Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Zealot by Reza Aslan

            Perhaps the most controversial book of 2013, Zealot by Reza Aslan examines the life of Jesus of Nazareth from a historical, not spiritual, perspective. By examining the political and economic circumstances of first century Palestine, Aslan speculates about the movements and motives of Jesus. The Jews of Palestine were cruelly oppressed by both the Roman Empire and corrupt High Priests. Aslan believes that Jesus was trying to raise an earthly rebellion against both. Many reviews have been written about this book and some scholars state that Aslan’s ideas are not new and some of his facts and hypotheses are questionable. Nevertheless, Zealot is an interesting book and a good introduction for those who know little or nothing about first century history. According to this book, Jesus was an illiterate peasant who struggled to overthrow the Romans and return Israel to the Law of Moses. Mr. Aslan is a skilled writer and his explanation of the early history of Christianity is engaging and easily understood. The struggle for control of the early Christian Church (between those who wanted it to remain a Jewish sect and those who wanted to accept Gentiles) is explained in depth. The late first century was a time of turmoil for Christians and Jews. A Jewish revolt against the Romans resulted in a crushing defeat, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine. This series of events determined the future of the Christian Church as well as the fate of the Jewish people to this day. Regardless of religious belief, Zealot is a good introduction to a part of history many know little about.