Zealot: Introduction
Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth.
I have not come to bring peace, but the sword.

[MATTHEW 10: 34]

Author’s Note
When I was fifteen years old, I found Jesus. (Kindle Location 48).

Two thousand years ago, I was told, in an ancient land called Galilee, the God of heaven and earth was born in the form of a helpless child. The child grew into a blameless man. The man became the Christ, the savior of humanity. Through his words and miraculous deeds, he challenged the Jews, who thought they were the chosen of God, and in return the Jews had him nailed to a cross. Though he could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die. His death was the point of it all, for his sacrifice freed us all from the burden of our sins. But the story did not end there, because three days later, he rose again, exalted and divine, so that now, all who believe in him and accept him into their hearts will also never die, but have eternal life. (Kindle Locations 52-58)

The moment I returned home from camp, I began eagerly to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends and family, my neighbors and classmates, with people I’d just met and with strangers on the street: those who heard it gladly, and those who threw it back in my face. (Kindle Locations 70-72)

The more I probed the Bible to arm myself against the doubts of unbelievers, the more distance I discovered between the Jesus of the gospels and the Jesus of history— between Jesus the Christ and Jesus of Nazareth. (Kindle Locations 73-74)
The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant. The sudden realization that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions— just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of hands across thousands of years— left me confused and spiritually unmoored. (Kindle Locations 77-78)

The reader will notice that I rely primarily on the gospel of Mark and the Q material in forming my outline of the story of Jesus. That is because these are the earliest and thus most reliable sources available to us about the life of the Nazarean. (Kindle Locations 100-101)


It is a miracle that we know anything at all about the man called Jesus of Nazareth. (Kindle Locations 109-110)

The problem with pinning down the historical Jesus is that, outside of the New Testament, there is almost no trace of the man who would so permanently alter the course of human history. (Kindle Locations 133-135)

The earliest and most reliable nonbiblical reference to Jesus comes from the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (d. 100 C.E.). (Kindle Locations 135-136)

The passage proves not only that “Jesus, the one they call messiah” probably existed, but that by the year 94 C.E., when the Antiquities was written , he was widely recognized as the founder of a new and enduring movement. (Kindle Locations 143-145)

The first written testimony we have about Jesus of Nazareth comes from the epistles of Paul, an early follower of Jesus who died sometime around 66 C.E. (Paul’s first epistle, 1 Thessalonians, can be dated between 48 and 50 C.E., some two decades after Jesus’s death.) The trouble with Paul, however, is that he displays an extraordinary lack of interest in the historical Jesus. (Kindle Locations 149-152)

Paul may be an excellent source for those interested in the early formation of Christianity, but he is a poor guide for uncovering the historical Jesus. (Kindle Locations 154-155)
Regardless, the gospels are not, nor were they ever meant to be, a historical documentation of Jesus’s life. These are not eyewitness accounts of Jesus’s words and deeds recorded by people who knew him. They are testimonies of faith composed by communities of faith and written many years after the events they describe. Simply put, the gospels tell us about Jesus the Christ, not Jesus the man. (Kindle Locations 159-162)

Two decades after Mark, between 90 and 100 C.E., the authors of Matthew and Luke , working independently of each other and with Mark’s manuscript as a template , updated the gospel story by adding their own unique traditions, including two different and conflicting infancy narratives as well as a series of elaborate resurrection stories to satisfy their Christian readers. (Kindle Locations 172-173)
In the end, there are only two hard historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth upon which we can confidently rely: the first is that Jesus was a Jew who led a popular Jewish movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century C.E.; the second is that Rome crucified him for doing so. (Kindle Locations 185-187)

Indeed, the Jesus that emerges from this historical exercise— a zealous revolutionary swept up, as all Jews of the era were, in the religious and political turmoil of first-century Palestine— bears little resemblance to the image of the gentle shepherd cultivated by the early Christian community. (Kindle Locations 190-192)

Why would the gospel writers go to such lengths to temper the revolutionary nature of Jesus’s message and movement? To answer this question we must first recognize that almost every gospel story written about the life and mission of Jesus of Nazareth was composed after the Jewish rebellion against Rome in 66 C.E. (Kindle Locations 204-206)
Thus began the long process of transforming Jesus from a revolutionary Jewish nationalist into a peaceful spiritual leader with no interest in any earthly matter. That was a Jesus the Romans could accept, and in fact did accept three centuries later when the Roman emperor Flavius Theodosius (d. 395) made the itinerant Jewish preacher’s movement the official religion of the state, and what we now recognize as orthodox Christianity was born. (Kindle Locations 219-222)

If we expose the claims of the gospels to the heat of historical analysis, we can purge the scriptures of their literary and theological flourishes and forge a far more accurate picture of the Jesus of history. (Kindle Locations 237-238)

The Jesus that is uncovered in the process may not be the Jesus we expect; he certainly will not be the Jesus that most modern Christians would recognize. But in the end, he is the only Jesus that we can access by historical means. (Kindle Locations 240-242)
164 B.C.E. The Maccabean Revolt
140 Founding of the Hasmonaean Dynasty
63 Pompey Magnus conquers Jerusalem
37 Herod the Great named King of the Jews
4 Herod the Great dies
4 Revolt of Judas the Galilean
4 B.C.E.–6 C.E.: Jesus of Nazareth born
6 C.E.: Judea officially becomes Roman province
10 Sepphoris becomes first royal seat of Herod Antipas
18 Joseph Caiaphas appointed High Priest
20 Tiberias becomes second royal seat of Herod Antipas
26 Pontius Pilate becomes governor (prefect) in Jerusalem
26– 28 Launch of John the Baptist’s ministry
28– 30 Launch of Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry
30– 33 Death of Jesus of Nazareth
36 Revolt of the Samaritan
37 Conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Paul)
44 Revolt of Theudas
46 Revolt of Jacob and Simon, the sons of Judas the Galilean
48 Paul writes first epistle: 1 Thessalonians
56 Murder of the High Priest Jonathan
56 Paul writes final epistle: Romans
57 Revolt of the Egyptian
62 Death of James, the brother of Jesus
66 Death of Paul and the Apostle Peter in Rome
66 The Jewish Revolt
70 The Destruction of Jerusalem
70– 71 The gospel of Mark written
73 Romans capture Masada
80– 90 The epistle of James written
90– 100 The gospels of Matthew and Luke written
94 Josephus writes the Antiquities
100– 120 The gospel of John written
132 Revolt of Simon son of Kochba
300 The Pseudo-Clementines compiled
313 Emperor Constantine issues Edict of Milan
325 The Council of Nicaea
398 The Council of Hippo Regius