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Bill O’Reilly’s Jesus

Several people have (urgently) asked me to write up a review of the new blockbuster hit, Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus.   So, my short answer to the request is that, well, I haven’t read it.   It did just come out after all!   But I see it is – from the get-go – the #1 book (in the world!) on Amazon.  I will obviously have to read it:  just as I have to read Reza Aslan’s Zealot.   The latter I will be reading over the next month or so in conjunction with my course on “Jesus in Scholarship and Film,” since otherwise I won’t be able to grade my students’ book reviews of it!   But I will not be assigning O’Reilly, since it just came out and I won’t be changing my syllabus.

I’ve ordered the O’Reilly book (against my wishes; I really don’t want to “contribute  to the cause.”  But I obviously have to read it) and will be able to give an evaluation soon enough.   For now I should make just a couple of comments.

First, O’Reilly “wrote” the book with the assistance of an author named Martin Dugard, as he has done before with his other massively popular books.  I take this to mean that O’Reilly himself did not actually do much of the writing.  Did he do any of it?  Maybe someone on the blog knows.  More important, did he do any of the “research”?  I put research in quotation marks because it is not clear to me at this point how much research was done.

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Killing Jesus is Killing Me….
Jesus Position Papers



  1. Avatar
    bamurray  October 3, 2013

    I heard a snippet on the radio in which Bill O’Reilly claimed he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the book.

  2. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 3, 2013

    I’ve never considered reading Bill O’Reilly’s books about the “killing” of *anyone*, because I think of him as a right-winger. I’m amazed his books are best-sellers, because I would have expected only conservatives to read them.

    Say, here’s something I’ve been thinking about…I don’t recall your ever having discussed precisely this question. To what extent (if any) do the Gospels suggest Jesus’s exercising caution because he didn’t want to meet the same fate as John the Baptist? Perhaps, for example, wanting people to think of him as the Messiah, but not to be able to say he’d ever claimed it? Or his not going into Sepphoris, avoiding cities until he could “make waves” in Jerusalem during Passover week – at what he might have thought was a safe distance from Herod Antipas?

    Another thing I’ve been wondering about…Jesus’s promise that in the Kingdom, his “twelve” would be kings over the twelve tribes of Israel. You’ve said it seems believable because no one would have wanted to “make up” his apparent inclusion of Judas. But…did he really think that with all the “good” members of those tribes having been restored to life, it would have been appropriate for his disciples to reign over them, rather than actual *members* of the tribes? Think of all the people who would supposedly have been resurrected: Joseph (a certainly “worthy” ancestor of a tribe), King David, King Solomon! Not to mention Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Did Jesus suffer from delusions of grandeur that extended beyond himself, to his disciples? Or was he an intelligent man, shamelessly “playing” the disciples?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 3, 2013

      On John the Baptist: it’s possible! I don’t recall ever seeing it suggested.

      Yes, Jesus’ followers are superior to past Jews because they have the correct teachings of Torah (through Jesus)

  3. Avatar
    Peter  October 3, 2013


    Can’t you just get one of your students to read the book and give you the gist of it?

    I recommend using it as a motivational tool: the student who gets the worst grade in the next exam you set has to do the reading. You should get A+ grades all around! 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Steefen  October 3, 2013

    Bart Ehrman:
    To become an expert in the historical Jesus takes years of diligent study:
    ancient languages: Greek, Latin, and/or Coptic
    mastering ancient languages
    learning modern languages (usually French and German) so they can read scholarship done overseas
    read the New Testament in Greek
    read the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew
    read all the sources about Jesus, which requires Latin and Coptic
    delve deeply into scholarly research since the 1770’s
    Then you’re ready to say something to the world at large

    Steefen, author of the Greatest Bible Study in Historical Accuracy (2nd edition under way)

    I’d like to add: an expert in the Historical Jesus needs to be familiar at least, expert at best in the Tannaim.

    The Tannaim (Hebrew: תנאים, singular תנא, Tanna) were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 70-200 CE.

    One needs to be familiar at least or an expert in all the Talmudic passages referring to Jesus–the reason why Jesus in the Talmud by Peter Schafer (Princeton University Press). He leaves out one reference to Jesus that relates to Ancient Egyptian Creation myth. Basically, in the Talmud, it is claimed that Jesus did one particular act that relates to the Ancient Egyptian Creation myth. Schafer, not an expert in Egyptology only interpreted the claim with typical prudeness as opposed to the context of Ancient Egyptian mythology.

    I’d like to add: an expert in the Historical Jesus needs to be familiar at least, expert at best in The Works of Josephus.

    There are significant discrepancies between Exodus to 70 C.E. in both sources.

    Must we hold on to the biblical telling of the Exodus as opposed to Manetho’s telling of the Exodus, for example? I attended a sermon last Sunday on the Exodus. I was not impressed. Yes, it is nice to know that Christians are coming around to saying the Hebrews crossed a sea of reeds as opposed to the Red Sea.

    I’d like to add: an expert in the Historical Jesus needs to be familiar at least, expert at best in how the Ancient Hebrew language has roots in the Ancient Egyptian language. In my book, I call it “having a Post-Rosetta Stone Perspective.”

    Since so much of Jesus is tied to King David, we really need to be familiar if not experts in the 21st dynasty of Egypt with excellent conclusions about Psusennes through Sheshank and how they relate to Kind David, cities with a star as their emblem.

    Yes, experts must be familiar with the biblical criticism of Thomas Paine (Age of Reason) and Bart D. Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus and Jesus Interrupted).

    I wish Bart Ehrman or one of his students does an Age of Reason Revisited.

    I prefer works that get us to better clarity. The Hubble telescope gave us a grand scale paradigm shift. With the additions I’ve given above, I think the field will be much improved.

  5. Avatar
    Catherine Scott  October 4, 2013

    Bill O’Reilly, like you brilliantly explained, does not know what scholarship means, he has no interest in scholarship nor in the pursuit of historical truth. He should be ashamed for even trying. As others indicated, he is motivated by sales profit, promoting his own image and Fox News while exploiting his largely ignorant audience. Such sensational “bestsellers” confirm, celebrate, and perpetuate ignorance. Ater the first splash, he will soon be forgotten. I am so glad for your taking his idea to dare come out with such a book to the cleaners. Well done!

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