Final Loose Threads on the Zealot Hypothesis

I think I’ve gone on about Aslan’s Zealot long enough. Maybe more than long enough, many of you may think. My plan is to make this the last post. Let me reiterate that I think it is an exceptionally well-written, engaging book, and we can all be thankful to Aslan for bringing important historical issues about Jesus to the public attention. I may think that he’s wrong about his central thesis, and I may recognize a lot of ...

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The Later De-apocalypticizing of Jesus

Yesterday I started mounting the case that rather than being a zealot interested in a military overthrow of the Romans to reclaim the land for God, Jesus was an apocalypticist who believed that God himself would intervene in history to destroy the forces of evil (presumably including the Romans; and certainly including the Jews who were not “on the right side”) to set up his kingdom.

It is worth re-emphasizing that all over the map in our early sources Jesus speaks ...

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Fundamental Problems with Aslan’s Thesis

In my post of yesterday I moved beyond the simple errors of Aslan’s Zealot to discuss more substantive issues, taking his chapter “Zeal for your House” as both central to his argument (as he himself maintains) and highly problematic. Within the seven pages of this key chapter, I indicated that there are, by my count, six major problems, two of which I dealt with yesterday and the other four I will deal with here. Not only are some ...

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Aslan’s Key Chapter

After his 70-page introduction to the history of first-century Palestine, which I enjoyed, even if it was skewed to set up his thesis of Jesus as another-one-of-those-zealots, Aslan sets the stage for his entire discussion of the historical Jesus, in Part II, with his Prologue, “Zeal for your House.” Aslan sees the set of stories relates in this chapter as paradigmatic for understanding Jesus’ message and mission. As he says, this story, “more than any other word or deed, helps ...

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Aslan Zealot: A Deeper Evaluation of the Thesis Itself


I have not completed my evaluation of Reza Aslan’s popular, interesting, and well-written account of Jesus, Zealot.   To this point I have merely tried to show that despite his claims (e.g. in the Fox News interview) of being an expert who is qualified to write such a book, he is not an expert – in the ancient world, in the New Testament, in the Gospels, or in the historical Jesus.   When I began this discussion I understand that ...

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Mistakes about the New Testament in Aslan’s Zealot

In my previous two posts I detailed some of the historical errors in Aslan’s interesting and readable book Zealot. In this post I’ll say some things about mistakes he makes about the New Testament. I’m not sure which kind of mistake is more troubling – the book is dealing both with ancient history and with the accounts of Jesus in the NT, so both history and the Gospels are of central importance. In any event, here is a ...

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More Historical Mistakes in Aslan’s Zealot

In this post I would like to continue with some of the historical mistakes in Aslan’s Zealot. When reading these, do bear in mind that I also had positive things to say about the book.

As in the previous post, I would like this one to focus on historical errors, or historical claims that have no basis in either our ancient sources or modern scholarship. I will not be discussing, in this post, the mistakes Aslan has ...

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Aslan’s Zealot: Historical Mistakes

Yesterday I pointed out some of the features of Reza Aslan’s Zealot that I found to be commendable. In the next series of posts, starting with today’s, I’ll be pointing out the problems. There are lots of them. Some readers of the blog have objected to my (repeatedly, I’ll grant) pointing out that Aslan is not an expert. Now I’ll try to show why that is both obvious and unfortunate. There are mistakes scattered throughout the book. I’d ...

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Aslan’s Zealot: Some Positive Comments

I begin my assessment of Reza Aslan’s Zealot by saying a few things about what I appreciate about the book. In subsequent posts I will talk about the mistakes that pervade it, and about my view of the overarching thesis that Jesus was principally a zealot in favor of a violent insurrection against the Romans.

But first, the positives. As everyone has said, over and over again, the book is extremely well written. It reads more like a novel ...

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About the Blog and Two Clarifications about Reza Aslan’s Zealot


Yesterday I resumed my posts on Reza Aslan’s best-selling hit Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and plan to have several more posts on it, as I explain what I like about the book and about what problems I see in it.  But I need to take care of a couple of other concerns first, before launching into a direct discussion.

The first has to do with this blog.   A number of people on my facebook ...

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