Killing Jesus: Christian Book Review
Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, was written to describe the events in the life of Jesus. It is apparent that the authors conducted many hours poring over the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in retelling the story. Some secular historical sources are also cited. However—perhaps because I am already very familiar with the life of Jesus—I found the story to be limited in scope.
The book reads a little like a narrated Bible, except that the authors pick and choose which gospel details to include and exclude, leaving the reader with an incomplete picture of the story.
A few extrabiblical sources are utilized to describe the background setting for the life of Jesus. The information is good, but the events seem disjointed from the rest of the text.
For example, the events surrounding Julius Ceasar forty years before the birth of Jesus are interesting in a historical context, but are not particularly pivotal to the story. Further, especially at the beginning of the book, the story bounces from present to past events without explanation.
Major details from the story in Killing Jesus are often neglected or ignored. For instance, there is little mention of the miracles of Jesus, which are performed to show him as being accredited by God (eg. Acts 2:22).
The claims of Jesus to be the Son of God—deity—are also seldom acknowledged. Although it is true that there is a “messianic secret”, or request by Jesus to keep his true identity under wraps (especially in the gospel of Mark), the book focuses little time discussing his deity or even the validity of it.
Additionally, the significance of the cross is not discussed. To followers of Christ, the cross symbolizes sacrifice, forgiveness, hope, redemption and grace, to name but a few of its deep theological meanings.
On the cross, the authors of Killing Jesus only mention two of the seven statements that Jesus made. This seriously discounts many of the truths regarding the motivation and character of Jesus.
After the death of Jesus, the narrative moves very quickly, simply glossing over his resurrection, which is of course central to the Christian faith. His last days and final teachings are ignored altogether, which give Christians the Great Commission.
To their credit, O’Reilly and Dugard make a strong case for Jesus and his disciples having the last Passover meal on the Thursday before his death, instead of Friday. And, they also cite substantial evidence that Jesus lived to be 35 or 36 years old, instead of the normally accepted 33.
Killing Jesus contributes to the understanding of Jesus in a historical context, but simply leaves out too much about who Jesus is, what his mission was, and what his life means to his present day followers.