Scholarship lacking

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In the Post-Gazette (Aug. 25) Rebecca Denova, a critical scholar of the Gospels, reviewed Reza Aslan's "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." She indicated that his research was amateurish and outdated. It's not surprising. Mr. Aslan is a professor of creative writing, not a New Testament scholar. His five alleged "myths about Jesus" (Forum, Oct. 6) should be judged accordingly.

For example, Mr. Aslan writes that Jesus wouldn't have been buried in a tomb because victims of crucifixion were left outside to have their bones picked by animals.

He is apparently unaware of a famous archaeological find from 1968, in which the bones of a crucified first-century Jew -- his heel bones still nailed and his legs broken as described in the Gospels -- were unearthed in a tomb in Jerusalem.

His other points are no better. It is no revelation to anyone who has read the New Testament that Jesus had more than 12 disciples, but named just 12 of them apostles.

And while Mr. Aslan from the perspective of 2,000 years later may dismiss the Catholic and Orthodox churches' belief in Mary's perpetual virginity, that is a teaching rooted firmly in the Gospels and the long-standing tradition of the church.

As to the exact birthplace of Jesus and the manner of his trial, scholars have long debated but never disproved what all Christian traditions share: the essential reality of Jesus' birth, trial and death. I would certainly add his resurrection to that list -- a belief in a reality older than the Gospels themselves.

In any case, suffice it to say that Reza Aslan's ignorance about the burial of crucifixion victims shows that he lacks the credentials for a voice in any scholarly debate. His writing is certainly "creative," but his so-called scholarship would embarrass an undergraduate.

Rector and Pastor
St. Paul Cathedral


First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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