Sometimes O’Reilly includes two versions of the same story so that Jesus repeats the same action or says the same thing twice. In this book, Jesus overturned the moneychanger tables twice, for example. He really doesn’t like bureaucrats. On other occasions O’Reilly picks one particular Gospel (usually the longest version, rather than the earliest) and we never find out why.
Chapter 12 begins with the promise Jesus has but 6 days to live, appearing to use Luke as the primary source here, as the disciples pick only one colt, unlike the number of authors of this book. It is possible they are using C.S. Lewis (which brings to mind that maybe the source of this book is not the Canon, but the Narnia tales) and his problematic dilemma about the mental state of Jesus.
Our 13th chapter begins with Jewish and Roman leaders looking for potential problems during Passover (I swear, I think I’ve seen this movie before). The intent is to capture Jesus, alone. Thus far, the authors, like the canonical authors before them, have failed to give any convincing reason why Jesus was as popular as he was and why, if his mission was peace, he was perceived as a threat to the Roman and Jewish leadership. There is some lip-service given to challenging religious authority; however, since the Pharisees were hardly in league with Rome, this is not the answer we are looking for.
As passively as they were before, the authors are now coming close to saying Jesus cleansed the Temple twice, ignoring scholarly thought regarding Mark 11.15–7 and it’s post-70 placement in the story of Jesus. This is as expected, as it it seems the authors have yet to make use of any scholarly material beyond that of Josephus.
Finally, at the close of the chapter, the authors give us something about Jesus to prove his death was political. He was a political revolutionary raising an army. They write, “He (Jesus) is not a lone man but a revolutionary with a band of disciples and a growing legion of followers.” Further, this Jesus is manipulating the crowds to prevent arrest.
Chapter 14 returns us again to John’s Gospel, this time sitting for the second time as Jesus gets his feet cleaned. They make sure to note, however, that Mary and Martha are common names. Again, this is their license, to set the rules on what name represents what person they desire to use. Unsuspecting readers, or rather those readers who refuse to question what they read, are unlikely to question their erratic stances on historical personas.
Arriving at Matthew 22.15–22, they skip over this (what I would’ve thought was an) essential passage with only a remark about the longevity of the words. They suggest it marginalized Rome, but as the authors have already stated, Rome had marginalized itself from Judea. Thus, the words of Jesus, would’ve been well in line with Roman policy. They make no concerted effort to present fact, only subjective reasoning based on their desired outcome.
15 chapters in, we fully encounter the arch-Jew of Christian polemics, Judas who is repainted not as a rebel as his title suggests, but as a religious follower only wanted Jesus to be Messiah and the Jewish leaders to surrender to him. Further, the betrayal is meant to show “Jesus is God.” This is their conclusion to this chapter, that Judas only wants to show Jesus is really and truly God.
Jesus “must at least define his life to the disciples” is a line at the beginning of chapter 16. Thus, a nice meal is organized, like a Jesus-coming-out party. This is the passover. Note, as the authors do, the Synoptics and John disagree on the date. The discrepancy is dealt with in the most inhumane way possible. That’s not the only thing ‘literalized.’ When Jesus begins to sweat drops of blood, the authors assign this to the medical condition known as hematidrosis. In other words, there is nothing in the Gospels worth exploring — accept everything at face value.
Chapter 17 begins with a slight against what the authors call “class warfare.” Thus far, all resistance to Rome is pictured in heroic terms; however, since the murdered was wealthy, this is class warfare. And of course, they use Josephus. Further, they use (much) later sources to identify that the civil rights of Jesus were broken with his trials.
Chapters 18 through 21 are little more than (overly) dramatized versions of the Passion narrative, ending much like the Gospel of Mark does.
I have not fracking clue why I read this book. It says nothing new and what it does say is either dramatized or wrong.
Chapter 8 begins with the authors again dangling a carrot before us. There is a small amount of historical truth regarding the scene we think is familiar. I mean, people did go to the Temple during Passover.
This time, instead of Luke, the authors decide to begin with John’s Gospel wherein the s0-called cleansing of the Temple takes place at the beginning of the Gospel. The authors, ignoring everything else in John and the Synoptics, call this the beginning of Jesus’s ministry — rather than the wedding feast in Capernaum. The picture of Jesus is, the authors assure us, one contrary to how Jesus usually is. After all, he never really gets angry, but “exudes a powerful serenity.”
In the footnote to this passage, the authors mention the “discrepancies” between John and the Synoptics, citing oral tradition (gone are the written documents mentioned previously in connection with the authority of the Gospels). They even go so far as to say, passively, that Jesus performed the Temple cleansing twice.
While my review is not an attempt at correcting their poor interpretation of Scripture, I must note they tend to go with minority views. For instance, Jesus doesn’t speak about being born again, but born from above. Confusingly, the authors fail to note Nicodemus’s answer to this statement, an answer that includes the idea of being born again.
Chapter 9 is based in Matthew, as the we see in the inclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, the content of which is lost upon the authors. Much of the message of the New Testament is lost on these authors. Suddenly, everyone is a follower of Jesus, even the Centurion in Matthew 8, or he is according to the authors. Where they were once hesitant to conflate historical personas, they now conflate Mary in Matthew 26.6–13 with Mary Magdalene, conflating history, Scripture and Tradition into an awful mess.
Perhaps it is just me, but the amount of anachronisms are rather laughable. John, not yet forty, is called a young man. I am sure this is the case today, but then he was considered old age.
As far as historical errors in this chapter, I want to focus on two. First, the authors create an odd history by conflating disciple and apostle (footnote 2). Secondly, they state in footnote 6, “In fact, women were treated better in the time of Jesus than they are in a great many places in the modern world.” Again, this is provided with absolutely zero evidence, and flies in the face of scholarly consensus regarding the fate of women in the ancient world.
Chapter 10 pulls from various Gospels stories about the challenges to Jesus from the Pharisees, but is clear the authors do not know much about their content. For instance, they charge the Pharisees with “strictly interpreting the laws of Moses” while addings hundreds of commands to it. Yes, a bit odd. Further, they go with with usual Christian line that the Pharisees were “arrogant, self-righteous.”
Did you know John the Baptizer proclaimed in his message “this Christ… will punish you in the more horrible manner possible?” This is the claim of the authors as they open chapter 6. Indeed, and that the real reason the tax collectors were despised is because they were “diverting Jewish money to a pagan king in Rome.” The authors are once again sitting in Luke’s Gospel while they tell their story. Because of this literary place, it is rather odd when John orders his attendees to confess their sins rather than what Luke has John say — if you have an abundance of something, share it freely with those who do not. Likewise, the authors interpret Luke 3.17 as John stating the Pharisees and Sadducees will burn in hell unless they are baptized.
This is, unfortunately, a Protestant characterization of Catholic theology, something I would not except from two confirmed practicing Catholics.
Suddenly, in a dramatic fashion, we are finally introduced to Jesus, a “simple carpenter, a builder who has labored his whole life. He has memorized the Psalms and Scripture. He pays his taxes…” A dove lands and everyone bows. And with this, John is suddenly done, having lived to see his predictions come true, something the authors assures us happens only in the rarest of circumstances. There are rather looming issues, but it goes back to the poor use of Scripture. Suddenly, Isaiah is not speaking about Hezekiah, but about Jesus 800 years in the future. Prophecy becomes a future, far, future prediction. Jesus becomes the good son who, regardless of what Scripture says or doesn’t say, is really just an individualist struggling to make ends meet. Oh, and he happens to be the Son of God.
There are more problems, of course, of the historical variety. First, the authors assign to the Sadducees — those who collaborated with Rome, something I’m sure we will get to — the politically charged word of ‘liberal.’ The Sadducees, who held only to the books of Moses were conservative, if we must use anachronistic terms. They refused to allow any development in doctrine or theology. This is not liberal, this is conservative. Secondly, they again poorly treat the Gospels, calling them a “combination of oral tradition, written fragments from the life of Christ, and the testimony of eyewitnesses.” Again, this is all presented without actual evidence and is unbelievable except by those who desire something of a proof of inerrancy.
This becomes a problem when the authors address the dove, a symbol of Roman authority clearly assigned to Jesus. They take this account as an actual event and not one later developed by the authors to anoint Jesus as the Son of God. This event is also seen by all, although the Gospels seem to allow the scene as a moment between Father and Son.
What is most starting about this chapter is the misuse of John’s message. It wasn’t about taxes and hell, but about ethics, equality, and community. Given his purported background, this is what we’d expect. Yet, the authors conveniently pick and choose words, images, and sources, murdering the literary construction, and message, of the individual Gospels.
Chapter 7 details some of Tiberius Caesar’s sex life, placing him as a deviant homosexual pervert. No doubt, this will be used later.