“Some of us claim that he was a messiah, and some think that he was just a man with very special powers. But that misses the point. Whatever he was, he changed the world.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things
Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth is currently at No.1 on Amazon Best Sellers thanks to the awkward Fox News interview. Although I shouldn’t be shocked by the typical Fox News questions like “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” I was nevertheless shocked. It’s like asking an astronomer, “you live on Earth, why study other planets?” It was obvious that Lauren Green had no idea of the contents of the book and was only interested in the fact that Aslan is a Muslim and that he has some kind of faith-based bias in his work. Reza Aslan is a scholar of religions and as he had to politely point out to Green, “a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”
So…. he wrote a book about Jesus the man and not Jesus the Christ. I can understand that not many Christians are too keen on the historical Jesus, but is a book really a threat to faith? It was Jesus who said that faith is supposed to be built on a rock, not sand. And if so, this book should not be causing any form of fury or insecurity. The investigation of the historical Jesus is an intriguing one. Whether you are a believer or not, we all know that Jesus lived here on Earth as a man, and his life as a person, the times he lived in, and the circumstances in which he lived and preached should be important areas of study. Faith is not essentially based on facts, so these facts should not be discouraging faith.
I first came to know about Zealot when I was watching the Daily Show and after seeing the Fox News interview, I had to go watch the Daily Show interview again just so I could assure myself that there are sane people too working in television.
I don’t see this book as an attack on Christianity. I don’t think Aslan meant it to be either, but people are entitled to their own opinion and many who see it as a threat of some kind, clearly do not understand what faith is really about. Learning about the historical Jesus is just as important. It is no secret that Jesus lived here on Earth as a man rather than a divine being. If he did, then he lived in a place and at a time worth exploring. I don’t see why that is worrying, plus it is not astonishing that a scholar of history of religions is only interested in a religion’s history and not in its spiritual claims.
If Jesus came back today he would disagree on many things we have interpreted and speculated about him. I’m pretty sure that none of us have got it completely right. But even if you knew nothing more about Jesus or whether you accept his divinity or not, we all know that he was crucified – in his efforts to stand up for the poor, the weak, the dispossessed, the downtrodden and the outcast. In doing so, he gave rise to the largest religion in the world. But it is his sacrifice that is more compelling and should stand out in the eyes of his followers; he showed the world that the oppressed, the meek and the powerless were worthy of being stood up for, and that social injustice should not be ignored. It showcases compassion towards every single person, irrespective of their sexual orientation, religious views or ethnicity.
The Jesus in Zealot is likable, relatable and is easy to have a personal relationship with. In my opinion, this book does not leave much room to offend anybody. In Aslan’s words, “you can be a follower of Jesus and not be a Christian just as you can be a Christian and not a follower of Jesus.” Maybe we need to focus more on that and less on wrongheaded judgments on the exploration of historical Jesus. After all, there is a huge distance between the teachings of Jesus, and the way Christianity is often practiced today, and it is true in the case of most world religions.