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. LFP2012


    Jesus wouldn't exist without the Bible, right? But how do you know that the Bible is true instead of the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Quran, Sunnah, Nahjul Balagha, Avesta, Vedas, Upanisahds, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Tantras, Sutras, Vachanas, Adi Granth, Purvas, Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; Anupreksa; Samadhishataka of Pujyapada; Tattvarthasutra of Umasvati, Tattvarthasutra, Pali Tripitaka, Jataka, Visuddimagga, Tripitaka, Lotus Sutra, Garland Sutra, Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Mencius, Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, K-oki, Ofudesaki, Mikagura-uta, Michi-no-Shiori, Johrei, Goseigen, Netarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Chun Boo Kyung, Kitab-i-Iqan, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Book of Mormon, Dianetics, or Revelation X?

    Belief in Jesus is so provincial and simplistic and convenient. These myths may have served a purpose at one time, during the pre-scientific childhood of our species, when stories of magical beings provided comfort. But in 2013, there is just no argument.

    July 22, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • Josh

      In what religion does God look for man? In what religious book that you listed does a God love his creation so much that he died so they did not have to go to Hell, or take personal interest in His creation? Christianity is the only one that has that.

      July 22, 2013 at 1:13 am |
      • Observer


        In what other religion does their god destroy almost the entire population except for 8 people?

        July 22, 2013 at 1:32 am |
      • Larry Homes

        Somehow, an immortal being temporarily assuming a human form for the sole purpose of making a show of dying doesn't impress me any more than my son sacrificing a "life" in a video game.

        July 22, 2013 at 1:38 am |
  2. J. Alejandro Amoros

    "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."

    An effort, tried before, to have a secular Christ. He really is not modeling after Jesus, the "the illiterate, marginal Jew", but remodeling Christ. For effects, and claims, it might be the same to model one's self after Che Guevara, or Obama, at least they were not illiterate (maybe even Robin Hood). LOL

    July 22, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • J. Alejandro Amoros

      At least this doesn't deny the historicity of Jesus, which is one extreme that some neo-atheists go to.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:44 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        Extreme ? You can't prove he ever existed.
        Dr, Richard Carrier is a LOT more knowledgeable than you, and he doesn't think it's extreme. Where is your PhD from ?

        July 22, 2013 at 1:28 am |

    Jesus is God. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit also God. God the father is the creator and all he does he does for his glory. I pray , yes I speak to God the Father and I believe he hears me. Why? I have recieved grace from the Word , another name for Jesus. You either have it or you don't. I have it.

    July 22, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • Larry Homes

      Can you prove any of this?

      July 22, 2013 at 1:31 am |
    • fintastic

      What you "have" is delusion.

      July 23, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • G to the T

      I had faith for decades and now I don't. Did God take back his gift to me?

      July 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  4. devin

    Something we can all agree upon: No other individual in human history has had more time and energy spent on denying and refuting who he claimed to be. I find this fact in and of itself, curious.

    July 22, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • Jeff

      Just evidence that human intelligence isn't as advanced as we think it is.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Harry

      Too bad that Jesus isn't the individual most universally accepted as who he claimed to be, eh?

      July 22, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  5. Jeff

    God is a myth, Jesus was a cult leader, and Christians are delusional.

    July 22, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Thomas

      so says, "Jeff".

      July 22, 2013 at 12:57 am |
  6. kristian

    the book, which is for sale, the person who was rather inquisitive rather than truly finding God, the migration to America and finding a new environment which is a very likely cause of psychological trauma...these facts about the author have some real interest to a psychologist as they are links to the absurd statements and diabolical views of the author about Christians, people have been Christians for thousands of years, men of highest reasoning, genius, scholars, old men, wise men, still widely they accept and respect the christian faith...now the subject of this book suggests itself, it needs to sell out at the expense of Christians faith and end up the author with more money in his pocket and more confusion to the illiterate public.....

    July 22, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • Harry

      Many people of highest reasoning, including genius, scholars, and wise people have been Hindus a lot longer than people have been Christians. Same goes for Buddhists, Taoists, and, lets not forget, Jews.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  7. Am I The Only One Who Thinks This Way?

    After being raised with a Christian faith steeped in dogma and ritual (Catholicism) and traveling overseas to Islamic middle-eastern locations for periods of my upbringing, I have formed the logical deducuction that Jesus was an admirable person with valuable compassion and wisdom. However, he did not rise from the dead. My observations are that many people want to embrace and promote the moral, noble truths of their religion so ardently that they, either willfully or subconsciously, make false embellishments to achieve their end. When I consider how many observers and authors contributed to the revered canonical texts, knowing human nature, I simply have to believe that much has been ascribed to Jesus that he simply did not say or do.

    Nonetheless, if I take the moral teachings of Jesus, and disregard the miracles and such, I still have much admiration and inspiration to "love my neighbor." Jesus the philosopher is still of great significance. If we could deal in the realm of the natural and physical universe, yet still share discourse on the moral and ethical principles Jesus championed, we all would be in heaven on earth... Created by ourselves.

    I feel like no one has my point of view as the religious adhere to dogma holding "you must believe Christ rose" to benefit from his teachings, and atheists just get disgusted with the history of Christian oppression and disenchanted with the prerequisite of "faith."

    To the hard-and-fast religious folks out there: please don't allow threat to your soul (eternal damnation) prevent your mind from exploring the possible AND the probable. Humankind needs you to start thinking without being in fear for your own soul. When you leave this world there will be 8+ billion people dealing with the consequences of your actions.

    To the atheists: be kind. Ethics are incomplete without the imformed consideration of religion. Be humble... While I agree there is likely no supernatural quality to the histirical man named Jesus, to assert "there is no God" is every bit a position of faith as the alternative. Science will never disprove the existance of god (reference "incompleteness theorem.") So let's not antagonize believers but rather be more forthcoming with your own opinion and what you believe.

    The 'moral truth' will set us all free!

    July 22, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • faith

      After being raised with a Christian faith steeped in dogma and ritual (Catholicism) and traveling overseas to Islamic middle-eastern locations for periods of my upbringing, I have formed the logical deducuction that Jesus was an admirable person with valuable compassion and wisdom.

      unfortunately, you do what many have done. you select portions of scripture and combine them with your personal background and experiences, concluding jesus was cool.

      that would be unsound reasoning regardless, but in light of a speaking donkey, we should all know better than to believe a word of the n.t.

      (god could never force a donkey to talk if he didn't want to. free will)

      July 22, 2013 at 12:22 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        Donkeys have free will ?

        July 22, 2013 at 1:30 am |
        • Greg

          Only the talking one in the Bible did.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:43 am |
  8. Matt Phillips

    When the Romans swept across Europe and gave the pagans a choice between becoming Christians or dying, they appeased them by allowing them to hold onto one of their old god of impregnation myths; thus we have the story of God impregnating a virgin and the son of God being born. The mythology ended up being the central focus. The faith became centered around the concept of forgiveness of sin instead of the concept of trying to think as Jesus thought and do as he did. It seems that somewhere along the line since the near primitive times of the pagans, more people would have gotten the clue that we don't have to believe a make-believe tale to be followers of Jesus, or followers of Christ if that's how we choose to phrase it.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Nope. That's not the origin of the virgin birth myth or the salvation paradigm. It (virgn birth) was attempt to show that a prophesy from Isiah was "fulfilled", and the word "virgin was mistranslated. That's also not the origins of the "salvation" myth. Sorry.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  9. hollerscholar

    Dear Dr. Aslan

    Your position is untenable.

    "Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable."

    – C.S. Lewis

    July 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Nope. Or the followers made claims, and cooked up stuff, and he had nothing to do with it.
      CS Lewis was no scholar of the Bible, and he was no historian.
      He wrote a lot of fantasies tho.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Harry

      He was honestly mistaken.

      The people who wrote the New Testament were mistaken about him, or lied even.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:04 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        Pious fraud was the going thing.
        Paul : "For if the truth of God hath more abounded by my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also adjudged a sinner?"

        July 22, 2013 at 12:10 am |
      • Bill Gilman

        So you think they lied ... and instead of admitting the lie to save their lives, they help to the lie and were put to death .... sure THAT make a whole heap of sense.

        July 22, 2013 at 12:26 am |
        • Harry

          Bill Gilman
          In trying to figure out Jesus's failure to materialize into the messiah they thought him to be, they concocted this whole "died for our sins" thing, and invented a new definition of "messiah". That's how it appears to me. Besides, do you think that all the cult people who killed themselves because of their faith actually had a real handle on the "truth"?

          July 22, 2013 at 1:23 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          The 911 terrorists flew planes into towers, and killed themselves. Believers do crazy things, including killing themselves. Anything for the cult. Yes they would lie if it promoted the belief in the cult.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      Mr. Lewis missed the fourth, more obvious answer: Jesus didn't actually exist.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:32 am |
      • Harry

        Jesus could have existed just as easily as Davy Crockett and Elvis, but I wouldn't believe all the stories out there about any of them.

        July 22, 2013 at 1:26 am |
      • Lotusblossom5

        I am an open minded Christian who has doubts about the miracles, too. Did Jesus really cause the loaves and fish to multiply? Or were others who saw the first give also inspired (conceivably by Jesus' teachings) to give of their food and now everyone was fed? Look at the time from when Jesus was hung on the cross to the time he died. About 6 hours. Most people, from what I understand, took a couple of days to die. The followers were in a rush to get him down because of Passover. Is it possible he might not have been dead? Jesus' body was released into the custody of his followers, he was put into a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimithea.

        My personal belief is that Jesus was a man of great compassion who cared for the sick, the poor, the lame and the outcast. He ministered to those whom society considered unworthy, like women, the Samaritans and those who were disease ridden. Was he the true and literal offspring of God? Was it a virgin birth? Did he walk on water and come back from the dead? I don't know, and really, that doesn't matter to me. I choose to look at how he treated the least of these and believe this speaks with much more volume. I vote for people who treat the least of these the way Jesus did – with compassion and without judgment.

        July 22, 2013 at 2:55 am |
  10. Kindness

    Farming for souls .

    July 21, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  11. Wallpaper Obvious

    Anyone claiming to be a 'religion scholar' should at least know who God is, why he sent his son Jesus Christ of Nazareth to die for others sins that repent, believe him, and do the will of God... but said scholars should in fact, love God and not leave him or call him illiterate. IMHO.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      Obviously you have no clue what Biblical scholarship is all about. It's not about confirming the mistaken notions of believers. What are you ? Like 12 ?

      July 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Mike Gentile

      The bible is man made. It was put together by the monster Constantine in 325ad.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
      • Bill Gilman

        wrong wrong wrong wrong ..... Carbon dating shows pieces of new testament writings dated to the first century.
        And I'm curious ... why would Constantine "invent" a Bible that preached peace and love and mercy and grace. Kinda makes no sense./

        July 22, 2013 at 12:28 am |
        • Harry

          The point is that hundreds of Christian-themed gospels, acts, apocalypses and letters were in circulation during the first few centuries of Christianity. What the Church Fathers actually did was chose only the books that matched their beliefs to form into the New Testament, which is actually opposite to forming your beliefs on what the NT teaches. Who knows? Maybe the truth was tossed out long ago?

          July 22, 2013 at 1:15 am |
        • Mike Gentiel

          Read about the council of Nicaea. I think you will be shocked. Other recommendations, The Bible Fraud and God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:25 am |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Bill you aren't really THAT stupid. Fragments from the 1st Century prove nothing. They could have been assemlbled and re-assembled. And what about all the gospels that were not VOTED into the canon. Hundreds of them. How were they chosen ? 4 winds and 4 pillars of the Earth. THAT was the standard to pick 4. Not "were they authentic". 4 pillars and 4 winds. Then the vote was NON-unanimous.

          July 22, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      The question is who created the system where people have to die for others sins ?
      If that's "just the way it is", then your god didn't create Reality.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Harry

      Why would a scholar begin with such a set view of who Jesus was? What could an academic possibly learn from studying Jesus if they start off with such a preconception? That would be like expecting a cop to honestly investigate a murder when he's already made up his mind who did it beforehand.

      July 22, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  12. bostontola

    A delicious irony is that evolution has optimized our senses and brain together in a way to be hyper sensitive to finding meaning. We find it even when its not there, like when we see things in clouds. There is a huge inventory of illusions scientists have studied extensively.

    The irony is evolution did this to minimize the resources needed to keep us alive, and is the precise thing that lets us sense gods, sprits, etc. that aren't there.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Wallpaper Obvious

      Did you type this in half asleep after just waking up?

      July 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
      • bostontola

        If you want to dispute the claim, try an argument with evidence and logic. Name calling is not very influential.

        July 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        Wallpaper's mommy doesn't know she is playing on the computer.

        July 21, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
    • devin

      Of course you have not one shred of evidence to substantiate these claims. The "extensive study" in this particular realm, is of necessity predicated upon assumption, speculation and conjecture. I thought you all were the quantifiable facts crowd?

      July 22, 2013 at 12:49 am |
      • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

        There are. It's called paradolia. Psychology has studied it a lot. Go get an education please.

        July 22, 2013 at 1:39 am |
  13. Kindness

    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    July 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Thanks for puking up that load of BS!

      July 21, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I find that the more certain a person is that their viewpoint is the correct, and one and only truth, the least likely they are to have any facts or evidence for me to consider the accuracy of their claims. I find that people who claim to know the truth always know that god is on their side and god's will always coincides with their own wishes. Any fool can latch onto the accepted religion of their society and claim that they know god's will and it coincides perfectly with their own will; and that's proven. Most god believers are just worshiping their own ego.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
      • Kindness

        Gods will rarely coincides with my own wishes. Sometimes in hindsight .. I see that adversity is used a a blessing to grow and further trust in christ.

        Love kindness

        July 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god


      July 22, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Harry

      If your experience is so uniquely personal, then how do you know that you're not misinterpreting something else, or just imagining all of it?

      July 22, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  14. Tony

    Reza is covertly peddling the Islamic version of Jesus.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Jenks

      One can't convert? Really? Didn't early Christianity get its converts from Judaism? If Aslan were a Jewish man converting to Christianity, you wouldn't have a complaint, I'd wager.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Davis Reader

      It must be ok for Muslims to lie as long as they lie for the god they worship. Didn't this guy also write a book glorifying Islam?

      July 21, 2013 at 11:36 pm |
      • do not know

        Most people on this board will never read this book or any other written by this individual

        but if he did glorify islam and then is extolling the benfits of being a zealot like his understanding of jesus portrays – then this article is simply another way to point out one of the many race-bairting war-mongers feeding their venom in any way they can to as many as they can in as many ways as they can in this world today.

        it is getting very old and tiresome actually

        July 22, 2013 at 4:35 am |
  15. a sower went forth

    A sower went forth to sow... And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture... Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. Pretty sure this parable of the Christ of God just played out in the article above.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Jenks

      Pretty sure trying to find out about Jesus the man isn't contradictory with believing in Jesus the Christ. Expand your narrow horizon.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
      • a sower went forth

        As an academic exercise, sure you can do that. But, the gospels don't give us that option, and neither did Jesus himself. John's gospel starts to wrap up like this, "These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you will have life through his name." The gospels present Jesus as the Christ or a total fraud. He is God or he was a nutjob. To say he was a good man with a cool philosophy and ignore his divinity may give a person warm fuzzies in this life, but it won't provide any life in the next.

        July 21, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
        • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

          Yup. The gospels were written by believers to remind believers what they already believed. The ultimate circular nonsense.
          What does "the gospels don't give you that option" even mean ? So you must *say* you believe even if you really don't ? .

          July 22, 2013 at 12:08 am |
        • thoughts

          sower why do you think jesus is depicted in many portrayals of him as a man with a halo (aura) around his head holding his hands in an indian yoga based hand mutra – check out pictures of that and contemplate further on the meaning of christ if you want to understand the gospel of christ in a more realistic – useful – sustainable – and rational – logical – and well studied, practiced, and increasingly taught in the west manner

          July 22, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      No need to just be "pretty sure." Use faith and be 100% certain. That's what it's for.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Maybe if you're god provided some evidence of his existence people wouldn't "fall away". The parable is as ridiculous as the assertion of his existence.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
      • Edweird69

        oops..."your god"...not "you're god"

        July 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
        • devin

          That Dippy dude just had a big sigh of relief.

          July 22, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      @a sower,

      Sounds like a very unskilled, haphazard, wasteful farmer...

      July 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  16. tony calderon

    This book is definitely helping and clarifying so much for me. The famous biblical places, towns, cities
    temples, etc.—things and places from the scriptures mentioned in the Catholic services I grew up in.
    I especially appreciate the "historical" references coming from Mr. Aslan's research. Gees, with so
    many upheavals in Palestine during the 1st century, it a wonder any living person, let alone Jewish person,
    remains alive! Love the book, thanks so much!

    July 21, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Reality

      Most if not all of Aslan's book is "old hat". Hopefully, he gave proper references in his book. For those who have not purchased his book, save your money, most of the information is free on the Internet as noted below:

      From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

      Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

      Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

      There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

      See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

      From ask.com,

      "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

      Then there are these scriptural references:

      Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

      Added suggested readings:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.

      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.
      14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
      15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus:
      16. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/
      17. Diseases in the Bible:
      18. Religion on Line (6000 articles on the history of religion, churches, theologies,
      theologians, ethics, etc.
      19. The Jesus Seminarians and their search for NT authenticity:
      20. The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgateway.com/
      21. Writing the New Testament- existing copies, oral tradition etc.
      22. The Search for the Historic Jesus by the Jesus Seminarians:
      23. Jesus Decoded by Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco (Da Vinci Code review)jesusdecoded.com/introduction.php
      24. JD Crossan's scriptural references for his book the Historical Jesus separated into time periods: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf
      25. JD Crossan's conclusions about the authencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the conclusions of other NT exegetes in the last 200 years:
      26. Common Sayings from Thomas's Gospel and the Q Gospel: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan3.rtf
      27. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books by t-itle with the complete translated work in English :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html
      28. Luke and Josephus- was there a connection?
      29. NT and beyond time line:
      30. St. Paul's Time line with discussion of important events:
      31. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD Crossan's books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be found on-line at Google Books.
      32. Father Edward Schillebeeckx's words of wisdom as found in his books.
      33. The books of the following : Professors Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and Bishop NT Wright.
      34. Father Raymond Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY, 1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.
      35. Luke Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus

      July 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
      • Jenks

        How would you know if it's old hat if you've never read it, o patronizing one?

        July 21, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • faith

        atheists don't believe and don't refer to the bible because nothing in it is reliable

        July 22, 2013 at 7:57 am |
      • Reality

        Because of the description he gave of his book not only on this blog but on other blogs and social media sites in his attempt to increase book sales and his profits based on the work of many who did the original studies. Not a good example from one who professes to be ethical. And his Muslim beliefs now or in the past add additional question marks as to his motives.

        July 22, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • G to the T

      If you enjoy that – I would recommend Issac Asimov's Historical Guide to the Bible (Old and New Testament). Great for putting all the stories in their proper historical context.

      July 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
  17. Sue60

    I feel sorry for you. You don't get it. You can't pick apart Jesus and take only the parts you like, just as you can't pick apart the bible and choose only what you want to believe. Either it's the Word of God, or it's not.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • Rationalist

      Have you ever spoken in church? I'm willing to bet you have. And yet you're still alive. You're alive today only because the men who attend the same church picked and chose the parts of the Bible that they follow. If they had followed the whole Bible, to the letter, your a s s would have been killed by stoning the first time your opened your pie hole in church.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
      • TheBob

        Exactly right. It's clear Sue60 has never actually read the bible herself. It's astonishing how many people think they're following the bible, yet have clue what it actually says. That's Christianity. lol

        July 21, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
      • DaveLake

        I think Sue60 is agreeing with you.

        July 22, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • Jenks

      I don't think you can make that judgment until you actually read the book, and not base your assumptions on a short article.
      Trying to find out more about Rabbi Jesus may indeed shed some different light on the Gospels.
      It may deepen his faith. Ever consider that? Why is his journey so repugnant to you that you feel he should be the object of pity? I feel sorry for YOU.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Bippy the new lesser to medium level judging squirrel god

      It's not.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  18. Peter

    This guy is more nonsensical than the religion he abandoned. Good grief! If Jesus wasn't the messiah, he certainly isn't worthy of admiration, much less imitation. If not God, then he is either a lying charlatan or a lunatic. At least his evangelical counterparts drew rational conclusions from their irrational premises.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I agree, Christianity is nonsensical. Good call.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
      • Reality

        Some expansion on the previous comments:

        JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

        Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

        Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

        Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

        Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

        So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

        July 21, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
  19. eric

    I'm still waiting for "On the Historicity of Jesus Christ" by Richard Carrier.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  20. Jesus Christ Son of God

    God Damm It. Sunday is almost over, and that means the 10% that was thinking about me today, won't be for another week. If my father had only made every day a Sunday...

    July 21, 2013 at 10:56 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.