Baker Academic

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Being Fair to Reza Aslan - Le Donne

What do Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans have in common? Well, other than the fact that they both have never been in my kitchen, they both have a very low opinion of Reza Aslan's book about Jesus: Zealot. According to Ehrman, it is clear that Aslan does not possess the requisite expertise to write such a book. This fact
is both obvious and unfortunate. There are mistakes scattered throughout the book. I’d say 1/3 to 1/2 of the pages in my copy have bright yellow large question marks on them, where (when highlighting) I found factual errors, misstatements, dubious claims, inconsistencies of logic, and so on.
Evans writes that "Zealot is riddled with errors, probable errors, and exaggerations." Ehrman and Evans might seem like Montague and Capulet when juxtaposed in debate, but what insiders know is that they have much more in common than not. Both know the field, have mastered the material, and acknowledge the limits of historical reconstruction. What neither Ehrman nor Evans has done—because they do not have to and because it would be inappropriate to do so—is attempt to discredit Aslan based on his religious investments.

Aslan's odd launch into historical Jesus publishing made it inevitable that his self-identification as a Muslim would be part of the narrative. It could be that he sold more books because of it. But please do not confuse book sales with progress. The ad hominem attacks on Aslan smacked of Islamophobia from the very start and nobody "laughs his way to the bank" when the conversation has devolved into bigotry.

I just recently was made aware of this article by John S. Dickerson. The conversation is dated now, but I couldn't in good conscience say nothing. It seems that both Dr. Keith and I (and the universities that granted us degrees) are used as leverage in Dickerson's article. 

(1) To my knowledge, Dr. Keith has never weighed in on this topic. The article to which Dickerson links is mine. As much as it might help my C.V., Chris and I are not the same person (I've been eating guacamole for years and do not shop at the GAP), nor do we endorse every word written by the other. 

(2) Allow me to state as clearly as I can: Dr. Aslan's religious commitments are not a deficiency. His book betrays other deficiencies, but this is not one of them and has no place in the conversation. Zealot is not more credible because Aslan is a Muslim, neither should it be dismissed because of this fact.



  1. Thanks for this post, Anthony. I agree entirely. And I literally laughed out loud at the Gap statement.

  2. At least you are "actual first century scholars".

    1. The fake ones, and particularly the plastic ones, are always so boring at receptions.