Zealot uncovers new insights into the life of Jesus, putting to rest many popular misconceptions about who he was and what he did. Acclaimed best-selling author Reza Aslan takes readers on a journey that follows Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, revealing an entirely new picture of the man and his times.
A work of nonfiction at the intersection of history and legend, Zealot presents a revolutionary new interpretation of Jesus’s life. According to Reza Aslan, Jesus was not simply a religious teacher or prophet who inspired followers to break with tradition; instead, he was no more than a charismatic revolutionary who used radical language and created a movement whose message was simply that “Jesus was king.”
In Zealot, Reza Aslan argues that Jesus of Nazareth is a compelling figure. He was a folk hero whose teachings provoked people to revolution, and the author contends that Judaism in his time was not monolithic but fiercely ideological, moralistic, and intensely political. Rather than devoting himself to the quest for religious correctness, Jesus was a foe of legalism who rebelled against other ethnic groups within Israel—and beyond its borders—to restore the purity of Jewish identity. Despite his unique message and dangerous deeds at times, he attracted followers who were not like him: criminals, prostitutes, wealthy elites—which led to accusations that he was trying to control them using magic or force.
About Zealot Book
From the internationally bestselling author of No god but God comes a fascinating, provocative, and meticulously researched biography that challenges long-held assumptions about the man we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal.
Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God.
Sifting through centuries of mythmaking, Reza Aslan sheds new light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus through the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: first-century Palestine, an age awash in apocalyptic fervor. Scores of Jewish prophets, preachers, and would-be messiahs wandered through the Holy Land, bearing messages from God. This was the age of zealotry—a fervent nationalism that made resistance to the Roman occupation a sacred duty incumbent on all Jews. And few figures better exemplified this principle than the charismatic Galilean who defied both the imperial authorities and their allies in the Jewish religious hierarchy.
Balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources, Aslan describes a man full of conviction and passion yet rife with contradiction; a man of peace who urged his followers to arm themselves with swords; an exorcist and faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret; and ultimately the seditious “King of the Jews” whose promise of liberation from Rome went unfulfilled in his brief lifetime. Aslan explores why the early Christian church preferred to promulgate an image of Jesus as a peaceful spiritual teacher rather than a politically conscious revolutionary. And he grapples with the riddle of how Jesus understood himself, the mystery that is at the heart of all subsequent claims about his divinity.
Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus of Nazareth’s life and mission. The result is a thought-provoking, elegantly written biography with the pulse of a fast-paced novel: a singularly brilliant portrait of a man, a time, and the birth of a religion.