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Zealot by Reza Aslan
The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

66%

32 Critic Reviews

The sensibility that Mr Aslan brings to his latest book, about the founder of another monotheism, is by comparison rather one-dimensional, although his considerable gifts as a storyteller and populariser of complex religious ideas remain intact.
-The Economist

Synopsis

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
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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.
 

About Reza Aslan

See more books from this Author
Dr. REZA ASLAN is an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions. His first book, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages and named by Blackwell as one of the hundred most important books of the last decade. He also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization and the End of the War on Terror (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism), as well as the editor of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. He is also the founder of Aslan Media, a company devoted to creating forums and encouraging discourse about the Greater Middle East. Born in Iran, he now lives in Los Angeles, where is he is associate professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.












































































































Author Residence: Los Angeles












































































































Author Hometown: Tehran, Iran
 
Published July 16, 2013 by Random House. 354 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Critic reviews for Zealot
All: 32 | Positive: 17 | Negative: 15

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jul 17 2013

Why has Christianity taken hold and flourished? This book will give you the answers in the simplest, most straightforward, comprehensible manner.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dale B. Martin on Aug 05 2013

“Zealot” is not innovative or original scholarship, but it makes an entertaining read. It is also a serious presentation of one plausible portrait of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Stuart Kelly on Aug 07 2013

There is an odd intemperance about the tone of this book, with vociferous assertion often replacing argument.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 10 2013

...Aslan develops a convincing and coherent story of how the Christian church, and in particular Paul, reshaped Christianity’s essence, obscuring the very real man who was Jesus of Nazareth. Compulsively readable and written at a popular level, this superb work is highly recommended.

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The Economist

Above average
on Jul 27 2013

The sensibility that Mr Aslan brings to his latest book, about the founder of another monotheism, is by comparison rather one-dimensional, although his considerable gifts as a storyteller and populariser of complex religious ideas remain intact.

Read Full Review of Zealot: The Life and Times of... | See more reviews from The Economist

The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Nicholas Blincoe on Sep 07 2013

It is a politically charged interpretation with a grand narrative sweep but, too often, the decisions underpinning it feel arbitrary.

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Open Letters Monthly

Good
Reviewed by Steve Donoghue on Sep 04 2013

Aslan is a gifted writer, and Zealot is a clear, vigorous layman’s trot on the case for a mortal, mundane, divisive Jesus.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Above average
Reviewed by Rebecca Denova on Aug 25 2013

There is a body of research, a "new perspective on Paul," which correctly recognizes that Paul remained within the framework of Judaism throughout his ministry. Mr. Aslan is apparently unaware of any of these scholars or the issues involved in this reassessment.

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The Seattle Times

Good
Reviewed by Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett on Jul 22 2013

The short life and chaotic times of the most famous Nazarene are fascinatingly and convincingly drawn by Aslan.

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The Washington Post

Above average
Reviewed by Stephen Prothero on Aug 02 2013

“Zealot” offers readers not the historical Jesus but a Jesus for our place and time...This makes for a good read. It might even make for a good movie. Just don’t tell me it’s true.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Stephen Prothero on Aug 02 2013

Unfortunately, there isn’t much new here other than Aslan’s slick writing and cinematic sensibilities.

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Patheos

Above average
Reviewed by Adam Ericksen on Aug 27 2013

If Aslan is right in his assertion that Jesus was a failed violent revolutionary messiah just like the others, then why were his disciples the only ones who continued to believe in their Messiah’s cause?

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Patheos

Above average
Reviewed by Larry Hurtado on Aug 25 2013

Those acquainted with the field know that “we’ve been there and done that” and it’s not worth the lather.

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Salon

Above average
Reviewed by Andrei Codrescu on Aug 17 2013

The religious scholar's book is the latest, vaguely historically accurate entry in the "Jesus-as-man" genre.

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Salon

Above average
Reviewed by Laura Miller on Jul 14 2013

Although Aslan never explicitly states as much, the parallels to today — to certain deeply religious and nationalist Muslims who zealously strive to cast out foreign occupiers and corrupt clerics — are hard to ignore.

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St. Louis Today

Above average
Reviewed by Sarah Bryan Miller on Aug 02 2013

“Zealot” offers some interesting angles on Jesus in his time and place. Ultimately, though, it suffers from the same lack of objective facts about Jesus as every other work of its type.

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Cleveland.com

Above average
Reviewed by Earl Pike on Sep 07 2013

In the end, Aslan’s central argument is debatable but valuable. Just as traditional interpretations of Jesus resist an inarguable certainty, except in the realm of faith, so do alternative interpretations, such as Aslan’s.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Good
Reviewed by Jon on Aug 12 2013

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.

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The Roanoke Times

Good
Reviewed by Suzanne Wardle on Sep 04 2013

Some people will be turned away, and some will even step away from this work because it is a biography of Jesus, written by a practicing Muslim. Their loss.

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Los Angeles Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by Andrei Codrescu, Kevin Hart and Philip Maciak on Aug 11 2013

“Aslan does not ask, “What would Jesus do?” Instead, he asks, “What would someone like Jesus do?”. . . we ought not ask what Reza Aslan reveals to us about Jesus, but what Reza Aslan’s Jesus reveals about us.

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The Gospel Coalition

Below average
Reviewed by Justin Taylor on Aug 06 2013

Aslan repeatedly presents highly unlikely interpretations of passages in the New Testament, makes little effort to defend those interpretations, then moves on as if he has made his case.

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Arts Fuse

Good
Reviewed by Harvey Blume on Aug 18 2013

Aslan’s easy command of detail gives this book peculiar resonance beyond the core story of Rome, Jews, Christians, and Jesus, as if that story were not resonant enough.

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BookBrowse

Excellent
Reviewed by Book Browse on Sep 07 2013

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.

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Yahoo! Voices

Good
Reviewed by Joanna Ammons on Aug 03 2013

"Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" is not just another book on the life of Jesus in which information is loosely put together, but it is a fast-paced, well-written biography, the result of a considerable amount of research, the extensive bibliography at the end of the book standing as proof.

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Quick Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by David Ben Efraim on Jul 17 2013

If you keep an open mind, this book will leave a mark in your memory and perhaps even push you to ask yourself some important questions as to what you believe, why, and how religion functions in this world.

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The Nature of Things

Good
Reviewed by Dorothy Borders on Aug 05 2013

Aslan has written in a popular style that is easily accessible to the nonacademic audience. This is a brief book for a brief life, but there are copious notes and bibliography added for those who want to get further into the story.

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M Live

Above average
Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp on Aug 09 2013

In the end, for this reader anyway, "Zealot" doesn't fully make its case, but I'll defend Aslan's right to expound it against all comers.

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Book Kvetch

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca G. Aguilar on Jul 19 2013

Zealot by Reza Aslan is a highly worthwhile read and absorbing biography revealing a Jesus of Nazareth as “compelling, charismatic and praiseworthy as Jesus the Christ.”

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Wales Arts Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Dylan Moore on Sep 07 2013

Never mind Fox News. Zealot is a brave and necessary book. It is an intelligent and sensitive treatment of a controversial subject.

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Belief Net

Above average
Reviewed by Kristina Robb-Dover on Aug 02 2013

The simplicity of Aslan’s conclusion that the historical Jesus is nothing more than a political zealot may be enticing; but the reductionism here fails to explain away much of the Jesus we see depicted in word and deed in the New Testament.

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Pastor Nancy's Book Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Pastor Nancy on Aug 13 2013

I am curious about Aslan’s inner jihad, spirituality, theology, and mission. Zealot was a lot of deconstruction; by the end, there wasn’t much left to believe in. Maybe his next book?

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Prophets and Popstars

Below average
Reviewed by prophetsandpopstars on Aug 04 2013

At a certain point, the Bible has to stand up for itself. No one is as stupid as the historical Jesus argument lays claim they would have to be.

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Reader Rating for Zealot
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Jim Musgrave 16 Aug 2013

I hope all Christians choke on the logic of this fine work.

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Paul McDougall 24 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

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