Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan is the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. From his Q & A with Christopher John Farley for the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog:

In the book you say that Jesus was “very likely” illiterate, and there’s “no reason to think” he could read or write. But a lot of Biblical scholars disagree. In Luke 4:16, we see Jesus reading. [“And 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 for to read.”] So where do you get that from, saying Jesus is illiterate when in the Bible he is seen reading?

Well, first of all, it may sound shocking to some people, but just because the gospels say something doesn’t mean it’s actually factual. The Gospel of Luke was written 60-70 years after Jesus had died, when Christianity was quintessentially a Roman religion and no longer a Jewish religion and the gospel writers were very interested in making Jesus someone who would appeal to a non-Jewish audience. But the facts of history speak for themselves. And I would say the vast majority of Biblical scholars would agree that the illiteracy rates in Jesus’s world were somewhere around 98 percent. 98 percent of Jesus’s fellow Jews could neither read nor write. The notion that a tekton, as Jesus is referred to in the Bible, a woodworker, which would make him the second-lowest rung on the social ladder in his time just above the slave and the indigent and the beggar, the notion that he would have had any sort of formal education, let alone the kind of education necessary to debate theological points with the scribes and the Pharisees, is difficult to reconcile with what we know of the history of the time.

But examining the broad sweep of historical trends of a particular time doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about an individual person.

It tells you everything about...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue