Review of Killing Jesus
After the success of both Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard took on the bold project of writing a book about the death of Jesus of Nazareth. They should be commended for even attempting this project. Jesus is both an extremely popular figure and, at times, an extremely controversial figure. To present an unbiased account of the historical person of Jesus is an extremely difficult task. O'Reilly and Dugard do commendable work on this front, but their approach to the project is ultimately what leads to the disappointing nature of the book.
Killing Jesus reads like a novel. Beginning with the birth of Jesus and some history of the Roman Empire and its occupation of Judea, the narrative flows nicely and is easy to read. The historical information about the governing bodies of the region is fascinating. However, when the narrative shifts its focus to the life of Jesus and his ministry, the quality of the work begins to unravel.
O'Reilly and Dugard clearly sought to fill in the gaps. The Gospels do not tell every detail about Jesus’ life. There is no need to do so, for they are not historical books. They are books of Faith. The authors of this historical work about Jesus do feel obligated to enlighten their readers about certain gaps in the Gospel narratives. For the most part, their diligence in finding other sources to explain these parts of His life pays off, and good insight is seemingly provided. But, when it becomes clear the authors include obviously fictional elements for the sake of a better narrative, their credibility on all historical aspects of the book is thrown into question. Some assumptions they make deal with what Jesus was thinking about during certain moments of his life. At certain points of His life, it is easy to guess what Jesus was thinking, but the points at which O'Reilly and Dugard attempt to explain His thoughts, it is either not clear what Jesus is thinking or it is not worth even mentioning. O'Reilly states that both he and Dugard are Roman Catholic. How, then, can they claim to know what the person they believe to be God was thinking at certain moments of His life? The most obvious instance of fiction in the narrative is when the authors describe the weather on the Tuesday before Good Friday. There is no way they could have known that, nor is it even relevant. This one clause in one sentence alone does serious damage to the credibility of O'Reilly and Dugard.
The addition of irrelevant information is characteristic of the entire book. Do we really need to know Julius Caesar was once in a homosexual relationship? Or, what is the purpose of stating Jesus had siblings? In fact, that is a claim that, as Catholics, O'Reilly and Dugard should refute (When Mark 6:3 is viewed in light of Mark 15:40 that claim falls apart).
Do I regret reading Killing Jesus? No, I am glad I did. It was a good reminder of just how torturous Jesus’ death was, something we all need to be reminded of from time to time. Furthermore, O'Reilly and Dugard do bring up the precarious political situation all those involved with the death of Jesus faced. Too often, we forget what was going on in Jerusalem and the rest of the world when we read the Gospels. This information can help explain the events that take place in the Gospels.
Having said that, I would not recommend this book to others, but neither would I discourage others from reading it. I would, however, warn anyone who does read it about some of the liberties O'Reilly and Dugard take in telling this most important story.