In Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, religion scholar Reza Aslan puts the traditional Jesus story that we know from the Bible and religious ed classes in a new light by thoroughly grounding it in the political and cultural situation of the time. It was a thoroughly fascinating read and one I’d definitely recommend to anyone interested in the history of religion in general or in learning more about Jesus’s world in particular. I especially liked the focus on the Jewish/Roman political situation of the time, as it lends a different tone to many aspects of the familiar story.
Lionsgate has optioned the book for film, and while I think it would make a better miniseries than a movie, just because it would have more time to do justice to the several different important times in Jesus’s life and those of his disciples, I am curious to see what they do with the movie. Placing the story within its historical context could make for fascinating cinema, and I’m sure that would be reasonably achievable. I’m not as sure whether they could – or would want to – get away with the differences Aslan’s Jesus himself has from the traditional story, which obviously means a lot to a lot of people (understatement!). I could see the studio wanting to keep the story and central figure as inoffensive as possible to draw in the biggest crowd and avoid charges of blasphemy, but that would do a disservice to Aslan’s work.