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

I recently listened to Zealot by Reza Aslan. This review is a bit late, but what the hell.

The book
This is basically what it says on the tin, it’s a book about Jesus. Not about the biblical Jesus necessarily, but the historical person Jesus. They’re obviously linked, but it’s about human-person-Jesus and how he became Bible-Jesus. It also outlines the history of Nazareth and Palestine at the time, and before. And it outlines how Jesus was turned into something else by the people who wrote the Bible.

So I first found out about Aslan after a fairly disastrous interview he did with Fox News when he had just published the book. Aslan is Muslim and the newscaster could not let that go despite the fact that he has several degrees in Middle Eastern religions and is fluent in Ancient Greek. Because why would a muslim write about Jesus? And like many others I thought he was awesome for just dealing with this, and just being incredibly patient. Then I looked into him, that sounds weird, but I started paying more attention to him, and he always popped up whenever someone was shitty about Islam and he had to be patient and try to explain how Islam isn’t just one thing. Anyway, he seemed interesting, and cool, and I like reading about history and religion. So I got curious.

I really liked it. I listened to it on Audiobook, and it was narrated by Aslan, and he is a very good narrator/reader. I find his voice comfortable and pleasant to listen to, so that’s good.

Jesus was interesting, and it is fascinating to see how a rebellious, itinerant, grumbly Jewish priest became this nice hippie who died for our sins. There is a lot that Aslan brings up that shows how a lot of stuff that was put in the Bible would make no sense to Jesus’ peers, like him having an audience with Pilate, and the things he said, would make no sense to the other Jews in Palestine at that time, but it would solidify him as a prophet to his followers. So that’s really interesting. I kind of want to read it again, because I think at least in the beginning I lost track of who all the people were, so I think I want to read it in like paperback form or something.

It’s really fascinating to read or hear about a person like Jesus, who is so well-known, who is so full of myth, who is used in so many ways by so many people, and see this completely different side of him. I wasn’t brought up in a religious household, but when I was in school we had religion as a class, which… I don’t know if they still do in Norwegian schools, because we used to have a state church, this isn’t important. But my Jesus knowledge came from religion class in school, and seeing Jesus Christ Superstar when I was like 14, and there he comes across as very peace loving, and kind and righteous, and just an awesome priest. Aslan portrays him more as a person, which I liked. He’s not just this righteous, magical, wondrous man, but he’s calculating and tough, and rebellious, and angry, and it’s so great. He’s still righteous, but he’s also angry at the world around him. I feel like I should point out, my atheism, or agnosticism or whatever, doesn’t mean that I want to completely destroy Jesus and the church, I just find history fascinating, and it is deeply fascinating to read someone as iconic as Jesus through a different lens than the one I’m used to. Also, even if I don’t believe in the myth of Jesus, it’s a great story, like from a story-telling perspective it's amazing, so it’s really cool to read about him.

This was a slightly ramble-y, wordy, review, but hey, I’m me, so it’s very me. I also use a lot of commas apparently. This is why I’m bad at writing. And I’m having an existential crisis in my wrap-up. Very me. Anyway. I really liked it. I’d like to read more Aslan, and more religious history, so that’s fun. It was good. I like it.