Sunday, August 11, 2013

Issues with the book Zealot - from just the excerpt!

Thanks to a popular YouTube video, many people have now unfortunately heard of the book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  

This is sad, as the author uses the book to present Jesus as just another revolutionary - a violent one at that.  Worse yet, he uses incorrect facts, questionable arguments, and cherry picks information to support his claims.

In fact, one just need read his excerpt to find numerous issues:

  1. "The most widely accepted theory on the formation of the Gospels holds that Mark's [gospel] was written after 70AD."   Not true.  As many, if not more, scholars believe all the Gospels were written before that - if for no other reason than they would have recorded the destruction of the temple in 70AD to show Jesus's prophesy had come true.  In addition, we know that Acts ends around 60AD (and does not mention Paul's death in 65AD - something Luke surely would have done).  Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Luke preceded Acts, which means it would have been written before 65AD.
  2. The author basically claims that because Jesus was crucified (a death reserved for the "crime of sedition") He must have been a zealot and revolutionary.  Also not true.  The Romans had no choice but to crucify Jesus because he did not deny being a King.  That had to be taken as a direct threat to the throne back then, no matter how seriously they believed Him (or the Jewish leaders claims).  It would not have taken angry mobs and a crazy man to lead to that.  In fact, one wonders if Jesus would have made it onto Pilate's list had the Jews not thrust Him there so forcefully.
  3. In addition, he claims that because two other revolutionaries were crucified next to Jesus, Jesus must have been a violent Zealot.  Right.  I can hear them now ... "Wait, Titus, make sure we put all the violent ones next to each other.  We don't want to mix the violent and non-violent revolutionaries when we mindlessly crucify them." 
  4. He claims that the Evangelists do not paint a historical picture of Jesus the man.  This is partially true, but does mean it should be disregarded.   The Evangelists did not write like historians do today.  That wasn't their goal.  Their goal was to write pieces of the overall story to further the teachings of Christ.  So saying they left out many details of the life of Jesus is true.  Tossing them all out because of such is tomfoolery.  
  5. Gnostic gospels proved that "even those that walked with" Jesus had diverging opinions over who He was.  While true that there must have been varying levels of belief, the author leaves out the fact that many of the gnostic "authors" are believed to have used apostles names to lend weight to their own opinions.  Scholars have already poured through these to point out inconsistencies and untruths.  P.S. you cannot throw out the New Testament but then use the Gnostic Gospels in your argument! 
  6. "The problem with pinning down the historical Jesus is that, outside of the New Testament, there is almost no trace of the man."   Isn't this the definition of cherry picking?  Let me get this straight ... aside from the most widespread accounts of Jesus's life, there is almost no record of Him.  Oh, and disregard the fact that He lived in a time and society that relied on the oral word over the written one.  Ok.  Gotcha.
  7. The most ironic part of this excerpt, is that the author states that there are only two hard historical facts - that Jesus was a Jew who led a popular movement, and the Romans crucified him.  IF that were the case, and we agreed to throw out the New Testament because it didn't agree with the author's thinking, then why would this book Zealot be any different?  Why can the author take general information about the time Jesus lived in and come up with a more accurate biography?  Its preposterous!  It would be like someone two thousand years from now writing your biography based on what people in your country generally were like.  Oh, and throwing out your diary, your friend's Facebook posts, and that recommendation your boss gave you since they didn't fit the story.  
Bonus material:  While I have not read the book (and won't, given the glaring errors), my research led me to other folks who pointed out even more inaccuracies and cherry picking.  For example, the author uses New Testament passages where they help him (Jesus was violent because he said "I have come not to bring peace but the sword") but not when they hurt his argument (eg, Jesus stopping Peter from using his sword in Gethsemane).  The author also claims Mark does not mention the Resurrection (I guess Mark 16:6 "He has risen" could be confusing) and that Luke does not refer to Paul as an Apostle (I can see how Acts 14:14 "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this ..." might be unclear).

It is sad that the author believes this method of research is accurate for defining who Jesus was.  It is even sadder that many will read this and rethink their faith.

Thus, I end this post with a prayer, and I ask you to join me.  I pray that the author will find the true Jesus, and that the readers of his book will use the errors and blatant twisting of information to become even more ardent supporters of Christ.

God Bless.