Review: Killing Jesus: A History

Killing Jesus: A History
Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have one word to describe this book. Not a good word. Nor a pleasant one. But it sums it up nicely.

Ready for it? Horseshit.

Okay, so perhaps O’Reilly is not the most objective of people, but his previous works (Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln) were at least entertaining and not wasting more time describing what people might have been wearing than discussing relevant aspects of the story he’s attempting to tell. And that’s really the rub, here.

I learned more – possibly, assuming it’s true, but at least it has inspired me to go looking for information on the subject – about what the Pharisees wore and how Roman roads were made than about the characters of Christ, Judas, Pilate and Caiaphas and how their collision course led to the death of He Who Would Be King. I got to hear an extensive report of the medical troubles that (supposedly) plagued Herod the Great, in enough detail that Drs. House, Foreman, Taub, Chase and Hadley would have been interested in, but learned nothing new or interesting regarding Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. There’s plenty of drivel about Pilate’s political faux pas as it applies to governing Judea or his time in Rome, but nothing that really relates to his involvement or lack thereof in a “conspiracy” to whack the assumed Christ.

On the other end of the spectrum, things we supposedly do know about the story, whether from theological or historical information, get glossed over, ignored or so compacted as to be meaningless. Pilate’s discussion with his wife and private discussions with Jesus? Gone. Pilate’s attempts (excluding the option of releasing Barabbas or Jesus) to “find no fault in him” and get him released? Irrelevant.

And then of course there’s the giant illogical leap; ostensibly (and supported by practically every theological document with the “It’s feasible” discussion on the historical end) the Pharisees and co. wanted Jesus gone, but couldn’t just off him or have him offed. In order to maintain their hypocritical piety, they had to have him killed “legitimately” via Jewish laws. Okay; that makes sense. The book continues with that theme right up until Judas delivers Jesus into custody. At which point we go through two illegal trials, the Pilate fiasco, a trip to Herod’s, the releasing of Barabbas, the flogging and the long walk to his doom (whereupon he has to be dead and taken down and entombed before Passover, lest we violate those silly little rules!). So, according to the narrative here, the high priests wanted to make sure that they had followed the law – in letter, if not spirit – but then just ditched it all the second they arrested him? Doesn’t make sense. Also the timeline of those last couple of days is murky and off – the Last Supper is supposedly Christ’s Passover meal, which doesn’t jibe with the timing of anything else, but can supposedly be explained by calendar differences between provincial Nazarenes and cosmopolitan Jerusalemites, if we ignore that all those “backwoods hicks” were in town for Passover and thus should have been on the same timetable; there’s much made of a Jewish law that supposedly requires at least a day to pass between judging a man worthy of death and actually executing him, yet they march him up on the hill as soon as they’re given the go-ahead from Pilate (even if one counts the “informal and illegal” trial the Pharisees held before that, there’s still not a full day, but whatever) and I’d say since all of that was done by officials that “different calendars” crap goes right out the window – and feels like it squished a whole lot of the Passion into about 4 hours or so.

All in all, highly disappointing. Only reason it’s getting a “2” is because of the amusing side discussions about Roman roads and phylacteries, which was useful to me for other pursuits.

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