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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  40,648 Ratings  ·  4,243 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Random House (NY) (first published 2013)
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Carlton Brown When i read this book, and i tend to read more between the lines than on them, i got the impression they were not just communicating about a mystic…moreWhen i read this book, and i tend to read more between the lines than on them, i got the impression they were not just communicating about a mystic and his healing capabilities (miracles), but also telling us he was self-realized (his deeds, words, leadership). Perhaps it was that self-realization that enabled his healing capabilities; i'.e. a skill emanating innate presence. Perhaps the other so called miracle people mentioned were like we see today - charlatans hunting for coin selling placebo, promise and preying on those needing to be led to the light. BUT I am less convinced that the focus of the healing was physical ailments, and more likely helping people spiritually awaken (self-realize), because the consequence of this is vanishing one's perceived need to psychologically heal (ego emotional damage). Jesus was a healer of ego consciousness in my view, and he understood ritual processes for making this and higher states of consciousness happen.

How do i know this?

Because i discovered the ancient sun god priesthood ritual processes for accessing consciousness (from pyramid archaeology in Egypt, India, Central & South America), the same methods in all religions, and i used these to heal, awaken and self-realize. I live in presence now as my default position on earthly awareness, and i witness the play of Consciousness in my life as it helps me undo my old conditioning. This type of experience is profoundly healing and mind-blowing its impact on one's life and relationships. I'm watching my mind/life change in front of me, and am reading this into those words because some of them resonate strongly with me that Jesus acted as a self-realized person. His zealotry was a love-passion for his cause, which would have been indelibly imprinted into his consciousness (as his mission) and which was eternally infinite because it shone from pure Consciousness (God) into the present moment where Jesus once lived. (less)
Greg According to Aslan, the present image of Jesus is the “Jesus the Christ” figure that was pretty much the invention of Paul. It is notable that the…moreAccording to Aslan, the present image of Jesus is the “Jesus the Christ” figure that was pretty much the invention of Paul. It is notable that the apostles who actually knew and followed Jesus during his ministry vehemently condemned Paul and his teachings about Jesus.

Paul had the last laugh because the reality of the “historical Jesus” was that of a zealot who opposed both Roman rule and the Temple, and preached an impending arrival of a new Kingdom on Earth that he would rule, overthrowing the established order and restoring Judea to Jewish hegemony. This was the Jewish expectation of anybody claiming to be the Messiah.

Once the Romans razed Judea and destroyed the Temple, which occurred before some of the canonised Gospels were written, this view of Jesus became highly inconvenient. It was better for the early Christians if Jesus could be painted as somebody who was not a political opponent of Rome; to do otherwise was to invite persecution. So the Jesus message evolved into a Kingdom not of this world, and a man who did not preach violence or Jewish exclusivity, and did not oppose Rome. The evolution of Jesus’ image can be clearly traced chronologically; the later the Gospel, the more the Jews tend to be blamed for Jesus’ execution, for example. Aslan shows that these later images were post facto Pauline inventions, and not at all what Jesus’ own words indicate.(less)

Community Reviews

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May 23, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, 2013
"Hello there! Jesus of Nazareth.....Right?"

"Um, yes that's me, and you are?"

"Stephanie, nice to meet you."

"How did you know my name?" Said Jesus "And what the devil is that contraption you're sitting on?"

"This is a time machine, a lawn mower/laptop, freak lightning strike.....and ta da! Time machine. A friend of mine let me borrow it so that I could come to your time and talk with you. See, I read this book about you and I decided to stop by here because there's some stuff we need to get straig
Mario Sundar
Jul 27, 2013 Mario Sundar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh. My. God.

I'm just done with Part I of this book, which is a breathless roller-coaster of a narrative that seems to meld the painfully bureaucratic themes of "The Wire" with the ferocity of "Game of Thrones" to describe the world that was Jerusalem under Roman occupation before, during and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The author's attempt here, unlike Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, is not to ridicule the contradictions in the New Testament, but to rather present as historic
Aug 11, 2013 Marvin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Let"s face it. Theologians and religious historians will never get along. I am reminded of a scene in Clifford Simaks' clever time travel novel, Mastodonia. The inventor of a patented method of time travel is met by a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister who wants to buy the exclusive rights of travel to the time of Jesus Christ. The inventor says, "That's wonderful. You three can go back and find out the truth about Jesus." But the three have other plans. They want to totally close off ti ...more
Marina Nemat
Aug 19, 2013 Marina Nemat rated it did not like it
Mr. Aslan has a thesis, and he has written Zealot to prove it. As we soon find out while reading the book, Aslan intends to accomplish his mission at any cost, sometimes even at the cost of betraying logic and the very historical facts he claims to draw his conclusions from.

Very early in the book, Aslan clearly lays out his thesis: Jesus was “a zealous revolutionary swept up, as all Jews of the era were, in the religious and political turmoil of first-century Palestine—[he] bears little resembla
Jim Marshall
Aug 09, 2013 Jim Marshall rated it it was amazing
I was raised and educated as a Roman Catholic, so I don’t know if people from other faith traditions would be as surprised and grateful as I am for the insightful revelations made in this book about the historical Jesus. Aslan is careful to distinguish this Jesus—the historical Jesus—from the Christ who was constructed almost entirely from the writings of Paul, who had never met or seen Jesus, and whose epistles were written between 20 and 40 years after Jesus was killed. The historical Jesus is ...more
Riku Sayuj
For the Exhaustive Review: CLICK HERE>

In The Shadow Of The Cross: Jesus, before The Christ

Once Upon a Time, there was a Great Empire. At its very edges, hardly noticed, was a small region. A minor kingdom in fact. A Theocracy of sorts, now. The Empire was not too concerned about them, but they knew in their hearts that they were the Chosen People. Their religious books and prophesies told them as much. They believed fervently that one day a savior will come and return the kingdom of god and
Oct 26, 2014 Alejandro rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!

Some fellow reader friends recommended me the book and also I noticed the author in a documentary series "Secrets of the Bible" on History Channel since he was one of the people making comments there and identifying him as the writer of this very book. So, I thought that it was destined to read it at some point. Happily I was able to do it sooner that I thought.

This is a research book that Reza Aslan, the author, made a 20-years' investigation about all the possible sources about
Dec 28, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating look at the historical, social and political context of the First Century in Palestine and of Jesus the man. The information will be familiar to religious scholars, but Reza Aslan writes so well and synthesizes so much knowledge that he makes it accessible to the layperson.

The book begins with a touching author's note, which tells how he first became interested in Jesus. It happened when Aslan was attending an evangelical summer camp in California:

"For a kid raised in a m
Like most people here, I first heard about this book thanks to the stunningly ignorant interview they conducted of the author and the further conspiratorial hit pieces about Jewish bankers performed on him by Glenn Beck in the following days. It goes without saying that these attempts all backfired and the book is now a New York Times bestseller.

The main points of his argument can be found in Chapter 10, "May Your Kingdom Come". In it, he summarizes his main point that Jesus Christ was a Zealot
Feb 17, 2016 Darwin8u rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
“...most people in the ancient world, did not make a sharp distinction between myth and reality. The two were intimately tied together in their spiritual experience. That is to say, they were less interested in what actually happened, than in what it meant."
― Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth


Let me just throw in here now that Fox skeptics need not worry, while this book was written by a Muslim, it wasn't written by that damn lion from Narnia.

The books good points: com
Jul 16, 2013 jordan rated it liked it
Reading Reza Aslan's short history of Islam, "No God but God," one quickly understood the book's purpose. As a Western educated theologian, Aslan wished to take Islam back to its roots. He sought to compose a portrait of the prophet Mohammed that was enlightened and egalitarian. Likewise, by "contextualizing" early Islam, he sought to redefine certain key terms, as well as crack the veneration of the prophet that has with the centuries has grown akin to worship, ironically making the great idol- ...more
Jul 08, 2013 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan is a study of the historical Jesus and the Jewish people and their relationship with the Romans. Rez Aslan is an Iranian-American writer and is on the faculty of University of California, Riverside. He came to America in 1979 with his parents who were fleeing the Iranian Revolution. Aslan holds a BA in Religions, a Masters in Theology in from Harvard Divinity, and a PhD in Sociology of Religions from UC, Santa Barbara. He is well publ ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author seeks to balance the Jesus of the gospels with the “historic Jesus.” It is important for readers to know this, as it impacts the possible reception of the book.
As a believer in Christianity, I hold the words of the Bible in high regard, believing scripture to be true. “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ES
Roger DeBlanck
Aug 10, 2015 Roger DeBlanck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Dr. Reza Aslan sets forth at once a fascinating, insightful, and impassioned study of the historical life of Jesus. In portraying Jesus as a man with all his lifelike faults and ambitions, Aslan brings us closer to understanding the individual who became known as Christ better than any scholarly investigation before. The focal thesis of this impressive biography is to put Jesus in the context of his time period and reveal him as a man of substantial zealotry. Aslan does a remarkable job at illus ...more
Jul 22, 2015 peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: macro-phil
some interesting things I learned in this book about Jesus the man:

- Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.
- Nazareth was a small village but he had to often travel to the big metropolis close by, so he saw the rich/poor gap.
- Jesus was a radical Jewish nationalist, who opposed the Roman occupation of his homeland. He also hated his fellow Jews who were in higher positions who were basically puppets of the Romans and made money off of it.
- Nobody in history disputes the miracles done by Jes
Jan-Jaap van Peperstraten
Aslan is a good writer, he knows how to put an exciting yarn on paper. He is, unfortunately, also a poor theologian and "Zealot" certainly doesn`t do what it says on the tin. "Zealot" is riddled with factual errors and based on an extremely limited selection of verses from the hypothetical Q-source. Anything not fitting in his fairly idiosyncratic interpretation of the life and meaning of Jesus is either "inauthentic", "christian projection" or sheer falsification. The villains of the piece are ...more
Jun 23, 2016 Jimmy rated it really liked it
Let me start off on a tangent. I've been watching some Reza Aslan clips on YouTube and been really pleasantly surprised by some of his perspectives. This one for example:

Q: As a historian and scholar, as you read all this, how can you still believe any of these religions?

A: I don't believe in a religion, I believe in God. The only reason that I call myself a Muslim is because the symbols and metaphors that Islam uses to talk about God are ones that I like, the ones that make sense to me. It's n
Ivonne Rovira
Feb 04, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in a different take on Jesus
Recommended to Ivonne by: Fox News
I first bought Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth in a fit of pique; I’m not sure if I ever seriously intended to read Reza Aslan’s scrupulously researched and well-conceived account of the historical Jesus. I had seen the travesty of Aslan’s interview on Fox News, which you can witness for yourself here.

The interview by the exceptionally dim-witted Lauren Green was so incredibly dreadful that it proved hilarious, and it led to interviews with Piers Morgan, Now with Alex Wagner, an
Jul 15, 2013 Maryellen rated it it was amazing
This book was an interesting and consuming read, intriguing and challenging to what I've known about Jesus and Christianity. I'm certain it will get a lot of press and be vilified by some readers for the questions it brings into focus about the development of Christianity. Having said that I think that the author does an extraordinary job in researching his subject and trying to pull together a historical picture of what the man called Jesus's life would/might have been like. The context of this ...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
Full disclosure: I was raised Catholic and started to question religion around the time I went to college. Since then I'm not sure what I identify as -- perhaps spiritual but nonreligious. Either way, I am always fascinated by history and this book gave me a glimpse of Jesus as an historical figure. I do find it slightly difficult to classify this book as either a biography or even a nonfiction work when it involves so much supposition and reliance on the Synoptic Gospels, which the author himse ...more
Jan Rice
There are some reasons I can't review this book as I normally would, say, by summarizing chapters and key concepts.

Once a month for three months (one each for Parts I, II and II) I led a discussion group on it, so I gave it a close read. It turned out that what that entailed was figuring out and recording what Aslan was saying in each chapter, no easy task. I set myself the task of recording what he was saying and only then noting concerns, confusions, questions, errors, implications, and so for
Cyndy Aleo
Jul 11, 2013 Cyndy Aleo rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, arc
If there's one thing my lapsed Catholic self is always going to jump on, it's a book that compares the historical facts about the life of Jesus to the religious beliefs that surround him.

Like most academic books, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is dense with information. This isn't a quick read, and I don't think author Reza Aslan intends it to be. As the introduction notes, the author was raised Muslim, embraced Christianity after a camp experience, and finally developed a more
Oct 31, 2015 Greg rated it it was amazing
I have read quite a lot of books written by Scripture scholars attempting to "unpack" both the First and Second Testaments (a more respectful way of saying "Old" and "New" Testaments), and this ranks as one of the very best.


1) It is very approachable. Mr. Aslan may be a scholar -- and he is a very good one! -- but he is also a novelist at heart. In the first part of his book he takes information from many disparate sources and introduces us to the reality of what life was like in Palestine i
Feb 02, 2015 Yann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Le Zélote est un livre à thèse, qui s'appuyant sur un exposé de la situation de la Judée au Ier siècle de notre ère, tente d'en déduire un portrait "historique" de Jésus de Nazareth, personnage central des Évangiles. Toute la partie qui s'appuie sur de véritables sources historiques, (historiens gréco-romains, Flavius Josèphe, etc...) est excellente, informative, bien écrite, et offre une très bonne introduction à ce thème absolument passionnant.

Pour la partie relative à Jésus, je suis infinimen
Elliot Ratzman
Aug 03, 2013 Elliot Ratzman rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Christians, folks interested in Christianity
Recommended to Elliot by: Fox News!
As a non-Christian Religious Studies prof who has read a number of “historical Jesus” books I am delighted that Zealot will lead people to read more scholarly works on the origins and early years of the Christian movement. Aslan’s account of Jesus as anti-imperial revolutionary is fine, nothing new, but told with clarity and panache. In my professional opinion he is a notch too confident in his assertions: if the Gospels are decades-after-the-fact accounts I don’t think one can “prove” much hist ...more

I can’t think of a book whose text I’ve highlighted more than Reza Aslan’s fascinating new biography, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” There are so many incredible points I’d never thought about, so many new takes on this 2000+ year-old story.

First off, this is not a debunking of Jesus Christ. It’s neither blasphemy nor sacrilege. The author, in his foreword, proclaims his Christianity. Still, this book might still make some devout Christians uncomfortable, even angry. Read it
Feb 25, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible
I never, ever would have picked up this book had it been written by any one other than Reza Aslan, who is high up on my list of intellectual crushes. I still wasn't convinced to read it until I saw him on the Daily Show, and I figured I'd give it a try.

I was really, unexpectedly involved in this book, which made me feel more than a little uncomfortable at points, since I am a good little Jewish girl. However, at the same time I also felt justified because the book is mostly about Jewish history
Jan 06, 2014 Joe rated it liked it
Shelves: listened-to
I first learned of this book from that crazy Fox News interview with Reza Aslan where they were upset with him for writing a book about Jesus even though he is a Muslim. Aslan pointed out that he is a historical scholar and it is entirely appropriate for him to write this book. I've seen him several times on Colbert/Daily Show, I like the cut of his jib, so I decided to read this book.

Full confession: I am a Christian who regularly attends church and a bible study but am in no way knowledgeable
Mar 24, 2016 KamRun rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
شروع مطالعه، بدون پیش فرض ذهنی

کتاب را به توصیه یکی از دوستان، بدون شناخت نویسنده تهیه کردم، درباره کتاب تنها این را می دانستم که نویسنده ایرانی- آمریکایی (و البته خواهرزاده لیلی فروهر) در مقام یک پژوهشگر و استاد تاریخ ادیان دانشگاه کالیفرنیا، به بازسازی شخصیت عیسی تاریخی مبادرت ورزیده است. از این رو در شروع، مطالعه کتاب هیجان خاصی داشت و ازخواندن آن در آغاز لذت زیادی می بردم. اما این عیش دیری نپایید

اولین دلزدگی

خلاصه ای از زندگی نویسنده را در مقدمه ای به قلم خودش در صفحات نخستین کتاب خواندم. رضا
Jul 31, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
"I am thirty-three--the age of the good Sans-culotte Jesus; an age fatal to revolutionists." --Camille Desmoulins during an interrogation under the Terror in the French Revolution

Like many, I started Zealot after Aslan's Fox interview went viral, out of interest. It's an engaging synthesis of Biblical scholarship over the past half-century, and the whole kerfuffle is vastly undeserved. That said, we live in a post-Enlightenment world where no realities are openly accepted except empiric reality,
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Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, is author most recently of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

He is the founder of, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and abou

More about Reza Aslan...

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“...most people in the ancient world, did not make a sharp distinction between myth and reality. The two were intimately tied together in their spiritual experience. That is to say, they were less interested in what actually happened, than in what it meant. It would have been perfectly normal, indeed expected, for a writer in the ancient world, to tell tales of gods and heroes, whose fundamental facts would have been recognized as false, but whose underlying message would have been seen as true.” 37 likes
“The choice between James’s vision of a Jewish religion anchored in the Law of Moses and derived from a Jewish nationalist who fought against Rome, and Paul’s vision of a Roman religion that divorced itself from Jewish provincialism and required nothing for salvation save belief in Christ, was not a difficult one for the second and third generations of Jesus’s followers to make.
Two thousand years later, the Christ of Paul’s creation has utterly subsumed the Jesus of history. The memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history.”
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