Lewis Lapham: Jesus of Nazareth Was Merely One Messiah

"Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," by Reza Aslan. Source: Random House, Inc. via Bloomberg

Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Raised in a humble Jewish home, he saw injustice and poverty living side by side with great wealth and power. He urged people to look toward the Kingdom of God, gathering disciples as he preached. For his pains, he was executed by the rulers of the Holy Land.

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The description fits many men in the first century A.D., as Jesus of Nazareth was just one of a large number of messianic preachers, prophets and outlaws roaming through the Palestine area, riding the waves of discontent created by Roman rule.

There was Hezekiah the bandit chief, Athronges the shepherd boy, Judas the Galilean and John the Baptist. A group of rebels, known as the Sicarii, or Daggermen, killed enemies of God, including Jews who collaborated with the Romans.

Messianic zeal led to a full-scale Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 A.D.

I spoke with Reza Aslan, author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” on the following topics:

1. Two Narratives.

2. Messianic Revolutionary.

3. Jewish Robin Hoods.

4. John the Baptist.

5. Crucifixion.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.