I must admit I was a little wary of reading this book about the death of Jesus not because I had any fear my faith would be destroyed, but because O’Reilly is a political commentator by profession (although I understand he has some background in Catholicism) and not a qualified theologian. As someone who actually worships Jesus of Nazareth as the son of God on pretty much a daily basis, I don’t want his story trampled on by someone who frankly doesn’t know what he’s talking about or has a predisposition towards thinking the gospel is a bunch of hokum. If I could use a travel analogy, when I check my new luggage at the airline counter, I don’t expect my suitcase won’t be bumped a little bit, but I want my belongings treated with respect and not just slung around by some imbecilic baboon who is bent on damaging my stuff all in the line of just doing his job. As I turned the last page, I felt that Messrs. O’Reilly and Dugard, had treated something that is sacred for me with the utmost respect and courtesy.
Now that said, I didn’t really learn anything new in the book. But then again, I am a pastor and have been studying this topic for 32 years and have done my share of Good Friday and Easter Sunday meditations which have had me in this material (both the scriptures, ancient secular histories, and supplemental studies that are cited as resources for this book). What I enjoyed about Killing Jesus is something only Mr. O’Reilly can deliver and that is his keen sense for the politics and connections in the Roman Empire (which included the Israel of Jesus’ day). Many political figures are referenced in the Gospels, but their backgrounds were unimportant to the writers and so other works must be consulted to really make any connections. Also if you’ve read Killing Lincoln or Killing Kennedy you’ll see the similar and very effective pattern of bringing the protagonists together from different periods and places until they collide on the fateful day. It’s very helpful and a great device for giving some interesting background that could come off as dry or incidental otherwise.
I would recommend this book for someone unfamiliar with the New Testament who wanted to learn more about what happened to Jesus and his rise to prominence. It is certainly not all you should know but it is a well-done primer. If you are familiar with the Gospels and Acts, this does a great job of supplementing them without changing the story. Use the excellent bibliography in the back for suggestions for further reading. Mr. O’Reilly, thanks for putting Jesus Christ in your “no-spin zone”!