Tag Archives: Religion

The Daily Communiqué – 23 April, 2019 – Pauline Theology

Among my many interests is ancient religion and the intersection with ancient politics.  I regret that there’s not enough time in my lifetime to study this even more deeply.

Karen Armstrong is one of my favorites.  Her book, A History of God led to many other interesting books and articles.  A former Roman Catholic nun, her thoughtful and carefully researched books, are filled with provocative ideas.  Others I’ve read include Muhammad:  A Biography of the Prophet, and Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths.

Then there’s Bart Ehrman, the once born-again Christian, now atheist New Testament scholar at University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill.  Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, blew my socks  clear across the room.  A lot of things I remembered from my youthful days as an Episcopalian made a different kind of sense.  I’ve read many of Ehrman’s books and learned a lot about the history, and politics, of the early Christian church.

Reza Aslan is another author whose work I find important.  I’ve read Zealot twice.  Robin Lane Fox‘s Unauthorized Version: Truth And Fiction in the Bible, Jack Miles, Bishop John Shelby Spong … all important parts of my reading, and library.  Were I so inclined, I could go a few rounds with a street preacher.  I don’t have the energy or time, and arguing with an ideologue only frustrates us both.

All of this to say, LitHub has a fascinating article by Jay Parini about Paul, the founder of the Christian church.  Some of which reinforces what I’ve already learned, and what would upset Evangelicals if they ever bothered to actually learn their history.

Jesus’ last name was not Christ, it was a title.  And in Jesus’ time there were many wandering the desert claiming to be the Messiah.

Jesus was not a Christian, nor did he found the Christian church.  He was Jewish, trying to set Judaism back on the path of rightness.

Jesus was a rabble-rouser and was killed by the Roman authorities because his views interfered with their ability to govern and collect taxes from the Jews.

It was Paul who codified the teachings of Jesus into what is now recognized as the Christian church, long after Jesus died.  Paul traveled the region tirelessly preaching and writing about his interpretation of Jesus’ life.

Parini, like Ehrman, learned Greek (Koine Greek) in order to read the New Testament in the original.  What he found there was different from the popular notions of Christianity and the early church.

“This is astonishing. The whole universe of enlightenment will be found within the individual psyche, or soul … . The Christian message is, in effect, a message of reconciliation between the individual and the universe itself … “

This message, the one of being a part of the larger universe is one that speaks to me more thoroughly than any religious ideology.  And, I’m finding more and more thoughtful people who find resonance in it too.  However we go about making peace with ourselves and the ineffable, it’s important to realize it’s work that must be done in order to survive the chaos that is the world around us.

New to the Stacks: Reza Aslan and Leslie Berlin

No God but God by Reza Aslan
The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin

I’ve read Aslan’s Zealot twice now and decided it was time to read some of his other work.  No god but God by Reza Aslan

The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin

Review: Zealot

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Title: Zealot
Author: Reza Aslan
Published: 2013
ISBN-13: 9781400069224
Publisher: Random House
Twitter: @RezaAslan
What’s Auntie Reading Now? picture

Thank you to the publisher for sending a review copy

Publisher’s blurb:

Zealot yields a fresh perspective on one of the greatest stories ever told even as it affirms the radical and transformative nature of Jesus’ life and mission.

#ReadingIsResistance to conventional wisdom, and “truths” which fly in the face of established facts.

Let me just say I’ve had a tough time writing a meaningful review.  It’s so well-researched and well- written I’m sure a third reading is on the horizon.  Ancient religions and the intersection with politics is a favorite topic, and I’ve read so much over the years it’s hard to not stray into tangents.  The short version, is that I loved Reza Aslan’s Zealot more on the second reading than I did on the first.

Aslan puts the story of Jesus into context of the socio-economic-political-religious times during which he lived and preached.  He frames Jesus as a zealot.  “Zeal implied a strict adherence to the Torah and the Law, a refusal to serve any foreign master – to serve any human master at all – and an uncompromising devotion to the sovereignty of God.”  (p. 40)  In the three years of his ministry, Jesus was plainly, and simply, a rabble rouser.

That’s the Jesus I learned about in church.  He cared for the poor, defied authority and made promises of a kingdom for everyone who believed.  That last one marked him as a failure.  As with any good story, it’s more complex than that.

Aslan cautions, “For every well-attested, heavily researched, and eminently authoritative argument made about the historical Jesus, there is an equally well-attested, equally researched, and equally authoritative argument opposing it.”  (p. xx)

Zealot reflects a methodology towards history and story telling about the world’s most famous character which makes it a great read.  It isn’t about proving faith, it’s about taking an evidence-based approach to discuss why Jesus came to matter so much, and still matters over 2,000 years after his death.  Reza Aslan has done an excellent job of that, and makes me hunger to know even more.

#readingisresistance is a collaboration between readers and book bloggers who believe in the activism of reading; especially in the current political climate. Reading enriches, teaches, and allows us to experience the lives of others. It leads us to understanding. It forces us to confront the hard questions, and asks us to engage with the world in a way which leads to change. Join the resistance, read.