This is the conclusion and summary to my review of Zealot by Reza Aslan. If you don’t want to read through the more in-depth installments, then this post will summarize it for you.
One of the main problems with Aslan’s book is that there’s really nothing new in it. There’s no new scholarship, no real citations, and no strong analytical thinking. It is simply Aslan’s dramatic retelling of what other non-Christians writers have already claimed about Jesus and the early New Testament Church. The book reads like a one-way conversation you’d have with someone who sat next to you on a long plane flight and felt compelled to pour out his thoughts to you.
Another problem is that Aslan, on the one hand, dismisses the Gospel accounts as fake and full of errors. On the other hand, though, he dissects certain parts of the Gospel accounts and attaches huge significance to a particular word or phrase. So, he considers parts of the accounts to be fake and others to be real and has no real criteria to judge the two other than how they fit into his dramatic rendering of Jesus. Anything that fits his pre-conceived narrative is considered reliable, while anything that doesn’t is “not to be believed.”
I would not recommend this book to anyone. If you are a non-Christian and want to read books that attempt to tear down the faith, go read someone like Bart Ehrman. He is wrong in his beliefs, but at least he does some research before coming to the wrong conclusions.
If you are a Christian, someone with doubts, or someone who wants to know what the truth is, I recommend reading books such as:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods
Eusebius: The Church History
The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins
The Christians as the Romans Saw Them
Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Classics)
Or, might I also humbly suggest my own book:
Also, if you’re interested in the more background history that helps put the New Testament in context, then I recommend the following:
New Testament History