Published: Random House, 07/16/2013
The fires of controversy were apparent sparked by a series of articles written by conservative pastors and thinkers, who took offense at what they perceived to be Aslan's bias against Christianity. Aslan has now become a religious/political football for both the right- and left-leaning media, frequently to the point of obscuring the book's actual content, which is a shame, because it seems quite fascinating. I haven't managed to read Zealot just yet (I do, occasionally, have to meet basic human needs) but I have read and heard enough about it to put it at the top of my reading list.
For the curious, I recommend the pre-Fox News-incident interview conducted with the author on NPR's Fresh Air program. Aslan retraces his formative years with host Terry Gross, and does, in fact, explain why he is so interested in Christianity and the historical Jesus Christ. More importantly, perhaps, he explains some of the finer points of his book's thesis, which involves reinterpreting Jesus as a kind of Jewish freedom fighter: "...that's why if we really want to know who Jesus was and what he meant, we should start not at the beginning of the story — with him in a manger — but at the end of the story, with him on a cross. Because if Jesus was in fact crucified by Rome, he was crucified for sedition. He was crucified because he challenged the Roman occupation."
Regardless of whether you agree with Aslan's interpretation-- there have been scholarly critiques of his central thesis-- I think it's a little bit wonderful that the literary world still inspires such passionate debate. Who's right? I couldn't tell you. But I have an opinion, and I'm glad other people do too.