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Killing Jesus is Killing Me….

I received my copy of Killing Jesus in the mail today and started to glance at it.  I know I said I would read it, but I’m just not sure I can bring myself to do it.

The opening “Note to Readers” makes one’s heart sink.  We are told that this will be a “fact-based book.”  Oh, that’s good, the reader thinks: it won’t be biased but will be objective, based only on facts.   Until you begin to read the opening page of ch. 1

“Heavily armed solders from the capital city of Jerusalem are marching to this small town, intent on finding and killing the baby boy.  They are a mixed-race group of foreign mercenaries from Greece, Gaul, and Syria….”

Oh dear.  So, for our FOX historian of antiquity writing this account – the Gospel according to Bill – who is giving us only “facts,” it turns out that the “slaughter of the innocents” in Bethlehem, taken from Matthew’s infancy narrative, is a factual, historical account.  We not only know it happened, we know which soldiers Herod sent forth for killing the Christ-child (foreign missionaries: and we know which countries they came from!  I’m surprised he doesn’t tell us how many there were and what their names, ranks, serial numbers, and dates of birth were!).

Anyway, back to the Note to the Readers.  We are assured that Bill-and-buddy-co-“author” have based their information “on classical works.”  That sounds good – no modern, biased accounts, but only ancient accounts will be used.   And then we are told how that is possible.  This is an actual quote (so are my other quotes, but this one is so hard to believe that I have to assure you, they say it!):  “The Romans kept incredible records of the time, and a few Jewish historians in Palestine also wrote down the events of the day.”



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Riled by O’Reilly
Bill O’Reilly’s Jesus



  1. Avatar
    DanielBastian  October 3, 2013

    Well, if their (and I use ‘their’ loosely since no one really thinks O’Reilly wrote any of this) book was based exclusively on non-canonical sources of Jesus, it’d be a damn short book. Far easier to fill in the blanks with your imagination and appeal to the uneducated, gullible masses who hav just as fanciful an imagination 😉

    Like you, I can’t believe they actually cited Mere Christianity as a source for the book…I mean that HAS to be a joke, right?

    – Daniel

  2. Avatar
    TruthMan  October 3, 2013

    Thanks Bart for explaining. It’s just sickening to think that such a book can be published in this day and age, and worse, that millions of readers will take it as the truth — I mean, ‘as gospel’.

  3. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  October 3, 2013

    Egads! It makes one really trust the “no-spin” accuracy of Bill’s political tirades doesn’t it?

    It had never occurred to me until your recent post that the star over the manger had to move across the sky from east to west every night just like the moon and stars move across the sky. No star stays in a fixed position in the sky. Thanks.

  4. cheito
    cheito  October 4, 2013

    Dr Ehrman are you saying the the Gospel according to ‘Bill O’Reilly and buddy’, is as accurate as their historical sources? I feel heart-pain for the people who accept this book as Gospel truth. However God is so smart that He’ll even use this account of Jesus life, inaccurate as it is, to draw attention to the real Jesus. Just as He has used all the other apocryphal chronicles for almost two millenniums. Including Matthew and others. Will the real Jesus please stand up!

  5. Avatar
    Jim  October 4, 2013

    Sure people can get down on Bill, but how many of us who know next to nothing about NT history wouldn’t give our left testicle to be Bill’s next buddy-co-author on a future NT project of his? I’d totally love sitting in the bar all day hammering out historical information that I made up. Then if some scholar challenged me with a question, I would just smile and say the Holy Spirit told me so go ask him. I’d never say no to getting paid for a project like that.

  6. Avatar
    Rosekeister  October 4, 2013

    I think the phrase you are looking for to describe this book is “Jesus wept.”

  7. Avatar
    pakling  October 4, 2013

    O’Reilly did an interview with Fox Business where he identified his other “sources” as historical documentation from the time. For example, he says he included the star of Bethlehem because it was documented in “Chinese and Islamic history” (I’m not sure how there is Islamic history from the First century but that’s what he says). He also says that he believes the Gospel of John to be the most reliable gospel because John was an eyewitness to the events described, and because it is “well documented” that John himself dictated his Gospel when he was about 85 years old. 2000 years of scholarly research and all we needed was O’Reilly to research the subject to figure out everything!

  8. Avatar
    Matt7  October 4, 2013


    What are your thoughts on the First Ammendment right of free speech, now that you know the consequences? Don’t we have a big problem, since any celebrity can write about any subject, and half the people in the country have less than average intelligence?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 4, 2013

      Ah, got to have freedom of speech. And if someone exercises it, then we have the right to say, in public, that the person is a bona fide idiot!

  9. Avatar
    toddfrederick  October 4, 2013

    Bart…I think that there is one very good reason why you should read that kind of book….it let’s you know what the average non-academic person in the churches believe about Jesus and Christianity and the great majority of those who read that book will praise God for Bill setting the story straight.

    But I’m sure you already know that….:D

  10. gmatthews
    gmatthews  October 4, 2013

    Reza Aslan’s book I can understand, but I don’t understand why you would bother to read O’Reilly’s book no matter how many people have asked about it.

  11. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  October 4, 2013

    What else to expect from Bill O’Reilly!?

  12. Avatar
    mark  October 4, 2013

    You wrote in response to a comment on Oct. 2: “I don’t think Bill O’Reilly wants an expert on his show to explain why he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” This statement is disappointing because it makes me think that you don’t know what you are talking about. Even casual viewers of The Factor know that the one thing O’Reilly is actually pretty good about is bringing all sorts of people on to his show and letting them have their say (for the most part), including criticizing him to his face. Case in point: Candida Moss writes a critical review in The Daily Beast and then gets invited on his show (and gets a plug for her book and gets to criticize him to his face), and this sort of thing has happened countless numbers of times on all sorts of topics. Don’t just take what you hear about O’Reilly in the UNC faculty lounge for Gospel truth, maybe watch his show a couple of times too before you diss him. I don’t even like O’Reilly (except for his generous charitable work), but he still deserves to be treated fairly like I’m sure you’d want to be treated.

    Just do what you did for the Da Vinci Code and write a book about “Who Really Killed Jesus” and get it out on the market asap, that’s the best way to counter ‘Killing Jesus’ numerous errors and invented “facts” and deliver it to a broad audience. Just a thought.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 4, 2013

      Don’t be disappointed! I don’t know anything about it!! (I’ve never seen the show and never will; that would be precious minutes that I would never get back….)

      • Avatar
        DMiller5842  October 7, 2013

        The only thing worse than being an idiot is arguing with one. You are right not to waste your time and talent on him! 🙂

  13. Avatar
    Scott F  October 4, 2013

    So we don’t have any SURVIVING official Roman records about Josephus, Jesus or Pilate. Does this mean that they didn’t exist? As an historian how would one know? I would appreciate even a short post on what we know about Roman and other early record keeping practices. This coomes up when dealing with apologists’ claims such as that Pliny the Younger mention of Jesus is historically useful because he would have consulted official records instead of relying on information from interviewing the Christians involved in incidents in his area.

  14. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 4, 2013

    Yikes! And in addition to what you pointed out, that first sentence of his has the “heavily armed Roman soldiers” coming from Jerusalem – implying they were stationed there. And you’ve told us there *wasn’t* a military force permanently stationed there, at least when Jesus was an adult. I’m guessing there wouldn’t have been one thirty years earlier, either.

    Interesting, though, if as one poster said, O’Reilly is a Catholic, and he seems to be portraying Jesus solely as a “man.” I hope you, or someone here, will tell us enough about the book’s ending to make clear whether he affirms or denies the Resurrection. Or maybe, “covers himself” by dealing only with the death, not speculating about what followed?

  15. Avatar
    webattorney  October 4, 2013

    I can at least say I never read any book written by Bill. I have no idea why people read his books when there are so many other better books to read. I guess I never watched one of his TV shows either, so I don’t feel compelled to read his books.

  16. Avatar
    webattorney  October 4, 2013

    While I am at it, one question for Mr. Ehrman. I thought I heard that there were more than one source (aside from Josephus) which mentions Jesus — some account by some soldier (Roman?). Is that reliable? In short, aside from the Bible, how many other sources specifically mention Jesus Christ in their writings in any form and manner? What about one argument that if the accounts in the Gospels were not true, many contemporary people would have disputed their accounts?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 4, 2013

      No, we have no other first century account apart from Christian source (virtually all in the NT).

  17. Avatar
    ajbarnhart  October 4, 2013

    Thank you for eviscerating that piece of garbage. I’ve seen him touting his book as historical fact and it really chaps my ass. I was pleased to see that you, a preeminent historian of that era, have taken a few moments to bring him down a peg. I can only hope he reads your review and is embarrassed about his book.

  18. Avatar
    seeker_of_truth  October 4, 2013

    I have to say, after saving points on my amazon.com credit card your The Bible: A Historical And Literary Introduction came this afternoon.

    Oh Happy Day!

  19. Avatar
    EricBrown  October 4, 2013

    Just to be legalistic, the gospels are “classical sources” and in at least some cases, “Jewish” ones. And if you consider that subjects of the Roman empire kept their records (ie the Gospel texts), largely faithfully from the time of their composition, then I could call that “incredible Roman record keeping.” Also, the epistles are classical sources, unless you are becoming a mythicist, Bart…..:-)

    Picayune argumentation aside, there is something odd about Jesus’ crucifixion as recorded. The whole point of that form of execution was that it was extremely agonizing and it lasted a long time — days. Yet somehow he died within six hours. Never heard of a “chair” before, though.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 4, 2013

      The problem is that he doesn’t report on the sources: he just makes things up — most things, from what I can see.

  20. Avatar
    Steefen  October 4, 2013

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Please comment on how keeping up with a subject by writing subsequent editions of a textbook might make an expert better–as a scholar, writer, recognized authority.

    Subsequent editions show:

    1. new conclusions have been drawn (you have said one or more items have changed for you over the years)
    2. new evidence has come up
    3. an expert is still on top of his game (I’ve heard of at least one instance where a recognized authority was no longer relevant)

    It may be wrong that I value your Jesus Interrupted as the most important book of yours for me. Since we’re on the topic of the historical Jesus, I doubt that you will come out with a second edition of that book because it’s more for the general reader and maybe not as high as a supplemental college textbook.

    Maybe I would have bought from Jesus to Constantine if it were a book. I know the video course has some sort of text that comes with it but it isn’t a word for word text version of the lectures.

    The New Testament: A Historical Introduction the Early Christian Writings, 4th Ed. by you and The Text of the New Testament: Its Translation, Corruption and Restoration, 4th Ed. by Bruce Metzger and yourself gets me excited as I was always impressed by Paul Samuelson (and William Nordhaus) having an 18th edition of their classic Economics textbook.

    So, instead of me putting Jesus Interrupted at the top of my list of your work, wouldn’t you agree that it would be fair that I put the better 4th Edition of The NT: A Historical Intro to the Early Christian Writings. Perhaps, all that you’ve put into your tradebooks flows into your textbooks?

    I’d disagree because Intro textbooks to a subject aren’t advanced. That’s like saying a Freshman textbook by a scholar is better than a Masters degree textbook.

    So, that leaves me with the textbook where you get second billing: The Text of the NT: It’s Translation, Corruption…

    Is that really the best repository of your best work (the field’s best conclusions: 1) newest evidence, 2) newest conclusions, 3) still relevant), especially since we get a little “peer review” by Metzger being tied-in as a co-author–two people agree (and the editor, makes three)?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 4, 2013

      Yes, these are all reasons for new editions. But they tend to happen only with textbooks, though sometimes with highly significant other books. As to what to read – it depends entirely on what you’re interested in!

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