I wonder if Dickerson similarly jettisons all of “Biblical archaeology” since it is carried out by Christians and Jews, who of course he must admit cannot be fair.
I have a copy of Aslan’s book, and I’ll be looking at it sometime in the near future. What follows is not an endorsement of Dickerson’s claims, only an examination of his choice of arguments. Let’s look at Dickerson’s arguments for why Aslan can’t be trusted. I remind you again: I am not endorsing any of these claims.
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. Aslan is not a trained historian. Like tens of thousands of us he has been formally educated in theology and New Testament Greek.
As a sincere man, Aslan’s Muslim beliefs affect his entire life, including his conclusions about Jesus. But this is not being disclosed. “Zealot” is being presented as objective and scholarly history, not as it actually is—an educated Muslim’s opinions about Jesus and the ancient Near East.
Many more interviews will come from reporters who simply don’t understand that Reza Aslan has a horse in this race. He is not an objective observer, but, to use his own word, a zealot, with religious motivation to destroy what Western culture has believed about its central figure for hundreds of years.
Let me be blunter: Why should geologist Scott Wolter’s imaginary honorary master’s degree and utter lack of mastery of historiography or archaeology be irrelevant to judging his work while Aslan’s claims are rendered moot by his training in theology rather than historiography? Why should Giorgio Tsoukalos’s or William Henry’s New Age spirituality be a lodestone guiding us to a better understanding of ancient religion while Aslan’s Islam disqualifies him from researching the historical Jesus?
Here is where I think that we need to step back and understand that there is a difference between the claimant and the claim. Whether Jesus was a radical or the father of a race of goddess-worshippers is a question of fact. But when the facts fail to support a claim, it then becomes useful to examine why particular individuals continue to support ideas in opposition to fact because the question is no longer historical but sociological. In other words, the ancient astronaut hypothesis is a question of fact; why more than a million people a week watch Ancient Aliens is a question of sociology. Dickerson fails to establish that the facts are wrong, so his attack is nothing but an ad hominem, contributing nothing except to foment xenophobia against the outsider.