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.
Chapter 5, like chapter 4, is set in the scene of Luke 2, where Jesus is lost in the Temple. Here, the authors are able to craft an apocryphal story, based on what they assume is a historical one — and not one modeled by the author on one found in Josephus. They need this story to be real because it helps to drive home their agenda. Jesus is a learned boy, taught in an ancient religious/homeschool how to read and write, regardless that ancient literacy is questionable at best.
Further, because he was not stoned in the Temple, they can shift to how the Romans murdered criminals. They refuse to properly connect Judas the Galilean and Judas of Gamala, suggesting without evidence, that scholars wrongly conflate the two. Why? Because Gamala is needed to bare witness to the anti-liberatarian ideology of Rome. Further, it helps to cement crucifixion as the method chosen for anti-tax Jews. Granted, both Judases do the exact same thing, for the exact same reason, yet Gamala is simply longing “to raise his children in a better world.” Gamala goes on to found a new sect, whereby one bows to God rather than to Caesar. We are starting now to get the drift of the authors’ ideological agenda. History matters not, especially the theocratic, and often brutal tactics, the historical Judas used and advocated. His cause was not simply to bring about a better world, but to bring about a world devoid of Romans and collaborators.
The authors now are free, after rescuing Gamala as a sort of Robin Hood, to speak to the issue of taxes. Gone is the issue of what taxes religiously represented and how they were connected to the rise in income inequality. Replaced is citations of Josephus as a “great historian” and a separation of Romans and Gentiles.
Later in the chapter, they turn to the scarcity of money. I assume the authors mean coinage, something quickly introduced into Palestine at the time. They also speak to the hatred of the tax collectors. Again, this is absent other context not fitting their rather clear political agenda. The means of production were shrinking, replacing with coins which only a few could have. Replacing this actual discussion are images of Mary Magdalene of the city of Magdala, a city of 40,000 people the authors tell us. Then there is Joseph, a “skilled carpenter” who was able to pay his taxes. Of course, this is not based in evidence, but it does appeal to the inerrantists.
What is causing the rebellious outbreaks? The authors write, “The residents of Galilee are independent thinkers. Their persistent belief that they will ultimately control their destiny is one reason Judas of Gamala’s demand that they rise up against Rome had such a profound effect.” The ancient Galileans were not British colonists living in or around 1776. Further, given the concepts of communal life, limited good, and other social constructs not likely to be challenged seriously for 1700 years, it is impossible to consider such an individualist mind set plaguing ancient Galilee in the early years of what is now the first century. But, the authors insist, this is true — without supplying any scholarly evidence — and this is what drove religious revivalism.
Chapter 1 begins like well-written novels, describing a mad king bent on murdering any future rivals, or a novelistic accounting of the opening pages of Matthew and Luke. Most of this is benign and likely to be dramatized in the soon to appear National Geographic special on Killing Jesus. However, there seems to be a multitude of historical and scholarly errors.
In a note on the history of Israel, they cite the Philistines and not the Assyrians (note, the Assyrians had conquered the Philistines as well) as the conquerors of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is not the last such historical oddity in this book. For instance, the Tanakh (the “canonical collection of Jewish Scriptures”), according to the authors, was compiled almost 500 years before the birth of Christ. And, of course, it was part of the canon of the Magi. This is plainly impossible given that many of the books in the Jewish bible was not written until a few centuries before the birth of Christ. The issue of canon itself was not settled until after the destruction of the Temple.
In the final footnote of the chapter, the authors who have already noted the lack of historical facts when it comes to the life of Jesus now turn to the four canonical Gospels, citing them for “the most insightful facts, quotes, and stories” about Jesus. They view this as not simply canonical (which I assumed would be a religious notion, but would shortly be proven wrong) but historical. They write,
Many today challenge these writings, but thanks to scholarship and archaeology, there is growing acceptance of their overall historicity and authenticity.
At this point, it is clear the authors have sourced only Conservapedia or Tektonics, as this is not the best picture of the current discussion in academia. They lay down without citation early dates, according to Tradition and hopeful Christians everywhere, for the Gospels. Legend, myth, and apologetics become their sources. Further, they call Paul a “former Pharisee who became a convert to Christianity.” Paul never left his Jewish sect and never converted to Christianity. There simply was no Christianity until well after the death of the Apostle. There are other errors as well. The authors call the Fourfold Gospel Canonical, but attempt to define ‘canon’ as “the essential canon of the Christian faith.” The image of John’s Gospel is not worth repeating.
The chapter is a novella, and nothing more. It expounds in a rather exciting way the stories told by Matthew and Luke, but is based on hearsay and gossip.
Chapters 2 and 3 merely recount, in the novelized fashion, the history of Rome from Julius until Jesus. Chapter 4, set in the backdrop of Luke 2.41-52, recounts some of the early uprisings of social banditry during what would be the young Jesus’s life. It pits only Jew against Rome and seemingly only on political level, rather than a religious level. At this point in time — and I am still not sure it is possible to do so — one cannot separate the Church from the State. Thus, Rome’s occupation was just as much a religious occupation as it was a political one. Further, social bandits were likely to attacks fellow Jews as they were Romans.
This is the third book penned by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The previous two, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, both purport to be a factual account of the assassinations of two of the United State’s best known leaders. In actuality, they are both riddle with numerous historical and linear errors, so much so that some museums refuse to carry them. I expect nothing less for this book, especially when the ‘A Note to Readers’ includes the warning,
Much has been written about Jesus, the son of a humble carpenter. But little is actually known about him… In the writing of this fact-based book, Martin Dugard and I do not aim to suggest that we know everything about Jesus. But we know much and will you things that you might not have heard.
It gets worse. They admit there is not much evidence about Jesus, there are gaps in the life of Jesus, and historians do not add to this, but make the problem worse. Yet, somehow, they promise to give us more information. And of course, they seemingly take the Gospels as eyewitness accounts, allowing “those friends” of Jesus who had previously “paid much heed” to the “Jewish mans struggling to survive” passed along the oral traditions that became the narrative of the Gospels.
They end this note with more hubris enshrined in a few short words than I’ve seen before. “But the incredible story behind the lethal struggle between good and evil has not been fully told. Until now.”