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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  66,189 ratings  ·  5,716 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)
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The answer is because of Paul the Apostle.
It took a prominent Roman who converted to the faith and started preaching it outside of Judea to fellow Rom…more

The answer is because of Paul the Apostle.
It took a prominent Roman who converted to the faith and started preaching it outside of Judea to fellow Romans and other Jews. On the list of the most important christian figures the Catholic church itself rates Paul the Apostle first! He was instrumental in establishing a foothold of the new faith in the Empire. There it competed with a lot of "new" Eastern religions that promised everlasting afterlife and eternal punishment for wrongdoers such as Mithraism being the most popular at the time.

Nero's prosecutions actually helped a lot with promoting the Christian faith. He was a universally hated figure, becoming even more notorious after the The Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. It was widely believed by the populace that he caused that fire.
To shift the blame from himself he accused the Christians and began a campaign of bloody prosecutions which ended up endearing the young religion and it's courageous adherents to the populace.

The last person to cement Christianity's standing in Europe was Constantine the Great who lifted the faith up and decriminalized it. Afterward with one exception all future Emperors and their family were Christian. That meant that if you wanted to move up in the vast Imperial bureaucracy it was very beneficial to be Christian. It was very quickly afterward in the span of a century that Christianity became the dominant religion and the old faiths were in turn criminalized. (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 apo…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)

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Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, religion
"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
Marina Nemat
Aug 19, 2013 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
Mario Sundar
Jul 15, 2013 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
The Contextual Jesus

The textual religions of The Book - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - have a common problem. No matter how hard they try, they can’t stop their adherents from interpreting their foundational texts, often in diverse and incompatible ways. Among the interpretations are those which claim to be ‘fundamental’, that is not just logically essential to a coherent theology, but also historically the most primitive and therefore the most original and, presumably, the most authentic.

Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

The entire time I'm reading Zealot, I'm seeing this:


Ok, ok.
So, I really thought this was interesting, especially the all of the cool history-ish stuff that happened before, during, and after Jesus' birth and death.
Occasionally the author comes off like someone who's pissed that once upon a time they got punked by this religion, so not everything comes across as super-duper scholarly. Some of it sounds a bit Ah-hah! See how stupid it is to take something on faith? So neener-neener r
Jul 28, 2013 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
Jim Marshall
Aug 08, 2013 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
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The crossbeam would be attached to a scaffold or post, and Jesus’s wrists and ankles would be nailed to the structure with three iron spikes. A heave, and the cross would be lifted to the vertical. Death would not have taken long. In a few short hours, Jesus’s lungs would have tired, and breathing become impossible to sustain…That is how, on a bald hill covered in crosses, beset by the cries and moans of agony from hundreds of dying criminals, as a murder of crows circled eagerly over his head ...more
Apr 13, 2014 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
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddy-read, audiobook
Finding Reza Aslan's biography of Jesus of Nazareth was timely, this being the holiest of weeks for many Christians around the world. Some readers are likely familiar with the key events in Jesus' life: family discussions, Sunday School classes, or even sermons at a weekly gathering spot. Taking those repetitive moments in mind when the same stories and lessons were rehashed, Aslan wrestles the story of Jesus away from the documented Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and applies historical ...more
Jul 18, 2013 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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Reza Aslan

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is a book by Iranian-American writer and scholar Reza Aslan.

It is a historical account of the life of Jesus and analyzes the various religious perspectives on Jesus as well as the creation of Christianity.

More than 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 re
Jul 29, 2013 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 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
I've been told that this book is controversial, that's why I wanted to read it. I don't read many religion related books, because I don't really believe in religion. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school the majority of my school aged years. I believe in God and I follow the basic tenets of Biblical teachings, but I no longer consider myself Catholic. In my experience religion divides more than it unites. Just look at the conflicts in the Middle East, every war or conflict over there ...more
This review, while not intended to ruffle feathers, may inadvertently do that. I apologize in advance. This is a book review, not an attack against anyone's religion or beliefs.

Jesus of Nazareth is someone I find very interesting. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, I care less about. Through no fault of his, really; the historical figure behind the religious curtain just happens to be more complex and challenging to study and think about, and my brain is simply wired to like that better. Aslan's b
I’ve been looking for someone like either Karen Armstrong and/or Elaine Pagels, whose works I have devoured. It’s funny, I guess it’s because I’ve heard him on TV so often, but I can hear Aslan’s professorial voice as I read—a bit of synesthesia.

I think of this as exegesis for the non-religious person who nevertheless finds the complex history of Christianity–and monotheism generally—a fascinating area of inquiry. I particularly like how scholars of religion pick the historical bits out of the
3 fascinating yet frustrating stars !

This was a fascinating book that was well-researched but the layout was very frustrating to me. The notes were all at the end (in the ebook- and I wish that they were footnoted throughout the book to give greater clarity and breadth as I was reading).

The other great difficulty I had was most of this book was conjecture but often not labeled as such. (or did not remind reader of this in a more measured and consistent way). You only understand this fully when y
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
Jul 01, 2013 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
Jul 18, 2013 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
Oct 05, 2014 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 no
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
Jul 29, 2013 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
Tom LA
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Informative and engaging summary of recent scholarship positions on the historic Jesus. I wish they had taught me this during my catholic school years.

Not that it changed anything for my spiritual life as a catholic, but the point is, this is very important information to have stored in your head and to connect with everything else you know about Christianity.

Aslan sometimes sounds like a lawyer trying to make his case, but he is also honest enough and doesn't come across as someone with a sca
Jason Koivu
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jesus was no messiah, but rather a kind of zealous bandit. This is what you will take away from biblical scholar Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

After having read the book, I can't disagree with his conclusions. Not everything Aslan proposes rings true or is backed with solid evidence. But hey, we're talking about a sketchy 2000 year old history here! No matter where you stand on the topic, a lot of so-called "facts" about Jesus are clearly tenuous at best. However,
BAM Endlessly Booked
Nothing new to offer here. Only thing I enjoyed was pissing off my Christian friends sitting in range of my audiobook
Aug 12, 2013 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
Elliot Ratzman
Aug 03, 2013 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
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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


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Believe it or not, we're halfway through 2021! As is our tradition, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial team burrows into our data to...
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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.” 62 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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