I am looking for good reviews and articles as I prepare for Reza Aslan’s visit to Homebrewed Christianity on September 3rd. I am reading Aslan’s newest book Zealot and trying to follow up on its critic’s concerns. Thank you everybody who posted helpful stuff on my Getting Ready for Reza post.
The best articles that I have found so far are the following:
- From the Jewish Review of Book, Allen Nadler provides a scathing and dismissive review. It is, despite that, very informative and lengthy with many excerpts.
You might want to skip the introduction where he focuses on Reza’s problem with numbers and exaggeration and skip to the meat of the article that starts with the first off-set quote (in maroon).
This combination of overly confident and simplistic assertions on exceedingly complex theological matters, with stretching of truths—numerical, historical, theological, and personal—permeates Aslan’s bestseller. And yet, precisely because Zealot is generating such frenzied controversy, this is all serving Aslan very well. But as it would be wrong to judge Aslan’s book by its coverage, let us turn to its text.
Aslan’s entire book is, as it turns out, an ambitious and single-minded polemical counter-narrative to what he imagines is the New Testament’s portrayal of Jesus Christ.
Nadler aslo laments that Aslan did not consult some of latest work in the field. “The Jewish Gospels – Boyarin and Schäfer are just two of the many serious scholars whose works Aslan has clearly failed to consult.”
This will become a trend in these reviews.
Enns thinks that many of the concerns come from the fact that what the critics wish Zealot was looks more like Dale Allison’s book The Historical Christ and The Theological Jesus.
In the NPR interview he announced once or twice, as if it were a new thought, that there is a difference between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Yes, and scholars have been writing about that for quite some time, but Aslan’s apparently either/or take on this issue by-passes necessary nuancing
Enns then goes on to point to two other scholarly reviews that are meaty.
- The first is by Greg Carey over at the Huff Religion page.
Carey is careful with his criticism and concerns – though they are many. After listing some strengths of the book, Carey begins to list its four fatal flaws. He closes with a familiar theme:
Contemporary scholarship is undermining that familiar model. For one thing, Paul was not nearly so removed from the teachings of Jesus as Aslan assert. Paul’s connection to the Jesus movement goes back to within a couple of years of Jesus’ death, and Paul’s teachings resonate with some of Jesus’ most characteristic emphases. Moreover, we find “high christologies” — assertions of Jesus’ divinity — from the earliest stages and from beyond Paul. Daniel Boyarin, a leading Jewish biblical scholar no less, believes that Jesus saw himself as divine. (I mention Boyarin not because I agree with him but because he represents a non-Christian take on these developments.)
So we see a trend there. The next review will make it a recognizable pattern.
- The second article that Enns points to is by Le Donne at the Jesus blog (historical Jesus).
Le Donne is thorough and unapologetic about his critique. He opens with a concern about the title of the book itself:
To be taken seriously on this point, Aslan would have to interact with David Chapman and/or Gunnar Samuelsson. These scholars represent the most up-to-date researchers on the crucifixion in Jesus’ world. Aslan cites neither. If this key element of the book had been researched with more care, Aslan might have had a better chance of overcoming the many other deficiencies of this book.
He lists 10 problems the book has and closes by saying “Without exaggeration, problems like this surface on about every third page. I’ve only listed ten.”
I am wanting to have a constructive conversation with Dr. Aslan. We have the concerns covered … Has anyone else found any good or helpful resources that they can point me to?