Author Reza Aslan Presents Portrait of Jesus as Historical Zealot

February 18, 2014 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

On February 13, bestselling author Reza Aslan spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at Elmhurst College about his New York Times best-selling book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

The book draws on centuries of scholarship to present a portrait of Jesus as an unlettered Jewish peasant who emerged as a political revolutionary, a rebel against Rome and its representatives in Palestine, including the Temple priests. Dale Martin, a scholar of religion at Yale, calls the book “a serious presentation of one plausible portrait” of the person at the center of the New Testament story.

During his talk, Aslan described his personal religious journey, which went from essentially a non-religious childhood to “Bible-thumping” Christianity in his teens and eventually to Islam. As a university student, he became and has remained fascinated with “trying to understand Jesus as a historical figure … the Jesus of history, versus the Christ of Faith.”

While little is known about the historical Jesus, he said, “we know a great deal about the world in which he lived.” Zealot strives to put “Jesus, the man,” into context.

As one of the most powerful voices of liberal Islam in the United States, Aslan explores the intricate interplay between faith and politics in the Muslim world, presenting Islam as an ever-evolving faith and culture that currently is in the midst of a cataclysmic internal battle for reform and modernization.

Aslan is a research associate at the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy, a Middle East commentator for NPR’s Marketplace, and a Muslim affairs analyst for CBS News. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Slate, The Boston Globe, the Washington Post and The Nation, and has appeared on Meet the Press, Hardball, The Daily Show, Real Time with Bill Maher and Nightline. His internationally acclaimed book No god but God: the Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam was praised by The New York Times as “grippingly narrated and thoughtfully examined … [a] literate, accessible introduction to Islam.”

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