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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Cover

ISBN13: 9781400069224
ISBN10: 140006922x
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

“A bold, powerfully argued revisioning of the most consequential life ever lived.” Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Review:

“The story of Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most influential narrative in human history. Here Reza Aslan writes vividly and insightfully about the life and meaning of the figure who has come to be seen by billions as the Christ of faith. This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original.” Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Review:

“In Zealot, Reza Aslan doesn't just synthesize research and reimagine a lost world, though he does those things very well. He does for religious history what Bertolt Brecht did for playwriting. Aslan rips Jesus out of all the contexts we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical ideologue, an odd and scary and extraordinarily interesting man.” Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World

About the Author

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, has been translated into thirteen languages and named by Blackwell as one of the hundred most important books of the last decade. He is 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. Born in Iran, he lives in New York and Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

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gary w cannon, August 16, 2013 (view all comments by gary w cannon)
In Zealot, Reza Aslan's scholarly research explores the times and characters leading up to and immediately following the death of Jesus. Aslan balances the Jesus of the Gospels with the itinerant Jewish carpenter preaching revolutionary ideas against Roman occupiers and Temple leaders.
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salingcrew, August 2, 2013 (view all comments by salingcrew)
I had the privilege to meet and hear Reza Aslan at his book signing at Powell's. However, he is outright dishonest in what he says and writes. Consider pages 185 & 186 of his book.

1.) Aslan says that the Apostle Paul says he is superior to all the other apostles. Fact: Paul said he is the least of all the apostles 1 Cor 15:9

2.) Aslan says that Paul holds contempt for James, Peter, and John, mocking them as "so-called pillars of the church." Fact: Paul commends them as apparent pillars of the church Galatians 2:9 "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship"

3.) Aslan says that Paul said of James, Peter, and John "Whatever they are makes no difference to me...those leaders contributed nothing to me" quoting Galatians 2:6. Fact: He was not referring to them, but others who he deemed false brethren and teachers.

4.) Aslan says that Paul believes he is better because Jesus gives him secret visions, a prideful man. Fact: Paul never boasted of his visions, but manifested humility in it by sometimes speaking in the third person (2 Cor 12)

5.) Aslan says that Paul implies in Galatians 1:15) that rather than being the 13th apostle, he is the 1st apostle because he was chosen before the foundation of the world, while Jesus didn't pick the others until he was with them. Fact: Paul said it was only because of the grace of God he was appointed as an apostle. Plus, Jesus said all the apostles were ordained before the foundation of the world John 15:16)

It is very evident that Aslan is not being scholarly or academic in his portrayal of a "historic Jesus," but is plainly being dishonest, twisting and lying about what the New Testament writers say. This is not a matter of "diverse interpretations," but very clear dishonesty to advance his agenda in trying to undermine the real historical Jesus.
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Melinda Ott, July 25, 2013 (view all comments by Melinda Ott)
Originally published on my blog westmetromommy.blogspot.com
2.5 Stars

I am truly conflicted about this book. On one hand, there is much to recommend it. On the other hand, I feel that Aslan missed his mark on many points.

One of the best things about this book is Aslan's skill at recreating the world of first century Palestine for the modern reader. Israel/Palestine/The Holy Land has never been a place of calm, but it may have been at its most chaotic during that time (even more so than the modern day). I've read many books about the history of Jesus and Zealot is the first one I've come across that takes the time to explain the world of Jesus as Aslan does.

Another area where I think Aslan excelled was in his discussion of the theological battles between James and Paul. I don't quite agree with all of his claims, but it was one part of the book where I learned something new and it did leave me with a new outlook on some of the Epistles.

For the most part, Aslan has a very readable style. I have a high tolerance for "academic" writings, but I really felt that Aslan wrote at a level that most people would find accessible--most of the time. There were about 4 or 5 sections of the book where Aslan allows himself to get so bogged down with details that I had to keep referring several pages back to see what his original point was.

All that being said, I found some serious flaws with this book. When a book is written about any historical and religious figure, there is a very thin line the author must walk. There have been authors who have successfully navigated this when writing about Jesus (Marcus Borg is one that comes to mind), but Aslan trips spectacularly over that line with his own assumptions that he fails to back up with any sort of actual proof.

There were three instances that really stuck out to me, which I will address in reverse order. The last of these was when it came to Saul/Paul and his conversion experience. Aslan's argument is that it never happened--it was a creation of Luke when he wrote the book of Acts. Aslan argues that it must not have happened because Paul never talks of it. First of all, that's not exactly true. While Paul does not precisely recount the incident, he alludes to it several times in his letters. Secondly, why would Paul write about it? He's not writing a record of his life. He's writing letters to congregations who have met him and know about him and would definitely have been aware of his conversion experience. Not only do I believe Aslan to be incorrect on this point, but he uses his assumption as fact.

The second instance is in reference to the Resurrection. Aslan states that it is a matter of faith and can not be proven in history--which is completely true. But he then goes on with the assumption that it never happened, which can't be proven either, making the rest of that section meaningless.

The first instance, and the one that totally knocked me off my feet, regards the miracles of Jesus. Aslan spends little time talking about Jesus' parables and miracle. For the parables, he only addresses the ones that he can make fit into his thesis and ignores the many (and more famous) ones that do not. As for miracles, Aslan writes it of as....magic. Yes, magic. And not magic as in David Copperfield-like illusions, but honest to goodness Holy Harry Potter magic.

Aslan's greatest problem is that he mistakes his own assumptions as fact. He leaves no room for the possibility of anything. When he has no proof for or against that Jesus and John the Baptist were relatives, he immediately assumes that they weren't. Why not go with, maybe they were or maybe they weren't? When Aslan says (page 121 of my ARC), "Yet if one wants to uncover what Jesus himself truly believed, one must never lose sigh of this fundamental fact: Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and nothing more," what makes that a fundamental fact? Because Aslan says so? He also said Jesus was "magic." Ignoring what you cannot explain does not create facts, it creates opinions.

Beyond the "facts" of his own creation, there really isn't anything in this book regarding Jesus that I haven't read elsewhere. I do feel that Aslan's constant assertions that his assumptions are facts very quickly become patronizing to the reader, which colors the positive aspects of this book.

Would I recommend this book? I don't know. If I were to recommend it, it would be to someone who I know reads with a discerning eye who would be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to say. I do think that there are parts of this book that are valuable, but other sections (well, the large middle section) which are questionable at best.

Aslan's thesis seems to be that Christianity misses the point of Jesus. However, I think it is Reza Aslan who is missing the point.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400069224
Subtitle:
The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Author:
Aslan, Reza
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
World History-Ancient History
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20130731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
336

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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth Used Hardcover
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Product details 336 pages Random House - English 9781400069224 Reviews:
"Review" by , “A bold, powerfully argued revisioning of the most consequential life ever lived.” Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
"Review" by , “The story of Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most influential narrative in human history. Here Reza Aslan writes vividly and insightfully about the life and meaning of the figure who has come to be seen by billions as the Christ of faith. This is a special and revealing work, one that believer and skeptic alike will find surprising, engaging, and original.”
"Review" by , “In Zealot, Reza Aslan doesn't just synthesize research and reimagine a lost world, though he does those things very well. He does for religious history what Bertolt Brecht did for playwriting. Aslan rips Jesus out of all the contexts we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical ideologue, an odd and scary and extraordinarily interesting man.”
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