Jesus overturns the tables of the temple money changers in
National Geographic's/Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Jesus"
|Killing Jesus presents a Jesus declared to be
the son of God by his disciples, instead of the eternal God
made flesh that is presented in scripture.
What can you expect from Bill
O'Reilly's Killing Jesus? Let me borrow a scene from the Bible to
After John the Baptizer1 is
put in prison by Herod Antipas (called Herod the Tetrarch) for preaching
against Herod's immoral, adulterous affair with the wife of his brother
Bible records John while in prison
sends some of his disciples to Jesus to affirm that Jesus is in fact the messiah
that John had announced to the world that he was when Jesus came to him
to be baptized by John in the Jordan. In answer to John's question - are
you the one - Jesus provides
evidence that he is in fact the messiah by performing messianic miracles
in the sight of John's disciples, and sends them back with the message
that he is doing the works of the messiah as prophesied by scripture; and
also sends a word of encouragement to John. (Luke 7.21-23)
Jesus then turns to the crowd and affirms
John and his ministry by asking the people a series of questions that
hones in on the expectations the people had about John:
"What did you go out into the
desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine
clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury
are in palaces.
26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and
more than a prophet.
27 This is the one about whom it is written: "'I will send my
messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'
Why had crowds had been flocking to John?
Jesus points out :
- It wasn't because John had a
popular message, changing it to fit his audience. No John preached to
all a message of repent or be judged.
- It wasn't because he was a rich, slick preacher. No, he wore
camel's skin and ate locusts.
- It was because he was a true prophet of God, with a
steadfast message from God; and the people recognized
God working through John's message and ministry.
So let's ask that same question about
this movie version of the life of Jesus as rendered by popular cable
news anchor Bill O'Reilly2 and co-author Martin Dugard.
What should you expect to see in this movie, a Biblically accurate account
- No, those who want a Biblically accurate account, go to see it from someone
who respects the entire Bible as written; not those who want to pick and choose what is
in their mind
"historical" in the bible, and what is not.
If not, what should you expect to see, a grand production along the lines of
Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" honoring the
traditional understanding of Jesus?
- No, as I point out in my
review of Exodus Gods and Kings, Ridley
Scott (the producer of ssExodus Gods and Kings and one of the
producers this movie) along with mainstream
media and Hollywood, no longer has a taste for such large scale -
biblically accurate movies. No, only independent, Christian film makers
like the people behind "Son of God"3 honor the
traditional understanding of Jesus.
Well then what should you expect to see? A fanciful retelling? The
intrigues of man, a Jesus divorced from his intimate connection
with God and separated from the power of God; without miracles,
and without all those eyewitness Biblical details?
-Yes! And more than that, this is a denial of the Biblical
depiction of Jesus as the Son of God. This is the story of a man
made out to be God by the long unfulfilled desires of longing Jews
looking for a messiah; not the story of the loving, eternal God who
clothed himself in flesh to make himself both visible and approachable.
If that's what you're after, a fanciful
retelling with no regard for the Biblical Jesus, then Killing Jesus fits
the bill. For the Jesus of "Killing Jesus" is the Jesus of liberal
scholarship4, who claim to be interested in the "historical" Jesus, which is a
code word for the approach that says - we don't like the Bible as written, so
we'll take out anything we object to and substitute our own ideas of we think is
more reasonable or appropriate.
- Since they don't believe Jesus
did miracles, you won't see Jesus do miracles. (Which is the case here.
While there are few miracles depicted - Jesus doesn't appear to do
them - they just happen around him. him.)
- Since they don't believe Jesus knew from the beginning he was the
Son of God, you won't see the scene were Mary and Joseph lost Jesus
as a young boy only to
find him in the temple where he says you should have known I'd be in
my Father's house (Luke 2.43-49). Or any other scene that affirms
that knowledge from early on.
- If they don't believe the claims of
Jesus they felt free to change them, deny them, or attribute them to someone else.
Which is what you see here.
- Jesus' famous claim which
he made before raising Lazarus (John 11.23-26) "Your
brother will rise again"...(because)... "I am the resurrection and the
life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever
lives and believes in me will never die." - a clear statement of his
power over life and death which he demonstrated by raising Lazarus from
the dead, is changed to "To bring the message of God's love, I am
the resurrection...", and this is stated while having a meal with
Lazarus - who is (clearly) not dead. So obviously Jesus won't
be raising him from the dead, and thus he won't be making a
statement about his power over death nor demonstrating
power over anything. Instead he focuses on O'Reilly's recurrent
theme of God's love to all.
- At the confession of Peter that
the Christ, I have no issue that O'Reilly (who's catholic) presents
the Catholic interpretation of it: that Jesus' statement "upon this rock"
(Matt 16.18) refers to Jesus building his church on Peter (the
justification of having a pope) rather than the protestant and
evangelical interpretation that "the rock" Jesus refers to is Peter's
confession - "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt
16.16) No, the issue I have is Jesus - being just a man is unsure where
Peter got his inspiration from. O'Reilly has this Jesus saying, "I
was revealed to you by my father" instead of the firm declaration of the
Jesus of scripture, "Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of
Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in
heaven.' " (Matt 16.17)
- Apparently the producers don't
like talk thrones, crowns and authority, because they have the Jesus
of this production denying such things will exist in the kingdom of
God; while Jesus makes it plain these
things will most certainly be a part of his kingdom. (Matt 19.28; Luke 22.30, Rev 20.4;
Rev 2.10, 3.11)
- Passion Predictions - where Jesus
tells his disciples what will happen to him (mocked, flogged, crucified,
and raised to life) are a prominent features in the Gospels, appearing
in the gospel of Matthew at least 5 times. (Matt 16.21; 17.9-12;
17.22-23; 20.18-19; 26.2 ) (More if you include predictions of just his
resurrection and/or suffering) This Jesus, being a mere man, cannot be
sure he will be raised to life so he makes no prediction of it; and
while he's not quite clueless over what will happen, he makes no
definitive statement about it - that comes from one his disciples,
Clearly the Jesus of "Killing Jesus" is not the
Jesus of scripture - the Word who was with God in the beginning and was God (John
1.1) who became flesh (John 1.14); who knew from the beginning who
he was and what his mission was - he didn't need to go out into the
wilderness to figure it out as this movie depicts. (In this version, the temptation of
Jesus - where Jesus is led by the spirit to be tempted (Matt 4.1ff)
turned into John the Baptizer inspiring Jesus to go into the wilderness
to find his mission.)
Ironically, the changes and glaring
omissions the writers and producers made such as:
- removing the supernatural (miracles, angelical visits, visions, the devil, etc.)
- removing any hint that Jesus controlled his own destiny, much less the
events around him
...in an effort to make the story more believable actually makes it less believable because with
their changes, motivations and reasons for doing things disappear; or
new motivations are made up which are less plausible. For example:
- The Magi visit Herod the Great in
search of the baby Jesus. Herod instructs them to let him know where the baby is so he can also
venerate him. It is clear to the viewer Herod wants to kill the baby;
but Herod hides that from the wise men. So there is no reason given in
this story why they don't return to Herod. The Bible records
they don't return because they were warned in a dream not to. (Matt
- Joseph, the husband of Mary becomes very wise. He takes
family - Mary and Jesus and flees to Egypt - not because he was
warned in a dream by an angel of God as the bible says, but because he reasons no
king allows a rival.
- And Joseph returns not because of a vision from an angel of the
Lord as scripture says, but because he gets word (incorrectly5)
that no sons of the murderous, deceased Herod the Great are ruling
in Judea, and he's tired of living in pagan Egypt, and wants his son
to grow up in the land given the Jews by God and thus decides it's
time to return. - While all that's
probably true, was that Joseph's primary reason for returning having
been told by God to flee Israel?
Obviously I can't cover all the
instances where O'Reilly and company make changes to suit their liberal, anti-supernatural sensibilities, so here's the bottom line: Devout Christians worship Jesus because they
believe the God of the universe, the God of the souls of all mankind,
became human, was made flesh and manifested himself as Jesus of
Nazareth. The problem with all those seeking the "historical
Jesus" is they cannot see "the glory of God in the face of Christ". (2 Cor 4.6) All they can see, is a man. And the only way they can figure
out why anyone would worship a man is if other men made him out to be God.
And since such a man obviously knew he was not God, he himself would
have to be convinced, and he himself would not have the assurance,
authority and masterful control over all things that Jesus, the Word made
flesh had. That is the man you see here.
That's why this portrayal of Jesus is a weak one,
a distorted one, a mere shadow of the
reality. C.S. Lewis has described well the trap that O'Reilly has fallen
into searching for the "historical Jesus". In his instruction for
Christians given from the point of view of demons called "The Screwtape
Letters", senior tempter Screwtape instructs his junior charge on the
benefits of leading people away from the faith by using the "historical
Wormwood: "How do you create new
versions of the historic Jesus?"
Screwtape: "By suppressing one point of Jesus' teaching and
That single emphasis takes what he taught completely out of context
and distorts the rest. What is left but subjective guess work that
inevitably caters to the human's own predispositions and political
... we thus distract men's minds from who he truly is, and what he
O'Reilly and his emphasis on Jesus'
teaching about love and social justice has fallen for this tactic of the
temper hook line and sinker. So don't be surprised when this Jesus is as surprised
as anyone else at the miraculous catch of fish. And don't be surprised
that after Peter's confession that Jesus is the
Messiah, the Christ, that this Jesus can only say "I think this was revealed
to you by my father." The historical Jesus, a mere man, has
little or no access to the supernatural, and thus things related to the
supernatural elude him.
It is only the true Jesus, as portrayed in the unedited pages of
scripture, is Jesus more than a man; he is God the son who is in
direct communion with God the father. He speaks directly to God the
father, and God answers
him directly. Such communion is impossible by the historical Jesus, a man made out to be
Messiah by other
men. Such a mere man doesn't have such communion with God, nor the power,
authority and control over all things that the unique, only begotten Son
of God has.
Duane Caldwell | posted 4/1/2015
1 John is typically known as "John the Baptist", but to avoid confusion
with the church denomination, which obviously didn't exist at the
time, John the Baptizer is a more appropriate, less confusing
description than John the Baptist.
2 O'Reilly has stated in an interview that he feels that God inspired him to
write the book "Killing Jesus". What is less clear is whether God instructed him
to follow the Biblical account, or to feel free to take the many liberties with
the story that he did.
3 The people behind "Son of God":
Roma Downey, Mark
Richard Bedser, producers
4 Liberal scholars such as Dominic Crossan and others who
participated in the
Seminar and like endeavors are representative of the effort to
remove from the bible whatever they decide is not authentic, which was
primarily the supernatural (miracles, angels, etc.), and references that
demonstrate Jesus viewed himself as the Son of God (God incarnate) from the beginning;
without needing to find himself or his mission first.
5 Scripture records Joseph heard "... that
Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was
afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the
district of Galilee," (Matt 2.22) Archelaus was a son of
Herod the Great. It is possible the first report Joseph received
indicated that a son of Herod was not ruling in Judea, but of greater
interest is the need O'Reilly and this production felt to remove the
source of the correct information: a warning from God in a dream.
6 CS Lewis, The Screwtape
Letters, Letter 23 the "Historical Jesus"