A storm of biblical proportions

Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan’s latest release offers a fresh perspective on Jesus of Nazareth, writes Stephen Jewell
Reza Aslan says he insists on simplifying religious issues and making them accessible to a general audience.
When I first talk to Reza Aslan at his Hollywood Hills home about his controversial new book, Zealot, he warns me that he is on daddy duty for his twin 2-year-old boys.
Subtitled The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Zealot has whipped up a storm of truly biblical proportions in the United States after a Fox News interviewer accused the Iranian-American of promoting a covert Muslim agenda. However, the book was a popular best-seller before his sensational television appearance and has been translated into about 20 different languages.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says, struggling to be heard above his toddlers’ raucous cries. “I’ve received hundreds of emails from Christians, who have told me that reading it has empowered their faith and even made them more devout. It has also been embraced by atheists who have told me it confirmed their previously held positions, so I think any book that brings atheists and Christians together has to have something.”
Born in Tehran, Aslan moved to America as a 7-year-old after the fall of the Shah in 1979. “I didn’t have a religious upbringing,” he recalls. “Growing up in Iran, we were culturally Muslim, although my father was a diehard atheist and always looked at religious people with a little bit of suspicion, which is why we left Iran after the revolution. He didn’t believe the Ayatollah Khomeini had no interest in political power and thought it might be a good idea to leave the country for a little while.
“Of course, that became 30-something years, as it turned out he was right about Khomeini, which he reminds us of all the time.”
While his parents purposefully distanced themselves from their homeland’s traditional Islamic faith, Aslan briefly embraced evangelical Christianity as a 15-year-old after hearing the stories of the Gospel for the first time at a youth camp. Admitting that he now identifies himself as a Muslim “because the language of it makes most sense to me”, he studied religion at Harvard Divinity School before becoming the University of Iowa’s first full-time professor of Islam in 2000.
“I suppose you could say it was a form of teenage rebellion,” he laughs. “My father would say he was flabbergasted that I was going to study religion for a profession. Iranian immigrants to the US either become lawyers, doctors or engineers and I guess he assumed I would take up one of those fields. I also should say he was always unconditionally supportive about the things I’ve done and was obviously very proud of the success I have achieved.”
Aslan first rose to prominence after the publication of his 2006 book No God But God, an Islamic history from a liberal viewpoint. Lambasted by critics for apparently dumbing down his rarefied subject matter, he has always aimed to appeal to a wide audience.
“I’ve been called unserious, an amateur and a dilettante,” he says. “Not because they question my credentials but because of my insistence on simplifying these issues and making them accessible to a general audience, which is often frowned upon in academia.”
Styling Zealot as a biography of Christ, he hopes it shows a personal side to the Jewish preacher-turned-Messiah’s character. “When you write about Jesus, it’s difficult to separate him as a historical figure from the Christological ideas that have arisen around him,” he explains. “I wanted to make it absolutely clear to the reader that this is not a book about Christianity because Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. This is a book about a man who lived 2000 years ago in a land the Romans designated Palestine, a man who confronted very specific social ills and a very specific set of religious powers. So his teachings and actions have to be understood exclusively within the framework of the world and time in which he lived.”

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A storm of biblical proportions

A storm of biblical proportions

By Stephen Jewell

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11134180

 

6:00 AM Saturday Oct 5, 2013

Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan’s latest release offers a fresh perspective on Jesus of Nazareth, writes Stephen Jewell

Reza Aslan says he insists on simplifying religious issues and making them accessible to a general audience.

When I first talk to Reza Aslan at his Hollywood Hills home about his controversial new book, Zealot, he warns me that he is on daddy duty for his twin 2-year-old boys.

Subtitled The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Zealot has whipped up a storm of truly biblical proportions in the United States after a Fox News interviewer accused the Iranian-American of promoting a covert Muslim agenda. However, the book was a popular best-seller before his sensational television appearance and has been translated into about 20 different languages.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says, struggling to be heard above his toddlers’ raucous cries. “I’ve received hundreds of emails from Christians, who have told me that reading it has empowered their faith and even made them more devout. It has also been embraced by atheists who have told me it confirmed their previously held positions, so I think any book that brings atheists and Christians together has to have something.”

Born in Tehran, Aslan moved to America as a 7-year-old after the fall of the Shah in 1979. “I didn’t have a religious upbringing,” he recalls. “Growing up in Iran, we were culturally Muslim, although my father was a diehard atheist and always looked at religious people with a little bit of suspicion, which is why we left Iran after the revolution. He didn’t believe the Ayatollah Khomeini had no interest in political power and thought it might be a good idea to leave the country for a little while.

“Of course, that became 30-something years, as it turned out he was right about Khomeini, which he reminds us of all the time.”

While his parents purposefully distanced themselves from their homeland’s traditional Islamic faith, Aslan briefly embraced evangelical Christianity as a 15-year-old after hearing the stories of the Gospel for the first time at a youth camp. Admitting that he now identifies himself as a Muslim “because the language of it makes most sense to me”, he studied religion at Harvard Divinity School before becoming the University of Iowa’s first full-time professor of Islam in 2000.

“I suppose you could say it was a form of teenage rebellion,” he laughs. “My father would say he was flabbergasted that I was going to study religion for a profession. Iranian immigrants to the US either become lawyers, doctors or engineers and I guess he assumed I would take up one of those fields. I also should say he was always unconditionally supportive about the things I’ve done and was obviously very proud of the success I have achieved.”

Aslan first rose to prominence after the publication of his 2006 book No God But God, an Islamic history from a liberal viewpoint. Lambasted by critics for apparently dumbing down his rarefied subject matter, he has always aimed to appeal to a wide audience.

“I’ve been called unserious, an amateur and a dilettante,” he says. “Not because they question my credentials but because of my insistence on simplifying these issues and making them accessible to a general audience, which is often frowned upon in academia.”

Styling Zealot as a biography of Christ, he hopes it shows a personal side to the Jewish preacher-turned-Messiah’s character. “When you write about Jesus, it’s difficult to separate him as a historical figure from the Christological ideas that have arisen around him,” he explains. “I wanted to make it absolutely clear to the reader that this is not a book about Christianity because Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. This is a book about a man who lived 2000 years ago in a land the Romans designated Palestine, a man who confronted very specific social ills and a very specific set of religious powers. So his teachings and actions have to be understood exclusively within the framework of the world and time in which he lived.”

Aslan believes it is the book’s down-to-earth approach that has struck a chord with so many people. “It’s partly to do with how the core of Christianity is that Jesus is both God and man,” he says. “But the man part of his identity gets subsumed in church as you mostly hear about the God part of him. Even when you do hear about Jesus as a man, there is a kind of safety net to some of the stories. After all, no matter how difficult his trials and tribulations were, in the end he is still God and that therefore provides a little bit of an out for some of the things he does. But when you read about Jesus purely as a man living in a particular time and place, the struggles he faced and the powers he confronted become a lot more real.”

However, Aslan admits that Zealot makes for an emotionally loaded title in this day and age.

“The word has a different connotation today than it did in Jesus’ time, when zealotry was a widespread phenomenon,” he says. “Most Jews would have proudly referred to themselves as zealous to the Lord. Indeed, zeal is an actual biblical doctrine referenced in the Hebrew Bible. It relates to a belief in the sole sovereignty of God and a refusal to serve any master, human or not, except God. All the great biblical heroes – the great kings and prophets of old – were known for their zeal and in Jesus’ time being zealous was a point of pride.”

Zealot (Allen and Unwin $36.99) is out now.

From http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11134180

 

 

Author: craig lock

About the Author Craig has a 'passion' for writing books that tell stories about people doing positive things in this often so hard, sometimes unkind world, occasionally cruel, yet always amazing world - true stories that leave the reader feeling uplifted, empowered and hopefully even inspired. https://www.createspace.com/3779691/ and http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005GGMAW4 Craig Lock loves to encourage and empower people to be the best they can possibly be, and to create what they want in life. Craig has learnt plenty from the "school of life" (still "battered and bruised") and also from a few "hard knocks on the head". He is an extensive world traveller (on a "shoestring budget") and failed professional emigrater who has spent most of his lifes savings on airfares. He is still sliding down the razor blade of life on the beautiful undiscovered island that is New Zealand, somewhere near the bottom (rude!) of the world near Antarctica. There he talks to the 60 million sheep! Craig has been involved in the corporate world (life assurance) for over twenty years in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. However, through a strange set of circumstances and finding himself in a small town near the bottom of the world ...and with nothing else to do, he started writing. That was five years ago. Five published books later and having written another twenty manuscripts (on widely differing subjects - well what else is there to do here?)... this is where Craig is in the "journey/adventure" that is life. Craig has taught at the local Polytechnic, as well as running a successful creative writing course (not teaching sheep!). He was the author of (as far as we know) the first creative writing course on the internet Craig has many varied interests and passions. He is particularly interested in the field of psychology – studying the human mind and what makes different people "tick-tock grandfather clock". He is fascinated by the "overlap between psychology and the dimension of spirituality". One of his missions in life is helping people make the most of their hidden potential and so finding their niche in life... so that they are happy. Craig’s various books probably tell more about his rather "eventful" life best (no one could believe it!). He writes books with serious messages and themes, then as a contrast "rather crazy, wacky stuff"…to keep him sane here. As an ‘anonymouse’ person wrote: "All of us are born mad; some of us remain so." Well nothing else much happens in quiet provincial New Zealand, other than headlines like "Golf Ball Thrown at Policeman" (it missed, btw!) and "Beach Toilet Closed for Season.". True! The various books* that Craig “felt inspired to write” are available at ebooks (digital books) http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005GGMAW4 http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=la_B005GGMAW4_sr?rh=i%3Abooks&field-author=Craig+Lock Paperbacks (see https://goldendawnpublishing.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/paperback-writer/ and https://wanttowriteabook.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/paperback-writer-the-beatles/ https://www.createspace.com/pub/simplesitesearch.search.do?sitesearch_query=%22craig+lock%22&sitesearch_type=STORE https://www.amazon.com/Craig-Lock/e/B005GGMAW4/ref=pe_584750_33951330_sr_tc_2_0?qid=1476388259&sr=1-2-ent http://www.creativekiwis.com/index.php/books and http://goo.gl/vTpjk All proceeds go to needy and underprivileged children – MINE! “When the writer is no more , the value of your purchase will soar! “ “Together, one mind, one life (one small step at a time), let’s see how many people (and lives) we can encourage, impact, empower, enrich, uplift and perhaps even inspire to reach their fullest potentials…and strive for and perhaps one sunny day even achieve their wildest dreams.” PPS Don’t worry about the world ending today… as it’s already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand

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