There is a new book out called “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” that portrays Jesus as a:
“…zealous prophet type who didn’t claim to be God, that Christians have misunderstood him, and that the Christian Gospels are not the actual words or life of Jesus but “myth.”
These are some strong assertions, which I know a thing or two about and need to comment on because the media is portraying Reza Aslan, the author of the book, as a scholar and the book as objective history.
First, about Jesus words and teachings being “myth” – if this is so, how does Aslan know? Does Aslan have some historical text, dated from the first century that points this out. Outside of the gospels and the rest of the NT, we have Josephus (a Roman / Jewish historian in the first century) who wrote in Antiquities 18.3.3:
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
I find it interesting that Aslan claims the words and actions of Jesus are Christian myth, when the opposite is supported in history. To support his claims, Aslan also says in his book:
“…that we cannot trust the Gospel of Mark–because it was written 40 years after Jesus’ death.”
The problem with Aslan’s claim is most scholars agree the Gospel of Mark was written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD (Craig Blomberg, “Jesus and the Gospels” – pp. 122-123). To say it was 40 years after Jesus lived is to say it was written in the early 70’s AD, after the destruction of Jerusalem and after the Apostles would have been martyred for their faith.
The truth about the gospels is liberal scholars have made a case for the New Testament having been written toward the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century, while conservative scholars have taught all of the New Testament except the books of John were written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. As more archeological discoveries have been made the weight of evidence has affirmed conservative scholarship and many of the liberal scholars’ theories have been proven false (for examples read Rodney Stark’s “The Triumph of Christianity” – pp. 54-57).
What Aslan is asserting needs to go both ways considering his faith – he is a devout Muslim (Muhammad didn’t write the Quran – his followers memorized his sayings and then they wrote it down – the same is true with Jesus and His disciples). As a devout Muslim Aslan is teaching the Muslim perspective of Jesus, which is biased and doesn’t trust the New Testament.
For him to say Christians have made up a story about Christ and written it down in the New Testament to deceive people presupposes two things:
- That he knows something the Christians who walked with Jesus didn’t know.
- That the Christians who wrote the New Testament were liars and died for a lie.
If you lived back then, walked with Jesus, and saw the resurrected Christ a week after you had seen him die on a cross, and if you had heard Jesus say the words, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life” or “I Am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” or “I and the Father are One” or “Before Abraham was, I AM (“I AM” = the Jewish name for God)” wouldn’t you be thinking,
“I believe He is God’s Son, He claimed to be, in fact He claimed to be God…and now I see Him alive again…I believe and I need to tell everyone about this.”
Think about it. Go, read Aslan’s book, but also read Blomberg’s book. Consider both carefully. As for the message of the Bible, God desires to save you through Jesus’ Christ His Son (John 3:16, John 14:6, John 10:30, and John 8:58).