Fox News Doesn’t Get History

Reza Aslan is an American of Iranian descent whose family fled the Iranian Revolution. He’s now a professor of creative writing and a scholar of religious history. He became an evangelical Christian as a teenager, then converted back to the Muslim faith as his studies in religious history undermined the biblical literalism he had accepted as a Christian.

Aslan has now produced a work on the historical Jesus, Zealot: The Life and TImes of Jesus of Nazareth. Rarely has a book by someone other than Rob Bell created such a firestorm before anybody bothered to read it. The primary culprit is Fox News, who are collectively having a hissy fit over the fact that a Muslim is writing about Jesus.

It starts with John Dickerson, who decided to lump all of Fox’s traditional enemies together: Liberal media love new Jesus book ‘Zealot’, fail to mention author is Muslim.

Media reports have introduced Aslan as a “religion scholar” but have failed to mention that he is a devout Muslim.

His book is not a historian’s report on Jesus. It is an educated Muslim’s opinion about Jesus — yet the book is being peddled as objective history on national TV and radio.

First off, Aslan gives his faith story in the author’s note, so he’s hardly playing coy with his readers. During his interview on Fresh Air Terry Gross repeats that story, so NPR – that bastion of middlebrow liberalism – isn’t hiding anything either.

Nevertheless, when Aslan appeared on Fox News to be interview by religion correspondent Lauren Green, the drubbing continued. Richard Bartholomew has the take-away:

Choosing the most egregiously stupid moment is tricky – Green accuses Aslan of failing to “disclose” that he is a Muslim, despite the facts he does so on the second page of his book and that he’s one of the better-known Muslim commentators in the USA; there’s also a bizarre analogy in which she compares Aslan to a Democrat writing a book about Ronald Reagan; but the lowest point I think was this:

You’re quoting yourself as a scholar, and I’ve interviewed scholars who have written books on the Resurrection, on the real Jesus, and who are looking at the same information that you’re saying… to say that your information is somehow different from theirs is really not being honest…

It’s pretty clear that Fox news doesn’t understand historical Jesus scholarship. Or historical scholarship at all for that matter. Green is obviously ignorant of the huge range of opinion even among Christian scholars, and the idea that only Christians should write about Christ undermines the whole enterprise.

What kills me is that Bill O’Reilly will be coming out with Killing Jesus in September. I fully expect the talking heads at Fox to shill for that fact-free dud like their careers depend on it. No one will challenge O’Reilly to explain how a Catholic can write about a Jewish man like Jesus.

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  • busterggi

    Aslan writing about Jesus? Does the ghost of C. S. Lewis know this?

    • bdallmann

      Does that make it an autobiography?

    • Mike De Fleuriot

      do you mean this Aslan?

  • GubbaBumpkin

    He became an evangelical Christian as a teenager, then converted back
    to the Muslim faith as his studies in religious history undermined the
    biblical literalism he had accepted as a Christian.

    Interesting. I just finished reading Why I am not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq, and it is my understanding that Islam requires a certain amount of Biblical literalism, as a number of Bible stories are repeated in the Koran. However, the Koran gets some of these Bible stories terribly wrong, such as confusing Mary the mother of Jesus with Miriam, the sister of Moses. Also, they seem to have been taken from heretical Christian sects.

    • Friend

      Koran is another book of God, it is very normal that you find similarities with the other books,all of these books (Evangil, Tora, Koran..)stem from the same source. You may want to read “Sourat Maryam” in Koran and you will see that the details are not narrated in any other books.

    • Sam

      They don’t confuse Mary with Miriam, the sister of moses, they call her ‘Miriam’ because that’s the best translation of the name ‘Mary’ into arabic. Mary is the english form of ‘Maria’, which is the latin form of the greek names mariam and maria, which in turn are forms of the Hebrew name Miriam and the Judeo-Aramaic variant of this name, Maryām, which is what the mother of Jesus would have been called in her native tongue. So the arabic version of her name probably sounds closer to the original than the english version.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    During his interview on Fresh Air Terry Gross…

    I heard a portion of that, and am not impressed. Aslan takes the existence of Jesus as a historical fact from the New Testament, then acknowledges that the NT does a very poor job of lining up with extra Biblical historical sources, none of which mention Jesus H. Christ. So then Aslan makes up stories about what the historical Jesus must have been like, instead of backtracking and putting the historical existence of Jesus H. Christ in question.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    O Crikey, he cites the crucifixion as “one fundamental fact that is universally agreed upon.”
    I know the topic of your post is that FauxNews made an @$$ of itself in the interview, which is very true, but I am also unimpressed with Aslan and his arguments.

    • Sam

      It is agreed on by most published bible scholars. When Richard Carrier’s book comes out, maybe that will change, but at the moment there’s scholarly consensus that the crucifiction happened.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        That scholarly consensus is remarkably unevidenced.
        Chris Hallquist:

        So first of all, it would be helpful to define be able to use the term “mainstream” with respect to Biblical scholarship, but I have to be a bit careful here. Biblical scholarship is something largely done by seminary professors, or at least people who got their degrees at seminaries…
        The smartest thing I’ve ever read about claims about what the majority of Biblical scholars supposedly believe is Robert M. Price’s point that this is largely going to be a matter of which denominations can afford to produce more Biblical scholars.

  • SoRefined

    I watched this ‘interview’ last night and I think that, for perspective, they could have just cut to me saying “Well I don’t even think there’s any good evidence there was a Jesus, so maybe you like this guy a little more now.”

    I mean, it wouldn’t have to have been me. Anyone who thinks Jesus is pretend would do.