understand why it’s a must read for any believer in lifelong learning. Zealot is a book for the believer, or non-believer, of any major religion. It’s also a perfect read at a time when the image and reputation of the Roman Catholic Church is being, shall we say, reinterpreted by a new pontiff.
I won’t reveal the countless fascinating, and game-changing, concepts about Aslan’s Jesus of Nazareth, but I will tell you the fundamental arguments he posits. They are two-fold:
- The historic Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans for sedition. As one of countless, self-proclaimed messiahs (‘King of the Jews’) who came before, and after him, Jesus was a zealous revolutionary who had three objectives:
1. Over-turning the existing system of Roman government.
2. Reconstituting the 12 original tribes of Israel (hence the reason for his selecting 12 apostles, or ambassadors).
3. Ruling as a king over a re-born Israel.
- Following his crucifixion, the surviving apostles had a huge disagreement about Jesus himself. One faction, led by James (who, says Aslan, was one of many brothers of Jesus), Peter and John believed that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah, but he was NOT the son of god. They battled a different group headed by Paul, who believed himself to also be divine and first used the surname Christ to describe Jesus as a celestial entity sitting at the right hand of god. Paul is the apostle who attributed to Jesus such quotes as ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’
James (and not Peter and Paul) was the leader of the post-Jesus revolutionary movement, says Aslan. But, and this is critical, James preached the Jesus movement to Jews, and Jews alone.
It was Paul’s genius to take his version of Jesus to Rome, and the Gentiles. And the rest, as they say, is history.
One other tidbit that was new to me: the reason Jews could never accept Jesus as the son of god was two-fold:
- Nowhere in the Old Testament are there any words prophesizing a messiah who would be crucified, resurrected and become a living god.
- Crucifixion in, and of, itself violates the Law of Moses: ‘Anyone hung on a tree (that is crucified) is under God’s curse.’ (Deuteronomy 21:23).
I don’t know what to believe. But, I do believe this book is worth reading. Pick it up and let me know what you think.