The snake slunk off

Diarmaid MacCulloch

  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
    Westbourne, 296 pp, £17.99, August 2013, ISBN 978 1 908906 27 4

Academics, chief among them theologians, are deeply envious of Reza Aslan’s stroke of luck in encountering a particularly stupid Fox News reporter during his round of publicity interviews for this book. Apparently having got no further than the publisher’s blurb in wrestling with the work, she asked Aslan why he as a Muslim had written a study of the life of the founder of Christianity. He replied rather testily that he was a scholar of religions, with four degrees, who just happened to be a Muslim. She asked much the same question again; he replied in much the same fashion, and again, and again, and mercifully never quite lost his temper. His interlocutor also appeared to believe that he ‘had never disclosed’ that he was a Muslim in media appearances, and that exhausted the ideas on her prompt-card. To expect that she might be at all aware of Jesus’ presence in the Quran would have assumed too high a level of sophistication. Aslan won hands down. Altogether it was the sort of TV that you end up watching from between your fingers – and naturally the clip went viral, to the huge benefit of Aslan’s bank balance. A bestseller was born.

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[*] Diarmaid MacCulloch will review Forgery and Counterforgery in a future issue.