1,135 of 1,341 people found the following review helpful
This is a very difficult book to review, as you can imagine whenever you read and try to write a review concerning a book about a religious figure. I know that the authors say that this is not a religious book, but instead one that focuses on the humanity of Jesus Christ. They have done a good job treading the fine line between straight biography and religious writing.
Of course, the main, and possibly only, source for the life of the Nazarene (as the authors term him) are the four gospels with which most readers are familiar. Interspersed with these writings you will find chapters devoted to Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Tiberius, and other historical characters. There is a brief, but concise, history of Rome, and short biographies of some of the figures, including Pontius Pilate and the several Herods. It appears that the authors accept the gospel account of the birth in Bethlehem and the visit of the Magi, which led to the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem at the insistence of Herod. There appears to be no historical record for these events except for the gospels, so the reader either takes it at face value or not, depending on his or her beliefs. Also, the sticky question concerning Jesus' siblings is handled somewhat offhandedly, with a note concerning the various theories about who these people were, depending on your particular religion. I do take exception to the mention of Herod's "castle", a term I don't believe existed at that time, but it's a minor quibble.
All things (particularly religious beliefs) considered, the author have done a well thought out job. There is no writing concerning the actual miracles attributed to Jesus, but they are mentioned in the text as news of them spread into the surrounding area, so the authors appear to make no claim to any authenticity. Also, the narrative ends with the crucifixion and burial, and then the discovery of the empty tomb three days later. After that, it's once again news of post death appearances spread by supposed eyewitnesses, with no attempt to state any author belief in whether or not these events actually occurred.
Lest I be accused of being some type of sceptic or unbeliever, let me state that, like the authors, I am a practicing Roman Catholic and truly believe that Jesus is who he said he is and that, if I do what is right, he will greet me when I die. Just because I have some doubts about parts of the gospels doesn't mean that my faith is weak. 17 years of Catholic education has kept me strong and will, I trust, lead me to the reward Jesus promised.
One last thing. I know that there are many people out there who do not like O'Reilly for his political views and will allow that mind set to lead them to give this book a bad review, even though many of them will not have read it. To those folks I say: read the book and if you don't believe that it's a good book, give it a bad review, but please don't let your political leanings cause you to downgrade the book because of your dislike of the author. There is no politics in this book, and so it shouldn't generate the venom that has accompanied the publication of his other historical works. Bill isn't a historian, but he and his co-author have done their best with a very touchy subject, and I salute their effort!
514 of 609 people found the following review helpful
As a Christian, I struggled with whether I should read this book or just stay away from it. Because of a deep interest of history in general I decided to 'give it a shot.'
I was not disappointed. This work was filled with the historical accounts of the geographical, political and human events that were going on at the time.
You must understand that the author clearly stated this was not a 'religious' book, rather an 'historical' work. I was never offended by the way Christ and his followers were portrayed. In fact, I believe this book can actually draw Christians back to the Bible as they consider certain aspects and statements found within.
As with any study of history one must rely upon the research and intellect of the writer. It seems to me the 'homework' was done.
This book must be approached with an open mind as any historical reading should be. We must be careful not to isolate ourselves from reading books such as these. My 'Heart for Christ' was in no way compromised, nor was my belief in the Bible.
1,585 of 1,914 people found the following review helpful
This book is going to be big, a near-lock for the bestseller lists. First Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard teamed up to write a book about Killing Lincoln and it sold more than a million copies. They followed it up with Killing Kennedy and it sold briskly as well. And now they turn their attention to their greatest subject: Jesus of Nazareth. Killing Jesus: A History is a short biography of Jesus, focusing on the events leading to his death.
From the outset, the authors make it clear that though they are Roman Catholics, they are not writing a religious book. Rather, they are writing a historical account of a historical figure "and are interested primarily in telling the truth about important people, not converting anyone to a spiritual cause." They necessarily rely on the four gospels for their source material and often tell their story by directly quoting the Bible.
They begin, though, by setting Jesus firmly in his historical context and skillfully telling about the rise and fall of Julius Caesar and the subsequent ascension of Caesar Augustus. They introduce a cast characters who each make an appearance in the pages of the Bible: King Herod who would hear of a potential challenger to his throne and order the slaughter of innocent children, Herod Antipas who would behead John the Baptist and later refuse to deal fairly with Jesus, and Pontius Pilate, who would cave to pressure and order the execution of an innocent man. Each of these men becomes a living and breathing character in the narrative.
As the authors begin to tell about the life of Jesus, they follow the biblical accounts quite closely. They tell his life skillfully and with all the narrative tension and interest they used to tell their compelling accounts of Lincoln and Kennedy. The reader is left with no doubt that Jesus' whole life was leading to a cross and that Jesus knew he would end up there. The reader sees that the claims Jesus made about himself put him at odds with both the Jews and the Romans.
As they approach Jesus' death, the authors slow the pace a little, showing the injustice of the trial, the torment of crucifixion, and the necessary conclusion that Jesus really and truly died.
They take some license along the way, of course. The gospel writers were selective when they wrote about the life of Jesus and any author must at times fill in or at least imagine certain details. But even then, O'Reilly and Dugard have done their homework and refrain from taking large or irrational leaps from their source material. And because they tell the account using the Bible as their source, they are able to tell the story as if it is true and as if they believe it. They do not say, "he supposedly did this" or is "reputed to have done this." They simply tell it as the Bible tells it.
As a historical account of the life of Jesus, the story, though selective, is well told, well written, and very, very interesting. This is especially true when it comes to the historical and cultural contexts, details the biblical writers were able to assume and, therefore, not describe in great detail. I am no expert on this period of history, but spotted no major missteps and felt the authors were attempting to do justice to the historical facts the Bible presents. Their list of secondary sources is quite strong, leaning more toward conservative than liberal authors.
However, Jesus' life is not mere history. Yes, he was a real man who lived a real life and died a real death, but that is not all he was and all he did. He also claimed to be God's Son and his followers claimed that in his life and death he had done something unique and, literally, world-changing. The same Bible that describes Jesus' life, also interprets and explains it. And this is the story the authors do not tell.
Any author who writes a narrative account of Jesus' life will find it difficult to do justice to both his humanity and his divinity (and we saw, for example, in Anne Rice's series on Jesus). These authors err far to the side of his humanity. It becomes quickly apparent they will not focus on Jesus' miracles. While they mention a few of the wonders he performed, and especially the ones involving healings, they do not commit all the way and tend to present these as events Jesus' followers believed had happened as much as events that had actually taken place.
The authors primarily portray Jesus as a rebel against Rome who threatened to destabilize the region and who, therefore, suffered the inevitable wrath of the empire. They show that through his life Jesus believed he was the Son of God and even suggest this must mean he was either a liar, a lunatic, or that he really was who he said he was. As the book comes to a close they state that Jesus' followers soon claimed he had been raised from the dead and that his followers believed this to such an extent that they willingly gave up their own lives to his cause.
But O'Reilly and Dugard do not ever explain what happened there at the cross between Jesus and God the Father. Of all Jesus said on the cross, each word laden with meaning and significance, they mention only two. They do not explain the cross as substitution, where Jesus went to the cross in place of people he loved; they do not explain the cross as justice, where Jesus was punished as a law-breaker; they do not explain the cross as propitiation, where Jesus faced and emptied the Father's wrath against sin; they do not explain the cross as redemption, where we now need only put our faith in Jesus in order to receive all the benefits of what he accomplished.
Killing Jesus is not a bad book as much as it is an incomplete book. As history it is compelling, but of all historical events, none has greater spiritual significance than the life and death of Jesus Christ. And this is the story they miss.
A brief aside before I wrap up: If you have read Killing Kennedy you may remember that the authors seem have a strange obsession with kinky sexuality. Both Kennedy and the Roman rulers give them a lot to work with in that regard, and in this account they are sure to point to the ugly sexual deviancies that marked the Roman rulers of that day. While they do not go into lurid detail and do not mean to excite lust, neither do they exercise a lot of discretion, making this a book you would probably not want to hand to a child.
As O'Reilly and Dugard begin this book they claim the story of Jesus' life and death "has never fully been told. Until now." That's very dramatic but also ridiculous. This story has been told repeatedly over the past two millennia and it will be told again and again in the millennia to come. Killing Jesus is another account that will be here for a while and then disappear and be forgotten. In the meantime, it will take Jesus out of the realm of fantasy and place him squarely in history, but even as it does that, it will neglect to tell why his life, his crucifixion, his resurrection are of eternal significance, a matter of his life and death and our own.
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2014
Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, contains a vast array of historical errors. contradictions.
The book also contains multiple internal contradictions, the most obvious of which is that, with stimulating originality, the authors contend that the day after Wednesday, April 4, 30 AD is Thursday, April 4 (sic), 30 AD and that the day after that is Friday, April 7, 30 AD.
The authors apparently believe that the pedantic constraints of the calendar would cramp their literary flourish. So they present an innovative chronology of Jesus' life without taking any account of the interplay between the Jewish, Julian, and Gregorian calendars, which is essential to this task. They fail to get a single date right in the life of Christ. Not one. It is a landmark achievement.
For example, they have Jesus dying in 30 AD on 16 Nisan by the Jewish calendar. Of course, Jesus died on Passover, 14 Nisan, and rose on the First Day of the Omer (First Fruits), 16 Nisan. So the authors have Jesus dying on the day the gospels say He rose. If you want a fresh look at the life of Jesus, this is the book for you.
In another delightful example, they have the Jewish leaders brooding on Jesus' raising of Lazarus four years before it occurred.
The authors allow themselves total creative freedom when describing the sequence of events surrounding Jesus' baptism – readers craving a tediously accurate account must resort to the gospels.
Boringly, O’Reilly and Dugard do manage to get a few dates in Roman history right, but otherwise, they display refreshing ignorance about the history of the region. For example, they say that the Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey was the first truly world war, ignoring the wars of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Ptolemies, Rome vs. Carthage, and Rome vs. the Greeks, most of which involved the greatest civilization centers of their days. If you were Daniel, for example, you would probably have voted to classify the titanic clashes between Babylon, Media, Scythia, Assyria, and Egypt as a world war.
The authors also vouchsafe all kinds of "facts" that have hitherto been unknown to anyone else.
For example, they state that Joseph of Arimathea was a Sadducee. There is zero evidence of that.
They state that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and that she anointed Jesus' feet. There is zero evidence of either. All we know is that she was a sinful woman out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.
They state that the apostle Thomas was pessimistic. How do they know this? John's accounts of him (the only contemporary portraits that exist) suggest the opposite.
They claim Peter was Jesus' first disciple. Of course, Andrew was. The Greek Orthodox Church has, from the beginning of Christianity, nicknamed him protokletos - the "first-called."
They claim Jesus chose His disciples for their linguistic abilities. There is no evidence of that - in fact, the miracle of Pentecost was that they became empowered to speak languages they otherwise did not know.
The authors claim that Jesus knew next to nothing about fishing. How can they know? He certainly managed to get a lot of fishing in for someone who was ignorant of it.
They say that Cleopatra flattered Caesar when she first met him by speaking in Latin. How do they know what she spoke while seducing him? Plutarch says that Cleopatra spoke the languages of the Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes, Parthians, and many others, but he omits any reference to her speaking Latin. The lingua franca of the eastern Roman Empire was Cleopatra's native Greek, in which she and Caesar were fluent. The authors may employ Latin in their pillow talk, but one feels Cleopatra would have held to a higher standard.
O’Reilly and Dugard say that Julius Caesar remarked “alea iacta est” in Latin when he crossed the Rubicon. Plutarch specifically records that he said, in Greek, ἀνερρίφθω κύβος (anerrhiphtho kybos, “let the die be cast”), quoting the Greek comic playwright, Menander. I suppose the authors, both Roman Catholics, nostalgically wish everything ancient had been said in Latin. Vae (Latin for “alas”).
The authors say that Herod killed more than a dozen infants in Bethlehem. How do they know? It was, in fact, probably between 9 and 30 infant males, but how can they be dogmatic on a purely speculative number? Who do they think they are – The New York Times?
The authors say that Herod's soldiers weren't Jews and didn't speak a word of Hebrew. How do they know who they were and what they spoke? Have they discovered a scroll of the Herodian Army List hitherto unknown to historians?
The authors say that the Roman executioners of Jesus were from Samaria and Caesarea. How do they know they weren't from Syria, Galatia, Pamphylia, Italy, Britain, Cyrene, Germany or Gaul? Have they dug up their paystubs?
They authors state that Jesus was "having trouble focusing" on His final message to His disciples. Where do they get that? He seemed masterfully focused and purposeful according to the gospel accounts.
They say that Jesus was wearing just His cloak and a sheer tunic in Gethsemane. How do they know what He was wearing, apart from the seamless garment for which the soldiers gambled? Was His apparel reported in the Style Section of The Jerusalem Post? How did I miss that?
Of course, since I have documented 133 significant errors in the book, it is tiresome to list any more than the samples above.
I am a devoted Christian. I was once a skeptic. I believe the gospels are divinely inspired in part because their historical and chronological accuracy is so stunningly perfect that I, at least, find it impossible to conceive that merely human minds could have invented them. I also believe what James 3:1 states – that teachers come under a stricter judgment. I applaud O’Reilly and Dugard for wishing to undertake this project. But I wish they had worked harder at it.
O’Reilly says that both he and Dugard “learned a tremendous amount while researching and writing this book.” That’s nice. And to be fair, O'Reilly says, “putting together Killing Jesus was exceedingly difficult.” Evidently. Taking it apart, however, is no trouble at all.v
So basically this seems like a great be exercise in promoting one person's opinion, and seeing this person's ability t spin things from the "No Spin Zone" and throw it out into the ether, and pass it off as some high brow analyzation of a fictional person / event.
People want to believe so much that they forget how to be objective and or reasonable. If this had come from someone with a scientific background it would have left more credence to it, and not make us think someone is going after a quick buck.
No real new info in this book, just verbal sparring and guessing.
109 of 134 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
Full disclosure: I read this book not because of any inclination to do so but at the request of my daughter-in-law. She wanted my thoughts. [I’m a long-time, well-studied Christian, with decades each in both Catholicism and Protestantism.] And my somewhat cynical thought prior to reading this book was … So – we have a period of nearly two thousand years where thousands upon thousands (upon more thousands!) of men and women have devoted their ENTIRE lives to studying every aspect of Jesus and the Bible, and now, after a few months of research, our dear TV host is going to shine new light on truth. Really.
Also full disclosure: I’m probably in agreement with many/most of O’Reilly’s political and life philosophies, but, after having watched his show for several years, finally got tired of the arrogance and self-aggrandizement (i.e., spin). I watch his show no more.
Bottom line, my first impression was correct. So many problems with parsed scriptural interpretations that much of the narrative borders on the ridiculous (e.g., O’Reilly doesn’t seem to understand the Bible clearly states Jesus came for the purpose of dying sacrificially for mankind). And his effort at exposing/uncovering the ‘mystery’ of how Jesus met His demise simply denies/hides that premise.
In the words of C.S. Lewis (whose words the book conveniently truncate), Jesus is “either a liar and a lunatic, or He is Lord.” There’s no middle ground. Proclaiming yourself to be God is either a tragic psychosis or an awesome truth. O’Reilly seems to want to find middle ground – and sell a tale with his personalized version of the truth. If one wants to learn about God – by definition the Author and Creator of all – does it really make sense to look to … Bill O’Reilly?
Unfortunately, because I see so much distortion and dramatization in the scriptural aspects of the book (which distortions are crystal clear), I can only conclude the historical side was similarly more drama than fact, and inaccurate also: Reading it, if you’re seeking a factual account, is simply a waste of time.
So I cannot recommend it. If one really wants to learn simple, scholarly truth about Jesus’ life and death – and His role in our world – there are many, many better choices. [The New Testament (2nd ‘half’ of the Bible); or C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, to name two.]
41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2013
I listened to 'Killing Linoln' and 'Killing Kennedy'. The Lincoln book was interesting, though it played fast and loose a bit too much with the facts. I really liked the Kennedy book, definitely the strongest book.
I was looking forward to 'Killing Jesus' and thought I would enjoy it. But it is AWFUL. Truly awful. I only got about 20% of the way through and had to stop. He had nothing interesting to say. Just a 3rd grader's rendition of the Jesus story. There was really nothing about the historical context of Jesus' life story. (... how "virgin birth" stories abounded at the time - this was just part of the landscape, the plethora of men claiming to be the Messiah & being killed by the Romans for doing so, etc..)
Update: Did some more research about the history during that time period. I've realized that O'Reilly must have done NO research at all. (Jesus going to Hebrew school as a boy?! Please! He was a poor illiterate peasant and spoke Aramaic. At most he'd picked up a few words of Hebrew.)
All O'Reilly has done is fictionalize that New Testament.
198 of 252 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2013
O'Reilly claims that his volume 'Killing Jesus' is "history". Having spent over fifty years as a student of the history of the Roman Empire (with an Ivy League Ph.D. in the field), including doing 36+ years of college teaching and more years engaged in research in this history, particularly focusing on the first five centuries of Christianity, I am duty-bound to warn readers of 'Killing Jesus' that if it were not for O'Reilly's media fame (and I am something of a fan, watching his program on Fox nearly every evening), this book would hardly sell at all, let alone become a number 1 sales hit. Compared with something like, say, Charles Krauthammer's 'Things that Matter', O'Reilly's volume is filled with confusion, in its case confused and confusing so-called 'history'. I wish it were not so. Unfortunately, being a high school teacher does not qualify one to do research and then write on O'Reilly's topic.
79 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2014
O'Reilly begins his book with an explanation that this book is the best effort at stating the history of who killed Jesus. But, the book is nothing more than a paraphrase of the Biblical gospels with a bit of the history of Rome woven in. The last couple of centuries have brought considerable scholarship to ink and paper on the topic of the Historical Jesus. O'Reilly would have done well to read something from N.T. Wright, Albert Schweitzer, or even the Jesus Seminar before attempting to write something that has already been done by people with much more scholarship on the topic. O'Reilly is not a Bible scholar, and it shows in this book. The resulting effect is O'Reilly coming off as a manipulating salesperson who is willing to write just about anything as long as it grabs the reader's attention and makes money. I am a Lutheran pastor, and I read this at the request of a congregation member. This book is popular only because O'Reilly's name is on it, not because the content offers something of substance to the quest for the historical Jesus. If you're an O'Reilly fan, have at it. But, if you're looking for a book that is a great read about Jesus and the events that led to his death, I highly recommend you skip this one.
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2015
Bill O'Reilly builds this up as a "fact-based book." I read it hoping for just that. How enormously disappointed I was! It is laced with speculation based upon tid-bits of general history about the time super-imposed on a general "chronology" O'Reilly creates by picking and choosing among different biblical accounts. He weaves in dialogue he imagines might have occurred among biblical figures. That's OK for one owing up to creating a fictionalized version of the New Testament events. It's not OK for someone claiming to have written a "fact-based book." If you're looking for legitimate biblical commentary, by all means don't waste your time with KILLING JESUS.
147 of 188 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
This is not a history book, despite its authors' and the publisher's assertions. It is, perhaps, best described as historical fiction written from the standpoint of two laymen who, admittedly, come from personal backgrounds predisposed to seeing the topic a certain way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as long as you know it and accept it before spending your money to buy the book.
For my part, I knew when I first heard the title of this book and who its authors were what it would likely be and, after reading it, my assumptions are confirmed. I am left with the same question about it that I began with: Why? Why write it? There are many, many vastly more erudite and better researched volumes on this same topic, why write another one, espcially when you are an author lacking credentials to address such an important topic? In simple curiosity, I looked carefully throughout the book to see if the authors provided an answer to this question. The closest they come is something the senior author says at the end of the "Note to the Readers," which I quote below:
"But the incredible story behind the lethal struggle between good and evil has not been fully told. Until now." (p. 4)
Anyone with a modicum of education will discover after reading the book that Mr. O'Reilly's statement is, at best, an error, and at worst, an outright lie, possibly arising from arrogance and hubris. The authors have not produced any kind of accurate, secular, historical account of the death of Jesus. At best, they have produced a somewhat informed drama, loosely based on known history. Too often they assert as fact that which can only be assumed, and though they offers some biblographic source material, there is no bibliography and virtually all of the footnotes are simple amplifications of text matter with few real references to sources.
This brings me back to my original question, the one I asked before I read the book and the one that came immediately to mind after I had finished. Why? Why write another volume about a topic that has been addressed more thoroughly, with less bias, by far more erudite men, many of whom are actually historians? Clearly, the answer here can be stated in just one word: Money.
The success of previous volumes written by these two authors under similar dramatic titles is what has prompted this volume. The authors' motivation is clearly the same motivation they accuse the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jersualem of having in their desire to kill Jesus: they simply want to keep the cash flow from stopping. O'Reilly and Dugard, and their publisher, are taking advantage of a gullible public to create yet another opportunity to add to their personal wealth.
If they want to earn their money this way, fine. That's on them. If the public wants to help them, fine. That's on the public.