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Book Reviews: January/February 2014

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

By Resa Aslan
Random House, 296 pp; $27

In Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Reza Aslan argues that Jesus was an apocalyptic messianic figure who believed that God was soon to intervene with violence to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. He further argues that Paul, the most significant shaper of early Christian tradition, along with most of the rest of the New Testament books, sought to hide this Jesus and turn him into one who had nothing to say about worldly political and economic issues. Jesus’ Kingdom “was not of this world.” Aslan writes that the books of the New Testament sought to distance themselves from the Jewish struggle to free Israel from the Roman occupation “by erasing, as much as possible, any hint of radicalism or violence, revolution or zealotry, from the story of Jesus” (149). In this, Aslan disagrees with others currently working in examining the Jesus in the Gospels and Paul’s writings, such as John Dominc Crossan and Richard Horsley. These scholars argue that while Jesus was certainly zealous and a revolutionary, he was nonviolent and believed that the Kingdom was present and that the disciples were charged to go and build this kingdom in the here and now. Aslan does agree that Jesus was not “a violent revolutionary, bent on armed rebellion” (79). Where he differs with these other scholars is in arguing that Jesus awaited God’s wrathful intervention to throw out the Roman oppressors and the Jewish elite collaborators. It would make a fine adult study class to read these books that wrestle with what we can discern about Jesus and early Christianity. More vitally, as Crossan poses the question: “Is your God violent or nonviolent?” I would add: “Is your God present on earth or somewhere else?”

Lonnie Valentine
Richmond, Indiana

Yeshu: A Novel for the Open Hearted

By Charles David Kleymeyer
Quaker Heron Press, 2013, 600 pp; $22.95

What do you do when you can’t find a book about Jesus that would capture your teenager’s imagination and interest? You write your own. That is what Charles (Chuck) Kleymeyer has been doing for the last 29 years. Those teenagers are now in their 40’s while another sibling is approaching her teen years.

Yeshu, a Hebrew name reserved for Jesus of Nazareth, is a Midrash, a method of interpreting Biblical stories that fills in the gaps that are only hinted at in the sacred text.

The story of Yeshu’s life is told to us by Daavi, the young neighbor of the carpenter Yeshu. Daavi spends hours in Yeshu’s carpentry shop and travels with him throughout Galilee during his ministry years. In the post resurrection years Daavi has his own wilderness experience as he struggles to understand Yeshu’s life and death.

And from beginning to end . . .
and end to beginning,
I know that I love Yeshu
And Yeshu loves me. Pg. 582

Each chapter in Yeshu is a story that can stand alone or be read as a continuous narrative of Jesus’ early life, ministry, death and resurrection. I was deeply moved by the nature oriented word pictures illustrating our human experiences and Daavi’s spiritual journey as he discovers the inward dwelling Christ. I believe you will find this book to be a treasured resource for individuals, families, First Day School and Adult Religious Education programs. For a preview go to

Joan Dyer Liversidge
Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting, Baltimore Yearly Meeting