(Photo: Random House)
A reviewer with a United Kingdom publication has joined the chorus of critics over religious scholar Reza Aslan's controversial book on the life of Jesus.
Stuart Kelly of The Guardian wrote in a review Wednesday that Zealot: The Life And Times of Jesus of Nazareth was "undermined by various facts."
"Aslan simultaneously disparages and relies on the gospels. If a verse fits, he snatches it: if it contradicts his thesis he takes it as proof of the unreliability of the source," wrote Kelly. "When he requires Celsus, the vehement antagonist of Christianity, to be true, he takes his work as such (without ever mentioning we only have Celsus in fragments preserved in Origen's rebuttal); when he wishes it otherwise, Celsus is 'so clearly polemical he cannot be taken seriously'."
Kelly also wrote that there "is an odd intemperance about the tone of this book, with vociferous assertion often replacing argument."
"It seems, in its overstatements and oversights, to yearn for the very kind of furor in which it is now embroiled," concluded Kelly.
Kelly's criticisms of Zealot were preceded by others, including Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University. In a book review published by The Washington Post, Prothero also accused Aslan of "cherry-picking" his evidences from the Bible.
"Like every other scholar with the chutzpah to try to divide the historical Jesus accurately from the Christ of Christian faith, Aslan does a lot of cherry-picking," wrote Prothero.
"More to the point, why credit and emphasize violent passages in the Gospels while discrediting and deemphasizing peaceful ones? Why believe that Jesus really told his disciples, 'If you do not have a sword, go sell your cloak and buy one' (Luke 22:36)? Why the skepticism when it comes to 'love your enemies' (Matthew 5:44)?"
Zealot by Reza Aslan of Aslan Media was released last month. Dubbed by the author to be a biography of Jesus, the work argues that the Nazarene was a violent political messiah whose original failed rebellion was distorted later on by Paul of Tarsus. The author and book gained immense attention after an interview on the Fox News program "Spirited Debate" with Lauren Green went viral online.
In the interview, Green frequently questioned Aslan's purpose in writing a book about Jesus since he is a Muslim.
"I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament and fluency in Biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades who just happens to be a Muslim," responded Aslan.
"I write about Judaism, I write about Hinduism, I write about Christianity, I write about Islam. My job as a scholar of religions with a PhD in the subject is to write about religions, and one of the religions I have written about is the religion launched by Jesus," he said.
Since the Fox interview, sales of Aslan's book have skyrocketed as it reached number two on the New York Times' best sellers list for print and e-book nonfiction on Sunday.