Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jesus Needs Reza Aslan, Author of 'Zealot'

In prior posts I've looked at the exploding heads among the "godly Christian" crowd over Reza Aslan's new book, "Zealot" that takes on some of the myths, if you will, promoted from far too many pulpits.  What am I talking about?  The fact is that we know few true "facts" about Christ other than what is passed down through the often revised and rewritten Bible.  A Bible that in its current form contains passages not even included in the earliest texts.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at why Zealot - which doesn't really break new ground in biblical scholarship - is good for bringing out need knowledge.  Here are excerpts:

The author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is at the center of an inexplicable firestorm for writing a book about Jesus. He’s been treated to hair-splitting attacks on his academic credentials and claims of a secret Muslim agenda. Nearly every critic of the Iranian-American and Muslim author has fretted over whether he has the right to tackle his subject. In an interview, Aslan was exasperated, pointing out to me repeatedly that his credentials were never questioned when he wrote the bestselling, No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.

Reviewers spanning the theological spectrum have reacted with a curious level of hostility toward a writer who even by their own estimation is embracing a theory of the historical Jesus that has been around for a long time.  What’s going on? Aslan told me, “My faith background makes me suspect. Not just to the fringe, but to the Washington Post and the New York Times.”
That’s too bad. A Muslim writing an academic book about Jesus is groundbreaking. It should be welcomed. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions about Jesus – I don’t – to hold this view.

Aslan concurs. “About 90 percent of the scholarly historical study of Islam is written by Christians or Jews,” he told me. “Very few scholars of religion who are Muslim write about Christianity.”
The academic field is famously hostile to believers and Aslan has bucked that worldview.  Perhaps the most high-profile anti-God academic is Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, who this week created controversy when he tweeted, "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."
Says Aslan, “Dawkins gives science and atheism a bad name. This is a man who believes any person of faith is not just wrong, but stupid. That he is in solitary possession of truth. That’s called fundamentalism.”  Aslan eschews fundamentalism.  He is a Muslim, but in his book he rejects the virgin birth of Jesus and concludes that Jesus was in fact crucified, putting him at odds with mainstream Islamic doctrine.
In the interview that helped launch “Zealot” to the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list, Aslan said he had been obsessed with Jesus most of his life. I asked him why this was. He responded, “I don’t know why everyone isn’t obsessed with Jesus. He is the most interesting person who ever lived.”  So he wrote a book about him.

The real issue, of course, is that Aslan's book shakes up the house of cards faith system of the far right.  And the fact that he's a Muslim is used to conveniently ignore the fact that other biblical scholars have come to the same conclusions which underscore that the Bible is anything but inerrant.


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