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July 20th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Reza Aslan: Why I write about Jesus

Opinion by Reza Aslan, special to CNN

(CNN) - When I was 15 years old, I found Jesus.

I spent the summer of my sophomore year at an evangelical youth camp in Northern California, a place of timbered fields and boundless blue skies, where, given enough time and stillness and soft-spoken encouragement, one could not help but hear the voice of God.

Amid the man-made lakes and majestic pines my friends and I sang songs, played games and swapped secrets, rollicking in our freedom from the pressures of home and school.

In the evenings, we gathered in a fire-lit assembly hall at the center of the camp. It was there that I heard a remarkable story that would change my life forever.


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 he was nailed to a cross. Though Jesus could have saved himself from that gruesome death, he freely chose to die.

Indeed, 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.

For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, this was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God.

In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable.

After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran.

My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. But, for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God.

That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American.

I do not mean to say that mine was a conversion of convenience. On the contrary, I burned with absolute devotion to my newfound faith.

I was presented with a Jesus who was less “Lord and Savior” than he was a best friend, someone with whom I could have a deep and personal relationship. As a teenager trying to make sense of an indeterminate world I had only just become aware of, this was an invitation I could not refuse.

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.

Yet something unexpected happened in my quest to save the souls of the world.

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.

In college, where I began my formal study of the history of religions, that initial discomfort soon ballooned into full-blown doubts.

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 different hands across thousands of years — left me confused and spiritually unmoored.

And so, like many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying.

I began to rethink the faith and culture of my forefathers, finding in them a deeper, more intimate familiarity than I ever had as a child, the kind that comes from reconnecting with an old friend after many years apart.

Meanwhile, I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text.

Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him.

The Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known became so much more real to me than the detached, unearthly being I had been introduced to in church.

Today, I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.

I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.

I wrote my newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" in order to spread the good news of the Jesus of history with the same fervor that I once applied to spreading the story of the Christ.

Because I am convinced that one can be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian, just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus.

Reza Aslan is a bestselling author and a scholar of religion. This article was adapted from his newest book, "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." The views expressed in this column are Aslan's alone.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (4,311 Responses)
  1. Krhodes

    Dr. Craig on Aslan's statements.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/five-myths-about-jesus

    October 9, 2013 at 12:33 am |
  2. GOOD NEWS

    Why and What I read about Jesus?
    The Jewish Messiah is about to appear!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES

    October 7, 2013 at 4:30 am |
  3. Helorik

    I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. Since I started freelancing over this site, with a little effort I easily make $55 – $85 per/h. I started several months ago, and now my monthly income is around $9k. Here’s my source going1.C0M

    October 7, 2013 at 2:28 am |
  4. Pol Pot

    "Because I am convinced that one can be a devoted follower of Jesus without being a Christian, just as I know that one can be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus."

    I can understand the first part, but just exactly can one be a Christian without being a follower of Jesus?

    October 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • wjshelton

      The last part probably refers to people like Fred Phelps and Terry Jones who, though they call themselves Christians, certainly do not follow Jesus's teachings.

      October 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  5. Jeremy

    To Smeagel4T

    Hypocrisy is a huge issue. As with anything. Your a hypocrite too in some areas of your life. And grace is not an excuse for sin. The apostle Paul wrote: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!" Romans 6:1 (from the Bible)

    To the author of this book: Sob bekher (my wife is a persian christian)
    Jesus claimed he was God and that he was the fulfillment of old testament prophecies.
    1. "I and the Father are one",
    2. "if you know me then you will also know my Father",
    3. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am." and in talking to the jews he says
    4 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me."
    5. Jesus said that he had seen Abraham and that he is eternal: "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'"

    Hundreds of people saw him risen from death and his cowardly disciples suddenly gained a boldness in which they were obedient even to the point of death. That was after the resurrection.

    Therefore, it is plain stupid to reduce Jesus only to "a good teacher." What do you think the Jews and Romans would have thought of that idea?? Nonsense! He is claiming to be Messiah and God, put him to death. Jesus is a either a liar, a crazy person, or truly God incarnate. To say otherwise is to make Jesus into something that he purposely left no room for.

    Jesus of Nazareth is Lord. The Christian Jesus is the only God who serves. He came to earth from Heaven and suffered the human condition and lived a perfect life. All other religions ask something of us. Christianity asks our faith, and then gives us the holy spirit to live holy lives(though we will still sin). Jesus promised the holy spirit would be sent before he died.

    I love you all and please read your Bibles and don't take Reza's word as gospel.

    October 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Biblical Genius

      He was talking about Mohammed, not the holy spirit.

      Just kidding!!! Jesus didn't really exist.

      October 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Keith Grove

      Blah, blah, blah. There is too much blather in this diatribe to refute it item by item is a waste of time so I will limit my comment to one huge LIE.
      Rush Limbaugh has said that if you tell a lie enough times then people believe it to be the truth.
      According to this person "hundreds of people saw JC after he had risen from the dead"
      OH YEH! who says so? How did anyone know that "hundreds saw JC after he had.risen" the society of the time was incredibly PRIMITIVE, no communication, no publications, people who were largely illiterate. So did some reporter ride around from town to village asking people if they had see JC after he had risen? Remember these people did not even have calendars so they almost never knew what the date was let alone recall accurately what they were doing on a particular day. But you are asking us to believe that hundreds of people actually saw JC.
      That is preposterous and YOU KNOW IT.
      JC could not have risen from the dead unless he was not dead in the first place, he may well have been in a state of catalepsy.
      There is NOT ONE IOTA of evidence that anyone saw him, you are simply going on thr writings of someone who was not there who heard a story from someone who was told by someone and on and on.
      There is NO EVIDENCE let alone proof, but you trot out the story as if it is cast iron true, well it is not, it is a fairy tale and nothing else

      October 5, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
      • harleybird

        Seriously? You do know the Jews had a calendar? In fact it is mentioned in the bible many times. Modern Jews still use it to track their festivals so they can celebrate them on the exact date they've been doing for thousands of years. Also, well before any religious leaders got together to canonize the bible books the Jews had already done that with the Hebrew scriptures. So although maybe primitive the writings were well circulated. As far as literacy who's to say? We keep finding primitive writings all the time. People may not have carried books as we do but business and record keeping is as old as man.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
        • Keith

          I did NOT say that calendars did not exist of course they did, what I said (if you had read carefully) was that the common man had no calendar that he could consult or even understand. The chances that a shepherd or a labourer of anyone below the level of a professional person or a priest would know what he was doing on a particular day or week was virtually non-existent.
          You say that the Jewish leaders CANONIZED? the books of the Hebrew scriptures, SO WHAT, before they were canonized they were handed down from mouth to mouth and we all know how accurate that is don't we?
          I notice that you never addressed my question as to how the claim that hundreds of people saw JC after he rose from the dead. Why did you ignore that? perhaps you had an honest moment of thought and asked yourself "he's right how on earth could a claim like that be made". The answer is that there is only one way, someone just made the whole thing up.
          In the same vein how did a figure of 5,000 come up in the fantasy of the 5 fishes and 10 loaves, you know the feeding of the 5,000. WHO COUNTED THEM or was the whole thing just made up?
          As Rush Limbaugh said "tell a lie enough times and people will think it is the truth", that is how your holy books came into being, how on earth can you believe one word that is written down.

          October 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
        • harleybird

          There was no need to address all your issues. Some of them plainly show your ignorance.

          Explain how you cam have calendars and know season and have the Hebrew scriptures written down (The Law was written down) yet you claim most coildnt read? How can you quantify this? Would it be the same way that other writers at the time also mention JC. So at the very least he was real.

          You know you don't have to believe anything you don't want to. But your statements show you really have not clue as to what you are talking about.

          October 7, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
        • Keith

          Excuses, excuses, excuses you just don't want to touch the tough questions do you. The average person living in the time of JC would not know one week from the next, farmers would recognize the change of seasons but the majority would have NO IDEA of what they were doing last week or last year. The priests would tell them when holy days were coming but ask them if they saw JC who had risen from the dead 3 weeks ago and they would have no idea.
          But you still won't address the question of how the claim that "hundreds saw JC after he rose from his bed" can be justified. Remember there was NO mass communication whatsoever, did someone get on his camel and travel around counting those who claim to have seen JC risen, come on ANSWER the question. Stop attacking me to try to divert me, BE HONEST and answer the question. While you're at it I still want to know how the figure of 5,000 was arrived at for the feeding frenzy. There are hundreds of other stories that are just ACCEPTED without any thought to the accuracy of the claims.
          As I keep saying "yell a lie enough times and people will think it is true and that is exactly what has happened with biblical stories. I keep hearing the same old claims that other writers of the period also mention JC. My response is SO WHAT those other writers were merely repeating stories told to them by others who most likely had never seen JC either. You cannot name ONE authentic writer who saw JC and wrote accounts of what JC did and said FIRST HAND. Accounts that are repeated from dubious sources or UNKNOWN sources are worthless. I may not be a scholar but it is obvious that I know a great deal more than you and most importantly I evaluate evidence HONESTLY.
          STOP THE INSULTS.

          October 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
        • harleybird

          No. They had written language for many many years. Don't assume that the common person couldn't read. You just don't know. But Google the history of the bible books. Most were written by people that were there! Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – all first hand knowledge of JC. Other historians spoke about Jesus too. As for over 5000 being fed...that kind of speaks for itself. They saw him perform the miracle. I don't know how they counted but you do know that the Jews were meticulous record keepers (that's why JCs family line is listed in the gospels in the first place. They could check).

          So then say he fed 4000 and not 5000, what difference does it make? Why get tripped up and stuck on these trivial issues?

          Even if millions of people have believed a lie for thousands of years it doesn't make it true. The truth is out there. You just seem to have closed your mind a long time ago.

          My only question, and I don't think it's insulting is,...what's your point?

          (Another point is if you've read the bible like you say then you'd see the irony in our debate. Read Paul's letters. He spoke about people not believing in Jesus and the resurrection. But I'm sure you already knew this.)

          October 8, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • harleybird

      You misunderstand. The scriptures you quote actually show Jesus is God's son. Jesus is not God.

      1. “I and the Father are one”, – Jesus is God's son and this shows that they are in this together.
      2. “if you know me then you will also know my Father” – Again shows he is God's son not God.
      3. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.” – This is a true statement but Lord is not the same as God.

      If Jesus was god then his own statements don't make sense. Just look at the model prayer. If Jesus was God then he is praying to himself? Why not say so in the model prayer? Or why pray at all if he was God but Jesus prayed all the time. Does it make sense for him to pray to himself? No, it does not.

      Read your bible and pray for understanding.

      October 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
      • Keith

        Why pray period, how many times have we heard preachers say that god knows what is in your heart before you say anything. Then the old stand by "god has a plan for each one of us" in which case god has already scripted what you will say every day and in every prayer. this gets more ludicrous the more you think about it.
        Rush Limbaugh said one thing in his life that is true "tell a lie enough times and people will think it is the truth". This exactly how religion has insinuated itself into every one of us, we all know about the feeding of the 5,000 or raising Lazarus from the dead or walking on water. These are all fairy tales but they have been repeated so many times they are accepted a gospel, WHAT AM I SAYING!

        October 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
      • d8135

        Three of those gospel writers did not live at the time of Jesus, so not first hand knowledge. You may want to learn some grammar and spelling, then 'Google' some historical facts before you call someone else ignorant.

        October 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • harleybird

          Not exactly....

          Matthew – A Jew, otherwise known as Levi, who became an apostle of Jesus Christ and the writer of the Gospel bearing his name……. Sometime after the Passover of 31 C.E., Jesus selected the 12 apostles, and Matthew was one of them. (Mr 3:13-19; Lu 6:12-16) Had firsthand knowledge.

          Mark – Source of Information. Ancient tradition indicates that Peter provided the basic information for Mark’s Gospel, and this would agree with the fact that Mark was associated with Peter in Babylon. (1Pe 5:13) According to Origen, Mark composed his Gospel “in accordance with Peter’s instructions.” ….. So Peter had firsthand knowledge and dictated to Mark.

          Luke – Luke had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem at the end of the apostle’s third missionary journey (Ac 21:15-17), he would have been in a good position to trace accurately the things pertaining to Jesus Christ in the very land where the Son of God had carried out his activity. Following Paul’s arrest at Jerusalem and during Paul’s later imprisonment in Caesarea, Luke would have had many opportunities to interview eyewitnesses and to consult written records. So it is reasonable to conclude that the Gospel may have been written at Caesarea sometime during Paul’s confinement there for about two years (c. 56-58 C.E.).—Ac 21:30-33; 23:26-35; 24:27….. So Paul was the one giving Luke the details. Paul had firsthand knowledge.

          John – Writership. Though the book does not name its writer, it has been almost universally acknowledged that it was written by the hand of the apostle John. From the beginning, his writership was not challenged, except by a small group in the second century who objected on the ground that they considered the book’s teachings unorthodox, but not because of any evidence concerning writership. Only since the advent of modern “critical” scholarship has John’s writership been challenged anew.

          The internal evidence that the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, was indeed the writer consists of such an abundance of proofs from various viewpoints that it overwhelms any arguments to the contrary. Only a very limited number of points are mentioned here, but the alert reader, with these in mind, will find a great many more. A few are:

          (1) The writer of the book was evidently a Jew, as is indicated by his familiarity with Jewish opinions.—Joh 1:21; 6:14; 7:40; 12:34.

          (2) He was a native dweller in the land of Palestine, as is indicated by his thorough acquaintance with the country. The details mentioned concerning places named indicate personal knowledge of them. He referred to “Bethany across the Jordan” (Joh 1:28) and ‘Bethany near Jerusalem.’ (11:18) He wrote that there was a garden at the place where Christ was impaled and a new memorial tomb in it (19:41), that Jesus “spoke in the treasury as he was teaching in the temple” (8:20), and that “it was wintertime, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon” (10:22, 23).

          (3) The writer’s own testimony and the factual evidence show that he was an eyewitness. He names individuals who said or did certain things (Joh 1:40; 6:5, 7; 12:21; 14:5, 8, 22; 18:10); he is detailed about the times of events (4:6, 52; 6:16; 13:30; 18:28; 19:14; 20:1; 21:4); he factually designates numbers in his descriptions, doing so unostentatiously.—1:35; 2:6; 4:18; 5:5; 6:9, 19; 19:23; 21:8, 11.

          (4) The writer was an apostle. No one but an apostle could have been eyewitness to so many events associated with Jesus’ ministry; also his intimate knowledge of Jesus’ mind, feelings, and reasons for certain actions reveals that he was one of the party of 12 who accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry. For example, he tells us that Jesus asked Philip a question to test him, “for he himself knew what he was about to do.” (Joh 6:5, 6) Jesus knew “in himself that his disciples were murmuring.” (6:61) He knew “all the things coming upon him.” (18:4) He “groaned in the spirit and became troubled.” (11:33; compare 13:21; 2:24; 4:1, 2; 6:15; 7:1.) The writer was also familiar with the apostles’ thoughts and impressions, some of which were wrong and were corrected later.—2:21, 22; 11:13; 12:16; 13:28; 20:9; 21:4.

          (5) Additionally, the writer is spoken of as “the disciple whom Jesus used to love.” (Joh 21:20, 24) He was evidently one of the three most intimate apostles that Jesus kept nearest to him on several occasions, such as the transfiguration (Mr 9:2) and the time of his anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. (Mt 26:36, 37) Of these three apostles, James is eliminated as the writer because of his being put to death about 44 C.E. by Herod Agrippa I. There is no evidence whatsoever for such an early date for the writing of this Gospel. Peter is ruled out by having his name mentioned alongside “the disciple whom Jesus used to love.”—Joh 21:20, 21.

          Authenticity. The Gospel of John was accepted as canonical by the early Christian congregation. It appears in nearly all the ancient catalogs, being there accepted without query as authentic. The epistles of Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 C.E.) contain clear traces of his use of John’s Gospel, as do also the writings of Justin Martyr a generation later. It is found in all the most important codices of the Christian Greek Scriptures— the Sinaitic, Vatican, Alexandrine, Ephraemi, Bezae, Washington I, and Koridethi codices—as well as in all the early versions. A fragment of this Gospel containing part of John chapter 18 is contained in the John Rylands Papyrus 457 (P52), of the first half of the second century. Also parts of chapters 10 and 11 are found in the Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 1 (P45), and a large part of the whole book is found in the Bodmer Papyrus No. 2 (P66) of the early third century.

          Other writers of the “New Testament”:

          James Writer: James (Jesus’ brother) Place written Jerusalem Year written ~b. 62
          1 Peter Writer: Peter Place Written: Babylon Year Written: ~c. 62-64
          2 Peter Written: Peter Place: Babylon (?) Year: ~c. 64
          1 John Writer: Apostle John Place: Ephesus, or near Year: ~c. 98
          2 John Writer: Apostle John Place: Ephesus, or near Year: ~c. 98
          3 John Writer: Apostle John Place: Ephesus, or near Year: ~c. 98
          Jude Writer: Jude (Jesus’ brother) Place: Palestine (?) Year: ~c. 65
          Revelation Writer: Apostle John Place: Patmos Year: ~c. 96

          So it would appear many with firsthand knowledge actually wrote or guided the ones that wrote books of the bible...

          Have a great day.

          October 15, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • JESUS LOVER

      If we want absolute truth then let's go back to the Bible..

      October 10, 2013 at 12:45 am |
      • Keith

        If we want lies and deception then read that rag the bible.
        If you want TRUTH then read On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

        October 10, 2013 at 2:01 am |
        • Kofi KYEI

          You sounds very ignorant and God forgive you

          October 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
        • keith

          I am far from ignorant and I object strongly to your insult. I do not care if your god forgives me or not I DO NOT FORGIVE YOUR GOD.
          Mankind would be far better off if we started to respect each other and told all the gods to go to hell.

          October 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  6. Pravda

    The author is a Muslim and is claiming that the New Testament is a fraud and that Jesus isn't God. Nothing new from the Islamic camp...

    October 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Youtube - The Origin of Religion

      Religion and Origin[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88GTUXvp-50&w=640&h=390]

      October 3, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  7. truthseeker

    This question of Jesus=God? reminds me of a quote from CS Lewis, the British intellectual author, who was in early life an atheist. Reza Aslan has answered "no." The answer has no in between. If Jesus in not God, he does not save.

    CS Lewis put all of this into perspective:

    “Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.”

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would rather be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

    October 2, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  8. Youtube - The Origin of Religion

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k49dDCSFnk&w=640&h=390]

    October 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  9. mike

    All religions look in the wrong handbaskets . Eternity should be some grand force -but chatting with us? No.

    October 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  10. llatpoh

    Google Reza Aslan tweets and Shaima Alawadi to understand who this "scholar" really is

    October 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • wjshelton

      I know who he is. I have also read his works. Have you?

      October 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  11. kren

    Same reason why western writers write about Islam and Muhammed. Its not like he insulted Jesus, its just his point of view and understanding.

    September 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  12. Lance Aron

    I am a Jew in South Africa from a wealthy Jewish family and followed Jesus 30 years ago and was disowned by my family rToday I an a prosperous businessman and inspirational Christian writer see www,yourstoryunedited.com my book called 2 Billion seconds to live your dream is my story from Rags to riches as my wealthy Jewish brothers disowned me from the family business,

    September 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • wjshelton

      So, what does any of what you write have to do with the article at hand, other than shameless self-promotion?

      September 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • Bruce

        Aslan's book is shameless self promotion, why take issue with a comment in the same genre? Aslan is not a scholar of religion, as he likes to claim, he's a scholar of Islamism. Quite a difference. Aslan is an apologist for Islam in general and the Iranian mullahs in particular.

        October 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
        • wjshelton

          Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, your accusation about Dr. Aslan's academic credentials have been more than refuted and you obviously have not read anything he has written so why don't you do us all a favor by putting a sock in it?

          October 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  13. Smeagel4T

    The best part abut Christians is when they claim that whatever they do doesn't matter because so long as they believe in Jesus then they're "saved". That's great. Torture an innocent child to death, but get a free pass into heaven because you believe in Jesus. Yes, human psychology is completely capable of believing the Jesus while still torturing a child to death. The simpler example are all the drug dealers and Wall Street bankers running around with crosses hanging around their necks. Evangelical Christianity has managed to invent for itself the belief that being truly penitent about your actions doesn't really matter any more. All you have to do is believe in Jesus and you've got a "get out of jail free" card. At least the Catholic Church still tries to wrap the "truly penitent" requirement into the requirement of confession. I'm not advocating for the Catholic Church or pretending that many (most?) Catholics don't perform confession without any real penitence, but at least the CONCEPT of confessing is an effort in the right direction.

    September 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • snotrunningdownhisnose

      i love sambo murdoch Smeagel4T

      September 28, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • snotrunningdownhisnose

      i love sambo murdoch Smeagel4T

      mee 2

      September 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Bull feathers beagle

      September 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • Keith

      Here again cast iron evidence of the fallacy of religion. remember that catholics are sworn to believe that they are actually consuming human flesh and blood during communion. There was a time when failure to swear that you believed in what is known as "TRANSUBSTANTIATION" was punished by BURNING AT THE STAKE.
      YES they would burn you ALIVE, these wonderful god fearing christians.

      September 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Bruce

      This is not what Christians believe. You're deluded.

      October 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
      • Keith

        Several years ago my best friend converted to Catholicism because his intended was catholic. He went to a priest who conducted a series of lessons, when it came to TRANSUBSTANTIATION my friend was shocked and looked the priest in the eye and said "real blood and real flesh you must be joking". The priest replied in an icy voice "real Catholics DO believe that it is REAL blood and REAL FLESH".
        My friend burst out laughing but the priest was hopping mad.
        There was a time when I would have been BURNED AT THE STAKE by saying what I am saying and you have the EFFRONTERY to call ME deluded. You need to examine yourself and your religion BEFORE accusing others of delusion.

        October 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
        • Piwaket

          What country are you in Keith? Where I live there hasn't been a Stake burning in several hundred years. There was a time when my little black cat and I would have been burned at the stake too but again...that's what it was..a time long long long ago.

          October 13, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  14. Smeagel4T

    So sorry Christians, but Jesus was a Jew. The House of Israel (the Jews) remain the chosen people of God, and NOT the Christians.

    September 28, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Part of that is true. The children of Israel are Gods chosen people and he is not done with them. Jesus established a new covanent.

      September 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
      • Bob

        In other words, Robert Brown's "perfect" sky fairy got it wrong the first time and had to do a new convenant to fix his mistakes. Uh huh. Some "god" you've made for yourself there Robert.

        For that matter, Robert, how is it again that your omnipotent sky fairy couldn't do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers? Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there.

        Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
        Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
        http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

        September 28, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
        • Keith

          You are a god, you express common sense and reality very well. it is a shame that these people have been so effectively brain washed by the crooks who run the religious industry.

          September 28, 2013 at 9:03 pm |
        • harleybird

          Wrong. Many times in the greek scriptures it is explained that the original nation of Israel / jews lost gods favor and his protection as his chosen people. Does anyone read the bible? They rejected and killed the messiah and that was the last straw. Not to mention they killed and disregarded many prophets prior. Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would fall but a lot of jewish leaders believed that god would never let that happen yet on 70CE the Roman army destroyed gods chosen holy city.... SO what makes anyone even thing for a sec that the nation of Israel as we know it today has gods favor or is doing his will as his chosen people?

          September 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
        • Keith

          Of course the ancient greeks would know all about this wouldn't they, we should really take note of their deep understanding of the minds of the gods. Yes we should rely on those fabulous guys who bought us one eyed monster, scary women with hair made of snakes and women who sang so beautifully they made sailors crash their ships on rocks.
          These are the guys who really DO know the secrets of the gods.
          Personally I think Mickey Mouse is a more reliable source of information and Minnie may be even better.
          You poor fools.

          September 29, 2013 at 12:37 am |
        • harleybird

          Please tell me you're joking. But...you do know that the part of the bible is called the Hebrew scriptures and another part called the Greek scriptures, right? Has nothing to do with anything other than the language they were written in. So again I pray you are joking because if not this shows how even the basic fundamental things about the bible have escaped you.

          September 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
      • Keith

        You may have been expertly brain washed but you certainly cannot spell, the word is spelled "COVENANT".
        Perhaps you should learn to spell instead of wasting your life learning about this garbage called religion.
        I have always known that religion is just a way in which crooks can take advantage of the weak and lame brained and every time I converse with people like you my conviction is reinforced 1,000%

        September 28, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
      • harleybird

        Nope. Read the whole bible.

        September 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • harleybird

      Of course Jesus was a Jew. It was foretold he would come from David's line. Come on now. Catch up

      September 28, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • lol??

      Sorry corn dog. There was this little matter of divorce .Antichrists aren't chosen. Schofield and the Dispensationalists are frauds. They are part of the great falling away and they ain't gonna fall into heaven.

      BBBbbwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahaha

      September 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  15. Smeagel4T

    Very odd how MEN of THE CHURCH arbitrarily decided to include some writings as part of the Bible, and arbitrarily decided to exclude equivalent writings from the Bible. Just take those writings that support your desired objective and include them. Take those writing that undermine your desired objective and censor them. Then make sure you don't even tell your "followers" about the writings from the same time period that undermine your objective.

    The best part of Catholicism was when it said that Catholics should not even own a copy of the Bible. Catholics could not be trusted to interpret the Bible correctly, and should be left to rely upon their priest to interpret the Bible for them "properly". Talk about being slapped right in the fact and told to not think for yourself.

    September 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Keith

      How is it that people like you and me can see the obvious complicity of the religious industry in fostering these lies yet the faithful can't or won't see it.
      Even when it is staring them in the face they refuse to see how they are being played for fools.

      September 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  16. James Flannagan

    Very good author I have read some of his previous material on Islam.And I too have always enjoyed the story of Jesus and his life growing up. Who he was as a person, demonstrating kindness and forgiveness in the way we all try to be today. And yet what the religion in his name became is an entirely different matter.

    When I think about Jesus the person and what he represented, I think of a striving for peace and happiness for all mankind as well as the judgement of a person based on the content of his character. As an alternative, his teachings could be taken as a personal direct testing of that content and what a person actually is like all the time, not just what they declare themselves to be in public, but yet what happened instead? People in power began using these words to sway communities to their needed conditions so that over time the gospels became something entirely different. Frankly I think neither Jews nor Christians would agree with what Jesus himself sat talking to people about. He did believe in a one God, monotheistic world view however. While I agree more with his social principles than on the old ideas of the universe's creation, nonetheless Jesus the man & idea was a fantastic role model and that probably goes a long way to account for why he became so popular.

    When I think about the religion that claims to represent his word though, I think of dogmatic control created through fear and terror. But that's the case of every organized religion entwined with a state apparatus as in back in the days. (East Roman Empire conversion under Constantine is when it all went really haywire, I think,) There are good and bad in nearly everything.& every religion, from Atheists to Catholics all the way to Buddhists and Islamist's. What's important is if the religion is really improving itself to help humans and all living things in the logic that a God created them, right?

    So in many ways, although it can be rigid at times even today, I use that same point to argue that Christianity as a whole, is relatively much more enlightened and refined today than it ever has been. Now the church will attempt to convert you on the principles of their ideas, not a tortured inquisition! Much more difficult but much more powerful. All in all I don't believe Christianity is the absolute truth of reality but I can appreciate the fact that democracy and social freedom could begin to truly develop under areas of Christian rule. (Even if it was against those ideas for most of the time!) It's a fact of history that is important to consider, maybe a reflection of the man with whom it all began from?
    Dunno but sounds like a good book.

    September 26, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  17. dave

    this is what the Bible says. ( for Jews and Gentiles and everybody) ..For my eyes have seen Your salvation
    31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
    32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
    And the glory of Your people Israel.”
    Luke chapter 2vs.30-32

    About his illiteracy.....
    16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives
    And recovery of sight to the blind,
    To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
    19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
    20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
    About the Romans being at war this is what the Bible says: 8 Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him....... Luke chapter 23 verse 8....... John chapter 18:33-38 says....
    33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.......( I really think that everyone should start studying their Bibles and getting it from the true source before reading any books)

    September 25, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • wjshelton

      Dave, you seem to have missed the point that there are among those commenting here, myself including, who are not Christians. Your quoting the Christian Bible will no more convince me than my quoting the Qur'an or the Upanishads would convince you. Please descend from your self-righteous indignation and take the time to read what Dr. Aslan actually wrote with an open mind. You will find that he greatly admires this Jesus of Nazareth you keep on blithering about. His Jesus, however, is SO much more believable than the one you present in your nearly incoherent ramblings.

      September 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
  18. dave

    Wow interesting....I hope nobody uses this as credible truth as to who Jesus is ...which is Jesus of Nazareth....who is Jesus the Christ .....who is actually all throughout the Bible from Genesis to revelation...Mr aslan I could if you would like give you Bible studies if you would ever be interested because it sounds like you've read the Bible ....but that's it...read the Bible not studied the Bible and if one is telling people who Jesus really is I hope they had ....studied their Bible which if anybody who picks up this books and thinks this is true about the Jesus, my God yes the one who was born in Nazareth who came to save us from the sins of the world ....has not yet done because one would be able to noticed instantly that you my friend have not studied your Bible so I offer this to you so you understand who Jesus of Nazareth really is ....which is the Christ the Messiah who came for both Jew and Greeks the gentiles and Gods chosen who rejected Him and was not at war with romans or its leaders but died to save them and you so email me (I hope you read you comments) at kelleykoowipp01@gmail.com Jesus has something to show you

    September 25, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • wjshelton

      You are so wrong in so many ways it is difficult to know where to start. Okay, how about this one? Can you read the Gospels as they were originally recorded in Greek? Dr. Aslan can. I rest my case.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:03 am |
      • dave

        Yes I can I have taken my ancient Greek studies

        September 25, 2013 at 9:55 am |
        • wjshelton

          Okay, since you have "taken [your] Ancient Greek studies", what are your other bonafides?

          September 25, 2013 at 10:28 am |
        • keith

          I have responded to this elsewhere, have you noticed how the sheep try to divert the conversation without adding anything of value. Who cares if anyone can read GREEK the point is did the guy who wrote the greek know what he was talking about. The answer to that is NO, he never met or knew JC and he didn't know anyone who knew or met JC. He got his information from completely UNRELIABLE sources and therefore his writings are WORTHLESS, you don't need to be able to read greek to know that.

          September 25, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • dave

        and ill literate marginal Jew?? people find so many ways to dumb down my Lord and Savior how sad

        September 25, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • wjshelton

          If you truly think that Dr. Aslan has dumbed down "[your] Lord and Savior", then you have obviously not even read the book. Besides, I would questions your 'ill literacy [sic]". At least Dr. Aslan knows how to spell. Now, how about those bonafides?

          September 25, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • keith

      Dave, you are full of hot air as the guy you are writing to. Nobody knows what the character we know of as JC was doing, NOBODY. you can read and study the bible till you are blue in the face and you will get NOWHERE.
      The entire bible is FICTION because NONE OF IT can be verified, Oh you can believe all you like but you have no idea if you are believing in the truth or garbage.
      That is the point with FAITH it is unverifiable. Now I could tell you that I am in fact the reincarnation of JC and I have come back as promised to see what is going on.
      I want you to tell all your friends and then spend the next 6 months on your knees praying to me for forgiveness. DO YOU BELIEVE ME, don't ask for PROOF just have faith, your faith will save you.
      DO YOU BELIEVE ME, I can offer you NO PROOF so you must have faith. The bible says I will return and hear I am.

      September 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  19. worldcares

    Keith, the concept of religion, which evolved from fear of the elements, is what civilized primitive mankind.
    I began studying world religions when I was a teenager. The study of worlld theology and the ancients give us an incite
    as to why world religions has, inevitability, become our ultimate nemesis.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:12 am |
    • Keith

      I am not quite sure which side you are on, your statement that starts "the study of world religion" and ends with the word "nemesis" does not make ANY sense.
      Also the word "incite" should be "insight".

      September 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.