3/5 – I am going to be completely transparent in that I am not religious at all. That is the perspective I am going into this book with. I’m not well versed in the Bible at all and I know very little of it. This book has a clear bias from the author, as most non-fiction books do, and this is only one point of view. My goal with this review is not to offend anyone’s religion. This book is simply viewing Jesus through a historical perspective and that’s what I found most interesting about it. Even if the book, on the whole, didn’t fully engage me.
The first part of this book is setting the stage for the time and place Jesus lived in. A lot of this part was focused on the area of Judea and Galilee which was under Roman rule at the time. Several who called themselves messiahs had come forth to rid their land of the temples and wealthy priests. They usually did so with violence. One by one they all failed. As someone who doesn’t know a lot about history, this was fascinating to hear. Roman history is very interesting to me as well, and I frankly had no idea the Roman Empire extended that far into the Middle East. I sure did pay attention in history. So to have some background history was helpful moving forward. It was easily the most interesting part to me.
When talking about Jesus, Aslan had to disprove a lot of what the Bible claimed about the figure we know as Jesus Christ. He specifically was focusing on Jesus of Nazareth who was a Jewish peasant that went around Judea spreading his message. He points out that some of the gospels contradict each other and tell different versions of Jesus’s life and story likely because they wrote the gospels after Jesus was crucified. Most, maybe all, had never even met Jesus when he was alive. The focus of this book is to show that there is a disconnect between who Jesus, the man actually was, from the divine figurehead of Christianity. “The memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history” (215). Aslan argues that the man, Jesus of Nazareth is just as compelling a person to believe in and I think it makes him easier to relate to, which may or may not appeal to everyone. However, I find myself drawn more to someone if I can relate to them.
Then there was some history of Paul and of Christianity itself. What I found the most interesting about Paul is how he helped define the religion almost singlehandedly. His version of events is the one that has stood the test of time. It is very interesting the versions of history that end up being the definitive version of events, whether they are true or not. History is all we have in order to look back on the past, but who and how is it decided what becomes the most commonly accepted history. However, by this part of the book, I just wanted to finish it.
All-in-all, I found this book hard to follow at times with all of the different terminology and names, and with my lack of knowledge of the Bible didn’t make it easier. There was a lot of repetition in what he was saying and by the end, I was just trying to get through it. However, I found a few interesting things in this book and I don’t regret reading it. Aslan is a great storyteller, the way he describes certain events occurring was excellent and I think I might read more of his books in the future. Also, he has a soothing audiobook voice.