1,055 of 1,243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gospel according to Bill and Martin
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...
Published 15 months ago by Frank J. Konopka
1,443 of 1,746 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Historical But Not Spiritual
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...
Published 15 months ago by Tim Challies
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1,055 of 1,243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gospel according to Bill and Martin,
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!
409 of 483 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting History of Jesus's Time On Earth,
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.
1,443 of 1,746 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Historical But Not Spiritual,
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.
68 of 85 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shlock,
My fear with this book is that folks who come to it with no independent knowledge of Roman history or Biblical history will take this as truth. It's heavy on imagination and impossible-to-know tidbits (what people were wearing, thinking) and, worst of all, presents these things as fact. This book is not a study in Roman history. There is not even a reliable source list or credible footnotes (where there are footnotes at all.)
Unfortunately, it's also a lousy read. The authors jump between past and present tense without warning and are quite boring writers. I don't think they ever learned the basic writing lesson that it's better to show than to tell. Yet more than 2,000 people gave this book 5 stars. That's inexplicable to me.
It's too bad that O'Reilly can use his name to publish a poor excuse for a book and talented writers can't get publishers' attention. And before O'Reilly fans jump to any conclusions, yes, I'm a writer, but not one looking to get published.
129 of 164 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Major Historical Problems,
O'Reilly should stick to broadcasting and not history. This book is full of historical errors. For example: Mary Magdalene being a prostitute has zero historical or biblical evidence, it's merely Catholic tradition. Also, Aramaic was the every-day language spoken in Jesus' time, not Hebrew. Hebrew was reserved for religious ceremonies. And O'Reilly even gets Jesus' age wrong at time of death. Not a good book.
236 of 303 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Killing History,
Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, contains no fewer than 133 historical errors. If I made a serious effort, I might find more.
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.
115 of 147 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Before reading this book, I asked myself, "Why?",
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.
271 of 350 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing,
I was disappointed to see that the book was not as factual as it was touted to be. Mary Magdalene is referred to as a prostitute very early on in the book. This is simply NOT true. Nowhere in the bible does it say that she is a prostitute or whore. This charge came from Pope Gregory I later on when he gave a homily combining three Mary's of the bible (Mary Magdalene, Mary - the anonymous sinner with the alabaster jar, and with Mary of Bethany)into one. The Catholic Church itself has deemed the charges of Mary Magdalene being a prostitute as false in 1969, during the papacy of Paul VI, the Vatican, without commenting on Pope Gregory's reasoning.
In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church began to rectify matters. The feasts of Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were separated, making clear that they were two different people. In both the Roman calendar and Roman Missal, there are now no references to Mary Magdalene as a public sinner. And in his apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem ("On the dignity and vocation of women"), Pope John Paul II restored her ancient title, apostola apostolorum or apostle to the apostles.
And...later in book it says that Mary Magdalene was never heard from again after the Resurrection. Again.... not true. She was one of the woman founders of the Church and was highly regarded as such.
It would appear that Bill O-Reilly relied on what he learned from the Catholic Church while he was growing up.... and that has changed dramatically. Poor research.
155 of 199 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Book Recommended Only by its Author's Fame,
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.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre History In A Mediocre Display,
I used to like Bill O'Reilly. Really. I did. I'm extremely conservative after all and I like having a voice that seems conservative, but my respect for O'Reilly has dwindled to non-existent, especially with regards to how he handles the topic of religion.
Now I understand that not everyone can be a religious expert. This includes not just people on Fox, but CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, etc. Pick any news station you want. You might be able to speak authoritatively on politics and other matters, but that does not necessarily mean you can do the same with religion. You can be an expert on politics and religion, but being an expert in one does not entail being an expert in the other.
I read Killing Jesus at the request of my parents wanting to know what their son who does study the topic of Christianity in-depth would think about it. I was admittedly approaching with great hesitancy.
One other factor of this was Killing Lincoln. My mother had started to go through the book from the library and asked me if I wanted to. She just couldn't finish it. It wasn't interesting to her. I agreed because I read nearly anything I can get my hands on. I hate not finishing a book so I finished the whole thing and had to agree sadly. It was simply a boring read.
And I thought the same about Killing Jesus.
I have thought often about why this is. I have a number of theories.
The first is that he's trying too hard. I suspect he's trying to make the story exciting instead of just telling the story. Of course, there is historical fiction that might paint in some details, but O'Reilly just really seems to detract from the story.
Second, it's like combining a textbook with a novel. It doesn't work. The story is interrupted constantly by O'Reilly wanting to explain historical data. Unfortunately, many in our society don't know the basic history and need it explained so one goes back and forth between history and story instead of letting the history be the story.
Third, if these are true, then it really doesn't bring much success as history and story both since there can be too much speculation on what was said and done that is not really historical, such as what people were thinking and saying at the time. Much of this is unfortunately ideas in an individualistic society pushed over onto an agonistic society. It is a way of thinking foreign to the people of the Bible.
There are also concerns that lead me to question O'Reilly's historical research, although I do give some bonus for referencing my father-in-law Mike Licona's "The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach."
At the start, we are told on page 1 that we have the four gospels, but they are written from a spiritual perspective rather than a historical chronicling. Now it could be this is the case, but why assume it? The Gospels in fact are Greco-Roman Biographies, with the possible exception of Luke which is a historiography perhaps with tendencies towards such a biography.
On p. 14, we are told prophecies that are fulfilled in Christ. I doubt that O'Reilly can find such a list in Jewish understanding. We interpret Isaiah 7:14, the virgin birth passage, as a prophecy, but is there evidence that Jews at the time were saying "The Messiah will be born of a virgin!" Such an understanding I think will lead to problems in dialogues with Jews.
p. 74 contains a claim that the spot of the temple was also where Adam was created. I am quite dubious of such a claim and would like to see some documentation for it.
On p. 90 among other places, O'Reilly makes the claim that Mary Magdalene was the prostitute who came to Jesus in Luke 7. This is not held today by biblical scholarship and is a false reading by one of the Popes in church history. There is no biblical basis for the equation between the two.
p. 98 says that John the Baptist was speaking about the end of the world. The end of the world is an idea that is really foreign to the Biblical text. It talks about the end of the age. For the Jews, God was acting in this world and living in it and would bring it about to its original purpose. He would restore the creation and not destroy it.
I wonder about the dating of the gospels. O'Reilly says they were written as many as 70 years after Jesus's death. Mark is the early 50's, Luke between 59 and 63, Matthew in the 70's, and John between 50 and 85. At the latest, this would mark 55 years after the death of Jesus.
On p. 131, O'Reilly says of the preaching of Jesus in the synagogue in Luke 4 that the message was Elijah and Elisha were rejected by Israel. O'Reilly leaves out the most important part. Jesus specifically said that blessings went to Gentiles instead of to Jews. The message of rejection was well-known already and while disappointing, would not lead to the desire to stone. To say the blessing went to Gentiles instead would.
On p. 255 O'Reilly gives us the myth that Hitler sought the holy lance that was supposed to have been used on Jesus. This is a historical myth however. It is largely popularized by Trevor Ravenscroft.
Also, there is a strong emphasis on Jesus's claims to be God. This was not the message Jesus went around preaching. I do fully uphold the deity of Christ of course, and we should defend that, but the main message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God and God acting through Him as that King. O'Reilly gives the impression the gospels were written to show the deity of Christ. They were written to show the life and message. Deity is a part of that, but not the message entire.
My conclusion is that the history in here is at best mediocre at times and readers would better be served by picking up scholarly books, such as Craig Keener's on the Historical Jesus, and going through those. Another read they could consider is Gary Habermas's "The Historical Jesus" and works by N.T. Wright like "Simply Jesus" and "How God Became King."
Deeper Waters Christian Ministries
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Killing Jesus by Martin Dugard (Audio CD - September 24, 2013)