Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A bestselling book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, is being billed as a scholarly publication, but beware of the fine print! It was written by a devout Muslim.
Writing for Fox News, John S. Dickerson, author and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona, says the new book by Reza Aslan is definitely not a historian’s report on Jesus.
“It is an educated Muslim’s opinion about Jesus — yet the book is being peddled as objective history on national TV and radio,” Dickerson says.
Zealot, which has soared to the number two spot on Amazon, is more like “a fast-paced demolition of the core beliefs that Christianity has taught about Jesus for 2,000 years.”
Its conclusions are long-held Islamic claims, Dickerson writes, “namely, that Jesus was 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’.”
While these claims are not new, especially not among Muslims, the unsuspecting public who watches interviews with Aslan on liberal secular outlets such as NPR and MSNBC are not being told any of these biographical details. As a result, they are likely to buy the book thinking they are getting an unbiased and historic report on Jesus and first century Jewish culture.
“As a journalist and author who is Christian I cannot imagine penning a so-called objective biography of Muhammad and then concealing my conflict of interest in national media interviews,” Dickerson writes.
In the book, Aslan claims that he was born into a family of lukewarm Muslims and enthusiastic atheists. He discovered Jesus at the age of 15. After the Iranian revolution, his family fled to America where “accepting Jesus into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American.”
In spite of his enthusiasm for Jesus, he seems to have never converted to Christianity but remained a Muslim. ” . . . (I)n the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being a spaceman. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.”
During this time, he launched into a study of the Bible and claimed to have been shocked when he discovered it to be full of contradictions. By then, he had entered that quintessentially American anti-Christian academic world where he discovered further discrepancies “between the Jesus of the gospels and the Jesus of history – between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.”
These discoveries led to “two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity” which resulted in making him “a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.”
Knowing this background, it’s no surprise that Aslan’s book is nothing more than a “riveting demolition of Jesus”, Dickerson writes.
Sadly, the book will continue to attract interviews from some reporters who want to see Jesus deconstructed and from others who simply don’t understand that Aslan has a horse in this race.
“He is not an objective observer, but, to use his own word, a zealot, with religious motivation to destroy what Western culture has believed about its central figure for hundreds of years,” Dickerson warns.
“In many ways, this conflict is larger than Christianity and Islam. It is a conflict of Western and Middle Eastern foundations. These are great and important debates that we should welcome, but let’s be honest about our motivations, positions and conflicts of interest as we dialogue.”
He concludes: “Let’s hope reporters in future interviews will, being informed, mention the glaring conflict of interest in this Islamic opinion of Jesus.”
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