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Aslan’s Zealot: To Start With…

I have promised for some time to make some comments on Reza Aslan’s bestselling reconstruction of the historical Jesus: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. And now the time is come. As I’ve indicated in my earlier posts, I had my first-year students in my seminar “Jesus in Scholarship and Film” read the book and make an evaluation of it. Most of the students thought very highly of it. In particular they thought it was unusually well written and that it made an interesting case for its thesis that Jesus was a politically motivated zealot who believed in the violent overthrow of the Roman empire, or at least believed that the Romans should be driven out of the Promised Land, as did so many others in his time and place. (Aslan does not argue that Jesus was a member of the Zealot party; he realizes that this party did not arise until after Jesus’ death.)

I have already made a couple of comments about the book that I felt safe in saying without having read it, and now that I have read it, I stand by them both. (1) In response to a question about whether Aslan was a recognized scholar in the field of NT or early Christian studies, I indicated that he is not – and does not claim to be. He teaches creative writing and as one might suspect, he is indeed a highly talented writer. And he’s smart. And for a lay person venturing into a field other than his own expertise, he has read a lot. Not as much as he should have, but still, it’s a lot and it’s impressive that he has done as much reading as he has. But no, he is decidedly not a scholar in the field. More on that later. (But for now, let me stress what I indicated in my earlier post: his lack of scholarly credentials does NOT disqualify him from writing an interesting and informed book.) (2) His basic thesis about who Jesus was (a zealot, obviously), has been floated for over three hundred years, and has never seemed convincing to the majority of experts, or even a large minority of experts, or even a, well reasonable minority of experts. That doesn’t make it wrong! But my point is simply that it’s not a new thesis, although Aslan does not acknowledge his prececessors and the responses to them by others who weren’t convinced.


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  1. Avatar
    jsoundz  December 13, 2013

    A great review, Bart. I also loved his book but realized it did not have the scholarship I have read with others more trained. More importantly though, Resa is an exceptional oral communicator. I have seen him on several television talk shows and he seems nimble and smart . Perhaps his most well known encounter recently was with a FOX News host. See link:


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      Yes indeed — this interview was an author’s dream, and propelled the book to be #1 on the NY Times bestseller list!

      • Avatar
        jsoundz  December 13, 2013

        You know, I think you might be onto something here, Ever consider contacting your publisher to book a FOX News interview with your next title?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  December 14, 2013

          An author who has a trade book with a large press has a publicist assigned to him/her that spends scads of time doing nothing *but* trying to get such interviews! It’s all part of the business…..

    • Avatar
      John E Paver  March 2, 2014

      Oh dear, that is hilarious! Faux News strikes again! They seem to go out of their way to employ incredibly stupid presenters!! 😀

  2. Avatar
    TomTerrific  December 13, 2013

    Not at all long-winded, Dr. E.

  3. Avatar
    David Chumney  December 13, 2013

    I’m very interested in your assessment of Aslan’s book and look forward to your next post. In the meantime, I would make several comments on today’s post.

    First, surely Aslan’s book should be judged as “a trade book written for a popular audience.” As such, it should not be surprising that he doesn’t “acknowledge his predecessors” (such as S. G. F. Brandon). So, once you’ve established that Aslan is not a specialist in the field, why hammer the point so hard? In the past, you’ve commented on some of John Shelby Spong’s books without belaboring the fact that he writes for a popular audience rather than as an expert in the field. And, if my memory serves me correctly, you haven’t gone out of your way to enumerate his “many mistakes.” I’m not defending Aslan’s book; I’m just wondering why you’re so “concerned” about what he’s written.

    Second, Dominic Crossan is surely one of the top Jesus scholars of the present generation; yet the two of you disagree about a number of matters, most notably (in your own words) “the apocalyptic view of Jesus.” The general audience that reads your Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium and Crossan”s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography has little basis for deciding which of you makes the better case–inasmuch as such an audience lacks the requisite expertise. So, my point is this: because the two of you hold such differing views, at least one of you holds (and presents) a view that is substantially incorrect. Yet both of you are highly-trained scholars who are widely respected in the field of New Testament studies. A number of Jesus scholars have the requisite credentials and regularly submit their ideas to rigorous peer review, but as Crossan notes in his book The Historical Jesus, “[T]he stunning diversity [of scholarly pictures of Jesus] is an academic embarrassment” (xxviii). Scholars in the field who claim to be utilizing essentially the same methods evaluate the evidence quite differently. Aslan’s book will do little significant harm to a field in such disarray or to a reading public that tries to follow and make sense of it.

    Third, I am no scholar, nor a scholar’s son, but I could probably identify many of the problems with Aslan’s book. Nevertheless, I think he does make at least one important point that deserves attention. He puts an emphasis on certain of Jesus’ sayings and actions that have obvious political implications, matters which both the church and the academy have invariably either ignored entirely or downplayed to a significant degree. It was, no doubt, that dimension of Jesus’ public activity that got him crucified. If Aslan’s book encourages discussion of that one point, it deserves the attention it has received thus far.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      Good points, all of them. The reason I haven’t discussed Jack Spong’s qualifications is because I haven’t discussed any of his books. The only reasons I have been dealing with Aslan’s are: (1) readers have explicitly asked me and (2) I plan to discuss his book.

      I’m certainly not saying that scholars who are well-trained will agree on everything! And yes, Crossan and I are a good example. But neither of us will likely make blatant mistakes about the New Testament or relevant Roman history.

      I agree: the political aspects are very important, and Aslan does a fine job of bringing them to the fore.

    • Avatar
      toejam  December 13, 2013

      Sometimes I think the differences between competing scholars’ portraits of the historical Jesus are overstated. Crossan and Ehrman do disagree about a lot – primarily whether or not Jesus preached an apocalyptic message, yes. But their agreements don’t get the recognition they deserve. Put Aslan, Ehrman, Crossan and N.T Wright (perhaps the four most well-known ‘voices’ for their respective schools of thought) into a room together to nut out a sketch of the historical Jesus that they can all agree with, and you’ll still get *a lot* – e.g. I imagine they would come out with something like this: “Jesus existed as a historical Jewish cult leader from the Galilee region, who wandered town-to-town performing healing “miralces”, preaching a message about the inbreaking “Kingdom of God”, who had an in-group of 12 disciples, who caused a scene at the Jerusalem Temple, who was arrested and crucified by the Romans, and whose followers came to believe he was raised from the dead.” Dale Allison might label these details as “boring”, but so be it. We still postdict, with some degree of confidence, a lot more about the historical Jesus than we ever will about the plethora of other 1st C would-be Jewish Messiahs. We have practically zero access to a detailed understanding of the theology of Judas the Galileean, or ‘The Egyptian’, or Simon bar Kokhba etc.

  4. Avatar
    toejam  December 13, 2013

    Aslan might be wrong in the details, but I think his general hypothesis – that Jesus and his disciples were perhaps more “revolutionary” than many think – is certainly plausible. The traditions of Jesus storming of the temple, the story of the sword-drawing confrontation between one of Jesus’ discples and an official at his arrest, the tradition of one of his disciples being known as Simon “Zealot”, the fact that Jesus was crucified alongside other criminals etc. I think there’s enough there to make a case. Whether or not its the *most plausible* hypothesis is a different question.

    But regarding “scholarly qualifications”: I’ve just finished reading N.T. Wright’s “The Challenge of Jesus” (a shorter for-laymen version of “Jesus & the Victory of God”), and although Wright is probably much more ‘academically approved’ in his knowledge of the NT than Aslan, I found his take to be completely implausible, given that he falls into the trap of coming up with rationalisations for miracles and refusing to acknowledge any chink-in-the-armor against his faith. Wright’s work, even if more rigorously academic, borders on quack apologetics (to put it bluntly). So I wonder sometimes just how valuable traditional academic approval is if arguments that require miracles in order to float still slip through the cracks, and yet Aslan is labelled a non-expert. He’s at least expert enough to realise that he can’t appeal to the supernatural! Rant over LOL.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      Yes, I understand your point! Mine is simply that Wright will almost certainly not make flagrant mistakes about the New Testament or relevant Roman history, etc.

    • Avatar
      willow  December 14, 2013

      Good morning, toejam.

      Re: “but I think his general hypothesis – that Jesus and his disciples were perhaps more “revolutionary” than many think – is certainly plausible.”

      Question: Plausible or probable?

      I lean more toward “probability” for as much as it is that I believe Jesus believed himself to be heir to the throne of David. Hence: “Jesus. King of the Jews”, crucified for no less nor any more than insurrection. It is no small matter that he had quite a following, if not even an army, such as sword bearing Peter. Afterall, what would a peace loving disciple, in the company of a miracle working Messiah, need of a sword?

      I believe the historical record, in particular the WARS, to include the rise of James (who’s hardly ever mentioned or taught by the church) successor to the throne following the death of Jesus, along with his own non-embelished teachings, support what would have been his efforts to thwart Roman rule and reclaim the throne, in the name of God and for the sakes of God’s chosen to whom the land had been promised. This would have made him, and those in his service, quite a threat to those governing/ruling over Israel, to include the Herods, and deserving of a charge of sedition that lead to the crucifixion.

      Christianity as a whole – and I know having once been a long time and quite devout Christian – paints a fantastical picture of Jesus hanging on the cross, omitting the fact that dozens a day were crucified for one thing or another. Jesus was not alone, nor one of but three, as the church leads us to believe. It teaches us nothing about the turmoil that was that might well have caused a poor, young boy, growing up in Nazareth to share in the resentments of his parents along with many others within his immediate community. He may well have, at a rather young age, taken on the responsibility of freeing (setting the captives free) his people being relative to King David, through Joseph, not Mary.

      I could go on and on, but will spare you, while at the same time seeking forgiveness for what might be deemed my naive understanding.

      • Avatar
        willow  December 14, 2013

        PS: I will, most certainly, have to read Aslan’s book now! 🙂

  5. Avatar
    FrankB57  December 13, 2013

    Thank you Bart. Your comparison of publishing trade books versus scholarly reminds me of the difference between a routine office exam from a medical provider and a more thorough evaluation, once there is evidence of some possible underlying disease with a patient. Typically, the check-up visit is done by a physican’s extender (Nurse Practioner or Physican’s Assistant) and a more thorough evaluation, once initiated, would be completed by the primary provider (MD) or specialist. Each encounter accomplishes something valid but both the qualifications and the quality of investigation between them is quite different.

    I’ve been a member of your blog for several years now because a bit late in life, I was simply not at ease (dis-eased, if you will) with my faith system . . . I knew something was wrong, somehow. And I just wanted you to know that the small doses of truth, or at least reality, I receive here have been helpful to my rehabilitation. I’ll add a bit of gratitude to the fact that the length of your entries are “just right” for my particular appetite, too. Thanks again!

  6. Avatar
    FrankB57  December 13, 2013

    To follow up my last statement with an actual question/request, at some time would you mind contrasting how academic research is approached from within an established religious institution (seminary) versus a secular institution? From another author I’ve heard that some fellows have been literally expelled for pursuing an interest of study that could contradict demoninational doctrine. Now the would be an interesting book to me, too . . . something along the lines of “Reprimanded: A History of Suppressed Research.” Hmmm? On second thought, perhaps that’s another multi-volume and series.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      Interesting idea! I think part of the answer is that it matters a *lot* which, and which kind of, seminary you’re talking about. Harvard Divinity School is not at ALL like Southeastern Baptist Seminary.

    • Avatar
      TomTerrific  December 14, 2013

      “Demoninational doctrine,” I love it.


  7. Avatar
    James Dowden  December 13, 2013

    Re: “he realizes that this party did not arise until after Jesus’ death”, did Luke then make a mistake at 6.15 and Acts 1.13, where he describes one of Jesus’ disciples as a zealot?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      Not necessarily: he may have meant the term generally rather than specifically as “A member of the Zealot party.”

  8. Avatar
    jhague  December 13, 2013

    From The Bible and Interpretation web site:

    Jesus Of Nazareth Book “Zealot” To Be Adapted Into Feature Film

  9. Avatar
    toddfrederick  December 13, 2013

    Bart….I was reading the comments on the Facebook post of this article here in California, and there were quite a few who were a bit irritated that they had to join to read the entire article, and one who said she tried to join but kept getting an “error” notification indicating that the password was already taken.

    I made a strong pitch for how good the blog is and that $25 for a year is the cheapest was to get this kind of fine information and told them how the money is used.

    I want to suggest that you write another item for Facebook about why you charge a fee and what you do with the funds….and do this from time to time. (I pay $10 quarterly for Bishop Spong’s articles and they are posted only once a week) you’s are almost daily and we can ask questions !!!

    Also, the lady who had problems joining said that she gave up). She has a point. When I joined I had some problems, and the website is a bit difficult to navigate at times. The “public forum”, where most of the action is, is at the bottom of a long list of topics, and someone who is new to the sight will have problems finding it.

    I think the public forum should be up front, as in a box with big letters: “The Members Forum”…or something like that and easy to find.

    In my response to yesterday’s FB post I said I would contact you about these items. These are just suggestions.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      Today’s post!

    • gmatthews
      gmatthews  December 14, 2013

      I completely agree with the comments todd makes about how difficult the site is to navigate! There should be a link that takes me directly to the most recent Members post without having to click on the Members link at the top and scroll down to find the link to the most recent post (the site used to not even have that).

  10. Avatar
    toddfrederick  December 13, 2013

    Now, about your article on Aslan’s book.

    I totally understand what you mean by “scholar” and the importance for going through the training process of becoming a scholar. There is a great push now days to publish, as there was when I was in seminary, and I dare I say that much of what is published is garbage, just for the sake of publishing.

    When in seminary (especially at Yale) we rarely saw the professor. He/she would give aonepower point lecture a week and then we saw the TA’s…who were often arrogant and rigid disciples of the professor.

    I have learn more here on your blog than I did in seminary.

    **However, it seems to me that the only people who read scholarly writings are other scholars.**

    Even with the trade books, they are often shortened versions of scholarly writings and never really trickle down to the average person in the pew who needs it most.

    James Tabor visits churches and give talks about what is going on in the scholarly world and you have your Great Courses program. That is what is needed…a way to get the work or scholars into the minds of the average person who would never read a scholarly book or even a trade book.

    I think that there is a place for a person like Aslan…one who has studied what the scholars are doing and has the literary skill to communicate that with the public without thousands of footnotes and textual references. His book serves a great purpose…communication. (I do like his commentary at the end of the book, however).

    Also, regarding the content of what he says in his book…for the most part…he is saying what you are saying but in a way that **communicates** to those who are truly hesitant to buy and read anything from scholars.. or who distrust scholars

    I think you might want to consider writing a series of short books (100+ pages) designed totally for the non-scholar on topics with a single simple theme such as “Why is John’s Gospel Unique” or a really short version of “Did Jesus Exist?” (without all of the intricate details) or “Was Paul a Jewish Heretic?” and so one. Sweet and simple, and not expensive….even some with titles more sensational in order to create interest and sales (after all, the purpose is to get these ideas in the hands of the common people)…….just an idea.

    Communication is the key. Why not communicate good scholarship translated into the common language of everyday people?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 13, 2013

      I’m a bit surprised that you don’t think that I try to communicate scholarship to the non-expert. I thought that was what I was doing! (And in my own defense — now that I’m on the defensive 🙂 — I should point out that I’ve had four books on the NY Times Bestseller list, and the people buying these books are not all intellectual eggheads!)

  11. Avatar
    Shubhang  December 14, 2013

    Would you agree that this year we have seen 2 illustrations of Schweitzer’s century old observation that many who try to paint a picture of the historical Jesus end up painting a portrait of how they see themselves instead. To me it’s very striking that Bill O’Reilly sees Jesus as a federal tax protesting martyr probably as a reflection of Bill’s own views. Similarly, does Reza Aslan seeing Jesus as a revolutionary preaching violent overthrow of Empire tell us more about Reza than Jesus? God alone knows.

    Someone mentioned JD Crossan – I remember reading somewhere that Cross sees Jesus as a revolutionary because of his Irish heritage and the inherent anti-British revolutionary sentiment. Not sure if that’s true or not, but I do think that Crossan despite being a great writer and scholar is way off on this. I can’t see how anyone researching Jesus’ life can come to any conclusion other than that of apocalyptic prophet. I recall EP Sanders has disputed JDC and the Jesus Seminar’s views quite vocally on this point

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 14, 2013

      Yes Bill O’ definitely has a Jesus in his own image. I don’t know enough about Aslan to know whether he does as well or not. I do think Crossan’s Jesus is a lot like Crossan, a fighter against oppression and for justice.

      • Avatar
        Shubhang  December 14, 2013

        Yes, in Reza Aslan’s case, it was more of an inductive hypothesis, an inversion of Schweitzer so as to state that a person must be the Jesus he profiles. On a humorous note, maybe someday Bill, JD Crossan etc will turn around and ask you Prof Ehrman if you see Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet because you hold apocalyptic views yourself. Well professor, do you expect the coming cessation of the present age and the establishment of a Kingdom of God? 🙂

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  December 15, 2013

          Yeah, I’ve tried over the years to figure out how I’ve painted Jesus in my own image, but, well, I can’t see how!

  12. Avatar
    hwl  December 14, 2013

    Regarding your description of the rigorous training process for PhD in NT, early Christianity and ancient history in the top US universities, based on your experience, does the same apply to the top UK universities? How about PhD training in theology in the top US universities & seminars?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 14, 2013

      It’s a different system there. The most striking difference is that there are no seminars to take for two years (no seminars at all) and no PhD exams. Just a dissertation. I like our system much better; I think it trains students better, and gives them considerably more breadth.

  13. Avatar
    hwl  December 14, 2013

    If you don’t mind me bringing up your best pal, Richard Carrier: he has a PhD in ancient Roman history at Columbia University. It appears achieving this level of background is insufficient to avoid making lots of mistakes about ancient history in a different but related field.

    Do you know of anyone who have published articles in reputable journals of biblical studies, early Christianity, ancient Israel or Patristics, but without having a PhD in these disciplines?

  14. Avatar
    Wilusa  December 14, 2013

    I was puzzled by someone’s saying here that a person they knew had tried to join, and kept getting error messages saying “that password was already taken.” Was the person being allowed a *choice* of passwords, with all choices being rejected as “taken”? That would indicate a system foul-up, of course. But when I joined, there was no choice at all – just an assigned password that no one could possibly remember.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 14, 2013

      Yes, I’m usually puzzled when people say they encounter problems; it is actually straightforward, and I suspect that the people with problems are a bit technologically challenged. But it’s just a suspicion.

    • Avatar
      willow  December 14, 2013

      Might it not have been a user name as opposed to a password that had already been taken?

  15. Avatar
    nazam44  December 15, 2013

    Dear Dr.Ehrman,

    I thought the Zealots were founded by one Judas during the Quirinian Census of 6 ACE according to Josephus. Why do you think they were from after the crucifixion?

    Thank you.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 15, 2013

      That older genealogy is not longer widely held. The “Zealot” party may have seen in Judas their ideological forebear, but they didn’t come into existence until the war with Rome.

  16. Avatar
    Steefen  December 18, 2013

    Dr. Ehrman:
    Aslan does not acknowledge his prececessors and the responses to them by others who weren’t convinced.
    I can see the value in that. That could be a different type of book. It wouldn’t be an uninterrupted narrative. It would have more value as a scholarly work, obviously since the content would include an overview of prior scholarly yeas and nays.

    Dr. Ehrman:
    Aslan has not mastered the field(s), and he has made mistakes. Lots of them. Maybe they don’t matter. Or maybe they do. The problem is that if you make lots of little mistakes, well, that could add up to a big problem.

    Thank you.

    Dr. Ehrman:
    It is not like that with a trade book written for a popular audience. I don’t know what Random House’s policy is – and maybe someone can tell me. But the trade presses I have worked with do not have the same kind of evaluation system. They tend to be interested more in whether the author has a good idea, whether it is intriguingly advanced, whether in general the author seems to know what s/he is talking about, whether it is engagingly written. Trade presses of course want the scholarship to be sound, but there are not the same mechanisms in place for it to happen, and not the same process for making sure the ideas hold up – or that inaccuracies are avoided.

    Thank you. This is an answer to one of my prayers to God’s Cabinet Members in Matrix: Jupiter Trine Saturn which tells the faithful to pray for wisdom from a wiser person because now is the time for it to be beneficial. (Even though the God of Faith as Overlord to Sun God with Solar System Objects as Cabinet Members could be the subject of a person’s atheism or agnosticism, Solar System Heaven expresses its power over the Earth’s material world.)

    Dear Dr. Ehrman,

    I appreciate your blog post this day. It would be nice to think the public should totally honor the scholar. I’m not so sure the scholarly world can be trusted as infallible or infallible within human confines as humans sincerely move towards excelling towards accuracy. Here’s an example: what happens when one is taught that the Great Pyramid was built as a burying place for a pharaoh and then one reads the book Giza Power Plant by Christopher Dunn?

    With Love and Gratitude,

  17. Avatar
    judaswasjames  December 18, 2013

    Give me a break, Bart. You bask in your ivory tower like your “mastery” of relevant fields gives you the right to pass judgment on others while at the same time rejecting the contributions from those like me, for example, who have expertise in areas that inform the subjects in question without being from the insular and inbred halls of Academia. There are other sources of information than Ph.D’s! There are living Masters.

    You, as all others who have weighed in, for example, on the Gospel of Judas, including DeConick (who is even more misled than the rest of you, but still does get certain words translated more accurately than you), think that the sacrifice at the climax of gJudas is JESUS. It is not. I have a mystic (gnostic) spiritual Master, and I know a thing or two about sacrifice. The sacrifice that a mystic (gnostic) makes is of SELF. The Masters talk about it all the time. One of my Master’s books, “Die to Live”, by Maharaj Charan Singh, pretty much says flat out what the ‘sacrifice’ is — you. His Master, Baba Sawan Singh, wrote “My Submission”. You get the idea. Judas was the sacrifice, not Jesus! DeConick has “your star has ASCENDED”, which along with “horn raised, wrath [against self] kindled, and heart grown strong”, are all obvious indicators of a great heralding of someone important. And this someone, ‘Judas’, was ‘James’, as you can see by my avatar. He dreams he is stoned to death in gJudas, as James was in historical sources, and by fellow disciples in both. He “rules” over others in gJudas, as James did from his “throne” (early church sources on James’ preeminence). He leads the Twelve to “completion in their God” after Jesus “replaces” him, spiritually (36:1-3). The “handing over” was a sop to the canon, too well-known by the writing of gJudas to leave out.

    The highest region “never called by any name” (47:13) is a dead-ringer for “Anami Desh” — ‘No Name Region’ of Sant Mat (my religion). And it is “Apophasis Logos” in the incipit,” Unspoken Word”, ‘spoken’, not “secret account of the revelation” spoken. This is Mysticism, not orthodoxy. You must recognize your bias from earlier days!

    Gospel According to the Hebrews (lost original Matthew) has the bread going to James, not Judas, and the Nag Hammadi books have the kiss go from James to Jesus, not Judas to Jesus, as a sign of authority, inverted in gospel accounts. Mistranslations and overwriting throughout the gospel “Betrayal” hide James as successor. And if Judas was James, what does this say about Jesus? I really don’t know, there! The longer you ignore these issues, the longer the ruse continues. The inverted ‘Betrayal’ succession event is the key to comprehending the whole gospel/Acts presentation. You have a defacto position of authority, and owe it to the rest of us to become fully informed on this and address it, even if the ultimate source is some ‘Guru’ (one of THOSE! OMG!) you may never have heard of. You *have* been informed of this all-important mistake you scholars all have made on gJudas — by me. Will you ignore me AGAIN?

    I hope it isn’t my tone that prevents you engaging me. That’s just me. It isn’t likely to change much. No offense intended — except the ignoring me part!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 18, 2013

      Several times you’ve asked why I’m ignoring you. I’m not ignoring you — I’m reading your posts. I’m not sure what more you want. I disagree with almost everything you say, but I’m happy to post your opinions for others to see. And I do find your tone offensive, but the reason I’m not responding at length to everything you say is that I don’t have enough hours in the day for that kind of detailed interaction with others. Sorry!

      • Avatar
        judaswasjames  December 18, 2013


        Understand my frustration. I’ve been writing email to you for five years. I spend my own money to promote my book (so far unsuccessfully) while I read misinformation almost daily from Academia. None of you knows Mysticism. That is what the Bible IS, or has covered over, in the case of the NT. I wish it were not so, but what can I say? It is the way it is, unfortunately! Marv Meyer had the best chance at comprehending it, but none of you has back-grounding in it, else you would not ‘disagree’ with me. I spoke for two hours by phone with him, a very pleasant discussion, but he, too, couldn’t see past his orthodox bias. We ALL have it — even me.

        King and Pagels correctly point out that Jesus had access to “the holy generations”, so he *didn’t need to die to ‘resurrect’ to the heavens*, or leave the body. That’s why you scholars all say Judas had to “sacrifice” Jesus. Right? Pretty silly, really. What’s he gonna do, live forever as a human? This is all fictional cover writing. Robert Eisenman proves it (in Acts). I show it in the gospels. But you haven’t time, of course, to look.

        I want for you to learn the mystic meaning of the Gospel of Judas, not the orthodox misinterpretation that is giving the world the impression that it has no impact on the interpretation of the canon! That’s the impression the nine of you Nat. Geo. Advisory Committee members have given the public, and it is FALSE. The gnostics were the true first Christians, and if they were not descendant from the Qumran Essenes, they certainly shared their common mystic root. And most importantly, they shared James the Just. HE was the preeminent leader of first century Palestine. What happened to him? Eisenman has been marginalized for teaching the clear truth about James as Righteous Teacher, hounded from his clearly legitimate post as Jesus’ successor, and KILLED by Paul, the Spouter of Lying. You don’t think this is important? Or you don’t believe it? Have you READ Eisenman? I mean really *read* him? I don’t see how anyone can dismiss his findings, if they really read him. Seriously, I could point for point with you, or with anyone who disagrees with what he says, but I shouldn’t have to. He proves his case himself, without my help. Why can’t we all get on board with some of these NEW FINDINGS since 1945 (Nag Hammadi) and 1947 (Qumran) and move forward. ‘Judas’ was James. Read his and my books! It can’t be missed! What do you mean you ‘disagree with most of’ what I say. You never met a live Master, so how do you know? If you want, I can introduce you to one (Fayetteville Center). Tell me something specific you ‘disagree with’ that I can check.

  18. Avatar
    Atethnekos  December 20, 2013


    Do you know whether Aslan knows Greek? I noticed that in Aslan’s book sometimes Greek words would be omitting accents, given strange Romanizations (e.g., “Yesus ho Xristos”, p. 189; or the outright mistake on p. 266 “Yesus ha [sic] Xristos”), etc. I know even people in the Classics will sometimes do this; but my combined impression is that he is not overly familiar with the language.


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 22, 2013

      Yes he does claim to know Greek, and I believe he studied it. He often gives the wrong grammatical form whenever he uses it in this book though, which makes me suspect that he does not have any kind of fluency (despite his claim on Fox News).

  19. Avatar
    AndrewBrown  December 21, 2013

    “Zealot” would have never passed peer review. Not because his theory of “political revolutionary” isn’t tenable, but because Aslan makes way too many errors, treats outdated scholarship as fact, is not very rigorous in its examination of source material, etc.

    I’d actually like to see a contemporary scholar make a case for the “political revolutionary” Jesus model. SGF Brandon’s book “Jesus and the Zealots” is an expensive, long out of print book.

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