Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reza Aslan's Mispresentation of Jesus

Will I read Reza Aslan's book on Jesus? I doubt it. I've spent a significant portion of my life immersed in Jesus-studies, to include PhD work in the Christology of the Early Church Fathers. Time magazine's "10 Questions" interview with Aslan tells me I won't have an interest his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Here's how the interview begins.
Your book Zealot is about Jesus. Why write about such a well-studied historical figure?
My biography of Jesus is probably the first popular biography that does not use the New Testament as its primary source material. My primary source material is 1st century Palestine, the world in which Jesus lived. 
[Well, this is a sad and frankly ignorant choice for Aslan to make. The New Testament documents ARE the primary source material. Which of course includes socio-rhetorical and socio-cultural studies to understand the texts.]
Isn't that like trying to write a biography of Barack Obama by writing about 1960s Hawaii?
The New Testament is not a historical document. It was written by communities of faith many years after the events that they describe. So the historian has no choice but to try to cull as much information as possible from the world in which he lived.
[Another bad choice, right out of the early 20th-century ideas of Albert Schweitzer. Of course the New Testament is a historical document. And, BTW, all history is written after the fact.]