Alice C. Linsley
Reza Aslan's book Zealot has received a great deal of media attention and no small amount of criticism from both Jewish and Christian scholars. He claims to have studied the question of Jesus' identity for two decades, yet he knows virtually nothing about Jesus' ancestry, the priestly division that resided at Nazareth, and another in Bethlehem of Jesus' birth.
Alsan writes (p. 26) that there is no reference to Nazareth in written records before third century AD. However, Nazareth was the home of the eighteenth priestly division of Happizzez (hapi·TSETS, of Egyptian etymology) and that division had been there for many centuries. In 1962 excavators discovered in the ruins of a Caesarea synagogue a piece of a list of the twenty-four priestly divisions. This third-century AD marble fragment is inscribed with the names of the places where four of the divisions resided, including Nazareth. As the priestly divisions existed before the Jerusalem temple, it is likely that Nazareth was not the obscure settlement that Aslan depicts.
Nazareth is on an ancient trade route that goes north from Egypt through Galilee. In Roman times it was called the "Via Maris" but the route was traveled for many centuries before the Roman presence in Palestine. Another ancient road went from Nazareth to Jerusalem and it was along this road that the priests of Nazareth traveled to the temple to perform their sacred duties when it was their appointed time of service.
Aslan is not a Christian, though he claims in the Introduction to have become a Christian at a youth church camp. Church camp Christianity seems to be all Aslan knows of the person and mission of Jesus.
What does Aslan conclude concerning Jesus and his sense of mission? He concludes that Jesus was an illiterate Galilean peasant who zealously sought to depose the Roman governor of Palestine and become the King of Israel. He portrays Jesus as merely another Galilean zealot, on the order of Judas the Galilean and his sons Jacob and Simon, and his grandson Menahem, all of whom were crucified. His logic seems to be that all these zealots were Galileans and Jesus was a Galilean. Therefore Jesus must be a zealot. Here we have a syllogistic fallacy.
He notes that Jesus was a woodworker, tekton (τέκτων), and writes, "The Romans used the term tekton as slang for any uneducated or illiterate peasant, and Jesus was very likely both" (p. 34). Tekton actually refers to craftsmen in general, for which Galilee was well known, having been under the governance of the kings of Tyre. The population of Galilee was well know for its craftsmanship. It was to their ancestors that David turned for help in the construction of his palace, and Solomon sought their assistance in the construction of the first temple in Jerusalem. The term does not suggest that Jesus was uneducated, illiterate or unskilled. In fact, the wood working caste to which Jesus' earthly father belonged was very ancient and highly respected. It was a Horite caste called adhara (Arabic, meaning "pure ones"). Two especially famous wood workers are mentioned in the Hindu Paranas: Pranadhara and Rajyadhara.
He claims, without evidence, that the majority of people in Palestine regarded Jesus as merely another trickster and exorcist (p. 102). He states that Jesus' parables about the kingdom of God are obfuscations (p. 125). His portrayal of Jesus does not align with the Gospels and with the earliest New Testament writings, Paul's epistles.
The Gospels and Paul’s writings draw on the received tradition concerning Messiah (Christ) as the Son or Seed of God (Gen. 3:15). This was the tradition that they received from Abraham and his Nilo-Saharan ancestors who believed that the Seed of the Creator would be born of a woman of their Horite ruler-priest lines by the overshadowing of the Creator. This was the teaching of the Horim (Horites), the righteous elders, who are called "Houris" in the Qur'an.
Aslan appears to know little about the origins of Messianic expectation and how the Gospel of Mark links that question to the royal house of Tyre. In fact he mentions Tyre only once in the book (p. 128) and in this reference he reveals his ignorance of the Bible. He claims that although the disciples "approached the prosperous ports of Tyre and Sidon, they have refrained from actually entering either." Acts 21 explicitly states that Paul and his fellow disciples entered Tyre where they met with Jesus' disciples and remained with them for seven days. Aslan attempts to portray Paul as a coward who sought to avoid the Roman authorities. However, Acts 21 tells another tale. It was the disciples in Tyre, who filled with the Holy Spirit, warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul was determined to meet with James and all the elders (Acts 21:18).
Aslam seems unaware of anthropological studies that identify the origin of Messianic expectation among Abraham’s Nilo-Saharan ancestors. He never mentions the Nile or Jesus' Horite ancestry. It was there that we encounter the first belief in deified rulers, an idea that the Greeks and Romans borrowed from the ancient Egyptians. Jesus' Horite ancestors expected a deified ruler, the "Son" of God, to be born of their ruler-priests lines, which Jesus was. Aslan asserts (page 237) that the designation of Jesus as “Son of God” at the end of Mark's Gospel was a redaction and implies that this view is inconsistent with Mark's portrayal of Jesus as the Messiah. Yet it is Mark who explicitly states that Jesus' true identity was recognized in Tyre when he visited there.
Study of Jesus' Horite ancestry and the Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern found in the Bible verifies certain historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. First, he was born of the priest lines that can be traced back to Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors. Second, his priest caste were known to be shepherds, and third, he was of royal blood going back to Eden. As a descendant of David, he had royal blood that can be traced through the Horite kings of Tyre. This is a very ancient lineage. God told Ezekiel to "raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created." (Ezekiel 28:11-18)
When we describe Jesus as the "Good Shepherd" or "our Great High Priest" or "the King of Kings" we are not speaking figuratively. He was all of these and more. He was and is the Son of God, and as the Immortal Mortal, the Ancient of Days, he remains these forever.
Related reading: Who is Jesus?; Why Jesus Visited Tyre; The Virgin Mary's Ancestry; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; Which Bethlehem is Jesus' Birthplace?; The Significance of Galilee in Matthew's Gospel; The Priests of Nazareth; David's Royal City; The Royal Priest Lines of Matthew; Shepherd Priests; The Destruction of the Temple: Rabbinic Interpretations; Astonishment