When popular political commentator, Bill O’Rielly, published Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln, I didn’t rush out to get my copy. However, when the former history teacher and Harvard graduate published Killing Jesus: A History, I bit and I’m glad I did.
Bill O’Rielly and Martin Dugard begin the book with a swift punch to the gut as they powerfully illustrate cruelty of the time. In 5 B.C. Herod the Great gives his appalling order to murder all the male infants in Bethlehem. This was a political move, as Herod the Great was obsessed with maintaining his Kingship (which was allowed by Rome) and heard news that a new “King of the Jews” had been born in Bethlehem. Beginning here, rather than the virgin birth, serves an ode to the historicity an objectivity of the book, an area where the two Roman Catholic authors really excelled and made this a worthwhile read for believers and non-believers alike.
They then back up almost 40 years to detail the wars of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, the assassination of the former, the lineage of Roman rulers, and then deep-dive on Tiberius, the pedophile Emperor of Rome who would eventually assign Pontius Pilate to Judea as prefect. Although this is less interesting than the remainder of the book, it fills a knowledge gap for most readers and creates the proper context for the remainder of the story.
From there the narrative continues with a young Jesus getting separated from his parents during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His parents frantically search for him, and find him in the temple speaking with the Rabbis. The authors bring this story to life by illuminating what the travel to a from Jerusalem was like for the pilgrims. They’ll continue to bring the stories to life by explaining the nuances of the situations, something someone who read the gospels 1,500+ years ago would more easily understand.
Because this book is able to bring the reader back into the times of Jesus Christ (although they never call him Christ), it makes for an extremely engaging and educational read. It focuses on historicity and is thoroughly cited. It is also enjoyable and fast-paced. For these reasons Killing Jesus: A History is a phenomenal book for both Christians and non-Christians–to know more about the life of your savior or be better informed about what you don’t believe.