Monday, December 16, 2013

Reza Aslan's Historical Method

Reza Aslan
Reza Aslan's latest book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, is filled with a strange mixture of (1) sound historical research, and (2) some of the silliest historical blunders I've ever read.

Take, for instance, Reza's view of Historical Jesus Studies. On one page (xx), Reza assures his readers that they can learn nothing about the Historical Jesus, because any argument about Jesus can be instantly countered by an equally persuasive argument opposing it. On another page (xxxi), Reza tells us that his view of Jesus is the only view that stands up to scrutiny.

See the inconsistency? Oddly enough, Reza doesn't. Neither do the groveling media who help him sell his book.


Anonymous said...

Reza Aslan is just another one of the many throughout history who have shaped Jesus into an idol of their own invention through the misinterpretation/distortion of God's word.

Many of his arguments, which are nothing new or original, have been thoroughly dealt with by the church fathers, scholars and reformers in the past, who, through the correct reading, interpretation and understanding of the meaning of the Scriptures as intended by their Author, the Holy Spirit, have already destroyed these arguments hundreds of years ago.

EUCLID said...

Reza obviously didn't study any subject that involves any applied logic. He doesn't have any.

That is the basic weakness of Islamists.

Similarly, lefty journalists that have a powerful weapon at their disposal, i.e. the media, certainly don't have it either. Virtually the whole of the media is run by the Marxist loony brigade.

DEWDDS said...

The worst part about Aslan's latest work is how little credit he gives to others who have previously advanced the Jesus as zealot argument in historical terms. He mentions Reimarus (from the 18th c.) and Brandon (his scholarly work, "Jesus and the Zealots", 1969) briefly in citations, but ignores Eisler's work from the 1930s. There was even a popular aimed book published in 1963 by J. Carmichael ("Death of Jesus") that advanced the idea of a revolutionary Jesus figure. For the record I am inclined to the argument that the historical Jesus probably was some sort of revolutionary, but this is based on my readings of Brandon and not the rehashed, lay audience targeted "Zealot".

Reza's book is very well written with a gripping narrative (his creative writing skills pay off there), but it offers nothing new in the revolutionary Jesus hypothesis. In keeping with its pop appeal though, I assume he also wanted readers to think this is somehow his original and unique idea about the historical Jesus. There are also many mistakes and/or egregious assumptions about events or details that he presents casually as facts, which is not surprising for someone not well acquainted with studies in Antiquity or history of early Christianity.

The press surrounding the release of this book has shown Aslan as someone who wants it both ways. He wants this to be a fabulous best seller to rake in the bucks and enhance his reputation, but also wants the work to be taken seriously as scholarly, which it clearly is not. The fact that he has a media company to hawk his latest venture about says it all. Concerning the latter, I guess he laughs all the way to the bank. My greatest concern, though, is for the lay audience who read this book and come away with the idea that Aslan is an expert Biblical scholar, who can now be trusted as a 'go to source' regarding questions about New Testament studies or early history of Christianity.