National Geographic ‘Killing Jesus’ a Flawed Excursion into Serious Error
With notepad in hand and the company of two others who are well versed in scripture and history I sat down to watch and listen to every nuance of the three hour long Killing Jesus offering, based on Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book.
Having read many things written by O’Reilly including “Killing Jesus” which I found less than inspiring I wanted to be, in the words of O’Reilly and friends, – “fair and balanced.” What I discovered was that any description or summary of the film would not fall under the heading of fair and balanced.
Mr. O’Reilly is accustomed to analyzing and commenting on complex situations in hasty five minute segments and he is not slack with full assessments and personal summaries. If the reader is unable to go beyond a five minute segment to understand what went wrong with Killing Jesus I will make my summary here instead of the end of the review as I have done with other movies.
I combed through every word and dramatic interlude of KJ and listed 23 serious mistakes and extrapolations put forth under the banner of dramatic license. As the list grew it was clear that KJ slaughtered the Bible record of many things and the history that O’Reilly and Martin Dugard so heavily relied upon also falls into repute. For this article I will list only the top eight errors and egregious offences.
Please note that it is not me that is offended but the bible, the narrative, the gospel and perhaps Christ himself that is offended. I will have to leave the final question to God on the last day.
As the list expanded I was going to rate the TV movie as a 2 or 3 in my usual system, which ranges between 1 and 10. It was not until reaching the last item #23 (number 8 in this article) that I realized that O’Reilly’s KJ could only be given a flat, off the charts, in full reverse – zero.
The criterion for assessing KJ goes beyond the limited focus that O’Reilly used in the book or the film. O’Reilly has explained countless times that he and co-author Dugard based KJ on history alone, not the bible. Having set aside the impeccable and unquestionable historicity of the bible means they started out at the gate with a flaw that will haunt this production until the end of time.
The truth is that the history presented in the bible has always stood up to the scrutiny of all historians and in most instances is more accurate than many of the best offerings including, Josephus, Herodotus, Tacitus and Roman History.
Far beyond the mere historicity of the bible is the fact that after praying all night long, Jesus, led by his Father went out and handpicked 12 men to live with him and be witnesses to his every word and deed for the next three years. Being an eyewitness is many steps above the retro analytics of any historian. To ignore the apostolic accounts for the second guessing of any historian is the equivalent of letting man become the final arbiter of the will and revealed purpose of the Almighty God – in a word this could only be described as – pompous.
The veracity and trustworthiness of the apostle’s account is placed against O’Reilly’s view of history in KJ the book and the film. This can only be seen as the height of presumption. In a former article written in October of 2013 entitled “Bill O’Reilly – Apostles Mistaken, Mixed Up, or just Plain Liars?” – I note that the names of these twelve chosen men will be etched for all eternity across the foundations of the final resting place of the redeemed called the ‘New Jerusalem.” (Re 21:14) Replacing or contending the record of the apostles with variant histories of the same events is a fool’s errand indeed. God has certified the apostle’s lives and their accounts of the gospel for all eternity.
We ask the bigger question, which includes history, but is not limited by it, KJ is good theatre, but bad theology. The question of whether KJ is correct in its theology, Christology and its view of divinity is absolute – the answer is an unequivocal – no.
For this author there is yet one more question that was held out – could KJ lead a person to Christ or strengthen a new believer with a greater understanding of Jesus Christ. Sadly my answer to that question is also a flat – no.
Many have lived and died to convey the aspects of Christ’s life which point directly to his divinity and his role as the Savior of mankind, these are the very things found missing in KJ and my sense of responsibility keeps me from betraying those matters to give this film anything except a rating of – ‘dismal failure.’
None of this review is intended to impugn the character, motivation or the intentions of Bill O’Reilly or Martin Dugard. We must consider the source, neither of these writers are theologians or some sort of certified bible teacher or authority. O’Reilly is a news man, but his secularized version of events is not news, it’s been done many times before. Jesus referred to his words as the bread of life – O’Reilly’s use of the word allegory to describe much of the bible is a wimpy attempt to turn God’s bread into nutrition-less pabulum. Work hard on this point Mr. O’Reilly and maybe your next book could be “Killing Allegory.”
In times past Bill used the phrase “bible thumper” on the Factor to describe those who read the bible. One such time was on April 2, 2013 after which I wrote a piece entitled “Mr. O’Reilly, Wise Up – ‘Bible Thumper’ is a derogatory term.” Is he now one who rises in the night under inspiration of the Holy Spirit and one who also spends time perusing his bible on a daily basis? We think not!
O’Reilly has stated that he believes that the “Holy Spirit” inspired him to write KJ. We have only one question for Mr. O’Reilly – did he think to read the bible following that inspirational calling. The bible says “all” of the scripture are given by inspiration of God and not one single word of it is ever described as allegory. (2 Tim 3: 16)
Finally KJ has only reinforced what this writer has always strongly felt which is that it takes more than a popular cable show, a list of books at number one on the NY Times bestseller list, millions given to charities and a pompous attitude to make a bible authority of anyone.
Here is a partial list of 23 flaws, dramatic nonsense and theological pitfalls in KJ. In truth there were many more, but it is these points that must not be dismissed without further scrutiny.
1.) KJ flies into action with the much touted appearance of Kelsey Grammer playing the role of King Herod. Looking, acting and sounding like Scrooge in the earliest version of Charles Dickens’s ‘Christmas Carol,’ he drops down dead in the first ten minutes of the film. Just before dying he awakens in the middle of the night because of a dream where the Prophet Isaiah is rebuking him for his wickedness. This dream is not likely to have happened, but for the record it starts with a twisted theology.
Isaiah says to Herod that the child (Jesus) was “born to destroy your seed.” No one better outlines the purpose of Christ’s birth in the Old Testament than Isaiah. According to Isaiah the purpose of the Messiah was singular. To wit:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53: 6-7)
Jesus came to save men from their sins not to destroy anyone, least of all Herod.
2.) When Herod asks his prognosticators how to find or locate the Christ child he is given a ridiculous and totally incongruous answer. He is told to “align the stars and the child will reveal himself,” nonsense, the inquiry was answered by the prophecies of scripture that clearly stated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Mt 2: 3 – 6)
3.) Joseph, Mary’s husband, urges her to prepare to leave the region because he has an uncomfortable “feeling.” Not so, Joseph was clearly warned by the angel of the Lord. (Mt 2: 13) KJ showed no angelic intervention at all in the film – too allegorical for Mr. O’Reilly?
4.) The mother of John the Baptist is heard to say that John found God when he was in the wilderness. KJ is far too late in that erroneous assumption. In fact, John was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb and forward. (Luke 1: 15)
5.) KJ shows King Herod flopping over on his way to see the high priest while still in his nighty. Historians can’t seem to agree on anything concerning Herod’s death. Some say he died of, gout, others say it was chronic kidney disease and yet others say it was Fournier’s gangrene. One account says he saw a silver owl and dropped dead. Are these the historians that helped to nail it for O’Reilly and Durgard?
The bible is not so wishy washy. It says that after giving an oratory which elicited worship from his audience as if he were a god – the angel of the Lord stuck him down. (Acts 12: 21 – 23) It was a well witnessed public death rather than a something that resembles the well-known “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials as portrayed in KJ.
6.) When Jesus meets up with John the Baptist in the film he acts like he doesn’t know his fate or exactly who he really is, he refers to his “strong beliefs” as if they were acquired by some religious learning or new-found convictions.
The truth is that Jesus knew exactly who he was from his childhood and onward. When he was about twelve he was found in the Temple discoursing with the doctors of the law. He declared then that he was there, taking care of his Father’s business. (Lu 2:49) He was also fully familiar about the purpose of his life. He knew he came to earth for only one purpose which was to die for the sins of mankind. (Jn 18: 37)
7.) Jesus is heard saying that there are no crowns or thrones in his kingdom in the KJ film. Nothing could be further from the truth. All believers are instructed to strive for the crowns that one day will be awarded to the faithful. To mention a few – The crown of Christ himself (Rev 14: 14) the martyrs crown (Rev 2: 10) in total five crowns are mentioned. Also the promise that the faithful will rule along with him for all eternity invokes the sense of thrones being awarded.
8.) The biggest let down of the KJ film was reserved for the finish, in fact, it didn’t finish. Although the bible recounts eleven appearances of the resurrected Christ including one where over 500 people at one time were all present – KJ shows none. We see his Mother and his disciples standing in an empty tomb smiling up at the ceiling. Then we see Peter once again in his boat when hundreds of fish start to appear in his net, looking upward and smiling as if the big catch proves Christ is resurrected.
O’Reilly bragged the day following the first showing of KJ that National Geographic saw more people watching KJ than any other film they ever aired. Many of those viewers, no doubt, must have been stunned when the greatest single event of Christ’s entire life was left completely out of the picture.
The divinity of Jesus was not just played down it was given the axe. Leaving out the dozens of miracles like giving sight to the blind, healing deafness, leprosy and crippled limbs and several resurrections from the dead was bad enough, but to conspicuously leave Christ’s own resurrection out of the film and then offer it again to be seen on Easter Sunday is the most perfect non-sequitur this writer has ever encountered.
It is abundantly clear that Mr. O’Reilly has failed to see that no one is saved, redeemed, forgiven or headed toward eternal salvation by historical accounts alone. Salvation comes only from a risen Savior.
In summary, Killing Jesus does not glorify God, further his gospel or reinforce his word. It slaughters the bible, gives spurious, false and ridiculous renderings of historical accounts and will go down in history as one of the worst films of its kind in cinematic history. It is a twisted, contorted attempt to re-state something that has been given to the world for its own good, who has the audacity or the right to change the heart of this God given message?
To use O’Reilly’s favorite phrase and call him a pinhead may be all too accurate, but it is all to light when it comes to altering the life of Christ and the message of his gospel and presuming to show those changes to a world, often too spiritually challenged, to know the difference between its nose and its elbow.
We will resort to the grave warning the Apostle John gave while imprisoned for his testimony on the Isle of Patmos. To wit:
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev 22: 18 – 19)
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