I’m getting tired of people slamming Reza Aslan for not being “qualified” to write a book about Jesus just because he doesn’t have a Ph.D. in history, religion, or something of that sort. In fact his doctorate was in sociology with a focus on the history of religion, which I suppose doesn’t count. Add to that a bachelor’s degree in religion with a masters in theological studies from Harvard and you’re still left with a man who’s not allowed to write a scholarly book about Jesus all because his Ph.D. isn’t the right kind. Seriously, I think people only bring these arguments out when someone writes a book they don’t like, just as people did when Dr. Lillback from Westminster wrote a book on the Christianity of George Washington a few years back. In fact, I think a doctorate in church history, a discipline which includes studies of the Christian religious climate of the early modern period, makes him far more qualified than someone with, say, a doctorate in ancient history.
But anyway, say what you will about these works, whatever errors are contained within them didn’t come from a lack of training as many assert or seem to imply, but instead from an agenda that leads them to the conclusions that they want to see and possibly even laziness that causes one to overlook information vital to the argument. Competence quite simply isn’t the issue and never was.
Interestingly I just stumbled across this quote from Aslan’s doctoral advisor:
“Since I was Reza’s thesis adviser at the Univ of California-Santa Barbara, I can testify that he is a religious studies scholar. (I am a sociologist of religion with a position in sociology and an affiliation with religious studies). Though Reza’s PhD is in sociology most of his graduate course work at UCSB was in the history of religion in the dept of religious studies. Though none of his 4 degrees are in history as such, he is a “historian of religion” in the way that that term is used at the Univ of Chicago to cover the field of comparative religion; and his theology degree at Harvard covered Bible and Church history, and required him to master New Testament Greek. So in short, he is who he says he is.”
Whether or not this is a legitimate quote I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look it up later. Maybe I won’t. Probably not; but suffice it to say that no matter how good or bad the man’s work is, the training he received was more than enough.