Christians in the United States and around the world have varying images of Jesus, from one who turns the other cheek to one who...

Christians in the United States and around the world have varying images of Jesus, from one who turns the other cheek to one who brings the sword. Reza Aslan, in his highly popular and beautifully written new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Random House, 2013), approaches Jesus by first taking the context in which he lived – first-century Palestine – quite seriously. Aslan argues that Jesus’ time was one awash in a fervent nationalism that is important for understanding the man as well as his message. It is not a book about the Jesus of the Gospels. Indeed it is not even a book about Christianity. Rather, Aslan’s book attempts to grapple with how Jesus understood himself and his role during a volatile period in history. Zealot has shot to the best seller lists in recent weeks, partly due to a controversial interview Reza Aslan gave to Fox News during which he was questioned about why a Muslim would be interested in writing a book about the founder of Christianity. We also talk to Reza about his earlier books, No god but God and How to Win a Cosmic War, as well as his two edited collections, Tablet & Pen and Muslims and Jews in America. We talk to him about growing up Iranian, while pretending to be Mexican, in the United States during the 1980s, about graduate school, about Fox News and Islamophobia, and about writing for a popular audience, being a public intellectual, and the challenges involved with such endeavors.

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