I don’t usually review books I don’t like. The only time I have done so in the past are for books I believed were popular for all the wrong reasons such as Love Wins by Rob Bell. There is, however, a first time for everything.
Bill O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard have made a killing (bad pun intended) off his last few books on the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, so everyone should have expected another one but who? Would people really line up to buy “Killing James Garfield”? Probably not, so the blustery Fox News host turned to the greatest figure in history with the book Killing Jesus (Henry Holt 2013) but unlike his last two works, this book feels as if the authors have stepped too far from their area of expertise and took too little time to research their subject.
Killing Jesus makes a number of confident claims that are questionable at best. For example, on page 1 the authors write, “Of course we have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but they sometime appear contradictory and were written from a spiritual point of view rather than a historical chronicling of Jesus’s life.” But the majority of New Testament scholars assert the Gospels were written with ancient biographies in mind and O’Reilly and Dugard do not even offer a footnote as to what authority they are citing for such an assertion. I placed question marks next to claims made in just about every chapter. The brief works cited section near the end of the book may tell the whole story for it is a fairly random selection of works from scholars from a variety of theological backgrounds. The authors would have been better served by adding a third author preferably a full-time New Testament professor such as Craig Blomberg or Darrell Bock.
The questionable research is only one problem. Unlike their last two books, this one is not that crisply written. It appears to have been thrown together in a rush. Indeed the only truly compelling section of the book tells the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Perhaps, the O’Reilly and Dugard should have tackled Killing Caesar instead.
I’m not a Bill O’Reilly hater. I often watch his show and I liked his two previous books. I even defended him from the hordes of fellow Christians who applauded Martin Beshear when he attacked O’Reilly for not understanding the Gospel. But Killing Jesus is simply a poorly researched and dully written book. Don’t waste your time or money.
Until next time, grace and peace to you all.