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Aspects of Life of Reza Aslan

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Reza Aslan was born in 1972 in Tehran, Iran. He is a producer and actor, known for Rendition (2007), Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and Of Kings and Prophets (2016).

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Reza Aslan claims that Zealot draws on twenty years of “rigorous academic research.” He has indeed read a good deal of significant scholarly literature, some of which he engages in the discursive endnotes. The lack of critical analysis of sources and the periodic historical confusions in his narrative, however, suggest that Zealot is not a historical investigation. The biography at the end of the book explains that his formative training was in fiction and that his academic position is in the teaching of creative writing. His presentation of Jesus’ “life and times” (a modern genre) appears to flow out of just this literary experience. In some chapters he appears to write his “life” of Jesus directly from episodes in the Gospels, somewhat like the nineteenth century lives of Jesus reviewed by Albert Schweitzer a hundred years ago. Every so often, his brief sketches of life in Galilee are reminiscent of the romantic “Galilean idyll” of Ernest Renan’s Vie de Jesu (1863)

In some cases he compares the different gospel accounts of a given incident; more often he collates them, while regularly assuming a “narrative license” to embellish, and often to exaggerate. Periodically he takes (for example) a statement by the distinctively Matthean Jesus or a later memory of the disciples in John as a statement of Jesus.

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In the end, Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad

A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).

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