October 4th, 2013
07:09 PM ET
Five things Bill O’Reilly flubs in 'Killing Jesus'
Opinion by Candida Moss, Special to CNN
(CNN)--Bill O’Reilly’s "Killing Jesus: A History" is the best-selling book in the world right now. But it’s far from flawless.
The Holy Spirit may have inspired "Killing Jesus," but he didn’t fact-check it.
Here are five ways it shows:
1. Not everything Roman historians tell you is true
Of the first 80 or so pages of "Killing Jesus," only 15 are about Jesus himself. The rest is history, biography, and politics of the ancient Mediterranean. Much of this is gleaned from Roman and Jewish historians like the imperial biographer Suetonius and the Jewish general Josephus.
These are authors that O’Reilly trusts implicitly. Maybe it’s because Suetonius reads like the National Enquirer, maybe it’s because the Romans loved eagles, but whatever the reason, O’Reilly gives them too much credit.
The Romans were fantastic record-keepers but had different standards for their history writing. O’Reilly refers to the acta diurna – a sort of proto-newspaper recording political events, marriages, and divorces that was read aloud in public – as evidence for accuracy in Roman record-keeping.
But he is wrong to see these as transparent statements of fact.
They were propagandistic: the Roman orator Cicero complains that he is misrepresented in the daily reports, and the Roman governor Pliny retells a story he had heard in which a dog jumped in the river after his deceased owner. It’s a little more Buzzfeed than Wall Street Journal.
2. Paul was not a Christian
According to O’Reilly, Paul was “a former Pharisee who became a convert to Christianity.” Paul was not a Christian; he was a Jew who moved from one branch of Judaism to another.
He never uses the word Christian. It seems that the early members of the Jesus movement referred to themselves as followers of “the Way.”
The word Christian wasn’t used until the end of the first century C.E. The first generation of Jesus' followers lived and died as Jews.
3. The Pharisees were not self-righteous bloviators.
The same old caricature of Pharisees as “arrogant,” “haughty,” and legalistic pervades the book. There is biblical support for this view from the Gospels, but O’Reilly and Dugard claim to be writing history and separating ”myth” from “fiction.”
For the past 30 years, scholarship on the Pharisees has shown that the Pharisees were not hyper-legalistic hypocrites. To make things worse, the authors seem to think that John the Baptist told the Pharisees either to burn or be condemned to hell (a rather peculiar reading of Luke 3:17).
The irony here is that our modern stereotypes of the Pharisees are grounded in Protestant critiques of Catholicism. Protestant Reformers saw Catholics as just like the biblical Pharisees, championing faith through works, and lumped the two groups together as legalizers and hypocrites. O’Reilly and Dugard, being Catholic, are actually stereotyping themselves.
4. Jesus was/wasn’t political
Any follower of Internet memes knows that Jesus can be made to say anything. O’Reilly has vacillated between saying (on his television show "The O’Reilly Factor") that Jesus was not political and arguing in his book that Jesus died to interrupt the revenue stream from the Temple and Rome and that "Jews everywhere long for the coming of a messiah ... [because] Rome will be defeated and their lives will be free of taxation and want."
Even though there’s no evidence for a direct financial link between the Temple and Rome, there’s no doubt that Jesus advocated for the poor. But O’Reilly needs to make up his mind. Is Jesus the man of the people seeking to liberate the oppressed from a heavy tax burden, or is he a peaceful man of God just trying to make a difference?
5. History isn’t just a word, it’s a discipline
O’Reilly acknowledges (correctly) that it’s difficult to look past the agendas of his sources and separate the myth from the history.
Historians prefer early sources and events that are documented in multiple (preferably independent) sources. O’Reilly puts all of this aside and cherry-picks episodes from whichever Gospel version he seems to prefer.
He will sometimes omit stories if they seem historically implausible, but he doesn’t do this consistently. He omits Jesus' words, from the Gospel of Luke, as he is being crucified: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In his CBS interview he explained that it was impossible for people to speak audibly while they were crucified. Fair enough; but then why does he include Jesus’s final words from the Gospel of John: “It is finished”? Is there something about the word “forgiveness” that sticks in the throat?
Apart from the methodological problems, the entire book is written in the style of a novel, not a history book. We hear the thoughts of Herod as he orders the execution of the male children of Bethlehem, for instance. It’s entertaining, but it’s historical fan fiction, not history.
Editor’s Note: Candida Moss is a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame and author of The Myth of Persecution.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Fact Check Item 2
"The Latinized Greek term Khri·sti·a·nos′, found only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, designates followers of Christ Jesus, the exponents of Christianity.—Ac 11:26; 26:28; 1Pe 4:16.
“It was first in Antioch [Syria] that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians.” (Ac 11:26) It is possible, then, that this name was used as early as the year 44 C.E. when the events surrounding this text occurred, although the grammatical structure of this phrase does not necessarily make it so; some think it was a little later. At any rate, by about 58 C.E., in the city of Caesarea, the term was well known and used even by public officials, for at that time King Herod Agrippa II said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”—Ac 26:28."
Thank you. Paul was very much a Christian as he was a follower of 'the way' because there is no difference. The name 'Christian' came a bit later but they knew exactly who they were and who they represented.
So he was a Christian but Christians didn’t exist yet. Great logic there.
Try reading that post again. They began as followers of the way but LATER began to call themselves Christians at Antioch. Paul was well aware, and knew who he was and who he represented. Is that clear?
Yes its very clear. You’re still claiming he was something that you yourself admit didn’t exist yet on the basis that his belief system (according to the unreliable source of the bible and your translation of it) evolved into Christianity. Using that logic then all Jews are really Christians because their religion (the one yours is based on) evolved into Christianity from a splinter group following a single prophet. Your desire for Paul to be a Christian is blinding you reason centers. But this is common among your kind.
I’ll side with logic and the Biblical scholar over a random interweb comment any day of the week.
So all the believers at that time decided they be called Christians....except Paul. Is that YOUR logic? Matter of fact just drop it, its not that serious
Gee whiz, folks, Bill-o already said that he believes God told him to write the book....maybe it was Holy Ghost-written?
How about an editorial on the NUMEROUS flubs in The Audacity of Hope?
red herring much?
Red herring The food of choice for the chronically indignant.
Well Jodi, for one, Bill O'Reilly actually wrote his own book. Obama had someone else write it for him, because you know, work has always been too much of a cross for the Obozo to bear. Besides do you think the liberal loons like the one who wrote this tripe really want to rehash that Obama actually admits that Frank Marshall Davis was his political inspiration in life?
She's on your side.
Your post lacked merit to begin; then you punctuated it by attacking one of your own due to your inability to read.
Thank you sooooo much! A solid laugh and a little validation. Keep up gods work.
You made my morning.
I'm Bill O'reilly and I know that you know that I know you want to blow me.
Just do it already.
While I don't believe O'Reilly is as wonderful as HE thinks he is, this woman and network cannot hold a candle to his success...and it obviously galls them both!
Too funny. Just because he is a successful entertainer that makes him better than an educated scholar. Adorable. Captain Kangaroo was very successful so does that make him an expert in biblical history? Give me a break.
Yet again an atheist completely misses the point, even with their supposedly superior intellect. The point was that it obviously pains her, a so-called New Testament scholar, that Bill O'Reilly's book on Jesus is more successful than hers. There was nothing about believing he was qualified because he is a successful entertainer, but that was quite some eisegesis you tried to pull off there.
CNN...scraping the bottom of the barrel again & again & again
How do you spell sore loser-CNN
and yet here you are patronizing the site
What exactly is it you think they lost?
I believe the point of referencing the extensive Roman records wasn't intended to imply that they are 100% factual, just that they are the ONLY source of information we have about that era. The Bible fails to satisfy even the simplest of criteria for a 1st hand source, seeing as the original sources (not that anyone living has seen an unedited version) were written sometime between 50-200AD and edited extensively by the Roman Catholic church to coincide with the dogma of the Roman Empire. Not to mention the hundreds of revisions since then by dozens of different groups for various reasons. What did you want, an expose on fables using the fables themselves as proof?
You know, accurate or not, I can't help but think that O'Reilly, like so many conservatives, has joined "pools of belief" based on his conservativism, rather than any real personal conviction. For example, I have an extremely conservative friend who has never owned a gun, and wouldn't know how to fire one, but is a foaming at the mouth 2nd amendment advocate. In this way, I wonder how truly religious Mr. O'Reilly is, or if this is merely a convention made to the conservative base who will buy this book. Incidentally, in case you might think this is a liberal screed, I can cite as many examples of liberals doing the same sort of issue pooling. To me, it is simply the destruction of individual thought.
In reply to your statement under point #2, Paul was indeed a Christian. Please refer to the Bible book of Acts Chapter 11, verses 25 & 26 for evidence.
There is a reason they call that version "the King James Bible."
Why do atheists rely on the KJV? Read the Greek like some of us Christians. The Greek says the same thing.
Might be the dumbest statement ever. "Why do atheist's rely on the KJV of the bible?"
where to start? Oh yeah.
They don't. Christians do.
Don't be upset when someone who doesn't believe in your faith knows more about it than you.
In your case. This will happen a lot.
LOL. Atheists have comprehension problems. The original post says nothing about KJV. The atheist brought that into the discussion. Oh, and I am quite positive I know more than you and pervert, so don't go there or you'll be very embarrassed.
Study after study has shown Atheists in general know more about Christianity than most Christians. If anyone should be embarrassed here its you.
Funny when you guys can't comprehend simple writing and history.
Please do come back for a real discussion when you read Greek and have the slightest clue what p52 might be, and no it's not a WWII fighter.
Having not read the book and only watching your interview on O'Reilly I can only make one statement in rebuttal. Jesus did not come to relieve the Jews of the tyrannical rule of the Romans. He came to relieve mankind of the sin debt that each of us owes. His one time sacrifice on the cross for us all gave us all a way out of having to pay the penalty for sin (Hell). Every one of us has a choice. Belief and Faith in Jesus (only) and eternal life is your reward. Ignore Him and you will end up an eternity in Hell because you rejected God's Son. Your call.
Thanks for the joke of the day! Good "lord" virgins were not mentioned in bible.
Thank you brother.
I watched the interview and it was an interesting interview. Neither Moss nor O'Reilly were interested in sharing the mission of Jesus. They were more interested in their own "political" views and ensuring they had Jesus on their side of their "political" mission.
Jesus came for a much bigger purpose and a cause, that is to save mankind from sins that will otherwise condemn them for eternity. His purpose and mission was one and that is to give us all ETERNAL LIFE.
I agree with your comment @Paul Reynolds.
As.suming god is even real, of which you have no empirical evidence (and you know what they say about as.suming). Telling someone they have free will and the choice…. But then stating that if this person chooses the one they disagree with, they will be sent to hell. Well…isn’t really a choice now is it? Another one of the Christian false equivalents.
And let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands (millions?) who never had the opportunity to hear about YOUR god and his so called choice. If they didn’t even know they had a choice….how could they chose?
Before Jesus, God still provided a way to heaven. Do yourself a favor and read Hebrews 11 with an OPEN mind. Look at verse 7 that says Noah "became heir to the righteousness which is by faith". It is the same as trusting in Jesus, righteousness is imparted to us and we can once again have a relationship with God the Father. Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by FAITH we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
It's Bill-o, for goodness sake! Why would anyone give any credibility to anything this guy says, does, or writes?!
Yes, bil oreilly is an arrogant putz, and I haven't read his books, but this woman (the author) was named after YEAST for Christsakes!!
Please don't read this stupid, money motivated, inaccurate, slanted book misrepresenting Jesus by a man that neither knows Jesus, or can declare Him properly. Again a book to just make Mr.Bill more money. This from a man that was caught on camera using extreme foul language and extreme anger? Come on Bill stick to what you know– like how to be inaccurate and be a TV goofy star (period).
Thank you for inspiring me to buy Bill's book. The jealousy coming from your's and Candida's review provides me all the more reason to read intently.
Well written synopsis, but why would anyone read something written by O'reilly? If you think this guy is anything but a perverted shout-show conductor, you are a Fox "news" dupe that needs to get a clue.
Mrs Moss' book has been roundly discredited amongst serious scholars on both sides of the faith question. She was not the one to make this critique. It would have been far more effective to get Christians to pan OReilly's "Republican Jesus". There were plenty out there to do it. Moss a caricature of a haughty, atheist academic. She's easily ignored by Christians, and even by most noncommittals.
Wes, you are so right. I remember when Notre Dame used to be Catholic. Our educational system has been taken over by pseudo Christians or downright non-believers in anything but their own intellect or self adoration.
"Roundly criticized" by whom? Citations, please.
"He never uses the word Christian.' Acts 11:26 (NKJV) 26 ... And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called CHRISTIANSin Antioch.
Amen to that. That is exactly what I was going to say. Good job.
King James said it so it must be so?
Uh, the underlying Greek says that, not just the KJV. Weren't you the one who wrote that it amazed you how little Christians know about Christianity? I'd say vice versa.
how can any of you possibly speak about "what jesus said"?!?!
The King James version of the new testament was completed in 1611 by 8 members of the church of England. There were (and still are) NO original texts to translate. The oldest manuscripts we have were written down 100's of years after the last apostle died. There are over 8,000 of these old manuscripts with no two alike. The king james translators used none of these anyway. Instead they edited previous translations to create a version their king and parliament would approve. So.... 21st century christians believe the "word of god" is a book edited in the 17th century from the 16th century translations of 8,000 contradictory copies of 4th century scrolls that claim to be copies of lost letters written in the 1st century.
So we don't even know if the jesus character existed, much less what he may or may not have said.
Seriously?! Claiming that jesus said certain phrases is utter mind numbing nonsense, and yet you seem to base your belief on this! Your belief has more holes in it than swiss cheese! It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.
"So we don't even know if the jesus character existed" – You lost your argument on this alone. Even non-theologians know he existed. He's even in the Roman record. There are questions regarding his divinity but not of his existence.
Diablo135, I understand you point but to disregard everything is Dyslexic wrote because your frustrated with one comment is just plain wrong. He/she makes valid historically correct statements. To quote Acts 11:26 (NKJV) 26 ... And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called CHRISTIANS in Antioch.
This just proves Dyslexic doG point, it may read Christians in the Bible, but who translated that word from Aramaic, Hebrew, etc.
I know Christians hate to hear this, but fallible human beings sat in a room and decided which books would be included in the"Good Book" and which books were left out. I believe there were 20 something books left out of the bible for one reason or another.
To call the bible the word of god is a complete false hood. It was the work of 8 men in room trying to decipher thousands of transcripts coming up with a politically correct version that the leaders of the day could stomach.
I am not sure which records you are referring to, but to my knowledge there are no known contemporary accounts of Jesus. It is true that most historians agree that there was probably a real person by the name of Yeshua, however, almost all of the major events of the mythological jesus' life are widely disputed. The reason being that much of the central mythology behind Jesus existed prior to his birth and was attached to other religious figures. Those stories were recycled into what we know to be Jesus today.
The early sources are only disputed by atheist scholars with an agenda.
Don't write about things you don't understand. The majority of the differences you call "contradictions" are minor spelling errors which do not change our understanding of the Bible at all. The very few real differences do not change theology. Although I do not use it, the King James is surprisingly accurate, but this is just the opinion of someone who reads the original manuscripts.
all you have to do is compare the gospels and you will find many inconsistencies...............and they don't have to do with spelling
Inconsistencies throughout the bible are well docu.mented and readily available if you have the courage to look
And I encourage you to look at a synopsis of the Gospels. You aren't telling Christians anything that the earliest Christians didn't know. Ever hear of Tatian's Diatesseron?
Dyslexic doG – Amen. I remember the "Jesus Project" and the "Jesus Seminar" from years ago in which teams of scholars examined the historical Jesus to find out how many attributions in the Bible could be made to Jesus, with the results being that they could find evidence pointing to him saying very few things attributed to him.
No matter what your level of faith is, the Bible has to be seen for what it is. A collection of writings from a disparate group of sources, most having been written hundreds of years after Christ's time, then having gone through a few language translations, then massaged for centuries before finally being pinned down by King James. It is impossible for me to view every word in this book as the literal word of God, but it seems in a climate of fear based on being overrun by Islam, Christian believers insist more strongly than ever that it must be historical, accurate, and divine.
Seriously? The Jesus Seminar and their methodology was discredited years ago.
Saying Bill is wrong but not giving the "correct answer"? Really? Another attempt to attack an individual because of: Jealousy, other network?
Bill has made a career out of saying other people are wrong about things. Now someone disagrees with him and he is suddenly being persecuted?
No problem saying he is wrong is not a problem. Not saying what is wrong, is wrong.
BTW, you may want to comprehend what others say before you respond. Might make your comment more intelligent.
I am always amused when I see or hear about Christians making comments about the "history" of their silly religion. The vast majority of them don't even know what a "fact" is, much less have they ever bothered to do the first day of honest research in their entire arrogant lives – but, they "know" their beliefs are true.
The term Christian was first used in Antioch during the time of Paul's ministry. I doubt that he shied away from the term as he understood both the obligation and the difficulty of emulating Christ. While he did not record the term in any of his existing writings can you imagine him saying "I am not one of them?" I can't either. It seems to me that the author is as guilty of taking liberties as he accuses Mr O'Reilly of doing.
"The term Christian was first used in Antioch during the time of Paul's ministry"
And your source?
Paul was, indeed, a Christian.
The Bible – Acts 11:26
The author is a woman.
OReilly is not to be trusted . Of course early Christians didn´t call themselves Christian that was a derogatory term
that we adapted later on . Paul was a pharasee and in the Early days followers of Christ were still Jewish . The
schism came when Christians were allowing Greeks and other people to join them . By the way O´Reilly is a Catholic and wouldn´t klnow the truth if he tripped over it .
Yesterday morning there was a knock at my door. A pleasant and enthusiastic young couple were there.
John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."
Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."
Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"
John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."
Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"
John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."
Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."
Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"
Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."
John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."
Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"
Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."
Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"
John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."
Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"
Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts out of you."
Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"
John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."
Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"
John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."
Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"
Mary: "Well, maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."
Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"
John: "In this town, Hank is the same as good luck. All good things are attributed to Hank'"
Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."
John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."
Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."
Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."
Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"
John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."
Me: "Who's Karl?"
Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."
Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"
John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."
From the Desk of Karl
1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
2. Use alcohol in moderation.
3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
4. Eat right.
5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
6. The moon is made of green cheese.
7. Everything Hank says is right.
8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
9. Don't use alcohol.
10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.
Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."
Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."
Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."
John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."
Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"
Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."
Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"
Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."
Me: "How do you figure that?"
Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"
Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."
John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."
Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."
John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."
Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."
Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."
Me: "I'm not really an expert, but not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it plausible that it might be made of cheese."
John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists don’t know everything, but we know Hank is always right!"
Me: "We do?"
Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."
Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"
John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."
Me: "But...oh, never mind.
Not read but flagged.
Read but not flagged.