Robinson Critiques Bill O'Reilly's Killing Jesus: A History
"Killing Jesus" is about all the hum and commotion within the historical details surrounding the crucifixion of Christ (and it's loaded with pertinent maps). The religious operatives unite with their Gentile overlords to unjustly arrest, judge, and execute Jesus of Nazareth. He had to live and teach moral truth, but His death would achieve atonement for sin in order to realize a larger objective: salvation for millions of people.
Indeed, as O'Reilly narrates, Jesus had to teach core morality, lessons on civil duty, impartiality of individuals, among an abundance of other doctrines. He had to use a relentless stream of words, parables, Old Testament citations, and arguments to draw people to the truth. He had to live a perfectly holy life with a group of disciples and petitioners forever wanting things that are not eternally essential. If anything, "Killing Jesus" understates how important the atonement is. It unfolds a lot of fascinating history, but it is a volume written by a historian who is guided by irreligious presuppositions--rational precommitments that direct his views (we all have presuppositions).
Writers always respond to their own day, especially biographers. For O'Reilly vis-à-vis Jesus Christ, that means following the trend of history writing influenced by naturalistic methodology, which values empirical data over religious claims; materialism over the transcendent. In key places the author follows this inclination. This volume is an enjoyable read, breezy and interesting, but not winsome. Its weakness flows from its ultimate criteria and methodology. O'Reilly's foundation limits the book's authenticity and explanatory range.
Mr. O'Reilly is a terrific researcher, and "Killing Jesus" disinters numerous stirring facts and details. Few of O'Reilly's conclusions will be recollected in the years to come, but his book reads with extraordinary smoothness.
Since the core of Christ's mission is principally ignored, there's no eternal lesson in "Killing Jesus," other than maybe pay your taxes. What there is, in its place, is a very solid work of history written utilizing modern assumptions and methodology. For me, it would have been better if Mr. O'Reilly had treated Jesus Christ more sacredly. But it is also a work of our age and of its author's own presuppositions. After all, as the Son of God once said: "You are either for me or against me."
Nonetheless, despite the missteps, Mr. O'Reilly's very interesting chronicle is a welcome contribution to pop-literature concerning the historical Jesus.
Review by Mike Robinson author of numerous apologetics books including Killing Christ: Contesting the Trendy Critics Regarding the Death and Resurrection of Jesus HERE
1. Atonement for sins was the supreme reason for the execution of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53; John 3:15-19; Romans 3:20-26, 4:5; Titus 3:4-7). Jesus died to atone for the sins of men and to set them free. "He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25). Jesus is the vicarious substitution since He died for our sins on our behalf. Christ was offered in place of us. Jesus accomplished that which we could not. He vicariously stood in our place and bore our sins on the cross as He made propitiation for our sins. "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). "Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:25).
2. See the Section in the book "The World of Jesus."
3. At times the authors focus on the "exorbitant" and "unbearable" taxes that were imposed on the nation of Israel by Rome. But tax avoidance was not the central reason Christ was arrested and executed. Jesus had two primary trials (Jewish ecclesiastical and Roman criminal) and numerous legal proceedings within each. The ecclesiastical trial yielded a conviction of blasphemy. The Roman trial never produced a guilty verdict--Pilate declared that Jesus was innocent (John 18:29-30). Contrariwise, the Roman trial ended with a death sentence for Christ. Jesus was initially brought to Pilate without formal charges since Rome would not accept a Jewish blasphemy charge for indictment. The elders and Pilate came together, trying to come up with a charge that would stick--one that was within the jurisdiction of Roman law. They tried various accusations; finally they charged Christ with treason against Caesar and Rome. They misrepresented Christ's view on taxes and kingship: "We have found this man subverting the nation... He opposes taxes to Caesar ... and claims to be a king" (Luke 23:2). Jesus was a target of religious persecution and Roman injustice, but was completely innocent. Pilate sentenced Christ to die by crucifixion (John 19:16), even though he declared Him guiltless (Luke 23:14-22). Christ was executed without a Roman verdict of guilt; nonetheless He was crucified for religious reasons. The Jewish leaders insisted: "We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God" (John 19:5-7). Jesus was killed because Temple authorities asserted that He was guilty of blasphemy. Additional charges were raised because the Jewish leaders knew that Pilate would never approve an execution on a point of religious law. Other charges that fell short of a guilty verdict: Jesus' threat to destroy the Temple (a misunderstanding of His body metaphor); subverting Caesar; prohibiting the payment of taxes to Rome; inciting rebellion; and claiming to be a king. Perhaps Pilate allowed the unjust sentence to be carried out in fearful deference to Caesar, but criminally, the chief reason for the crucifixion was not for defying taxation (Bill O'Reilly) or revolutionary ideas (Reza Aslan). Christ was crucified for blasphemy (John 19:5-7). Moreover, atonement for sin and transgression was the ultimate purpose of the crucifixion of Jesus.