Originally published 08/13/2013
Elizabeth Castelli is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion at Barnard College.The “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done,” in which anchor Lauren Green challenged the legitimacy of author Reza Aslan for writing Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, seemed to be popping up everywhere on social media last week. The absurdity of the spectacle was multifold: Why—why?!—would a Muslim want to write about Jesus, Green kept asking, as though a nefarious plot to undermine Christianity were somehow afoot. Meanwhile, Aslan made a show of insisting that he possesses not only the academic credentials and but also the professional duty to do so (“My job as a scholar of religions with a PhD in the subject is to write about religions”). The story was quickly framed as a battle between the right-wing Islamophobes of Fox News and Aslan, the defender of intellectual life and scholarship....
Originally published 08/05/2013
Not every scholarly study of early Christianity rockets to best-seller status thanks to an attack by a belligerent cable-network reporter.But that became the fate last week of Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, just out from Random House in the United States while, in Britain, the Westbourne Press is rushing the book forward from its original August 18 publication date.The fortunes of Zealot offer a cautionary tale for scholars who publish on touchy subjects—or perhaps a primer on how to provoke conservative-media hostility, and then to capitalize on it, even if you're no religious or intellectual radical....
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