zealot…it bothers me

16 Dec

Just finished reading Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.zealot

It made a bit of a splash when it came out, as I recall. The bottom line from the evangelical scholarly corner seemed to be that Aslan doesn’t add much new to the conversation. But I was intrigued to read what a professor who hails from Persia, who became a believer after coming to America and then, after entering the realm of higher education, ceased being a follower of Christ and pursued knowing and following Jesus of Nazareth.

I loved his dance through the milieu of first century history leading up to Jesus through the Jewish War and its aftermath. It was like reading a novelized version of Josephus.

I didn’t feel hostility towards Christianity as traditionally received and understood in the West, just honesty as to how he sees things. If you can’t handle listening to another perspective on Jesus and early Christian history (I know I couldn’t in my college years! I did more talking back than listening then; perhaps a common affliction of youth – and of those who never grow up) then this is one to skip.

Otherwise the walk through history is worth it, and the alternative take on early Christian history stretching – hopefully in a good way.

one of the better portraits of Jesus I've seen...

one of the better portraits of Jesus I’ve seen…

For me it underlined just what a venture of faith this whole God business is.

And how essential it is to hold that faith with deep humility.

We like to think that Christ and Christianity is all black and white, the verdict in, it’s all just looking at the facts; that Christianity is not so much a matter of trust as of proof and instead of a venturesome, outlandish, upside down faith, there is only a clear-cut factual equation leading to a response that is more “well, duh” than “WTH?”

If it’s God, we must be left shaking our heads, wondering “What just happened?” or even “Did that just happen?” The religious and irreligious both traffic in assembled factual certitudes vigourously defended; this business of God and life is much more slippery stuff. The clearest revelations of God are always delivered in envelopes of doubt sealed with uncertainties and second guessing launching us into the struggle that is faith, the struggle that is God.

And that is one of the gifts that Aslan gave me in this book.

He bothered me.

And that is a good thing.


Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Books, Faith, haverings, Religion


Tags: , , , ,

2 responses to “zealot…it bothers me

  1. justinboggs

    December 16, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I haven’t read the book, but some of the conclusions I heard him reveal in interviews seemed to be, ummm, a stretch. It did caution me though, because many “believing” scholars make similar stretches when trying to justify their own preconceived notions. Hermeneutics is an imperfect art, and too often guided by our desire to be right.

  2. wordhaver

    December 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Many of his conclusions are “dubious” – good word for it! But he took me to the first century again afresh, made me think of Jesus of Nazareth afresh, Saul of Tarsus, afresh. And that was worth it. It was a nice change of pace!


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