O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Jesus’ provokes satire, debate

Oct. 7, 2013

Eleanor Skelton
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Following the vein of his two previously co-authored books, “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy,” Bill O’Reilly tackles a biography of Jesus in his latest book released on Sept. 24.

From the first pages of the book, the authors seem to waver in purpose. In the introduction, O’Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard admit their potential bias, then state they are approaching the topic from a historical perspective, then remind us of Lincoln and Kennedy’s faith.

O’Reilly and Dugard attempt to retell history in present-tense novel format, which helps the book’s flow but sometimes becomes repetitive.

The first chapter opens, “The child with thirty-six years to live is being hunted” and continues with Herod’s point of view as he orders for the infants in Bethlehem to be killed.

The second chapter, about Julius Caesar’s assassination, begins, “The dictator with one hour to live rides atop the shoulders of slaves.”

“Jesus of Nazareth has six days to live,” the 10th chapter of the second part reminds us. O’Reilly and Dugard make the countdown toward Jesus’ final days evident and maintain a tense, fictional thriller feel, but the continual reminders distract more than engage the reader’s interest.

Similarly, the chapters Julius Caesar and Octavian, who claimed to be immortal or sons and stepsons of God, while illustrating that others had made claims to divinity like Jesus, also lack focus.

The perspective and plot tighten in the second part of the book, “Behold the Man,” and the third part, “If You Are the Son of God, Take Yourself off the Cross,” and includes much research and footnotes.

But for those who have read about the life of Jesus, not much new information is revealed. The entire third part of the book is centered on the actual death of Jesus, retelling in lurid detail but not much differently than Christian non-fiction books.

The exclusion of “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” from O’Reilly and Dugard’s version provoked criticism and satire.

On Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert said, “O’Reilly thinks he can write [about it] better than God himself.” O’Reilly defended this statement, stating that he believes Jesus said that but thinks it was physically impossible for him to speak that from the cross.

O’Reilly’s promising title delivers a fast-paced thriller feel but fails to leave much lasting substance for readers to ponder.