The Errors of Reza Aslan on Jesus, a long list by John Dickson
How sad that such a mediocre book could get so much publicity. This list comes from this article (HERE) by John Dickson.
Litany of errorsFinally, the list of exaggerations and plain errors in Zealot bear testimony to Aslan's carelessness with concrete history. If this were presented as a work of fiction, there would be no shame in such oversights. But if this were handed in as an essay in an Ancient History Department, it would most likely fail, not just because of the numerous inaccuracies, but because of the disturbing confidence with which they are habitually stated.
- 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.