The basics: Zealot is a biography of Jesus, the historical figure, and the times in which he lived.
My thoughts: I grew up in an intellectual United Methodist family. The churches in which I grew up were not ones to take the Bible literally, and they encouraged critical thinking and deep reflection about all things, including faith. I've long been curious about where exactly the lines between Jesus as a verifiable, historical person end and the lines of Jesus as the son of God begin. Zealot attempts to answer those questions of where fact ends and where faith begins, but it also explores the why and how of where faith begins by illuminating historical detail about the time in which Jesus of Nazareth lived, as well as the conditions in which Christianity developed after his death.
In the introduction, Aslan describes his journey from Muslim to fundamentalist Christian to losing his faith when he realized the Bible could not be taken literally because of its contradictions to his current Christian faith. From this very introduction, Aslan established himself as an impassioned, authoritative narrator. His narration captures the journey he took to research and write this book and at times infuses the story with the tone of a memoir.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this listening experience, I enjoyed the first third of the book the most. From there, I found the balance at times veered too much to the times in which Jesus of Nazareth lived rather than being about his life. Aslan excels at using the times in which Jesus lived to provide context for many fascinating ideas, but at times the narrative dragged in the last two-thirds of the book, largely because there were so many wow moments in the first third. Still, I enjoyed the experience and some of Aslan's ideas and theories will stick with me for quite some time.
The verdict: While I found the subject fascinating and quite enjoyed the book for the most part, I thought the focus was more on the time in which Jesus lived rather than Jesus himself. Admittedly, Aslan explains his reasons for doing so (chiefly, the lack of resources available), but I still found myself wanting more theories, if not answers, about the life of Jesus as historical figure.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: (336 pages)
Publication date: July 16, 2013
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