Story and History

Written by:
Michael D. May

So tell me the story of.

What is a story and what is history Does it matter that we understand the difference I am of the perspective that it is important to distinguish one from the other.

Jesus was likely an impoverished, illiterate Jewish peasant unable to read or write.

Jesus was likely born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.

Jesus was likely born out of wedlock.

Jesus was likely the student of John the Baptist and continued sharing and refining Johns message after John was beheaded.

Jesus was not a pacifist and had a complex relationship toward violence.

Practically every word in the New Testament written about Jesus of Nazareth was by people who did not know him and had never met him.

Those who did know Jesus played little role in the movement built on his story.

There was never any trial of Jesus before Pilate although Pilate may have signed the execution order as a routine matter.

The story of Pauls conversion on the road to Damascus was propagandistic fiction created by Luke or whoever wrote the book of Luke.

Paul had no interest in the actual historical Jesus but invented a new doctrine unrecognizable to the people who actually knew Jesus.

The Apostle Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, engaged in a mutual career-long animosity ending only with the execution of each.

Messiahs were everywhere in First Century Palestine (Hezekiah, Judas, Theudas, Athronges, Simon son of Giora, Simon son of Kochba, the Egyptian, the Samaritan, and many others. Jesus of Nazareth simply had the best long-term marketing program.

The above insights, and many others, can be found sprinkled across the pages of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan.

In personal exploration of the depth issues of life, I am not a big advocate of academic scholarship. Story, poetry, metaphor, physical posturing, music, and many other art forms are generally more appropriate vehicles for delivering me into an encounter with depth. However, Reza Aslan has provided, especially those of us with origins in the West, a special perspective regarding Jesus of Nazareth that perhaps could only arise from disciplined academic scholarship.

For me, the importance of this book is that, for the first time in my life, and at a moment when literalism and fundamentalism have hijacked the depth traditions of the West, Zealot allows the reader to take a very important historical journey into the actual life and times of Jesus. Because of this, Zealot restores the story to story, the myth to myth, and the metaphor to metaphor by providing a proper historical context around Jesus of Nazareth.

By separating actual history from metaphorical poetry, perhaps we can now begin to have some substantive conversation around this rich tradition of depth.

Zealot restores the poetic profound by illuminating the historical profane.

The zeal for Truth flowed abundantly in the hills of First-Century Palestine. May we re-discover and exercise this zeal in our own Twenty-first Century lives.

I recommend the read and the journey.

Aslan, Reza, Zealot the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Random House, New York, NY, 2013.

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