Reza Aslan’s “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”

Aslan is the main character in C.S. Lewis’s seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is the great Lion” in The_Lion,_the_Witch_and_the_Wardrobe,” who is the only character to appear in the whole series. Aslan is Turkish, Arabic and Farsi (and possibly some other languages) for “lion”. Lewis often capitalises the word lion when referring to Aslan, because it represents Jesus, the “Lion of Judah. “I found the name [Aslan]…it is the Turkish for Lion. … And of course I meant the Lion of Judah.” (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, vol iii, p 160). As Jesus was Jewish, why not use the Hebrew “Ari” (lion) for the Lion of Judah instead of the Turkish/Arabic Aslan? But that’s not Lewis.

There’s another Aslan – not a lion from Judah, or even a lion – from the United States, Reza Aslan, who has recently written the New York Times bestseller, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” Aslan appears in a video that has had more than 4 million views; as the catchy saying goes, “it’s gone viral.“ Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?

aslan zealot

Here is Andrew Kaczynski‘s “Buzzfeed” blurb on the interview: “Reza Aslan, a religious scholar with a Ph.D. in the sociology of religions from the University of California and author of the new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, went on FoxNews.com’s online show Spirited Debate to promote his book only to be prodded about why a Muslim would write a historical book about Jesus. I have transcribed an excerpt for discussion. I underline selected words. My impressions in brackets appear in italics. Interviewer “You’re a Muslim. So, why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity.” (So; in other words, “why on earth!”) Aslan “I am scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek who has even studying the origin of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim…I am an expert with degrees in the history of religions. (who also just happens to be a Muslim. Owing to our presuppositions, there’s no such thing as total objectivity. That applies to academia – from physics to philosophy and religion. When it comes to religions that contradict one another in major areas – for example, the christian doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, which Muslims reject – presuppositions come into play as they do in other fields. So, if you’re a Muslim writing on Christianity, you’re going to write from your Islamic presuppositions. Likewise if you’ happen to be a Christian writing on Islam. Having said that, it is possible to maintain a certain objectivity in the realm of the historical record/textual criticism. Unfortunately, most people don’t know or care much about history). Interviewer “It still begs the question why you would be interested in the founder of Christianity.”

(Here is a definition of “Begging the question: “It is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.” Hang on interviewer, Aslan has indeed shown why he is interested in the founder of Christianity, to wit,“I am scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek who has been studying the origin of Christianity for two decades…”)

Aslan, a soupçon of irritation in his voice, reiterates as if explaining to someone in darkest America how to use a fax machine: “See press button”): “Because it is my job as an academic. I am (then Aslan slows down – she who has ears to listen, listen) a prof-ess-or of re-li-gions, including the New Testament. That is what I do for a living, actually. (Capiche? ). So, continues Aslan, it would be like asking a Christian why they would write a book about Islam. I’m not sure about that.

( I’m not sure about that. Aslan, you say you’re not sure why a Christian would write a book about Islam. I hope you don’t mean “why on earth would a Christian want to write a book on Islam,” as James White just did, whose book “What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an” is great. You say, Aslan, you’re not sure why a Christian would write a book about Islam. May I suggest how a Christian might answer:

I am a scholar of religions with degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek and biblical Hebrew and biblical Aramaic, who has been studying the origin of Christianity for four decades. I also happen to be an expert with degrees in the history of religions. So why did I write this book on Islam? In brief, I wrote it because it is my job as an academic. And because I wanted – very important – to show that Islam is flawed.” Don’t tell me that Aslan has no intention to persuade his readers that Christianity is flawed. white koran Aslan says in the interview that he is a Muslim and that he believes in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Qur’an states “And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain” (Surah 4:157). While Aslan believes in the death of Jesus on the cross, which the Qur’an rejects, he disbelieves in the Virgin birth of Jesus, which the Qu’ran affirms. Aslan rejects Christian miracles of which the Virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus are two of the most important ones. They are foolishness to those who are perishing. Aslan, the lion, with a small “l” has bitten off more than he can chew – of the Qur’an. Before he converted to “Islam” he was a Christian. That makes him double apostate. Oh well, it’s still nice to know that Aslan believes that the Lion of Judah was indeed crucified. But, alas, so do the jinn. While there is life there is hope for Aslan; as the rabbis say: “The basis of our relationship with Hashem (the Name – God) means that the fact that we are alive means that God has hope for us. He put us here for a reason; he didn’t put us here to destroy us. so, if after we have sinned we are still alive then there is still hope for us…and we’re not lost.” (Sin in Adam and his Descendants and how to reconcile to God: Jewish “Orthodox” and Jewish “Reconstructionist” views). Yes, Yeshua haMashiach can break down any barrier.   Related post: Psalm 22: Like a lion: Nothing about the lion of Judah

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7 thoughts on “Reza Aslan’s “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”

  1. Wow, interesting…I’ve been hearing a lot about his name and saw mention of him on some conservative blog mentioning he’s a closet Muslim. Thank you for the transcript

    • Dan and SlimJim,

      With regard to “I’m not sure about that,” do you think Aslan’s words – in the immediate context (the preceding “it would be like asking a Christian why they would write a book about Islam”) could be understood differently to my understanding?

      Here is the paragraph:

      Because it is my job as an academic. I am (then Aslan slows down – she who has ears to listen, listen) a prof-ess-or of re-li-gions, including the New Testament. That is what I do for a living, actually. (Capiche? ). So, continues Aslan, it would be like asking a Christian why they would write a book about Islam. I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT?

  2. I received this response from a relative:

    He’s not saying ‘I’m not sure about that’ as in he’s not sure why a Christian would write about Islam, he’s saying he’s not sure about why you would even question an academic’s motive based on factual evidence on his given subject. Belief doesn’t play a part in history, and this is an historical observation.

  3. So, in “I’m not sure about THAT” my relative is saying “that” is not referring to the previous sentence (it might be referring to other sentences in the paragraph but then meaning becomes murky) which is how language normally works, We know, of course, “that” cannot refer to any of the other sentences in the paragraph (describing his qualifications) because Aslan IS sure about that. Now to infer that Alslan’s “that” refers way back beyond the paragraph in which it is situated to e’s saying he’s not sure about why you would even question an academic’s motive based on factual evidence on his given subject” is not easy to fathom.

    With regard to “Belief doesn’t play a part in history, and this is an historical observation,” as I said in the article “Owing to our presuppositions, there’s no such thing as total objectivity. That applies to academia – from physics to philosophy and religion,” history included.

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