Book Review: The Killing of Jesus
by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
I was looking forward to this book coming out, having read both Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy.
Killing Jesus is currently #2 on the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction, so a lot of people are reading it.
Like the two previous Killing books, Killing Jesus is entertaining and fast-paced. It reads like a novel. I also learned some things about the “times” in which Jesus lived, ministered and died insofar as the book is not limited to the events of Holy Week. Instead, the authors include quite a bit of background information on the political, religious, economic and social climate in 1st century Palestine.
Here’s an example: I did not realize that Jewish tradition dictated that all bodies be examined three days after apparent death. At that time, death is formally pronounced and the body is re-placed in the tomb for one year. After a year, the decomposed body is placed in a small jar known as an ossuary, to be either stored in a niche carved into the tomb wall or removed to a new location.
This explains why the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning. It’s also reasonable to assume they expected some men to be there to roll away the stone.
Overall, I appreciated the authors’ handling of Scripture with two MAJOR exceptions. The first exception is that in telling the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, they don’t describe a single miracle. In fact, they appear to dismiss them as mere legends. That was disturbing to me.
The second exception has to do with the resurrection. The book ends as follows:
“Mary Magdalene cautiously steps forward and looks inside. She smells the myrrh and aloe in which Jesus’s body was anointed. She clearly sees the linen shroud in which the body was wrapped. But there is nothing else there.
To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.”
Only in the Afterword do the author’s mention the resurrection. They also refer to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances as “apparitions.” An apparition is defined as the appearance of a ghost or spirit of a dead person.
My impression is that the authors did not want to offend the sensibilities of non-believers. That’s understandable for a mass-marketed book. At the same time, if you take away Jesus’ miracles and also his resurrection, what are you left with? Just a man, I suppose.