Reza Aslan’s, Zealot, has profited greatly from an embarrassing television interview gone viral. But does Aslan’s creative thesis really deliver?
Was Jesus a “Zealot”, a Jewish political revolutionary? According to a new popular book by Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, the answer would be “yes”.
Aslan’s conclusion is in marked contrast with what I wrote on Veracity just last week and before. There I briefly made the case that Jesus offered an alternative between those Jews, like the tax collector, Matthew, who colluded with Rome, and others like Simon the Zealot, who sought to violently eject the Romans from the land. Matthew and Simon joined the group of Jesus’ twelve disciples and were drawn by Jesus’ extra-political claim as being the One who transcends and personally fulfills the messianic hopes and national aspirations of first century Judaism. A less convinced author, Reza Aslan, pretty much casts aside Jesus’ relationship with those like Matthew and places him squarely in the Zealot camp, prior to the formation of a distinct “Zealot party” that dominated Jewish politics during the era of Josephus.
But the Zealot issue is not what has captured the public’s attention about Aslan’s book. Rather, the spark was a recent, combative interview on the FOX television network. The controversy originated over whether or not a Muslim had a right to write a book about Jesus. The case that Aslan was making got lost in a series of ad hominem attacks. Yikes!! Granted, Aslan makes an embarrassingly big deal about how many academic degrees he has (“look how smart I am!”), but might I suggest that the way FOX conducted the interview was not terribly helpful, to put it mildly?
4 Comments | tags: Craig Evans, N.T. Wright, Resa Aslan, Son of Man, veracity, Zealot | posted in Topics
The Harbinger. Popular New York Times Bestseller by pastor Jonathan Cahn. Fact or fiction?
“Have you read The Harbinger?” The wife of the elderly couple in the restaurant asked me with great curiosity and concern. “I am not sure what to think of all of it, but it sounds like a prophetic warning for America!”
Sometimes going out to lunch can get you into trouble. As we were finishing up a meal with some friends and getting ready to leave, this couple at another table wanted to have a “conversation” with me. Well, it was more like a monologue than a dialogue. I was thinking that this would be brief, as my wife and friends had already left the restaurant, but this couple just kept going on and on about this “Harbinger” book, among other topics. I needed a rescue but there was none to be had. My wife was understandably upset, by this time waiting on her crutches outside the restaurant. After I finally left the couple as they were still in mid-sentence, I was sorely rebuked by my wife for leaving her stranded in the parking lot, after she had recently undergone foot surgery. Ouch. I had messed up. Boy, was I in trouble!
But I was not the only one in trouble. As I did a little more research later into The Harbinger, I realized that there are probably a lot more folks in trouble!
You see, I do not have cable TV, so I’m am pretty clueless about what passes for pop culture and the round-the-clock news cycle these days. But apparently, a Messianic Jewish pastor, Jonathan Cahn, has written a blockbuster novel, The Harbinger: the Ancient Mystery that holds the secret of America’s Future. As of late June, 2013, after 75 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list under the paperback trade fiction category, The Harbinger, sat at #19. That is quite remarkable for a book written by an evangelical Christian author.
Now, the book may indeed be a great story if you like that particular genre, mixing non-fiction into primarily a fictional story. The problem is that it is sometimes hard to figure out the line where the non-fiction ends and where the fiction begins.
6 Comments | tags: Acts 17, Isaiah 9, Jonathan Cahn, prophecy, Son of Man, The Harbinger, veracity | posted in Topics
Jonah and the big fish… or small group Bible study leader stumped by a really good question?
So, we had a “mini-crisis” in our small group Bible study recently. We were looking at the question of how Jesus fulfills prophecy in the New Testament. Someone read from Luke 24:45-46:
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead”(ESV)
Then, the question came: “Does anyone have a reference for this prophecy given in the Old Testament?”
Pages started to rattle. Folks were hunting for a cross-reference. Someone looks around the room for a concordance. Others were pulling out their iPhones to ask the “Almighty All-Knowning Google” for the answer. Whew, boy. I was in trouble.
You see, I’m like, uh, the small group leader. Not only that. I got a seminary degree. Yet, I was completely stumped. All that theological mumbo-jumbo and graduate school $$$ and I was busted. I tried to mutter something spiritual and intelligent sounding. It was not really working. Folks were looking at me like, “Nice try, no dice, buddy”. I was thinking that Professor Hagner back in seminary was watching, peering over the top of his glasses down at me. Sweat was pouring down my brow. The room was uncomfortably warm. I was glad I had my day job. Perhaps I could have tried to sneak out the backdoor…. Whoops. That would not have been good…. We were meeting at our house.
OK. I am exaggerating quite a bit. We have a wonderful small group, after all. But it is a great question: Where in the Old Testament do you find the prophecy where Jesus says He will rise again from the dead on the third day? Well, unfortunately, you might be searching a long, long, long time for a specific verse…..
Leave a comment | tags: Donald A. Hagner, Gospel of Luke, Luke 24, prophecy, Son of Man, Typology, veracity | posted in Apologetics
Elizabeth, Queen of England. She represented the aspirations, hopes and dreams of her nation. What insight does this give us in knowing how the Son of Man represents Israel?
Jesus’ self-designated title of Son of Man is a mystery to many. What does Son of Man “represent”?
One of my favorite movies is Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett. What strikes me about the Virgin Queen was that she truly personified England as the up and coming European empire in the 16th century. As she matured over her long forty-four year reign, England grew along with her to become a decisive world power. Elizabeth never simply spoke nor acted on her own. She represented England as a nation. She was not just a queen. She was England.
To “represent” some entity has an interesting etymology. It is derived from a Latin phrase meaning “to present”, or “to symbolize, to be the embodiment of”.
Earlier on Veracity, we explored how Jesus as God’s “Son” lives out the same type of life that the nation of Israel was originally supposed to do as God’s “son” in the Old Testament. Israel was disobedient, but Jesus obediently fulfills what God intended Israel to do. Jesus somehow embodies all of what the nation of Israel is meant to be. How do we clarify what it means to say that Jesus represented Israel?
3 Comments | tags: Daniel 7, Israel, James Dunn, Jesus, John Piper, King of the Jews, Son of Man, veracity | posted in Apologetics
Perplexed by those making predictions in the economy? Likewise, many are perplexed by prophecies in the Old Testament that are cited as being “fulfilled” in the New Testament. Thankfully, there is a useful way of working through these difficulties.
I don’t know about you, but I am terrible when it comes to understanding predictions, particularly when it comes to the stock market. Some say, “buy gold, because it will double in price”. Some say to invest in the stock of company X, etc. All of this is based on supposedly predictive factors. It is like you need a “prophet” if you want to make a “profit”.
However, the best advice I have received is that you should stick with good, sound financial principles learned retrospectively over time and leave the rest to the speculators who have more money than sense in their heads: Diversify your portfolio instead of chasing the latest stock pick, get out of debt, etc., principles like that. Sometimes, the best way we can understand “prophecy” is only when we have the privilege of looking back.
The challenge can be no less different than when it comes to the prophecies of the Old Testament about what we see in the New Testament. Critics sometime charge that Christians misread prophesy in the Hebrew Bible about the coming of Christ. As we continue to look at Jesus as the Son of Man (start here then go to here), we need to step back for a moment and first address the issue of prophecy. This can be a complex topic for sure, but a lot of our problems about Bible prophecy sometimes come from not understanding the importance of looking back for perspective.
1 Comment | tags: Douglas Wilson, Hosea, Joe Rigney, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew 2, Son of Man, theology, Typology, veracity | posted in Apologetics