Quotes From "Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth" By Reza Aslan

According to Mark, it was a custom of the Roman governor during the feast of Passover to release one prisoner to the Jews, anyone for whom they asked. When Pilate asks the crowd which prisoner they would like to have released– Jesus, the preacher and traitor to Rome, or bar Abbas, the insurrectionist and murderer–the crowd demands the release of the insurrectionist and the crucifixion of the preacher. "Why?" Pilate asks, pained at the thought of having to put an innocent Jewish peasant to death. “What evil has he done?” But the crowd shouts all the louder for Jesus’s death. "Crucify him! Crucify him! " (Mark 15:1—20). The scene is absolutely nonsensical. Never mind that outside the gospels there exists not a shred of historical evidence for any such Passover custom on the part of any Roman governor. What is truly beyond belief is the portrayal of Pontius Pilate–a man renowned for his loathing of the Jews, his total disregard for Jewish rituals and customs, and his penchant for absentmindedly signing so many execution orders that a formal complaint was lodged against him in Rome–spending even a moment of his time pondering the fate of yet another Jewish rabble-rouser. Reza Aslan
The first century was an era of apocalyptic expectation among the Jews of Palestine, the unofficial Roman designation for the vast tract of land encompassing modern day Israel/Palestine as well as large parts of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon (the land would not be officially called Palestine until after 135 C.E.) Reza Aslan
But, as in the rest of Galilee, the profits firm this increase in the means of production disproportionately benefited the large landowners and moneylenders who resided outside Capernaum: the wealthy priests in Judea and new urban elite in Sepphoris and Tiberias. The majority of Capernaum's residents had been left behind by the new Galilean economy. It would be these people whom Jesus would specifically target - those who found themselves cast to the fingers of society, whose lives had been disrupted by the rapid social and economic shifts taking place throughout Galilee. Reza Aslan
The Romans may be known for many things, but humor isn't one of them. As usual, this interpretation relies on a prima facie reading of Jesus as a man with no political ambitions whatsoever. That is nonsense. All criminals sentenced to execution received a titulus so that everyone know the crime for which they were being punished and thus be deterred from taking part in similar activity. That the wording on Jesus's titulus was likely genuine is demonstrated by Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, who notes that "if [the titulus] were invented by Christians, they would have used Christos, for early Christians would scarcely have called their Lord 'King of the Jews'."[.] the notion that a no-name Jewish peasant would have received a personal audience with the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who had probably signed a dozen execution orders that day alone, is so outlandish that it cannot be taken seriously. Reza Aslan
The common depiction of Jesus as an inveterate peacemaker who "loved his enemies" and "turned the other cheek" has been built mostly on his portrayal as an apolitical preacher with no interest in or, for that matter, knowledge of politically turbulent world in which he lived. That picture of Jesus has already been shown to be complete fabrication. The Jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. There is no evidence that Jesus himself openly advocated violent actions. But he was certainly no pacifist. "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but sword" (Matthew 10:34 / Luke 12:51). Reza Aslan
When it comes to the heart and soul of the Jewish faith - the law of Moses - Jesus was adamant that his mission was not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). That law made a clear distinction between relations among Jews and relations between Jews and foreigners. The oft-repeated commandment "love your neighbor as yourself" was originally given strictly in the context of internal relations within Israel. The verse in question reads: "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people , but shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). To the Israelites, as well to Jesus's community in first-century Palestine, "neighbor" meant one's fellow Jews. With regard to the treatment of foreigners and outsiders, oppressors and occupiers, however, the Torah could not be clearer: "You shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not live in your land" (Exodus 23:31-33) . Reza Aslan
Those who did know Jesus - those who followed him into Jerusalem as its king and helped him cleanse the Temple in God's name, who were there when he was arrested and who watched him die a lonely death - played a surprisingly small role in defining the movement Jesus left behing. Reza Aslan
How one in the modern world views Jesus's miraculous actions is irrelevant. All that can be known is how the people of his time viewed them. And therein lies the historical evidence. For while debates raged within the early church over who Jesus was–a rabbi? the messiah? God incarnate?–there was never any debate, either among his followers or his detractors, about his role as an exorcist and miracle worker. . Reza Aslan
Paul may be an excellent source for those interested in the early formation of Christianity, but he is a poor guide for uncovering the historical Jesus. Reza Aslan
The plaque the Romans placed above Jesus's head as he writhed in pain–" King of the Jews"–was called a titulus and, despite common perception, was not meant to be sarcastic. Every criminal who hung on a cross received a plaque declaring the specific crime for which he was being executed. Jesus's crime, in the eyes of Rome, was striving for kingly rule (i.e., treason), the same crime for which nearly every other messianic aspirant of the time was killed. Reza Aslan
Jesus was surely not the first exorcist to walk the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In first-century Palestine, professional wonder worker was a vocation as well established as that of woodworker or mason, and far better paid. Galilee especially abounded with charismatic fantasts claiming to channel the divine for a nominal fee. Yet from the perspective of the Galileans, what set Jesus apart from his fellow exorcists and healers is that he seemed to be providing his services free of charge. . Reza Aslan
The very purpose of designing the Temple of Jerusalem as a series of ever more restrictive ingressions was to maintain the priestly monopoly over who can and cannot come into the presence of God and to what degree. The sick, the lame, the leper, the "demon-possessed, " menstruating women, those with bodily discharges, those who had recently given birth–none of these were permitted to enter the Temple and take part in the rituals unless first purified according to the priestly code. With every leper cleansed, every paralytic healed, every demon cast out, Jesus was not only challenging that priestly code, he was invalidating the very purpose of the priesthood. Reza Aslan
Pilate, as the histories reveal, was not one for trials. In his ten years as governor of Jerusalem, he had sent thousands upon thousands to the cross with a simple scratch of his reed pen on a slip of papyrus. The notion that he would even be in the same room as Jesus, let alone deign to grant him a "trial, " beggars the imagination. Either the threat posed by Jesus to the stability of Jerusalem is so great that he is one of only a handful of Jews to have the opportunity to stand before Pilate and answer for his alleged crimes, or else the so-called trial before Pilate is pure legend. . Reza Aslan
Despite two millennia of Christian apologetics, the fact is that belief in a dying and rising messiah simply did not exist in Judaism. In the entirety of the Hebrew Bible there is not a single passage of scripture or prophecy about the promised messiah that even hints of his ignominious death, let alone his bodily resurrection. Reza Aslan
Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise again on the third day, " Jesus instructs his disciples (Luke 24:44—46). Except that nowhere is any such thing written: not in the Law of Moses, not in the prophets, not in the Psalms. In the entire history of Jewish thought there is not a single line of scripture that says the messiah is to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, which may explain why Jesus does not bother to cite any scripture to back up his incredible claim. Reza Aslan
Paul's portrayal of Jesus as Christ may sound familiar to contemporary Christians–it has since become the standard doctrine of the church–but it would have been downright bizarre to Jesus's Jewish followers. The transformation of the Nazarean into a divine, preexistent, literal son of God whose death and resurrection launch a new genus of eternal beings responsible for judging the world has no basis in any writings about Jesus that are even remotely contemporary with Paul's (a firm indication that Paul's Christ was likely his own creation). Reza Aslan
The choice between James’s vision of a Jewish religion anchored in the Law of Moses and derived from a Jewish nationalist who fought against Rome, and Paul’s vision of a Roman religion that divorced itself from Jewish provincialism and required nothing for salvation save belief in Christ, was not a difficult one for the second and third generations of Jesus’s followers to make. Two thousand years later, the Christ of Paul’s creation has utterly subsumed the Jesus of history. The memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history. Reza Aslan
Scattered across the Roman Empire, it was only natural for the gospel writers to distance themselves from the Jewish independence movement by erasing, as much as possible, any hint of radicalism or violence, revolution or zealotry, from the story of Jesus, and to adapt Jesus's words and actions to the new political situation in which they found themselves. Reza Aslan
This is an extremely difficult matter for modern readers of the gospels to grasp, but Luke never meant for his story about Jesus's birth at Bethlehem to be understood as historical fact. Luke would have had no idea what we in the modern world even mean when we say the word "history." The notion of history as a critical analysis of observable and verifiable events in the past is a product of the modern age; it would have been an altogether foreign concept to the gospel writers for whom history was not a matter of uncovering facts, but of revealing truths. Reza Aslan
But Jesus’s message was designed to be a direct challenge to the wealthy and the powerful, be they the occupiers in Rome, the collaborators in the Temple, or the new moneyed class in the Greek cities of Galilee. The message was simple: the Lord God had seen the suffering of the poor and dispossessed; he had heard their cries of anguish. And he was finally going to do something about it Reza Aslan