How Reza Aslan’s Jesus Gives History A Bad Name

  • Aslan repeatedly calls revolutionary leaders of the first century “claimed messiahs,” when this crucial term hardly ever appears in our sources and certainly not in the contexts he is claiming.
  • Aslan pontificates on questions such as Jesus’s literacy (or illiteracy, in his judgment) with a cavalier style that does not represent the complexities involved.
  • He rushes to dismiss some Gospel passages as “fabulous concoctions” while accepting others as “beyond dispute” – and the only rhyme or reason I can detect is whether a passage fits with the story he wishes to tell.
  • He informs us that Mark’s Gospel says “nothing at all about Jesus’s resurrection,” overlooking the plain narrative signals of Mark 14:28 and 16:7.
  • He declares that Mark’s portrayal of Pilate’s prevarication over the execution of Jesus was “concocted” and “patently fictitious.” We are told that this Roman governor never baulked at dispatching Jewish rabble-rousers. This overlooks the widely-discussed evidence that Pilate did precisely this just a few years earlier with some Jewish leaders from Jerusalem.
  • Weirdly, Aslan says in passing that the letters of Paul make up “the bulk of the New Testament.” In fact, they represent only a quarter.
  • He dates the destruction of Sepphoris near Nazareth to the period of the tax rebellion of AD 6, when in fact this city was destroyed by Varus a decade earlier in the troubles following Herod’s death in 4BC.
  • He says that the traditions of John the Baptist were passed around in writing in Hebrew and Aramaic throughout the villages of Judea and Galilee. This is baseless.
  • He claims that Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was from the Hellenistic diaspora (and was therefore liable to fall for the un-Jewish perversion of Jesus’s message he heard in Jerusalem). This is pure invention, and overlooks the fact that many Greek-speaking Jews like Stephen lived in Jerusalem for generations. They even had their own Greek-speaking synagogues.
  • Aslan’s claim that “the disciples were themselves fugitives in Jerusalem, complicit in the sedition that led to Jesus’s execution” is disproven by the complete absence of evidence for any Roman attempt to arrest the followers of Jesus. Indeed, this is one of the reasons specialists remain confident Jesus was never viewed as the leader of a rebel movement.
  • He says a certain Jesus son of Ananias, a prophetic figure who appeared in Jerusalem in the early 60s AD, spoke about the appearance of the “Messiah.” Our sole source (Josephus) says nothing of the sort.
  • Aslan avers that even Luke, a Pauline “sycophant,” avoids calling Paul an “apostle” since only the twelve bear the title that Paul so desperately tried to claim for himself. In fact, Luke happily calls Paul and his colleague Barnabas “apostles” (Acts 14:14). Almost everything Aslan says about Paul and his place in ancient Judaism and Christianity is either wildly exaggerated or plainly false.

—John Dickson, “How Reza Aslan’s Jesus is Giving History A Bad Name” (HT: Denny Burk via Nuntius Humili

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  1. From the sounds of it, Aslan’s work is likely too not much different from JD Crossan, or JH Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus.


    The Jesus they imagine is not much more than a very unsuccessful marxist revolutionary.

  2. Aslan was recently in Seattle at the public library downtown promoting this book. It was free; I almost went but I knew I would be so livid, listening to such fabrications and lies that it might be better to not go.

    It is so hard, nay immeasurably hard if not impossible, for me to pray for the enemies of Christ. I am wretched.

  3. Reza Aslan is NO moderate Muslim, despite outward appearances “notwithstanding” – the supreme irony is that whilst his fellow country-folks back in Iran are leaving Islam at least in heart and have become thoroughly disillusioned with the rule of the ayatollah, this fellow like Tariq Ramadan and others are trying to impress and ingratiate themselves with their Western hosts. These people NEVER learnt their lesson.

    Speaking as someone who lives in a Moslem country (Malaysia), the more educated a Moslem is, there is some tendency for many to also become more fundamentalist in outlook whilst maintaining the outward semblance of contemporaneity. This is nothing more and nothing less than the perverted logic that lies at the heart of the demonic religion itself.

  4. All over the world, Islamic countries have become failed states – unless as in the case of Turkey and Malaysia where the Islamisation aka Arabisation has yet to reach a critical state. The only exception is Saudi Arabia but that’s because it’s a wealthy country and a major supplier of oil and of course the country which hosts Mecca (the pilgrimages) and of course, it is always trying to RE-channel violent dissent, i.e. EXPORT homegrown terrorism to other countries.

    Islamisation is a trap – a non-stop process because you’ll never know if there are other Moslems who are even much MORE extreme and who therefore regard the others as NOT Islamic enough.

    Educated Moslems who want Islamisation NEVER ever learnt the lesson – they are in DENIAL (denial syndrome) and willfully blind to reality …

  5. Janet Mefferd interviewed Darrell Bock on her radio show yesterday (August 13th) during the first half of Hour 1.

    Dr. Bock gave a careful, concise review of Aslan’s book. He also counseled us NOT to focus on the author’s status as a Muslim, or his apostasy from Christianity. We should focus on the content of the book as a rehash of old ideas, and as wild speculation masquerading as scholarship.

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