Book: Killing Jesus

Book Review by Ron Plachno


Killing Jesus by Bill O Reilly and Martin Dugard

Well, long ago it seems I read "Killing Lincoln". And in short succession now I read "Killing Kennedy" followed by "Killing Jesus". After just finishing the book "Killing Jesus", I have to say that I am impressed.

Now all of us humans are different. But even though I have been a Catholic all of my life I have never sat down and read the bible. Perhaps there is more information in there. But I did spend two years in a religious monastery of sorts thinking I was going to be a Catholic Teaching Brother. So one would think I should know something. But as I now know, I was hopelessly stupid.

The O Reilly books compliments the Church teachings, but for my tastes the two are entirely different. And so when some people accuse O Reilly of just doing the bible thing, I agree with O Reilly, they seem on the wrong page and likely never read "Killing Jesus". So where is the difference? For my tastes the differences could not be more obvious. The Church dwells on Christ's teachings and for my tastes, give none of the geography, history or logic. The O Reilly book does about the opposite, and has almost no teachings, but covers the history, geography, and logic according to written histories of the day. So, they do, in my opinion, two very different things. One could argue, that for understanding, doing both would be a good plan. One could also argue, that only having one side is half of the information you might want. But then .... you may well be smarter than me.

So, why do I like this book?

Call me stupid or dense if you will but it seems to me that Christian services are all into the lesson. But when they speak of Caesar, which one? How did Herod get there? What is this Samaritan stuff and where are those people from? Why were there money changers in the Temple? What is Hellenism? And do you really know a Sadducee from a Pharisee from a Samaritan? I did not. It also seems that if you just listen to gospels that Jesus almost wanders aimlessly and things just happen to him. And it seems to me that gospel writings tend to assume we know who the Pharisees are and all of that, and I did not.

Well, the O Reilly book clears that up mostly. It begins not at all with Jesus but with the beginnings of Rome and a who is who analysis. Which one was Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Octavian? And why are two of those names the same person? How does Cleopatra and Marc Anthony enter in? Who was Herod and what did he do? Pontius Pilate does what and what were his concerns? Where did Jesus live when he was not preaching? And with all of the O Reilly book, finally, finally comes the logic of why Jesus was in this town or that town and when and why. The book also tells why Palm Sunday comes before Christ's death and the significance of all of that. It also tells why the crowd wanted Barabbas instead, something I always thought was odd.

As for the book saying Jesus was God, not sure O Reilly ever said that. But it is clear from written history that Jesus was beyond a remarkable person. No, he was not in this town or that town by accident. It was clear that Jesus saw his life in three phases - quiet beginnings, preaching, and death, and Jesus seems to have orchestrated precisely where to be and what to say to do that. I get the feeling that this very smart Man played the Jews and Romans like one would play a fiddle. He knew their reactions. He always said and did the right thing at the right time to move forward with His plan - but on His own timing - not theirs. And as O Reilly says - it is quite odd that this poor man with no kingdom, army, organization, political helpers became the best known person in world history.

Anyway, as a Catholic I found this book a "must" for me to read. Now I feel, I understand some of the players, their motives, and who was where and why. And as O Reilly says, this is a totally different feel from Christian gospels. But I say, it is one of the two parts of a puzzle that some more than me may find interesting - and explains things they never understood before. I even found myself wanting to know more. So yes, I did look up Sadducee and Hellenism, although he explains them a little as I recall.

I highly recommend reading the book.

So, then, the bible writers were bad writers?

No. I believe any writer makes assumptions about their readers at the time of their writing. Recall that much of the bible was written before or during the first century. That was a long time ago. The writers would assume that their readers understood the history, geography, leadership and customs of the area.

Let me give an example. If someone wrote a book about the US today, they would assume that their readers know that day follows night and that we are on the third planet from the sun. They would likely also assume that everyone knows Canada is to North of the US, Mexico to the South, and South America below that. They would assume that all know that there are 50 states and that those states have governors that essentially are part of an overall federal government. And the writer might also assume that the reader would know why people from Mexico often want to enter the US. These are valid assumptions for our day and time, but not valid assumptions perhaps for 2000 years from now - especially if we have visitors from outer space. At 2000 years from now the geography might be quite different, likely few people would know exact histories of 2000 years ago, and certainly many people might not understand how the leaders relate.

In other words, we have a "natural problem" here. Writers write for a time, but things change. And so at least for a person like me, one should start out with a good understanding of the times where the lessons occurred.

Should Christians do anything different and now include brief History and Geography and customs at some point in their teachings- at least as an option? I am not sure. I found this all helpful. But then again, perhaps the average Christian is smarter than me.

Ronald J. Plachno

November 1 and 2, 2013

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