- (Photo: Courtesy of Oliver Parini)
As the world continues to read and debate the merits of a controversial biogrpaphy of Jesus Christ, one professor from a Vermont academic institute will be offering his own scholarly work.
Scheduled to be released in December, Jesus: The Human Face of God, by Middlebury College Professor Jay Parini, will be the first installment of a series of biographies known as the "ICONS Series." In an interview with The Christian Post, Parini explained that he had many reasons for his interest in writing the work, including his longstanding interest in Jesus Christ.
"Mainly, I've been thinking about Jesus for over fifty years – my father was a Baptist minister, and I grew up in an evangelical community," said Parini.
"I still have deep respect for the evangelical tradition and feel, in many ways, close to the Baptist roots of my childhood, although I've been an Episcopalian throughout my adult life, and a regular churchgoer."
This interest in Jesus included studying modern German theology in college and was originally going to take on a different literary genre.
"I had planned to write a novel about Jesus, but when I was approached by James Atlas at Amazon to write a short biography of an iconic figure, my mind went immediately to Jesus," said Parini.
It "Could Not Be More Different"
While Parini's work is still to be released, Resa Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth has become a major bestseller.
Aslan's work gained controversy over its portrayal of Jesus as a violent political messiah whose message of peace was largely derived from distortions created by Paul of Tarsus. Zealot also garnered immense attention via a Fox News interview wherein Lauren Green questioned how a Muslim could write a biography of Jesus.
"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," said Aslan.
"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."
Parini told CP that his book on Jesus "could not be more different" than Aslan's widely read portrayal. "Aslan takes the old-fashioned line of argument, going back to Hermann Reimarus in the late eighteenth century, that Jesus was a zealot – a Jewish revolutionary against Rome," said Parini.
"This seems wholly out of keeping with the major sayings and teaching of Jesus, as put forward in such concrete and orderly detail in the Sermon on the Mount, which is the most important piece of writing in my own life."
Parini added that "Jesus would never have been influential in the lives of billions had he merely been a political revolutionary."
"He spoke out for peaceful nonviolent resistance to evil. I go into that in some detail in my book," said Parini.
"A Million Books Couldn't Contain Him"
If other recent works regarding the life and nature of Jesus are an indicator, Parini's book will likely be a commercial success. In addition to Aslan, Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code became a major bestseller years ago and eventually made into a movie. Then there is the Good Book itself, with the Bible in its various translation being a regular bestseller in the United States and aboard.
Regarding the constant appeal, Parini told CP that he believed it was due to the appeal of Jesus' life and teachings.
"Jesus attracts large numbers of readers because so many people feel moved by his teaching and example, and they want to learn more about him," said Parini.
"He is such a multifaceted figure that it's no surprise that his vastness cannot be contained in a single book. A million books couldn't contain him."