December 25 2015

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Reza Azlan is a gifted writer with a doctorate in sociology of religions. Some of his popular works include No God but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam (2005) and Beyond fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (2010). An upshot of scrupulous and painstaking research, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth contrasts the entrenched dogmatic theology and describes the life of Jesus as a man rather than a Messiah. This alluring, picturesque work promises a delectable read to both the believers and agnostics. The evocative description of the world in which Jesus lived and the role he played are convincingly woven into a fine masterpiece with quoted evidences. In the first century, many Jewish peasants and lower classes in Palestine were impoverished by the atrocities of Roman and Jewish upper classes. This book recreates the society, politics, economy and religion at the time of Jesus in an enthralling and steady pace. Jesus is described as a violent revolutionary, passionate man, “Zealous” visionary, faith healer who urged his disciples to keep his identity a secret and a common man who couldn’t free his people from the early Roman brutality in his brief lifetime. The author asserts that the Christian church and in particular, St. Paul obscured the real image of Jesus of Nazareth and reinvented a holy figure of Hope and Salvation. While the author brings in a different perspective to the story of Jesus, he also lets the readers appreciate Jesus as the zestful ideologue, for his efforts in restoring peace in his country.

I was quite skeptical at first before making a purchase. I read a few reviews and was almost stuck by a uniform tone resembling a unison in the voice – debunking of Jesus the Christ. After all, Jesus was a human being. Jesus, Jerusalem, Holy Wars etc. have always been a subject of eternal fascination for me. This book serves as a testament on how we humans have always played around and modified history for our own purposes and gain. An absolute read! Especially for the inquisitive minds, and for those who are interested in history! A very well researched book, which is written in simplistic terms, but one has to occasionally look up certain words (which are not routinely used!) I would recommend this book to be read after reading another book called “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly, which again is an absolutely fascinating book! The book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” puts Jesus Christ — god to Christians and one of the prophets to Muslims — back in the historical context and shows how the historical Jesus is totally dissimilar to the Christian Christ (largely a creation of Paul), and even to the Islamic conception of Christ. The book is very well written — the arguments are cogent and credible, and the prose is elegant and lucid. If you are already familiar with the books of the New Testament, you will see them in a new light after you finish reading “Zealot.”

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