"Killing Jesus" -- A Review

In March, 2013 I wrote an article titled “Is The Bible Allegorical?” in response to Bill O’Reilly’s declaration on his national T.V. program called “The Factor” where he said that the Old Testament scriptures are simply “allegory” as opposed to factual history.   Included in his statements were the accounts of Adam and Eve, The Flood, Jonah and the Whale, etc.  I pointed out that this turns the Bible upside down and denies the statements of Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the apostle Paul, and reduces the Bible into a story of myths and lies. 

Since that time O’Reilly along with Martin Dugard have completed a book titled, “Killing Jesus” which is a #1 best seller.  This is part of a series of books including “Killing Lincoln”, “Killing Kennedy”, etc.  All of these books have been best sellers.  No one questions that O’Reilly has the gift of writing.  I also realize that I am a complete nobody when it comes to national exposure compared to O’Reilly with his radio and T.V. programs and nationally acclaimed books.  So who am I to question anything that O’Reilly says or writes?    My defense is simple. Questioning one’s beliefs and actions is the Biblical way and, in a free society, it is also the American way.   We must base our conclusions on the validity of the arguments and the evidence, and not on the person making the arguments.  I am sure that O’Reilly himself would agree with this.  He is putting this out for public consumption, and an honest response is both healthy and good.

For the most part, I find O’Reilly’s book to be interesting and well researched and does contribute in a positive way to an understanding of both secular and Biblical history.   Likewise, I am glad that the book “Killing Jesus” is being so widely read. To say the least it shows an interest in what happened to Jesus Christ and presents a compelling story coupled with a lot of historical background information.  Hopefully, this will cause people to read the Bible itself which is both historically accurate as well as “theological” (a terms used by O’Reilly to describe the Bible).  In spite of this, I have some serious problems with sections of the book which I will examine briefly.

I have read the book several times.   In the congregation where I preach, several men and I have gotten together to discuss and review the book in a private setting because #1 it is about the Bible and #2 it is widely read.   The conclusions of these men on just about every particular point coincides with my own.  These men are students of secular history as well as the Bible.

My area of lifetime study and concern is the Bible itself.  Any attack upon the creditability of the Bible is an attack upon the whole foundation of what I believe as a Christian, and so I take these matters seriously.   I find that the book, “Killing Jesus” is indeed an attack on the Biblical record even though it is more subtle than most attacks I have read.  We have a mandate from Christ to “examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).   As Christians we should always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).  

My first red flag came on the very first page of the book where O’Reilly writes:  “Of course we have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but they sometimes appear contradictory and were written from a spiritual point of view rather than as a historical chronicling of Jesus’s life.”   However, he appears to contradict himself in the footnotes on page 22 where there is a long discussion about the historical role played by the gospel accounts in the writing of this book.  The role of the four gospels in the writing of this book is also emphasized on page 275 which states: “So researching Killing Jesus required a plunge into classical works such as the four gospels and the Jewish historian Josephus.  These sources provided a jumping-off point, giving us the basics, and then demanded new levels of deeper research to tell the story in as much detail as possible.”   So did O’Reilly rely on the gospel or not?   My reading of the book tells me that he did indeed rely heavily on the gospels, and that a lot of the information came solely from the gospels.  Yet when e-mails questioned O’Reilly for twisting some of the Biblical accounts, O’Reilly quickly dismissed his critics by saying on National T.V., “The Bible is theological and not historical!”  I will address some of his responses at the end of this article.  I also apologize for making this article much longer than what I typically write.

O’Reilly has an ego problem for he writes in the preface of his book, “But the incredible story behind the lethal struggle between good and evil has not been fully told.  Until now.”   So the world has to wait until O’Reilly writes his book to know this!?    He does modify his statement by writing, “At least, that is the goal of this book.”   So actually this is not a flat statement, but a goal.  I do see a bit of modesty in that.   Anyone who has followed O’Reilly realizes that he is known for his bluster and showmanship and his top ratings add to his willingness to puff out his chest, but he is perhaps more humble than some of his statements seem to indicate.  When he goes after some bad people, I have to do a little clapping on the side lines.  He is direct, articulate and has an unusual skill with words.  He has the power and means to do a lot of investigation before inviting guests on his program. But he is also rude and bombastic.  I think that the combination of all of this gives him high ratings and sells books.  He also likes to be on both sides of many issues.  But I must continue discussing his book.  I will refer to this as O’Reilly’s book although he has a co-author, Martin Dugard, both coming from Catholic theological backgrounds.  It is not clear who did the major research work, but due to the workload of Bill O’Reilly, I am assuming that most of the book was written by Martin Dugard.  The book contains more misstatements than I have time or space to review, but I will list a few.

Early Years and Teaching

On page 18 he writes about Luke’s account of Anna and Simeon.  Of them he writes: “Two complete strangers, an old man and an old woman---neither of whom knew anything about this baby called Jesus or his fulfillment of prophecy---saw him from across the crowded place of worship and went to him.”   If the writer thinks that they knew nothing about Jesus and his fulfillment of prophecy, then perhaps the author should take a few moments to read what they said about Jesus on this occasion (see Luke 2:29-35, 38).   In the footnote it says of Anna: “Anna is referred to as a ‘prophetess’ in the Gospel of Luke.  This makes her the only female in the New Testament so honored.”   That is news to a lot of people who can plainly read that the daughters of Phillip could prophesy as well as other women (see Acts 21:8-9; Acts 2:18). 

On pages 96-98, the book repeatedly states that John the Baptist preached the coming of “the end of the world”.   This is a total misstatement of the message of John.  Where did John ever teach such a thing?   Where did the prophecies relating to John as found in Isaiah or Malachi teach such a thing?     It is also stated that “the Pharisees were sticklers about religious law” when in fact Jesus accused them of being the very opposite.   They bound on the people their own traditions making void the laws of God (see Matthew 15:1-9).   In the sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew 5 thru 7,  Jesus exposed their false teaching about the law and stated with authority the true meaning of the law.  It is a common mistake to accuse the Pharisees as being too careful about keeping the law.  They followed neither the letter nor the spirit of the law.  Perhaps this is a picky point, but the book should have stated that it was the reputation of the Pharisees to be sticklers of the law.   But I do not need to add to this for the lawlessness of the Jewish leaders was made clear in O’Reilly’s book.

The book states: “Like the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth has long hair and a beard” (see Page 103).  We know that John the Baptist had long hair due to his taking the Nazarite vow, but were is the evidence that Jesus had long hair?   In those days, long hair on men was rare.   Even the book states that the Caesar had short hair.  Whether a matter of accepted custom or the teachings of Christ, Paul instructed men to have short hair in 1 Corinthians 11:14. 

Graphic and Lewd Language

One of my objections to the book is the explicit and graphic descriptions of the sexual lives of the Roman rulers (see especially Chapter Seven, pages 108-118).  For this reason alone the book is not proper reading for young people.  The Bible describes illicit sex, but never goes into such details as does this book.  Is this done to sell more copies?   The Bible simply deals with facts without going into all the gory details that characterize the writing of modern novels!   The apostle Paul wrote this: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. . . . . . Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;  for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Eph. 5:3-4, 11-12).   It is a common practice now to tell everything and not censor anything, but much of this is not fit to either to be seen or mentioned.   

God is about love, not rules

Nowhere did Jesus tell Nicodemus that “God is about love, not rules” as written on page 128.  This account is found in John 3.  Jesus taught that the love is God is in harmony with the laws of God.  One can outwardly keep some requirements of the law without loving God, but one cannot love God without keeping His commandments, for love is the fulfillment of the law.  These principles are taught in both the Old and New Testaments.  One cannot separate true faith from obedience, nor can one separate true love from doing what God says.  Love is the motivation, while obedience is the action.  Does man sinlessly or flawlessly keep the laws of God?  No indeed!  But that is a far different question.   I have read books and books about why man does not need to follow God’s rules or teachings in order to be pleasing to God, and the authors come up with all kinds of human rules and measurements to accomplish this.  I would rather just read what God says.  It is a lot more clearly stated.  

Catholic Influence?

The book does a good job of dealing with the questions of “Who do the people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am” found on pages 163-164 when Jesus spoke to his apostles in Caesarea Philippi.  This indeed is the central question.  However, the Catholic bias of the authors is shown in a footnote on page 263 that states the foundation of the church is Peter rather than Jesus Christ.  

I found the same Catholic influence in dealing with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  It is the Catholic position that Mary was sinless and remained a perpetual virgin.  See references to this on page 265.   I also observed many other areas of Catholic influence such as making the sign of the cross (see page 262), etc.  All of these things are based upon Catholic tradition rather than things taught in the Bible.

Jesus Could Not Focus And Panic Overtook Him?

One of the most damaging things found in the book is the statement made about the final hours of Jesus spent with his apostles.  The book states: “So Jesus is having trouble focusing on his final message to the disciples.  Like every Jew, the Nazarene knows the painful horror and humiliation that await those condemned to the cross.  He firmly believes that he must fulfill what has been written in Scripture, but panic is overtaking him.”  (page 212).   According to O’Reilly, Jesus finds it hard to focus and panic is overtaking him.  He certainly did understand the awful ordeal to be faced reflected in the sweat as drops of blood and the appeal to God to take the cross away, if it be possible.  But He was also resigned to fulfill the will of God.   There was no lack of focus or panic in the accounts of Jesus speaking to his disciples (See John 13 – 16), in the arrest of Jesus, or when He was on trial by the Jews and the Romans.  So this is a strange description of Jesus.

Also the book leaves out six of the seven sayings of Jesus while hanging on the cross.  Bill verbally explained this on The Factor by stating that these sayings were left out because of the very nature of crucifixion makes it impossible to speak.   So he is willing to pit his judgment against the testimony of the Biblical writers in this matter.   Yet he has Jesus uttering the final words on the cross, in his most weakened condition , just before He died.  I say no more.    

Rulers Blamed But Not The People

O’Reilly also blames the rulers of the Jews and not the people for putting Jesus to death.  But the Biblical writers blame both the rulers and the people.  Had not Jesus already referred to that generation as being evil and adulterous?  (see Matthew 12:39-45).  Here are some final words of Jesus:  “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:34-36).   Did not Peter and the apostles teach that the Jewish people as a whole were guilty of the blood of Jesus?  (see Acts 2:36-37, 40).    Bill left out of his book this very damaging statement made before Pilate by the people: “And all the people said, ‘His blood shall be on us and on our children’.” (Matt. 27:24).   As Jesus hung on the cross during that awful day, it was the people who mocked him, not just the leaders (see Matt. 27:39-44).  The Catholics are taught that blaming the Jews is anti-Semitic.  But facts are facts and the early church was composed of Jewish believers and later Gentile disciples proving that God is no respecter of persons “But in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35).

Early Christians Embarrassed by the Cross?

Another serious problem are statements found in the book on page 262.  He states: “Indeed, for centuries, Christians were embarrassed by the cross, for it was considered a punishment best suited for slaves, murderers, and members of the lowest class.”  And again this statement: “The lack of representation of the cross may have been due to the Church’s belief in his resurrection.”  I try to be careful not to yank statements out of context and examine the entire surrounding text.  But these statements are within the proper context and speak for themselves. Such statements come as a great surprise to Bible students who know that the early Christians were motivated by the cross and were not embarrassed or ashamed to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Jesus had earlier told his disciples to “take up the cross and follow Him”.   Contrary to O’Reilly’s book, they took glory in the cross, for by the shed blood of Christ they were redeemed from their sins.  It was the pagans and the unbelieving Jews who looked down on the cross, not the early Christians.   The apostle Paul wrote:  “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, 'I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.'  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;  but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,  but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-24).  From the beginning, the early church taught baptism and observed the Lord’s Supper and both actions receive their significance from the cross (see Romans 6:3-5 and 1 Cor. 11:24-26).  Such statements make me wonder just how much these people actually know about the Bible.  Must a person make “the sign of the cross” in order to understand the significance of the death of Christ?   Again, is this not a sign of Catholic influence by the authors?

Some Final Notes

On the Factor, 11-19-2013.  E-mail by Beth Hodge of Kingman, IN.  “Bill, you think that calling Killing Jesus a history book you can be excused for disputing the Bible.  That is the ultimate history book.”  Bill responds: “No, it is not, Beth.  The Bible is a theological book and I don’t dispute anything.  I simply report what actually happened to Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  That’s all I’m doing.”   Yes, Bill, we know what you are doing.  You are calling your book the ultimate history book about killing Jesus, as opposed to the Bible which is merely theological.  No, Bill, you don’t dispute anything.  You have the facts.  Period.   That ends all disputes. 

On the Factor, 11-20-2013.  One person e-mailed to O’Reilly saying that he, O’Reilly, was showing disrespect for the Bible.  He responded angrily and said that “She was the one showing disrespect for the Bible by falsely accusing him of showing disrespect.”    Wow, Bill, you really told off that person for daring to disagree with what you wrote.   Then O’Reilly proceeded to read e-mails highly commending what he wrote.    Some even wrote that they cried when they read the book.  That is a normal response for crucifixion is an awful ordeal.    

After watching O’Reilly respond to some of those who dare criticize his book, he is doing his cause no good.   No one promotes O’Reilly more than O’Reilly himself.  His responses to criticism show a high level of egotism.  He might just consider the fact that the Bible is a collection of books, both theological and historical.   I actually like the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John better, even though O’Reilly considers these writings to be flawed and contradictory. 

In spite of all I have written in this short review, my overall opinion of the book is positive, as long as one reads it with a big grain of salt.  If it encourages people to read the true account of killing Jesus in the gospels, then so much the better. 

What I would truly love to see would be a real debate between Bill O’Reilly and some capable Bible defender, and there are many, with moderators (which would keep some of the bullying down) and the real rules of honest debate followed.   This would differ considerably from the controlled environment of The Factor.  I would center the proposition around the nature of the Bible.  I think that I would even pay to see that.                   --- Lindy McDaniel, December, 2013


The photo at the beginning of this article was taken at the Dallas Arboretum.  This is a reminder of the fall and Thanksgiving.  Nancy and I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day in our home along with my daughter Kathi and her family as well as my brother Kerry Don and his family.  We also had others who joined us.  We had a great time together.  We did a lot of visiting, eating, watching the Dallas Cowboys and playing Texas “42”, just like all normal Texans.  I take this time to wish everyone God’s richest blessings over the holidays.  

Our e-mail list continues to increase.  If you know others who would like to receive copies of these articles attached to e-mail, send e-mail address to lindymcdaniel77@Reagan.com.   I welcome your comments and questions regarding anything that I write.  


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