This is not a book review because I have not yet read Reza Aslan’s Zealot. Allan Nadler is no inerrentist, but he shows quite well many of Aslan’s intellectual shortcomings–though I might quibble with Nadler later on. What I want to do in this post is equip people, whether Christians or unbelievers, on how to talk and think about “the historical Jesus” so they aren’t taken in by pretenders by Aslan.
The basic historical question about Jesus is this:
WHY DO WE REMEMBER HIM?
That question can be asked in many different ways, but the bottom line is, even if he was only a genius at PR, or even if only he had some highly influential follower who promoted him, something has to explain the fact that, out of all the people who lived in Palestine at that time, his name is known to us.
When people do historical research, they don’t want to conclude that something “just happened.” They want to provide intellectually satisfying explanations. So any theory of how Jesus arose in history has to meet that challenge. Otherwise, it only amounts to the guess that Jesus somehow got lucky.