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Thursday, August 8, 2013

I am an expert!!! With a PhD! Reza Aslan's Embarrassing Buffoonery

I have a PhD and you'd better not forget it! 
I have a PhD and I teach creative writing so this book is all truthiness. 
Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American creative writing professor at UC Riverside. At 15 he converted to Christianity. Later he converted back to Islam. His dissertation in Sociology was entitled "Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework"

On 26 July 2013, Lauren Green interviewed Aslan on Fox TV about his new book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." Green focused on asking Aslan why a Muslim would write a book about Jesus. Questions like this are standard. Authors are often asked what interested them in the topic of their work. I am Polish-American, I write about Polish-Americans, and people ask me why I write about Polish-Americans. So far so good.

Aslan became huffy and assumed a pose of high dudgeon. I have a PhD, he kept repeating. Since I have a PhD, of course I am qualified to rewrite Christianity. Aslan also said that he possesses the academic credentials to write about Jesus because he speaks New Testament Greek. According to one transcript, Aslan mentions that he has a PhD FOUR TIMES.

Look – real scholars do not talk like this. That Aslan talked like this is proof that there is something rotten in Denmark.

First, I've been lucky enough to meet and spend time with real scholars and others of high achievement: Alan Dundes, Francis Collins, Sir Edmund Hillary, Lech Walesa. When I studied with Alan Dundes, he was the top scholar in the world in his field. I spent hours with this man. He NEVER referred to his academic credentials. Never. No matter who challenged him – and students, journalists, fellow scholars, and even I challenged him daily and aggressively. Dundes, like all truly great men, simply never flaunted his credentials. He didn't have to. He was the master of his field. He let the facts, which he had at his fingertips, speak for him.

Second, I have a PhD. So do lot of people who are currently receiving food stamps. It's a big deal to your mom when you get a PhD, but not to anyone else. A PhD qualifies you for just about nothing. A PhD means that you are the world expert in one teeny, tiny thing – the topic of your dissertation. Aslan did not write his dissertation on Jesus or Christianity or the history of religions or the New Testament. He is lying about his PhD.

Third, after receiving a PhD, a scholar must "publish or perish." He must publish peer-reviewed scholarship recognized by others in his field. Aslan hasn't published original scholarship on Jesus. He is lying about his qualifications.

Fourth, Greek is hardly sufficient for New Testament scholarship. World class New Testament scholars may have reading knowledge of Greek AND Hebrew AND Aramaic AND Latin AND German AND French. And maybe an Ancient Near Eastern language like Hittite. Aslan is proud that he has studied Greek? Feh.

Aslan is telling the world that he, Aslan, has the academic credentials to discredit Christianity, and he does not. That makes him a pompous, shameful liar.

I heard Aslan interviewed on Imus. Aslan said that the Gospels were written long after Jesus' death, and that their authors lied. These falsehoods have been disproven by real New Testament scholars. For a review of their work, check out Lee Strobel's excellent book, "The Case for the Real Jesus."

Even the left-leaning Guardian UK lambasted Aslan's book. Excerpts from Stuart Kelly's review:

In Zealot, Reza Aslan, "to be as kind as possible, trudges down some very well-worn paths; its contribution to studies of Christianity is marginal bordering on negligible; and its breathless style suggests hasty thought…

To take just one example: the Romans are said to display 'characteristic savagery' on page 13 and are 'generally tolerant' on page 14…parts of it are closer to Jesus Christ Superstar than any serious undertaking…there are plenty of books that do a more scholarly job, and are written more eloquently…

The major flaw in this work [is this]. Aslan simultaneously disparages and relies on the gospels. If a verse fits, he snatches it: if it contradicts his thesis he takes it as proof of the unreliability of the source. When he requires Celsus, the vehement antagonist of Christianity, to be true, he takes his work as such (without ever mentioning we only have Celsus in fragments preserved in Origen's rebuttal); when he wishes it otherwise, Celsus is 'so clearly polemical he cannot be taken seriously'."

***

Andrew Kaczynski at Buzzfeed collected a series of Reza Aslan's twitter posts. Aslan calls those he disagrees with fat and stupid, says that they speak through their ass, and he uses the f word liberally to insult others. His twitter posts sink even lower than that. They can be read here.

1 comment:

  1. "...parts of it are closer to Jesus Christ Superstar than any serious undertaking" Ha! I love it! I sometimes wish I had not deleted my Amazon review. The feedback got to me. And there was such praise for his writing! I waded through that book simply to poke at it. It's a pedantic, error-ridden, piecemeal work, but I have no doubt it will disappear from the library's shelves within a year. (We have a lot of books stolen - oddly enough most of them are books about Christianity; Wicca places second). I can remember reading, in 1995, John Dominic Crossan's "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography". How's that for an ostentatious title? I - a layman, no less, and this was 18 years ago - wondered how he'd filtered or discarded so many salient points. Through the lens of bitterness, I suppose. I wasn't aware of much of the things you posted here. Good stuff with which to arm myself, should I need to.

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