Reza Aslan is the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga for the Christian Science Monitor:
Q: What do you mean when you describe Jesus as a zealot?--Marshal Zeringue
A: It implies a radical commitment to the sole sovereignty to God, a refusal to serve any other master other than the master of the universe. It means he's not this pacifist preacher of good works with no concern for the cares of this world. But I don't think that he was some violent revolutionary bent on violence against the state. It's a little more complicated.
Q: It's almost Christmas, and millions upon millions of people will be reflecting on the stories of Jesus's birth. You write that the gospel stories of Jesus's childhood are legend. What do you mean by that?
A: No one knows anything about Jesus's childhood because the childhood of a marginal Jewish peasant from the backwoods of Galilee is of no interest to anybody until he becomes God incarnate.
The purpose of the gospels is to make a theological argument about his status as a descendent of David. They were not written for their factual nature. They were written because they were expressing a deeper truth, one that goes beyond their facts.
Q: Many people reading this will take issue with you because they believe the gospel stories are literally true. What do you say to them?
A: There does not need to be any inherent conflict between faith and history. These are concerned with two totally different issues. The person of faith is...[read on]