First, there was Reza Aslan’s Jesus the Zealot. Now, there is Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus. Both books have their merits, but I would suggest sticking with books written by less politicized New Testament biblical scholars….and if you do not have time for that… just stick with the Bible, please.
Several months ago, I reported on Veracity about Reza Aslan’s controversial yet popular book, Jesus the Zealot. Several waves of biblical scholars mostly panned the book, citing that despite a few thoughtful ideas here and there and some very engaging storytelling, Aslan fails to contribute anything substantially new to the discussion regarding our understanding of the historical Jesus. Now, just a few months later, conservative news commentator Bill O’Reilly has made his stab at writing a biography of Jesus of Nazareth, Killing Jesus.
Over at Anthony Le Donne’s scholarly Jesus Blog, we find an initial take on O’Reilly’s (with co-author Martin Dugard) latest blockbuster, following on the heels of other popular subjects, such as Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln. Sadly, Le Donne is not impressed so far. At best, Le Donne finds O’Reilly’s use of biblical and historical sources to be inconsistent. But here, Le Donne quotes one of O’Reilly’s leading statements at the beginning of the book:
“Jesus was executed. But the incredible story behind the lethal struggle between good and evil has not been fully told. Until now. At least, that is the goal of this book.” (page 4)
Wow. Such hubris. Despite the thousands and thousands of pages already printed investigating the historical identity of Jesus of Nazareth, O’Reilly is telling us that only now will he begin to tell us the full story.
That is simply incredible.
Just think about this for a moment. Here are two books by Aslan and O’Reilly that have rocketed to the top of the New York Times best seller lists. The folks at the apologetics website Stand to Reason appear to be some of the few Christians who generously find O’Reilly to be somewhat helpful, but even they stop short of a full endorsement. Furthermore, even Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis finds something to disapprove of regarding Killing Jesus. In some cases, O’Reilly takes the New Testament accounts at face value for being historical. At other times, he dismisses key aspects of the Gospels as historically valid. In the reviews I have seen, it does not seem at all clear what O’Reilly’s method is for making his historical judgments.
I wonder why you do not see books by top-notch evangelical New Testament scholars like N.T. Wright, Craig Blomberg, Ben Witherington, Craig Evans, Gregory Boyd, Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, D. A. Carson, Gregory Beale or Darrell Bock at the top of the New York Times Best Seller lists? On the positive side, both Aslan and O’Reilly show that people are still fascinated with the person of Jesus Christ, which provides a very natural opportunity for the believer to start up spiritual conversations with their neighbor. However, it is difficult to restrain myself from thinking that politics might be part of the reason for Aslan’s and O’Reilly’s success with their books. I do not mean to step on anyone’s toes, but it would concern me if the story of Jesus is getting manipulated here to support some different agendas. I suppose that if Reza Aslan writes something that appeals to so-called “liberals” that O’Reilly feels compelled to write something appealing to so-called “conservatives”. I guess it all evens out perhaps?
Just a Few Weeks Away!!
Come join the Veracity community at the Facts & Faith Symposium, to be held at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, on several Sundays in November, 2013 (the 10th, 17th and 24th) at 6:30pm.