Bill O’Reilly and Killing Jesus

I’m about a third of the way through Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, which has been widely purchased since its release several months ago.  Just O’Reilly’s popularity among so many evangelicals and his earlier books, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, ensured that this third installment would be a success. I really don’t care for O’Reilly’s politics, shows or most of what he writes. I think he is a good moderate, worthless when it comes to it. So reading his book is a bit of surprise to me. I didn’t buy the book, but a friend sent it to me in order to get my take on the book.

Just reading the introduction was almost enough to make me toss it in the trash. I’m glad that I didn’t. Not that O’Reilly is correct on his views of Christ and the world in which he lived, but he does an excellent job in recounting the history and the world of the First Century. He gives us background on what is taking place in Rome and Jerusalem. He brings us to the crossroads of Christ’s death and all the political currents that helped bring about Christ’s death. What he fails to do is see God’s hand in any of it.

O’Reilly treats the entire episode as if it was completely void of God’s hand or Christ’s willingness to go to the cross. This is where the book falls short. I’m actually quite glad that it does because I can recommend the book for its historical depiction of the events and culture of the day, without having to worry about O’Reilly’s bad theology shinning through.  O’Reilly is truly writing from the vantage point of not knowing Christ or being known by Christ. He almost comes out and says this in the introduction when he writes: “We know so little about Christ.” Historically speaking, we know a lot more about Christ than any other person in history for the first 1800 years after his death.

What O’Reilly fails to see and know is that Jesus Christ is the only person in history that we can know on a real level and be known by Him. Of all those who are recorded in history, none of them can be known like Christ can. This is because Christ comes with the vantage of the Holy Spirit dwelling in His followers. So we don’t just know thing about Him, we know Him. He knows us. He is involved in our lives. His Spirit opens our eyes to the words of Scripture and makes them real to us, showing us their validity.

O’Reilly doesn’t act as if he has this benefit when it comes to Christ. I don’t think he believes in the miracles, or the words that Christ uttered. That is why he could write a book from a “purely” historical vantage point and not get caught up in the miracles and spiritual nature of Christ’s ministry. But it would have been far better for O’Reilly to know Christ and write from the advantage of having the Holy Spirit enlighten his mind to the words of Christ as well. It is sad that this isn’t the case.

My point here is to say the book is worth a read. Notice the singularity of that statement. I point that out because I know some would be tempted to use the book for a Bible study, or a Sunday school class. Please don’t! Spend your time reading and studying the Bible instead. However, I say it is worth a read because O’Reilly and his cohort, Martin Dugard, do a fairly decent job in the history aspect of the book. They really do help set the scene for the world that the Second Person of the Trinity stepped into. From the Roman history that is so vitally important to the way in which the Jews lived under Roman rule. The world Jesus was born into was a very cruel world and the book truly captures this reality. It also shows the Romans love for crucifying their enemies. Jesus was not the only Jew to be crucified in those days and Killing Jesus helps us see that.

This is important to know because at a point during the crucifixion of Christ, a Centurion declares Jesus to be dead. Many liberal theologians have said that the Centurion was wrong and Jesus was merely swooning. But if you know that the Centurion is not just a warrior for the Roman Empirie, but an expert on killing people via the cross, then you can see that he knew a dead person when he saw one. He was an expert in this process. Having not read the entire book, I’m not sure what spin O’Reilly will put on this aspect, but I’m sure it will be disappointing given O’Reilly’s tendency to punt anything on a supernatural level. This is more sad for him than it is for his readers.

For another great review of the book, read Paula Rodriguez’s review here. She writes:

O’Reilly’s biggest problem is that he does not appear to understand what Jesus’s purpose on earth really was or what he actually accomplished. The book jacket tells us that “Killing Jesus…recounts the seismic, political and historical events that made Jesus’s death inevitable.” And in their book, the authors do tell us the facts about how Jesus died; they tell us what was going on in the world around him when he died; and they tell us why others wanted him dead. But they don’t tell us the truth about why he died. Their arguments are that the world and its forces held control over Jesus the Nazarene and that those forces eventually led to his death.



10 thoughts on “Bill O’Reilly and Killing Jesus

  1. Thanks for the review. An employee gave it to me for Christmas and I wasn’t that excited about reading it. I share your views of O’Reilly. But it could be a good conversation starter.


  2. I appreciate the history aspect of the book. While many Christians are aware of the horrifically brutal details regarding Christ’s apprehension, trial, and crucifixion and even the oppressive climate he was born into due to the Roman occupation of Israel, I’m always surprised at how many glamorize His birth. Spend some time in a cold, smelly, dirty barn and then think about having to give birth and recuperate from such an ordeal in that environment. The stable was probably crowded with donkeys as these were the pack animals of the day (more than likely, the “inn” was full of fellow travelers due to the census). I must also mention that if you’ve ever heard a donkey bray, it’s an obnoxious sound/noise. There is so much more than what is taught regarding our Lord’s sacrifice for us. Thanks for the book review, I could see Tim getting into a read like this, while I love history and appreciate a well written biography, I’d end up frustrated with O’reilly’s apparent foolishness regarding Jesus’s deity and just want to throw the book across the room, lol.
    Blessings, Julie


    • Hi Julie,
      Yes, the donkey bray is quite loud. Dad has a donkey and a horse. And Merlin, the donkey, lets us know when we are not being quick enough to feed them and let them out for the day.

      You are right about so many glamorizing the birth of Christ. They glamorize too much about Christ. Nothing glamorous on this side of the cross. Usually the ones who do are very superficial in their faith and never really give anything any amount of thought. That’s why I write. Maybe people will think more clearly on the topic.

      BTW, I thought I would throw the book as well. There are times it’s clear O’Reilly is clueless spiritually, but I keep plugging along.


  3. I also read it, it was quite good.
    I agree that the book is written from a purely historical perspective, and not from a theological one.

    “What he fails to do is see God’s hand in any of it.”
    -I totally agree with you here, I never saw Bill mention God once, or what He was doing behind the scenes.

    I learnt a lot about Jesus, but nothing about God.

    Tim, can you explain Calvinism in a few sentence to me, would be appreciated!


    • Hi James,
      Yes, the simplest explanation is the Jesus saves His people and is sovereign over the affairs of mankind, from beginning to end. To expand on this, He saves us, we don’t save ourselves and He saves everyone the Father gives Him. Hope that helps.



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