ZEALOT – a review of the most controversial book about Jesus to come along in awhile

blog - ZEALOT Reviewed

Author: Reza Aslan
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 336

About a dozen people or so in my congregation have asked me about a new book currently near the top of the New York Times bestseller list, ZEALOT.

It led to me thinking it’d be a worthwhile exercise to, every once in a while, offer a Christian pastor’s perspective on some of the more influential literature out there, particularly those that which more directly impacts American faith and spirituality. (It also doesn’t hurt when people regularly gift you books – Thanks, Bob!)

While I’m a firm believer in producing helpful content, not just tearing down the content of others (which is not only easier, but less beneficial in the long run), I’d still agree that from time to time, it’s certainly necessary to offer clarification and correction.

So…ZEALOT.

Reza Aslan’s latest book was selling quite well upon its release. But it wasn’t until after his interview with Lauren Green on Fox News that ZEALOT became the current most controversial book on the planet.

The interviewer regularly questioned Aslan’s credibility, as a Muslim, to write a book about the life of the individual on whom Christianity is founded. The more liberal edge of media pounced on this as unfair and Buzzfeed even headlined a subsequent article, “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?” Quite honestly, I do think there’s something to that. If, as a Christian pastor, I did twenty years worth of research on Islam and wrote a book about Muhammad, should it immediately be discredited due to my Christian faith? I think most people would suggest “No.”

Nonetheless, I also believe the interviewer had a point that a “neutral” public sphere doesn’t understand: It’s simply impossible to write anything without bias. If I did write a book, as a Christian, about Muhammad, I can guarantee it would contain bias. Only those who don’t understand the way faith works would be so bold as to suggest that it would have zero impact on your perception of another faith. You simply cannot disassociate your soul from your worldview.

If nothing else, I thought the interview, which has been replayed and rehashed countless times at this point, served as an interesting exposure of the American public’s failure to understand the nature of faith. And it created a good learning opportunity, as does ZEALOT itself.

blog - Zealot 2

Introduction

The book’s title is derived from both the author’s assessment of Jesus’s character and his leadership in a perceived “new” first century philosophy.

Jewish historian Josephus uses the term “Fourth Philosophy” to discuss an ideology that is distinct from the philosophies of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes. Aslan suggests that Jesus is the prime figure of this new party.

“What set the members of the Fourth Philosophy apart from the rest was their unshakeable commitment to freeing Israel from foreign rule and their fervent insistence, even unto death, that they would serve no lord save the One God. There was a well-defined term for this type of belief……zeal.” (pg. 40)

Aslan’s basic thought throughout the book, then, is that Jesus, the man, failed in his mission to free the Jews from Roman oppression. However, after the Jewish/Roman hostility that led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Jews had a decision to make regarding what they were going to do with their faith. Judaism was no longer a comfortable option.

“With the Temple in ruins and the Jewish religion made pariah, the Jews who followed Jesus as messiah had an easy decision to make: they could either maintain their cultic connections to their parent religion and thus share in Rome’s enmity….or they could divorce themselves from Judaism and transform their messiah from a fierce Jewish nationalist into a pacifist preacher of good works whose kingdom was not of this world.” (pg. 150)

In other words, Aslan is suggesting that many Jews, including the later New Testament writers, out of convenience, consciously shifted their understanding of Jesus from his true identity as a zealous Jewish nationalist (like so many other first century Jewish nationalists) into a worldwide peacemaker (unlike the other first century Jewish “messiahs”). This messiah (i.e. Jesus), was one that Rome could get on board with, to such a degree, in fact, that the empire would eventually make him their official God in the fourth century.

Aslan believes that Jesus “the Christ” has been concocted upon two millennia of false beliefs founded on the inaccurate, imaginative statements of guys like Saul of Tarsus and the Gospel writers. This claim is nothing new, by the way.

So, let’s take a look at the rejectable, the redeemable, and the net takeaway from ZEALOT.

The Rejectable

1) Jesus was the most acceptable of “bandits” to the Romans

Aslan makes the case that the Greek word lestai can best be translated as “bandits” rather than “thieves.” So, for instance, the criminals on the cross next to Jesus would not likely have been crucified merely for being “thieves,” but banditry, or inciting rebellion against the Roman state, was certainly a cause for crucifixion.

While he points out that there were many false messiahs that went through Judea in the first century, Aslan suggests that it was a series of political events that causes Jesus to be the one that stuck.

The idea that there were indeed many false messiahs in first century Palestine is true and should never scare Christians. In fact, the reality that Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who is worshipped today, two thousand years later, actually gives more credibility to Jesus. Something must have been different about him. Skeptics have known this problem and the best they’ve been able to come up with, as Aslan has, was that there must have been some sort of convenience in following Jesus that was appealing. But this is unacceptable when you consider the thousands that went to their death (and continue to today) for commitment to the man.

“There is this nagging fact to consider: one after another of those who claimed to have witnessed the risen Jesus went to their own gruesome deaths refusing to recant their testimony. That is not, in itself, unusual……(BUT) They were being asked to deny something they themselves personally, directly encountered.” (pg. 174) He’s talking about a resurrected Jesus. Why would so many people (Paul says over 500) claim to have seen Jesus alive after his death if it’d mean they might have to die? The most obvious explanation, which Aslan refuses to accept – is that their beliefs were TRUE.

2) Aslan’s Refusal of Predictive Prophecy

Even when reading through the introduction of the book, I got a strong sense that Aslan believes we cannot trust the Bible as wholly reliable. Much of what he was saying sounded eerily familiar. Sure enough, as I was readying the nearly 100 pages of miniscule font Author Notes at the end, I ran across quotes from guys like John Dominic Crossan and Rudolph Bultmann. I had to pour over the writings of these guys in seminary hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) classes.

Briefly, these are guys who have studied the Bible a lot, but are highly skeptical about its claims. Nonetheless, since there has been a tremendous sensitivity about bringing anything religious into the educational arena since the early-mid twentieth century, almost no conservative Bible scholarship has found its way into institutions like Harvard or Yale. Consequently, if you want to sound educated and quote higher scholarship in faith matters, you have to study and reference guys who adamantly deny the authority of the Bible’s claims.

It’s a domino effect that leads people, when studying multiple religions, as Aslan does, to almost exclusively study liberal Bible scholarship and only recognize liberal scholarship as, in fact, reputable “scholarship.”

Anyways, one of the main problems with liberal biblical scholarship is the outright rejection of predictive prophecy. In other words, these skeptics balk at the idea that King David or Isaiah or Daniel could ever be making any claims about the coming Messiah, and any New Testament writer or current Christian who believes they are, is naively reinterpretting what was originally written.

The Redeemable

1) History of first century Palestine

While I obviously don’t agree with many of Aslan’s conclusions, I found his narrative of first century Palestine to be a fascinating history review.  He walks readers through the politics of the Intertestamental Period. He explains the passage of power from Herod the Great to his three sons and why Rome decided to go from a local client-king in Herod to an eventual direct governance in a prefect like Pontius Pilate. He details the presence of other first century “messiahs” – Theudas, Athronges, The Egyptian, The Samaritan, Simon son of Giora, Simon son of Kochba, etc. It’s all very interesting and many Christians will enjoy it.

2) Profession of Historical Jesus and acknowledgement about who the Scriptural authors claim he was

Many skeptics in the twentieth century doubted the existence of the “Historical Jesus.” Many Muslims today doubt that he ever was crucified (Quran 4:157-158). But Aslan, as a historian, navigates beyond both of those instincts that would be native to him  and, to his credit, finds such suggestions, on the basis of the information we have today, unacceptable.

Jesus of Nazareth did live. He was crucified. Many claimed he rose from the grave and were absolutely convinced. If Aslan represents the modern skeptic, then the modern skeptic is one step closer to recognizing Jesus as the Christ than the twentieth century skeptic was.

3) Logical reason why we have so little info about Jesus’ childhood

Despite some conjecturing about the first thirty years of Jesus’s life, Aslan offers a refreshingly simple, yet obvious explanation as to why we have so little information on Jesus’s early years, which I will happily direct people to in the future.

“It is simply impossible to say much about Jesus’s early life in Nazareth. That is because before Jesus was declared messiah, it did not matter what kind of childhood a Jewish peasant from an insignificant hamlet in Galilee may or may not have had.” (pg. 37)

4) Acknowledgment of Jesus’s miracle-working

Again, for a skeptic, it’s a little unusual, and seemingly counterintuitive, to point out the fact that all the evidence points to Jesus as someone supernatural. But Aslan, who certainly considers himself a valid historian, does not deny the early claims.

“At no point in the gospels do Jesus’s enemies ever deny his miracles, though they do question their motive and source. Well into the second and third centuries, the Jewish intellectuals and pagan philosophers who wrote treatises denouncing Christianity took Jesus’s status as an exoricist and miracle worker for granted. They may have denounced Jesus as nothing more than a traveling magician, but they did not doubt his magical abilities.” (pg. 105)

What’s the REAL Takeaway

There’s an old joke that goes something like this……How do you find out whether or not someone went to an Ivy League School? ANSWER: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

Thus is the case with Aslan. I didn’t bother counting how many times, merely in the introduction, he refers to himself as a “scholar” or his research as “scholarly.” He realizes that if he’s going to make some fantastic claims about the most influential figure in world history, he’s going to have to lend some credibility to those claims. Nonetheless, it’s hard to take someone who is constantly trying to tell you what a good scholar they are seriously. Their work, one would think, should speak for itself.

Furthermore, while Aslan holds a degree in religion from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Sociology from Univ. Cal. Santa Barbara, Aslan also has a Master of Fine Arts from Univ. of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. In fact, Aslan currently teaches as an associate professor of Creative Writing form Univ. Cal., Riverside. Creative Writing. This is telling. It explains, to some degree, why ZEALOT, at times, reads as much like a Dan Brown book as it does actual history. Brown has a genius for taking real historical events, ignoring the traditionally accepted views, and imaginatively spinning the incidents to say something entirely different, all with well-crafted verbiage. Aslan has a similar “gift.”

This leads me to wish Aslan was, in fact, a Christian, aside from the obvious reason of desiring that his soul be saved. The truth is that he has a remarkable God-given gift for painting a vivid portrait of history. It’s just not, in my opinion (and that of the majority of scholarship of the past 2000 years), the accurate one.

So….here’s my net takeaway.

1) The arrogance of “a scholar”

As much or more than anyone I’ve read, Aslan comes off as arrogant. It’s quite apparent throughout the book that he fully believes he understands the era of Jesus better than the Gospel writers!!! (I’ve provided a number of illustrations at the end of the post, but here is just one. Aslan thinks the only way Christianity could spread is because uneducated “non-scholars” like the martyr, Stephen, were simple-minded enough to believe the fairy tales.)

“Here lies the key to understanding the dramatic transformation that took place in Jesus’s message after his death – Stephen was not a scribe or scholar. He was not an expert in the scriptures….As such, he was the perfect audience for this new, innovative, and thoroughly unorthodox interpretation of the messiah being peddled by a group of illiterate ecstatics whose certainty in their message was matched only by the passion with which they preached it.” (pg. 167)

Believing that he has the authority, through his research, to examine the Bible and separate the truth from the lies, Aslan arrives at conclusions that I think will really never be considered much beyond his own personal opinions, or perhaps some fringes of liberal scholarship, whose opinion of the Historical Jesus seems to be forever changing. In other words, while a lot of people are buying Aslan’s book and are going to find his writing entertaining – he’s likely not going to reshape the way the world thinks about Jesus of Nazareth.

2) According to the Bible, a non-believer will not appreciate spiritually discerned things (1 Cor. 2:14)

The Apostle Paul wrote “Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Cor. 1:20-23 NASB)

Let’s go back to the original Fox News interview question about the validity of a Muslim writing on the history of Jesus of Nazareth. Everyone who has heard the gospel message is, afterwards, either a believer or a non-believer. And then, when that individual approaches the Bible (the main text that teaches about the gospel of Jesus) that person comes with presuppositional bias on the basis of that belief/non-belief.

The Apostle Paul is suggesting here that when a non-believer reads/hears the message of the Bible, particularly the gospel, it sounds like pure foolishness.  However, the individual who has denied Jesus’s divinity then has to do something with all of the historical claims that the Bible makes about Jesus.

When Aslan reads the Bible, everything he reads is processed through his “Jesus was just a political revolutionary” filter. So he says things like “Jesus recognized that the new world order he envisioned was so radical, so dangerous, so revolutionary, that Rome’s only conceivable response to it would be to arrest and execute them all for sedition. He therefore consciously chose to veil the Kingdom of God in abstruse and enigmatic parables that are nearly impossible to understand.” (pg. 124) That is his assessment of Jesus’s parables and teachings – they were just cryptic messages to the Jews about how the Jewish people would/could eventually overthrow their Gentile oppressors.

Does that make good sense? I say “No.” But it is the conclusion that a non-believer has to come to when reading things like Jesus’s parables. Remember, they are just “foolishness to the Gentiles.”

For further reading….

blog - Zealot 3

Just a few examples of how Reza Aslan clearly believes he knows more about Jesus than Jesus’s contemporaries:

1) An empire wide census never could have taken place

“Luke is right about one thing and one thing only….Luke’s suggestion that the entire Roman economy would periodically be placed on hold as every Roman subject was forced to uproot himself and his entire family in order to travel great distances to the place of his father’s birth, and then wait there patiently, perhaps for months, for an official to take stock of his family and his possessions….is, in a word, preposterous.” (pg. 30)

2) Jesus never would have had the education or opportunity to debate rabbis

“Luke’s account of the twelve-year-old Jesus standing in the Temple of Jerusalem debating the finer points of the Hebrew Scriptures with rabbis and scribes (Luke 2:42-52), or his narrative of Jesus in the (nonexistent) synagogue in Nazareth reading from the Isaiah scroll to the astonishment of the Pharisees (Luke 4:16-22), are both fabulous concoctions of the evangelist’s own devising.” (pg. 35)

3) Jesus never could have predicted the future

“Jesus’s warning to Jerusalem that ‘the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you and crush you to the ground – you and your children – and they will not leave within you one stone upon another’ (Luke 19:43-44) was put into his mouth by the evangelists after the fact.” (pgs. 75-76)

4) Gospel-writer John tends to exaggerate

“John’s gospel claims a ‘cohort’ (speira) of soldiers marched to Gethsemane – a unit that would comprise between three hundred and six hundred Roman guards – along with the Temple police, all of them carrying ‘torches and weapons’ (John 18:3). John is obviously exaggerating.” (pg. 78)

5) John the Baptist’s death didn’t happen as taught in the Bible

(Regarding the story of John the Baptist’s death) “Alas, the gospel account is not to be believed. As deliciously scandalous as the story of John’s execution may be, it is riddled with errors and historical inaccuracies.” (pg. 81)

6) Jesus and the Pharisees really had a fairly amicable relationship

“While the gospels tend to paint the Pharisees as Jesus’s main detractors, the fact is that his relations with the Pharisees, while occasionally testy, were, for the most part, fairly civil and even friendly at times. (pg. 99)

7) Jesus never would have received an audience with Pilate

(Regarding Jesus public trial before Pontius Pilate): “This scene makes no sense at all….Why would Mark have concocted such a patently fictitious scene, one that his Jewish audience would immediately have recognized as false? The answer is simple: Mark was not writing for a Jewish audience. Mark’s audience was in Rome, where he himself resided.” (pg. 149)

8) In general, the Gospel writers are liars

“As with everything else in the gospels, the story of Jesus’s arrest, trial, and execution was written for one reason and one reason only: to prove that he was the promised messiah. Factual accuracy was irrelevant. What mattered was Christology, not history. The gospel writers obviously recognized how integral Jesus’s death was to the nascent community, but the story of that death needed elaborating.” (pg. 154)

9) Supernatural events, no matter what the evidence, are not possible

“The fact remains that the resurrection is not a historical event.” (pg. 176)

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “ZEALOT – a review of the most controversial book about Jesus to come along in awhile

  1. Jacob W says:

    I agree that it’s arrogant and silly of Aslan to base his argument on authority and expect that to convince anyone. I don’t claim to know whether Jesus was a real person or not, all I care about is assessing the miracle claims credited to Jesus, especially divine parthenogenesis and resurrection. What adequately supports those claims?

    • Let’s imagine that tomorrow someone is put to death in a public way, and government officials verified the death, wrote the death certificate, the whole works. And then let’s imagine that a few days later hundreds of people swore they saw him alive after the date of his death, and were so set in that belief that even when threatened with death by the government for their claims, they held to them. I stress the number – hundreds! Not a few loonies. Not a small cult. Hundreds of people from all walks of life. Men with families and jobs. Women with children and friends. Wouldn’t you start to wonder just for a moment if maybe your assumption that people can’t come back to life is the real mistake?

      There is no logical, rational, scientific explanation for Jesus’ resurrection, because it is what Scripture says it is – a miracle. A supernatural event specifically enacted to prove that he was not just a man. If we could explain it with logic and rational science, Jesus would be just another guy. That’s the point.

      So what adequately supports the claims? Look at the record of history. People willing to die because they saw him die and then they saw him alive again. People willing to die because they were 100% convinced that he was more than just a man, and that death would only mean they would go to be with him. And since then, 2,000 years of history changed by a carpenter from a hamlet in Galilee. Kinda unbelievable, isn’t it?

      • Jacob W says:

        Brandon, are you saying that if a large enough group of people are willing to die for a belief, it validates the belief? What about 9/11? They were not only willing to die, they were willing to kill. Were you also implying that the length of time a belief is held validates it? People believed the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it for a long time.
        Where is the evidence that supports miracles? Why do you think a supernatural explanation is more plausible than a natural one?

      • We’re not talking about a belief on par with faith in the religion of Islam. We’re talking about the absolute certainty in a fact – “I saw him dead. I saw him alive again after he was dead. You can kill me, but I won’t deny that fact.” A handful of people say that, you might wonder if they’re a little crazy. Hundreds of people say that, you might question your own assumptions. That’s my point. I’m encouraging you to question your assumption that just because there is no scientific evidence, it does not mean it isn’t true. For that matter, what kind of evidence of miracles would stand up in your mind?

      • Jacob W says:

        Brandon, what would convince me that God performed a miracle? I don’t know, but an omniscient God should.
        I am not assuming it’s impossible, I’m asking you for evidence, other than an argument from popularity. Why don’t you find Islam convincing? Over a billion people believe in it as much as you believe in the Bible.

    • Hi Jacob,
      As a general rule, I don’t think one can/should assess Jesus’ miracles divorced from conviction about his actual humanity. Otherwise it’s all hypothetical and makes little difference anyways.

      To the question…I’ll admit that I did have to look up “parthenogenesis” 🙂 But let’s use one of your examples – much of humanity once believed the world was flat. Scientists still existed at those times. I’m sure the scientists at that point even had grounds on which they believed the world to be flat. But they were wrong. It wasn’t until some explorers, following their speculation of the world to be round, travelled around the world that the world’s spherical shape became commonly believed.

      My point is that historically, eyewitness testimony of a reality has occasionally convinced many where scientific thought has not, or has been in error.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you’re approaching Jesus’ immaculate conception and resurrection with scientific laws as the filter by which you’re deducing reality. I’m simply suggesting that our understanding of science has changed drastically and therefore “scientific evidence,” while it is indeed one legitimate filter, probably shouldn’t be the only or ultimate filter. I assume that 100 years from now we’ll probably have an understanding of the make-up of atoms that will crush the current paradigm, and therefore I cannot use my (or science’s) current paradigm as my ultimate reality filter.

      As I see it, the question is whether or not it’s unreasonable to believe that a God who created the laws of the universe could/would intervene in those laws? Brandon was suggesting that, yes, the unlikely and inconvenient witness of hundreds of people shortly after Jesus’ death does count as evidence. And I’m adding that there is probably some historical precedent for the witness of many sane people being considered as legitimate evidence as much or more as the current scientific understanding.

      • Jacob W says:

        “As a general rule, I don’t think one can/should assess Jesus’ miracles divorced from conviction about his actual humanity. Otherwise it’s all hypothetical and makes little difference anyways.”

        –So as a general rule, I can’t/shouldn’t assess the divine claims about Jesus, unless I believe He was a real person that lived in the 1st century A.D.? Then I can assess the divine claims about Him, as well as those about Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar, since I believe they were real people, too.

        “To the question…I’ll admit that I did have to look up “parthenogenesis” :)”

        –I had to look up “parthenogenesis” the first time I read it, too. It’s an incredibly unusual word, unless you study the relevant branch of biology. Which I don’t. 🙂

        “But let’s use one of your examples – much of humanity once believed the world was flat. Scientists still existed at those times. I’m sure the scientists at that point even had grounds on which they believed the world to be flat. But they were wrong.”

        –You are absolutely right about them being wrong about a flat earth, but that is the beauty of science; it changes as new discoveries and evidence surface and as we learn more, our internal model of reality becomes more in sync with the external model of objective reality.

        “It wasn’t until some explorers, following their speculation of the world to be round, traveled around the world that the world’s spherical shape became commonly believed.”

        –This is what’s commonly known as the Flat earth myth. A misconception about how long the flat earth viewpoint was the conventional knowledge. The cosmology of ancient Greeks in the time of Aristotle was a spherical world view. They deduced it from the shadow of earth on the moon and lunar eclipses, and also using sticks to measure the length and direction of shadows that were cast on the ground and comparing other geographic points of reference in relation to the equator to measure the curvature of earth and calculate the circumference of the planet (Eratosthenes).

        “My point is that historically, eyewitness testimony of a reality has occasionally convinced many where scientific thought has not, or has been in error.”

        –If you were on trial for allegedly murdering someone fifteen years ago, do you think it would be fair to be convicted based on eyewitness accounts written down in four anonymous books that conflict on important details? Or would you prefer the scientific method of providing evidence to support positive claims, and until that happens the negative (innocence) is presumed?

        “Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you’re approaching Jesus’ immaculate conception and resurrection with scientific laws as the filter by which you’re deducing reality.”

        –I approach all extraordinary claims with extraordinary skepticism. It’s odd that you refer to scientific laws as a filter. Scientific laws are what define how reality operates. Are you saying you can remove the filter of gravity and fly into the air? 🙂 Scientific laws are the only laws you can’t get away with breaking. It’s not a filter, it’s the objective reality of our universal constants, that all living things are limited by.

        “I’m simply suggesting that our understanding of science has changed drastically and therefore “scientific evidence,” while it is indeed one legitimate filter, probably shouldn’t be the only or ultimate filter. I assume that 100 years from now we’ll probably have an understanding of the make-up of atoms that will crush the current paradigm, and therefore I cannot use my (or science’s) current paradigm as my ultimate reality filter.”

        –The scientific method of repeated hypothesis testing, supporting evidence, peer review, independent confirmation of results, and ceaseless curiosity is the surest way to discern what kind of universe we live in. Objectivity is the heart of the scientific process. When we are very emotional, we make bad decisions because we are seeing things through an emotional filter.

        “As I see it, the question is whether or not it’s unreasonable to believe that a God who created the laws of the universe could/would intervene in those laws?”

        –If you believe in a God that created the scientific laws, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe He could change the rules whenever He wanted. My question is why do you think it’s reasonable to not only assume that God created everything, but that it’s the Christian version of the Abrahamic God that did it?

        “Brandon was suggesting that, yes, the unlikely and inconvenient witness of hundreds of people shortly after Jesus’ death does count as evidence.”

        –Yes, it’s anecdotal evidence, otherwise known as conjecture or hearsay, which is a form of evidence so weak that it doesn’t hold up in a court of law (maybe a medieval court of law).

        “And I’m adding that there is probably some historical precedent for the witness of many sane people being considered as legitimate evidence as much or more as the current scientific understanding.”

        –Sane people still make cognitive errors, which is why an objective process is needed to weed out the human error.

      • Jacob W says:

        I was just thinking about the flat earth thing again. Columbus knew that India was east of Spain, so why would he have sailed towards the opposite edge of the flat earth? It’s because he thought he would go around the world and approach India from the west. Oops, he didn’t know about North and South America, which is why people erroneously refer to native Americans as Indians and why there is a group of islands in the Caribbean called, the West Indies.

  2. Nick says:

    Pastor Hein,

    Any suggestions for books like Zealot that give us a broader view of the “historical” Jesus and the world shortly before and during His time?

  3. A few weeks ago I read a critique of this book, and the author of the critique put it well. “If Aslan doubts that men writing within 100-200 years of these events could have gotten them right, then why should we believe he can get them right 2,000 years removed from them?”

    • Jacob W says:

      You should never rely on one person or source to teach you history. Cross-reference and corroborate multiple sources. Libraries are free to the public. Do your own research and come to a conclusion that is supported by evidence and reasoned argument.

      • Reason, logic, research, human wisdom… yet, we don’t even understand life. Science can tell us what the signs of life are, but cannot explain how in one moment a thing can be alive and yet the next moment, with no clear chemical change, life has ended. If we cannot understand that, then how can our petty human understanding make sense of all of human history and how God works? Yet, interestingly enough, you are hard pressed to find many credible historical reports that don’t corroborate what Scripture says. Human wisdom can’t explain much, but it’s funny how often it runs into God’s truth. The question is, will it really deny that truth just because it demands more? If God came down to earth and proved himself to people with signs and miracles, would they believe him? Oh, he did, and yet… Well, I’ll say it again – question the assumptions that say that we can understand everything. Faith is about recognizing the limits of our human understanding and trusting the God who has already proven himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

    • Jacob W says:

      “Reason, logic, research, human wisdom… yet, we don’t even understand life.”

      This is a gross underestimation of what humans currently understand about biology. How would you compare what we knew about biology 700 years ago to what we currently know? Would you view it as an improvement? You make it seem like since we don’t know everything we don’t know anything.

      “Science can tell us what the signs of life are, but cannot explain how in one moment a thing can be alive and yet the next moment, with no clear chemical change, life has ended.”

      I’m confused, do you understand the chemical composition of your body before and after death? It is the breakdown (clear change) of the biochemical continuity of your cells.

      “If we cannot understand that, then how can our petty human understanding make sense of all of human history and how God works?”

      Why do you trust your petty human understanding when it comes to extraordinary supernatural explanations, but not when it comes to completely natural explanations using the scientific method?

      “Yet, interestingly enough, you are hard pressed to find many credible historical reports that don’t corroborate what Scripture says. Human wisdom can’t explain much, but it’s funny how often it runs into God’s truth. The question is, will it really deny that truth just because it demands more?”

      I would like to know what these corroborate sources are, please. human wisdom is all we have to develop rational explanations, supernatural explanations always require more explanation than they provide.

      “If God came down to earth and proved himself to people with signs and miracles, would they believe him?”
      How many miracles have you personally witnessed?

      “…question the assumptions that say that we can understand everything.”

      Why don’t you question the assumption of original sin and substitutional atonement. Why do you believe you are born a slave because of your ancestor’s transgressions?

      “Faith is about recognizing the limits of our human understanding and trusting the God who has already proven himself in the person of Jesus Christ.”

      Faith is about giving up on natural explanations and putting artificial limits on what humans are capable of understanding about the universe. Do you think faith healing is more reliable than modern medicine?
      faith is about

  4. Jacob W says:

    Steve,
    How do you figure atheism requires faith? Do you need faith that bigfoot or the lochness monster doesn’t exist, or is it just more reasonable to withhold belief until there is demonstrable proof of their existence? Why are you an atheist towards every god accept your personal version? Aren’t you afraid of Muslim or Mormon hell?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s