“Killing Jesus” from Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard is more like Jesus, the Superhero (or Jesus Christ Superstar). I am not religious at all; I respect those who use faith to guide their lives, but I do not respect those who use religion to differentiate themselves or look down upon others.
That said, I was very (and pleasantly) how much I enjoyed this factual history of Jesus’ life and the explanation of the world around him. O’Reilly and Dugard explain their approach in providing a history, based on reliable sources (I did not realize the Roman Empire was so good at record keeping) of the times, and do not judge or attempt to embellish, for better or worse, what was reported.
Thus, as silly as it sounds, I found myself rooting for Jesus, even though I obviously know what happened to him, and somehow hoping there would be a happy ending. In some ways, I guess you might say there is a happy ending, but it came about in a very sad way. I’ll let you interpret that on your own.
I highly recommend the book and here are ten excerpts I found most worth remembering: (as a bonus, “Christ” means King)
1) If anyone thinks it odd that a smooth-cheeked, simply dressed child from rural Galilee should be sitting alone among these gray-bearded rabbis, with their flowing robes and encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish history, they are not saying. In fact, the opposite is true: Jesus’s understanding of complex spiritual concepts has astonished the priests and teachers. They listen to his words as he speaks and treat him like a savant, marveling to one another about his amazing gifts.
2) The most common modes of killing a condemned man in the Roman Empire were hanging, burning him alive, beheading, placing him inside a bag full of scorpions then drowning him, and crucifixion. As terrible as the four might be, the last is considered the worst by far.
3) Working together, the men who, just moments ago, were praying, now cut off any route of escape. Jesus is forced to the edge of town, where a tall cliff provides a commanding view of Galilee. The men’s intention is to hurl Jesus to his death. And it appears that might happen, for Jesus seems powerless. But at the last minute he turns to face his detractors. Drawing himself up to his full height, Jesus squares his shoulders and holds his ground. He is not a menacing individual, but he has a commanding presence and displays an utter lack of fear. The words he says next will never be written down, nor will the insults these men continue to hurl at him ever be chronicled. In the end, the mob parts and Jesus walks away unscathed. And he keeps walking.
4) By early in the year 28, Jesus has selected twelve men to follow him and learn his teachings as disciples, so that they may one day go out alone into the world and preach his message. Four of the apostles—Peter, Andrew, James, and John—are fishermen. Jesus has specifically singled out men from this calling because their job requires them to be conversant in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and a little Latin, which will allow them to speak with a wider group of potential followers.
5) Jesus is undermining their [the Pharisees] authority. If allowed to flourish, his movement will destroy their way of life, stripping them of wealth and privilege. And that cannot be allowed to happen. For as much as the Pharisees say they love God, most of them are arrogant, self-righteous men who love their exalted class status far more than any religious belief system.
6) But if the disciples think that Jesus has shared his deepest secret, they are wrong. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law,” Jesus goes on to explain. This doesn’t make sense to the disciples. If Jesus is the Christ, then he will one day rule the land. But how can he do so without the backing of the religious authorities? And if that isn’t confusing enough, Jesus adds another statement, one that will be a source of argument down through the ages. “He must be killed,” Jesus promises the disciples, speaking of himself as the Son of God, “and on the third day be raised to life.” The disciples have no idea what this means. Nor do they know that Jesus of Nazareth has less than a year to live.
7) Whether knowingly or unknowingly, Jesus has led a life that is a continual fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. He was born a Jew. His lineage is that of David. A great star rose in the morning sky as he was being born in Bethlehem. It could be argued that as he grew and learned Scripture, he intentionally began contriving his actions and words to mimic the prophets’ predictions. And now comes the ultimate symbol: if Jesus chooses to ride into Jerusalem at Passover astride a donkey, he will be sending a powerful message.
8) For the past three years, Jesus has been adored, but he has also been subject to attack and suspicion. Even his disciples, despite their deep belief in Jesus and his teachings, sometimes care more about jockeying for power than about understanding his true nature and his message for the world. He has been very specific with the disciples that he is more than just an earthly Christ. They don’t understand. He has told them again and again that he is a divine being, the Son of God. They cannot comprehend that concept. Jesus has made it clear that he is the Christ but that his kingdom is not of this world. They don’t understand what he’s talking about. Three times, Jesus has told his disciples that he will die this week. But his followers refuse even to contemplate that.
9) [When Jesus is supposed to rise from the dead] But this presents another immediate challenge: Mary is physically incapable of rolling away the tombstone; she will require help. Yet most of Jesus’s disciples are still in hiding. Since yesterday was the Sabbath, and she followed the mandate to do nothing but rest, she does not know about the Roman soldier ordered to stand guard outside the tomb. But there is no guard. As the two Marys approach the tomb, they are stunned. The tombstone has been rolled away. The crypt is empty. Mary Magdalene cautiously steps forward and looks inside. She smells the myrrh and aloe in which Jesus’s body was anointed. She clearly sees the linen shroud in which the body was wrapped. But there is nothing else there. To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.
10) The crucifix, that iconic image showing the body of Jesus affixed to a cross, was not a part of the Christian culture until six centuries after his death. The lack of representation of the cross may have been due to the Church’s belief in his resurrection.
10a) [I apologize for the cheating!] Little is known about what happened to the others [Jesus’ disciples – this shows that regardless of whether Jesus returned after death or not, his disciples believed he returned and led lives of misery to spread Jesus’ message after he died], except that each apostle spent his life preaching and was killed for doing so. It is a fact that the disciples of Jesus traveled as far as India, Britain, and even into Africa in their zeal to spread their faith, marking a vast sea change from their timid behavior during Jesus’s life and in the hours after his death.