Reviewers called his book “a bold, powerfully argued re-visioning of the most consequential life ever lived.” How can you argue with the acclaim Reza Aslan’s Zealot: Jesus of Nazareth received, becoming a NY Times bestseller and reaching #1 on Amazon? Fox News and CNN’s Piers Morgan propelled his rise in popularity.
Out of curiosity I read his book.
In many ways, Aslan’s book is simply a rehashing of old ideas. He regurgitates a multitude of bold, inaccurate and misleading observations about Jesus that lead him to recreate Jesus in his own image.
Reza Aslan is an Iranian Muslim who immigrated to the US with his family in 1979. He became a Christian in his teenage years.
Aslan later returned to his Islamic roots, began to study the historicity of Jesus and replaced his belief in Jesus the Christ with his belief in Jesus the revolutionary.
3 Things Aslan Got Wrong About Jesus
1. Referring to Jesus as simply a man of peace. Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 NIV)
2. Misunderstanding Jesus’ purpose as setting up an earthly kingdom in Judea in revolt against Roman occupiers. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36 NIV)
3. Saying Jesus did not believe he was God. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV)
Rejecting The Authority Of The Bible
Aslan arrives at these and other conclusions primarily because he rejects the authority and reliability of the New Testament Gospels.
He writes of his personal experience, “…the sudden realization that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions…left me confused and spiritually unmoored.” (p. xix) Aslan formed his new perspective on the Scriptures partly from the “Two-Source Hypothesis” which he refers to as “the most widely accepted theory on the formation of the Gospels.” (p. xxvi)
Based on this hypothesis, Aslan believes the gospels are not “eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds recorded by people who knew him.” He pursued his academic studies “…no longer chained to the assumption the stories I read were literally true…” (p. xix)
Rejecting Historical Context
His opinion ignores or is an outright rejection of 1st and 2nd century Christians who regarded Matthew, Mark and John as eye-witnesses accounts of Jesus and his teaching. Augustine, Origen and Irenaeus and the early Church Fathers, accepted the Gospels as historical, inspired records of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
To reject the Bible as literally true is the fundamental flaw in Aslan’s arguments.
Creative Writing Not Historic Research
What I found interesting is that none of Aslan’s four degrees is in history. Nor is he a “professor of religion” as he stated in the Fox News interview. He is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside.
As such, his writing about Jesus is “creative” to say the least.
What Is Clear From The Four Gospels
* Jesus knew he was the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy regarding the Messiah;
* he came not to set up an earthly kingdom but to bring people into the Kingdom of Heaven through his sacrificial death and resurrection;
* he was God, the Universe’s Creator;
* consecration to Him was not about moral reformation but spiritual regeneration.
Over the past few decades Jesus has been presented as a “Superstar,” a “Prophet” and a “Zealot.”
He may be misrepresented and misunderstood but he cannot be ignored.
He remains center stage in human history.
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