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Good Housekeeping • Booklist • Publishers Weekly • Bookish

From the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal.
Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God.
Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry—a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion, yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who exhorted his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores the reasons why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.
Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion.

Praise for Zealot
“Riveting . . . Aslan synthesizes Scripture and scholarship to create an original account.”The New Yorker

“A lucid, intelligent page-turner.”—Los Angeles Times
“Fascinatingly and convincingly drawn . . . Aslan may come as close as one can to respecting those who revere Jesus as the peace-loving, turn-the-other-cheek, true son of God depicted in modern Christianity, even as he knocks down that image.”The Seattle Times
“[Aslan’s] literary talent is as essential to the effect of Zealot as are his scholarly and journalistic chops. . . . A vivid, persuasive portrait.”Salon
“This tough-minded, deeply political book does full justice to the real Jesus, and honors him in the process.”San Francisco Chronicle

From the Hardcover edition.

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Average rating
4.2 / 5
January 30th, 2015
An eye opener. A change in my view of Christianity. Jesus the man worthy of honour without Jesus the Christ.
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1 review
November 1st, 2014
Aslan looks at Jesus as a historical figure more so than a religious one. However, it’s impossible to completely ignore that major aspect of Jesus’ character. Having been brought up Catholic, this book illuminated how the Virgin birth, the cleansing of the Jewish temple, the relationship with John the Baptist, and the crucifixion most likely differed factually with what is told in the Bible. And I came to better understand the schism between Judaism and Christianity.
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1 review
Well written with biblical info
October 15th, 2014
Bring to you a new angel to read the scripture again.
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1 review
Well written fiction, not history
September 15th, 2014
Aslan has an agenda from the first pages: recreate Jesus' history based on a mixture of history and personal bias. It's contradictory and misleading, and discredits millenia of study and devotion to the person Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah. It should not be taken as history, but a fabricated version whose chief purpose is to humanize Jesus and effectively crush the foundations of the world's largest religion, Christianity. Despite a weak agenda, Aslan is a good writer stylistically. That's all the credit he deserves. He is not a true biblical historian, but a creator of historical fiction!
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1 review
February 9th, 2014
This was a fascinating read for me. It was a very controversial book when it was released but it was way overblown by people who hadn't bothered to even read it. The only people who will be upset by this read are the people who believe that everything that is written in the Bible is literally true (despite the fact that it was written by fallible human beings long after actual events had taken place.) I am not very familiar with the history of the region so a lot of it was really eye-opening for me. For example, it turns out that Pontius Pirate was not actually a Roman "nice guy" - he actually crucified Jews at such an alarming rate that an official complaint was filed against him back in Rome. And yet the Bible has him essentially pleading with the Jewish Council to "spare" Jesus. How does that make sense to anyone? There's lots of interesting little tidbits like that. Highly recommend.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
January 24th, 2014
There's nothing really new in this book if you are well read in the history of early Christianity and the early church. If you're in this group, you might find the notes very useful. If you aren't familiar with this history, then this book is a great place to start. Aslan writes in a narrative style that can help to keep a reader engaged and interested. One thing that I didn't like was that the notes seem disconnected to the text. There are no raised numerals in the text that are connected to the endnotes themselves. I suppose this is a personal preference but it's one of the reasons why this book didn't get five stars from me. Also, Aslan tells us that the we can't completely rely on the gospels to know about the historical Jesus but much of his material about the historical Jesus is the gospels. That's fine but much material about Jesus that is based on the canonized gospels as well as other sources like gnostic gospels already exists. Overall, this was an enjoyable read but not a gripping one. If you have done extensive reading on Jesus and/or the early Christian movement, you may want to borrow from the library or even skip this one.
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1 review
January 24th, 2014
The brilliance of this book is not that it provides any new academic understandings of the historical Jesus, but rather how it makes those academic understandings amazingly accessible to popular audience. Gone is the day where you just accept what your priest tells you about Jesus, or where scholarship studies about Jesus were only contained within the ivory walls of universities. Zealot successfully brings us closer to one of the most important persons in the history of man.
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1 review
August 11th, 2013
Very interesting. Gives new understanding and meaning to the historical background of the Church and Jesus. Worthwhile read. :-)
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1 review

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