Zealot: First Impressions

Having achieved my one Lenten commitment, which was to update my cultural literacy by reading Aslan’s Zealot, I wish to note the following reactions during reading. Please attend to my wording: these are reaction notes, not scholarly considerations. My goal is to list sensations based in previous eras on my scholarly journey.

1) Positive sense of affirmation in rejecting, or at least limiting, the radical pacifism ascribed to Jesus, and contradicted by two key scriptural passages.

2) Sadness at the rigidly sectarian boundaries placed on Jesus’s intentions.

3) Alarm bells that scholars of modern Iran’s radical Shi’a moment are not looking at how his family’s flight from that revolution affected his imaging of religious rebels. Judging from descriptions of his three books so far, this will be where the ultimate examination of his scholarly agenda will come to rest.

4) Lots of warning signals about his huckstering agenda: slippery self-description of his academic credentials; book titles re-jiggered for marketing pop; the choice to be interviewed on Fox News (as well as NPR and other more comfortable venues).

5) And the reverse: sympathy for someone who keeps having to keep looking for a new place in the world because the places he finds don’t meet his needs, and yet, somehow, his being resonates with the query: “I feel God here; why can’t I see and hold onto Him?”

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