Random House

Press zealotry for Zealot


The anti-Christian beat goes on. Last month I wrote about the extraordinarily fawning reception a well-written but falsehood-filled book, Reza Aslan’s Zealot, was receiving. Ten days later I noted some of the obvious historical errors. But Aslan, using brief television and online appearances with uninformed interviewers (Lauren Green on FoxNews.com was the exception), has smiled all the way to the bank, with Zealot becoming Amazon’s No. 1 best-seller (it now has slipped to the No. 2 spot).

Earlier this month I saw more kiss-ups in secular publications. Some examples:

  • San Francisco Chronicle: “Zealot? A biography of Jesus could have no more provocative title. But it turns out to be the perfect one for Reza Aslan’s unearthing (or should that be un-heavening?) of “the Jesus before Christianity.” As Aslan cogently demonstrates, the real Jesus—the radical Jew who preached, agitated and was executed for his pains—was a far more complex figure than many Christians care to acknowledge.”
  • Los Angeles Review of Books: “Zealot offers a cautionary tale of how everything went wrong with the Jesus movement as the revolutionary zeal of its leader faded in the many tellings of his life and the revision of his message over the decades of bickering following his execution. The worldly leader was reimagined as the creator of the world through the story of his resurrection.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Carefully comparing extra-biblical historical records with the New Testament accounts, Aslan develops a convincing and coherent story of how the Christian church, and in particular Paul, reshaped Christianity’s essence, obscuring the very real man who was Jesus of Nazareth. Compulsively readable and written at a popular level, this superb work is highly recommended.”

But it’s not all bad. Reviewers at two left-of-center publications showed a regard for fact by noticing problems. Washington Post readers could learn that “Aslan is more a storyteller here than a historian. … There isn’t much new here other than Aslan’s slick writing and cinematic sensibilities.”

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

Across the pond, a reviewer in The Guardian of London wrote that “Zealot, to be as kind as possible, trudges down some very well-worn paths; its contribution to studies of Christianity is marginal bordering on negligible; and its breathless style suggests hasty thought.”

Tomorrow, WORLD will run a column by the most thorough critic of Aslan I’ve run across, John S. Dickerson.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Troubling ties

    Under the Clinton State Department, influence from big money…