Book Review: Killing Jesus

KillingJesusThumbby Timothy Lane  10/30/13
Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard have followed up their previous historical accounts of the murders of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy with the ultimate murder case, that of Jesus, the son of Joseph of Nazareth. The cover, with its T-shaped cross showing 3 blood spots and with the label “IESUSNAZARENUSREXIUDAEORUM” atop it, is itself a clever hook for the casual reader, though obviously not necessary for their existing fans.

One minor point I will make is that they pretty consistently write in the present tense, as they did on their previous books, which is a bit of a nuisance since they are dealing with past events. But by now I’ve evidently gotten used to it.

This isn’t simply the story of Jesus, or even Holy Week or the Passion. They discuss the recent history of the Roman empire and the Herodian monarchy (a successor to the Maccabees) to set up the situation in which first Augustus and then Tiberius held power over the area (though not quite total power). They also report on Roman methods – how they governed places such as Judaea, and how the performed the dreaded execution known as crucifixion. And they discuss the Jewish religious authorities of the time (including High Priest Caiaphas as well as the Sadducees and Pharisees). All this is necessary to understand exactly what effect Jesus the Nazarene had. They also cover the story of John the Baptist and his dire fate at the hands of Herodias, Salome, and Herod Antipas.

But, of course, the main story remains that of Jesus. For this they rely heavily on the Gospels to provide the details, since the references to him in non-religious writing are generally quite vague. (We know that there were people who followed someone referred to by Roman writers as Christus, who had been executed, but little more than that.) This runs into the problem that there are contradictions in the gospels, forcing them to make decisions as to which they considered likeliest to be accurate and to let readers know about these disagreements. Given that, they cover his life from birth through his youthful experience in the Temple expounding on the law to those who should theoretically have been instructing him instead, and his religious mission from his baptism through his execution. They leave out a few things they consider doubtful, such as his conversation with the thieves who were crucified with him (they argue that the effect of crucifixion – a severe torture in many respects, but one which ultimately killed by slow strangulation – made such a conservation impossible). They cover each day of Holy Week from Palm Sunday through Easter (an approach I recall encountering once when I was a child).

And they make it quite easy to understand just why Jesus, in his session at Gethsemane (“guarded” by disciples who kept falling asleep), prayed that God would let the cup pass from his lips – though ultimately accepting that it wouldn’t. • (2576 views)

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8 Responses to Book Review: Killing Jesus

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    How did you like the book overall, Timothy?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I rather enjoyed it. But then, if I hadn’t liked the previous two, I wouldn’t have gotten it, so that’s no surprise.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is tangential to the subject at hand. Someone sent me this video this morning of Bill O’Reilly interviewing Rob Lowe (Raw Blow as we affectionately call him because of his teenage exploitation film connection) about the upcoming movie on The National Geographic Channel based on O’Reilly’s “Killing Kennedy.”

  3. Kung Fu Zu says:

    I suspect O”Reilly lifted his idea for this book as well as his books on Lincoln and Kennedy from Jim Bishop. I read his “The Day Lincoln was Shot” in high school over forty years ago. I have not read O’Reilly’s books, but the format and use of the present tense are very like Bishop’s books, as I recall them.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I have, and have read, Bishop’s books on the assassinations of Kennedy and Lincoln (as well as his book on the Peel-Chillingsworth murder case in Florida, a rare case of a murder conviction despite the absence of a body). I notice that Bishop was the first to present the idea that the FIRST shot Oswald fired missed, which makes the timing of the shots far more feasible than the Warren Commission notion that it was the second shot. As I recall, in addition to a book on the death of Jesus, he also did one on his birth. (I never got them, but I glanced at one of them once. He seems to have relied very heavily on the Gospels, of course.)

  4. DakotaNative says:

    I just recently discovered your website via instapundit, man what a great website! I greatly enjoy your reality, fact, and Christ based commentary. That said, for years I have had hard time swallowing Bill O’Reilly. In years past I did a fair amount of traveling to and from the Wash. DC area and would bump into some of the guests that were on his show. We would talk about their appearances on his show and I would ask how they were able to operate around his inflated sense of self-importance. There is a reason Rush Limbaugh calls him “Ted Baxter.” That said, having seen him mis-apply or interpret scripture for years I should have expected he would decide what Jesus did or did not do. After all he is only looking out for the folks who cannot decide for themselves. Did Christ not walk on the water? Did He not raise the dead and heal the leaper? If he acknowledges these then it stands to reason he should acknowledge the conversation on the cross. Who does Bill O’Reilly think he is – Thomas Jefferson? Is the bible there so he can cut out the pieces he does not like and then present the rest has his version of the gospel? Having said all of this, I must admit I do watch his show about once a week. Generally, the first 20 minutes are the meat of the show and then I shut it off. I live, own several businesses in Northern Virginia and deal with politicians all the time and there is only so much self-importance one can take.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Does Rush really refer to O’Reilly as Ted Baxter? If so, that’s a hoot.

      O’Reilly is so right on some issues, and so milquetoast and befuddled on others. I don’t mind his supposed arrogance because that is almost unavoidably inherent to anyone involved in the business of writing or opinionating. One may try to forward one’s views with a bit of humility and respect. But inevitably writing — particularly political writing — means the opposite of being an ostrich.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A key point in understanding The O’Reilly Factor is that he bills it as the “no-spin zone”, which requires pressing interviewees who spin — as most of them do, often to the exclusion of any attempt to inform the public.

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