As a long-time admirer of Bill O’Reilly’s TV political commentary, I read with interest his book, “Killing Jesus.” He and co-author Martin Dugard did a remarkable job of research. I loved the detail of the times in which Jesus walked the earth and the descriptions of the people and events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ. Remarkable!
While we have a lot in common, and I admire this book overall, there are areas where I believe O’Reilly and Dugard missed the boat. As we all too often do, I want to focus on some differences of interpretation, despite the many good aspects of the book. I will deal with some questions of interpretation now, and then others in a subsequent blog.
a. Anna’s prophecy of Christ in Luke 2:36-38 was not a prophecy that Jesus would free Jerusalem from Roman rule. While that was, indeed, the wrong expectation of many people in Christ’s day, He came for a greater spiritual and eternal redemption. The Scripture says simply that she prophesied of “Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” That redemption was to be spiritual and eternal, not political, as O’Reilly suggests on pages 18-19 in describing the meaning of her prophecy.
b. The statement on page 20 that Herod could have a “clean conscience” after the slaughter of innocent infants baffles me. His conscience could be no more clear than Hitler’s conscience after the slaughter of innocent Jews.
c. I am a bit baffled also by the reference to the dove at the baptism of Jesus as if it were a white feathered bird which Jesus tried to shoo away. All the gospels refer to the Holy Spirit coming down upon Christ in the “form of a dove.” O’Reilly expressly resisted the spiritual connotation of the Holy Spirit and insists on a simple bird. But Scripture does not support his view at all. All four gospels say the exact opposite of what O’Reilly claims on page 103.
d. I may be splitting hairs on page 153, but while many Jews thought Jesus was going to be an earthly deliverer (and king), Jesus Himself knew better. Consequently, it is doubtful that the fear of being considered an earthly king is what motivated Him to reveal Himself as the Christ in a measured way.
e. While there may have been an aura of sadness in the closing days of Jesus’ earthly life, as O’Reilly points out on page 172, His sadness was not over His impending death but over the failure of others (including His disciples) to understand His purpose and embrace it. He was not “coming to terms” with His imminent death. Multiple Scriptures point out that this was the purpose for which He came into this world, and that He knew it from the beginning. (Luke 19:10; John 6:38, 7:33; et al)
f. On page 176, the book says that whether knowingly or unknowingly Jesus had led the life of a continual fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. It suggests that at times he may have purposely done things to create self-fulfilling prophecies. Scripture makes it clear that Jesus knew who He was and the one purpose for which He came – to fulfill prophecy. (John 17:1-26; et al)
g. The idea that panic was over-taking Christ, as claimed on page 212 and pages 222-223, with the approaching crucifixion is foreign to Scripture. (John 19:11, 30; et al) Never was there One who was so determined and focused on His God-given mission to die for the sins of mankind than was Christ.
O’Reilly does a remarkable job with an unfathomable subject, but these are areas where His interpretation of Scripture seems to come up short. I believe Jesus Christ deliberately came into this world with one purpose – to fulfill Romans 5:8. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in I Timothy 1:15. And I believe Jesus Christ was acutely aware of His mission and purpose up through the point where He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) It was not His life that was finished – it was the divine mission of His sacrificial death!