Best-selling book about Jesus sparks media firestorm

Published: Tuesday, July 30 2013 4:00 p.m. MDT

Adam Kirsch, a senior editor at liberal-leaning The New Republic, applauded Aslan for portraying Jesus as a revolutionary in an article Kirsch wrote for the Jewish-centric Tablet Magazine: “To understand Jesus, Aslan argues in ‘Zealot,’ it’s necessary to understand that culture and the zeal that was at its core. Drawing on a well-established body of scholarship, Aslan paints a vivid, accessible portrait of Jesus as a Jewish nationalist, ‘a zealous revolutionary swept up, as all Jews of the era were, in the religious and political turmoil of first-century Palestine.’ He knows that, even now, this idea will come to many Christian readers as a shock: The real Jesus, he writes, ‘bears little resemblance to the image of the gentle shepherd cultivated by the early Christian community.’ … All of this adds up to a coherent and often convincing portrait of who Jesus was and what he wanted. The problem, which Aslan acknowledges though he doesn’t fully address it, is that the Jesus of the Gospels is much more than a Jewish nationalist.”

On the Get Religion website Joe Carter pointed out that, during the infamous Fox News interview, Aslan misstated his credentials with claims like his having a doctorate in history when actually the degree is in sociology. In that vein, Carter chastised the mainstream media for failing to hold Aslan accountable for misstatements concerning his credentials: “Let me clarify why I think the misrepresentation is significant. Aslan is not presenting himself as an ‘amateur historian’ like David McCullough; he is claiming to be an academic historian with a doctorate degree in history. Most academic historians as well as academic sociologists would take offense at the idea that a ‘sociology of religions’ degree and a ‘history of religions’ degree are interchangeable. … Aslan’s book should not be dismissed because it was written by a Muslim. But in making untrue claims about his credentials he raises questions about his credibility. It also raises the question of how often so-called experts and authorities with no real expertise or authority on a subject are presented by New Media outlets as representative ‘scholars.’ Maybe if these journalists spent less time mocking the gaffes of their competitors and more time vetting the so-called ‘experts’ we wouldn’t have to listen to people snicker about the credibility of online media.”

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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