Baker Academic

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why Bill O'Reilly's Book Stinks (Ten Examples) - Le Donne

Having just finished Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, my review is now in process.  Stay tuned.

Rather than citing scholarly literature directly, this book leaves the reader to guess where the authors have gathered their data.  Not every book needs detailed footnotes and a bibliography, but this book might have been helped by a bit more attention to source material.  I read this book with a perpetual stinkface (considering the deficits of my default face, my stinkface is really not pretty), often curious where and how Dugard and O’Reilly got their information.  Here are ten of the more curious statements in Killing Jesus.
“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.” p. 4. 
“Soon will come the Passover feast, bringing with it tens of thousands of Hebrew pilgrims from all around Herod’s kingdom, eager to pay good money to purchase those sheep for a sacrificial slaughter in the great Temple. In many ways, the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem is no different.  They are being sacrificed for the good of Herod’s rule—which is the same as saying that they are being murdered in the name of the Roman Empire.” pp. 19-20 
“With a dark beard covering the tip of his chin and a thin mustache wreathing his mouth, Antipas resembles a true villain.” p. 88 
“Julia was a great beauty, which made it easier for her to indulge her base instincts.” p. 113 
“Holy men such as the Pharisees have filled that void by strictly interpreting the laws of Moses. They gained respect from the Jewish people by adding hundreds of new commandments and prohibitions to Moses’ original list of ten, then passing them on through an oral history known as the Tradition of the Elders. Few ever question these laws, especially not the uneducated peasants of Galilee.” p. 157 
 “But Jesus would be a fool to ride a donkey into Jerusalem. That would be a death sentence. For while the prophets have been very specific about the way the king of the Jews would be born and live his life, they are just as clear about how he will die. He will be falsely accused of crimes he did not commit. He will be beaten. He will be spat upon. He will be stripped, and soldiers will throw dice to bid for his clothing. He will be crucified, with nails driven through his hands and feet—yet not a single one of his bones will be broken. And those who love him will look on in mourning, unable to do anything to stop the agony.” [fn. “In order, these prophecies are: Psalms 27:12 and 35:11; Micah 5:1; Isaiah 50:6; Psalms 22:18; Psalms 22:16; Zechariah 12:10, and Deuteronomy 21:33; Numbers 9:12; Psalms 34:20, and Exodus 12:46; and Zechariah 12:10."] p. 177 
“In the village of Jericho, two blind men call out to Jesus, referring to him as ‘Lord, Son of David,’ a designation that could be applied only to the Christ.” p. 184 
 “Once again the group walks into Jerusalem and straight to the Temple. It has been three years since Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables, but now he plans to do it again. Only this time he has no whip, and he is no longer an unknown figure.” p. 192 
 “They are soon replaced by the Sadducees, a wealthy and more liberal Temple sect who count Caiaphas among their number.” pp. 204-205 
“Under the teachings of the Pharisees, there are 613 religious statutes. Even though each carries a designation marking it as either great or little, the fact remains that each must be followed. Asking Jesus to select one is a clever way of pushing him into a corner, making him defend his choice. But Jesus does not choose from one of the established laws. Instead, he articulates a new one: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” [fn. “Taken from Deuteronomy 6:5, which immediately follow Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema and cornerstone of Judaism.”] p. 205
Aside from these ten, there are some real problems with this book.  I’ll save these for my formal review.



  1. But...the Holy Spirit inspired him!

    1. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is just having a sophomore slump.

    2. ??? 2012 was the Holy Spirit's rookie season?

  2. Even based on this little bit, I have to genuinely question if they did any research at all. And even if they didn't do any historical research, and are just making up political-religious propaganda, they have to throw sexism in there too?

    I happened to watch an interview O'Reilly did recently. (Sorry, I forget what station it was on.) But during the interview, and evident here, he's obviously talking out of both sides of his mouth. In the interview he kept insisting this was a strictly historical book, not a religious one. No different than 'Killing Lincoln' or 'Killing Kennedy'. But then he turns right around and says the holy spirit told him to write the book, and then makes claims about OT prophecies about a messiah who would live such a way and die such a way.

  3. This is what happens when Bill O'Reilly applies his approach to "reality" to the study of "history."

    1. Not just Bill O'Reilly does. Indeed every scholar does this as well. You don't think Le Donne's work reflects his world view?

    2. From pp.44-46 in my Historiographical Jesus:

      This is addressed by Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) contribution to the subject. Heidegger’s use of the hermeneutical circle allowed him (reminiscent of Schleiermacher) to speak in terms of “Vorhabe, Vorsicht und Vorgriff” and the essential roles that these play in assimilating new perceptions. As is Heidegger’s tendency, his use of these terms stretches the German language in uncommon ways. For our purposes, the general idea might be thought of in terms of “fore-conception.” He argued that the interpretation of a new thing requires a fore-conception of what one might perceive. Therefore, not only is interpretation colored by preconceived points of view but it is prefigured by them. “Any interpretation which is to contribute to understanding must already have understood what is to be interpreted.” Heidegger is careful to qualify this circularity:

      "But if interpretation must in any case already operate in that which is understood, and if it must draw its nurture from this, how is it to bring any scientific results to maturity without moving in a circle, especially if, moreover, the understanding which is presupposed still operates within our common information about man and the world? Yet according to the most elementary rules of logic, this circle is a circulus vitiosus. If that be so, however, the business of historiological interpretation is excluded a priori from the domain of rigorous knowledge. In so far as the Fact of this circle in understanding is not eliminated, historiology must then be resigned to less rigorous possibilities of knowing. Historiology 56 is permitted to compensate for this defect to some extent through the “spiritual signification” of its “objects.” But even in the opinion of the historian himself, it would admittedly be more ideal if the circle could be avoided and if there remained the hope of creating some time a historiology which would be as independent of the standpoint of the observer as our knowledge of Nature is supposed to be.
      But if we see this circle as a vicious one and look out for ways of avoiding it, even if we just “sense” it as an inevitable imperfection, then the act of understanding has been misunderstood from the ground up."

      Heidegger thus moves away from the idea that knowledge (here historical knowledge) is lamentably uncertain because of the inevitable subjectivity of perception. As long as we do not allow our “fore-having, fore-sight and fore-conception to be presented to us by fancies and popular conceptions” the task of analyzing historical knowledge will be no less rigorous than “the most exact sciences” (like mathematics). He argued that the historian’s correct move “is not to get out of the circle but to come into it in the right way” because the “circle of understanding is not an orbit in which any random kind of knowledge may move”; rather, it exists properly to structure perceptions and make them meaningful to the person who exists in the world authentically.

      Thus Heidegger here clarifies two key points that are picked up later in my discussion of memory: (1) The inherent subjectivity of perception
      is not to be lamented or circumvented by the historian; (2) the interpretation of new perceptions naturally involves the recycling of previously known interpretations.


  4. If I read both "Zealot" and "Killing Jesus", won't I get a fair and balanced view? I AM considering both sides of the question, right? The Fox News view AND the NPR/Huff Post view?

    I think Papa Bear's take is important here, because otherwise we wouldn't see how liberal the Sadducees were. They were the tax and spend Jews. It's also important to point out how we Jews have always divided the Mitzvot into the stuff you better do and the stuff that God meant only as friendly advice. It's surprisingly easy to tell one from the other, because God always prefaced the latter category with a statement like "you know, you might try this if you think you're up for it ...." Kind of like a good Yoga teacher introducing an advanced technique.

    What the heck. It's just an extreme case of memory refraction, right?

  5. O'Reilly often states he is a "simple" man.

    Everything thing he does and says, confirms that.