Friday 19th December 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

A Book Review . . . A Fatally Flawed Portrayal Of Jesus

December 29, 2013 Frontpage 1 Comment

By JAMES LIKOUDIS

Killing Jesus: A History, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Henry Holt and Company (New York: 2013); 304 pages.

The authors of this bestseller are the well-known TV pundit of The Factor on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, and screenwriter Martin Dugard who have collaborated on the bestsellers Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. In Killing Jesus, they confess themselves Catholics who were educated in religious schools and say they are “historical investigators” who have written a “fact-based book” on Jesus of Nazareth, having sought, moreover, to “separate fact from myth” (p. 273) in the life of “the most influential man who ever lived” (p. 1).
They declare: “We have the narrative of the Gospels. But this is not a religious book. We do not address Jesus as the Messiah, only as a man who galvanized a remote area of the Roman Empire and made very powerful enemies while preaching a gospel of peace and love” (p. 2).
O’Reilly and Dugard state: “Much has been written about Jesus, the son of a humble carpenter. But little is actually known about him. Of course, we have the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, but they sometimes appear contradictory and were written from a spiritual point of view rather than as a historical chronicling of Jesus’ life” (p. 1). They confess to be “interested primarily in telling the truth about important people, not converting anyone to a spiritual cause.”
The book contains some startling material describing, in stark and gripping terms the historical context where emperors and other important people ruled a decadent and cruel Roman Empire, were disdainful of human life, and were celebrities awash in debauchery and brutality. The corrupt political and religious leaders of occupied Israel who would come into sharp conflict with Jesus and sought His life are not spared.
There are various errors and inaccuracies in the book. Peter was not “Jesus’ first disciple” (p. 13); his brother Andrew was “the first-called.” Contrary to what is stated on page 263, the Basilica of St. Peter is not the Cathedral of Rome. The authors strangely comment that “Somewhere in the twelfth century, these supernatural happenings (the ‘signs and wonders’ recounted in the Gospels) will come to be known as miracles” (p. 156). Actually, the word “miracle” was used in the fourth century for such supernatural happenings in the famous Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible by St. Jerome.
The reader will find disconcerting the authors’ sometimes imposing their own imaginative fancies into Gospel texts. For example, one reads: “Why are you trying to trap me? Jesus seethes” (p. 204). The reader may wonder how the authors knew that “Judas carries a walking stick to fend off the wild dogs of Galilee, just like the rest of the disciples” (p. 161). But there are other matters which are far more serious and where Catholic teaching is at stake.
On page 80 the authors repeat the ignorant canard so often refuted of a “pregnant and unwed Mary.” Good historians of Jewish law and tradition would have known that Mary’s betrothal to Joseph already signified legal marriage. She was a married woman when she became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Pope John Paul II noted in his apostolic exhortation Guardian of the Redeemer: “Before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her husband. Mary, however, preserved her deep desire to give herself exclusively to God” (n. 18).
If the accusation of the Blessed Virgin Mary being an “unwed pregnant” mother were not blasphemous enough for readers to swallow, our authors appear to question the perpetual virginity of Mary as a truth with a biblical foundation in New Testament texts and believed as a doctrine “handed down” after the death of the last apostle (John).
The Catholic Church has always believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was “Ever-Virgin”: a virgin before giving birth to Christ, a virgin in giving birth to Christ, and a virgin perpetually after giving birth. Our authors, however, write: “The doctrine [of Mary’s perpetual virginity] was first put forth 4 centuries after Jesus lived, by an early leader in the Church named Simon” (p. 80). Who that mysterious “Simon” might be will baffle patristic scholars.
The truth is that Mary as “Ever-Virgin” was explicitly taught as early as the second century by such distinguished teachers as Clement of Alexandria (+215) and Origen (+253), and upheld in the popular devotion of the faithful. By the fourth century the great theologians of the Catholic Church had met whatever hesitations and doubts circulated by heretics and skeptics. St. Basil, the great fourth-century Greek Father of the Church, gave voice to the Church’s belief when he declared, “The friends of Christ do not tolerate that the Mother of God ever ceased to be a virgin” (Homily on the Birth of Christ, n. 5).
The value of the book lies in its reinforcement of the historical truth recounted in the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth was a real human individual who lived, suffered at the hands of His enemies, and died being crucified on a cross (this last, by the way, denied in the Muslim Koran). He really lived and was killed. Those naysayers who think Jesus was a mythical figure have to come to grips with the fact that one cannot be killed who never lived.
Our authors admit that in the Gospel accounts “Jesus is once again claiming that he is who John publicly proclaimed him to be: the Messiah.” They note that there are miracles reported and believed by Jesus’ earliest followers. Moreover, they admit that Jesus made “personal claims of divinity and acts of divinity” (p. 76). They report that Jesus’ followers soon believed He had been raised from the dead.
What is disturbing is that the authors do not pronounce on the authenticity of the supernatural miracles mentioned in the Gospels or in the truth of the Resurrection affirmed by the same Gospel writers. Did such events actually occur? Our Catholic “historical investigators” are selective in the Gospel accounts they accept. They have no trouble in accepting the historical validity of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt.
Other events which highlight the supernatural in the life of Christ such as the Temptation in the desert by the Devil and the Transfiguration are studiously avoided. Doubt is cast on the credibility of the Gospel writers with regard to events they record, as the Gospels are treated as only partly reliable witness accounts. The key question is not resolved: Is the Gospel writers’ affirmation that Jesus is both Messiah and God true?

“Reductive Christology”

The fatal flaw in O’Reilly-Dugard’s presentation of the historical Christ is their “de facto” reduction of Christ to the actions of a mere “human being.” They write that Jesus is “the most famous human being” in history, but Christ is not a “human being” or “human person.”
One sees that Christ’s divinity has, in fact, been effectively detached from His human mature. The two natures in Christ are severed, the human from the divine. Like modernists and liberal Protestants they have engaged in the “Reductive Christology” denounced by the Church’s Magisterium. Catering to American society’s popular belief in a “fully human Jesus” stripped of the mystery of His Divine Personality, one views again in a best-seller the splitting of Jesus into the “Jesus of History” and the “Jesus of Faith.”
Our authors’ historical methodology can only give us a “Jesus of History” that falls short of the real God-Man portrayed in the Gospels, that is, the Word made Flesh. Our authors have presented us with two Christs, One of History and One of Faith. They do not dispute such dogmatic teachings as that Christ is God, or the Immaculate Conception, perpetual virginity, and heavenly Assumption of Mary, but for them as “historical investigators,” such dogmas do not have Gospel support and are rather embellishments of the Church giving us a “Jesus of Faith.”
Lastly, not only is there a radical undermining of the solid grounding of the Gospel narratives in history, but a separation of their excessively humanized Christ from the Church He actually established and which alone can give us the Whole Christ.

+    +    +

(James Likoudis is president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith [CUF].)

Share Button

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. J.J. Hayes says:

    Jesus is a human being is he not? He is a human person is he not? Isn’t that the incarnation? I am confused. I understand that the teaching is that there is “one Christ” but to fault people for stating one truth but not another as if that constitures denial of the second umentioned truthseems unjust. Heaven help me, I’m defending Bill O’Reilly!

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal Burke . . . “The Church depends on sound Catholic family life, and it depends on sound Catholic families.”

An Interview with Cardinal Burke  On Vatican II Q. Your Eminence, you grew up before the Second Vatican Council. How do you remember those times? A. I grew up in a very beautiful time in the Church, in which we…Continue Reading

Did Pope Francis really say all dogs go to heaven? UPDATED

That nice man, Pope Francis, says you get to see your pets again in Heaven. But Pope Benedict is a mean old Grinch who wants to remove the animals from your Nativity scene Christmas decorations. Oh, really? Please don’t believe…Continue Reading

Catholic Church in Australia links celibacy to child abuse

By Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney, and Nick Squires in Rome 8:04PM GMT 12 Dec 2014 Priests’ vows of celibacy may have led to paedophilia, the Roman Catholic Church in Australia has said, in what is believed to be the first such…Continue Reading

Pope Calls For More ‘Integration’ Of Divorced Catholics, Gays

By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church must consider various ways to integrate the divorced and civilly remarried in the life of the church — not merely allowing them…Continue Reading

‘I’m not worried’ about resistance, Pope Francis says in new interview

Vatican City, Dec 7, 2014 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with the Argentine daily “La Nacion” published Sunday, Pope Francis spoke on a variety of topics, giving specific attention to the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia,…Continue Reading

Catholic Church Severs Ties with Agency over Gay Adoption Ruling

The Catholic Church in Northern Ireland is pulling the plug on a long-standing relationship with the Family Care Society, a Catholic adoption agency, after a judge ruled that all adoption services must be willing to place children with same-sex couples…Continue Reading

Reaction to Chicago archbishop’s remarks on pro-abort pols receiving Communion

n a radical departure from the position of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Blase Cupich – said to have been handpicked by Pope Francis for Chicago – has presented giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians as a positive move. Asked Sunday…Continue Reading

Pope Francis dodges reporter’s question on treatment of homosexuality in Synod’s controversial mid-term report

Since the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, reporters around the world have been wondering where Pope Francis stands on the controversial language about homosexuality in the mid-term Synod report.  The opportunity to ask the pope…Continue Reading

Archbishop Cupich Says Yes to Communion for Pro-Abortion Politicians

In October of last year veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister wrote of the new path that many believed the Church was embarking upon. Magister observed: “In Italy, but not only there, it was the cardinal and Jesuit Carlo Maria Martini…Continue Reading

Francis calls for a change mentality in the Church, easier homilies and flexible times

Francis addresses participants of the International Pastoral Congress on the World’s Big Cities: “Go out and facilitate”, don’t be afraid of multicultural contexts or of proclaiming Jesus DOMENICO AGASSO JR ROME Francis was honest from the start: “I don’t want…Continue Reading

Chaput: It Isn’t Possible To Be Pro-life And Simultaneously Forget The Cries Of The Poor

Interview with the Archbishop of Philadelphia who is preparing to receive the Pope for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015: defending the unborn child is a vital part of the social doctrine of the Church. We need to…Continue Reading

Homosexual Activist Organization in New York Receives Catholic Grant

Washington, DC—The Lepanto Institute issued a report exposing the activities of an organization which received a $35,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  According to the report, the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) launched its…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

General Audience: Jesus Chose To Come To The World As Part Of A family

POPE700

Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The family is the “great gift that the Lord has given to the world ever since the beginning, when he entrusted to Adam and Eve the mission of multiplying and filling the earth; the gift that Jesus confirmed and sealed in His Gospel”, said the Holy Father during this Wednesday’s general audience, in…Continue Reading

Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!

pope693

(Vatican Radio) There was a festive atmosphere at the weekly General Audience on Wednesday, as Pope Francis celebrated his 78th birthday. As he made his way through the crowds, Pope Francis stopped by a group of seminarians from the Legion of Christ, who offered him a birthday cake, complete with lighted candles. The Holy Father also took the opportunity to…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Recalls His 1st Communion, Says to Remember Catechists

Rome, December 15, 2014 (Zenit.org) Staff Reporter On a visit to a Roman parish Sunday evening, the Pope had lively discussions with various groups from the congregation, including children preparing to receive their First Communion. He told them about his own First Communion 70 years ago. On his arrival at the parish of Saint Joseph all’Aurelio, in the western sector…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Rigidity Is A sign Of A Weak Heart

pope692

(Vatican Radio) The day’s Gospel reading, which relates how the chief priests asked Jesus by what authority He did His works, was the focus of the Pope’s homily on Monday. It is a demand, the Pope explained, that demonstrates the “hypocritical heart” of those people – people who were not interested in the truth, who sought only their own interests,…Continue Reading

Ten Complacent Maxims

By DONALD DeMARCO Mark Strand, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate, passed away recently (November 29, 2014). He was a staunch atheist, declaring that he had never met God and had never been to Heaven. He said: “Although there are a lot of people claiming that God is telling them what to do,…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Abortifacient Brief: Depo-Provera”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 2 of The Facts of Life, “Abortifacients,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Depo-Provera is an injectable contraceptive drug that sometimes has an abortifacient effect. It also possesses…Continue Reading

An Advent Reflection . . . The Very Visible Sin Of Gluttony

By REY FLORES Ever since I can remember, I have always had a problem with the fluctuation of my weight. As a child, my nickname was “Gordo,” which means fat in Spanish. I wasn’t bothered when my own family called me that, but it did bother me when the other school kids would make fun…Continue Reading

Gosnell Filmmakers Reopen Crowdfunding Campaign

By LISA BOURNE (LifeSiteNews) — The producers of the forthcoming Kermit Gosnell “House of Horrors” movie are reopening their crowdfunding campaign after Indiegogo changed its rules to allow campaigns without a deadline. Magdalena Segieda, Phelim McAleer, and Ann McElhinney surpassed their previous crowdfunding goal of $2.1 million earlier this year, and the Indiegogo fundraising site…Continue Reading

The CIA And Its Torturers

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO When the head of the CIA’s torture unit decided to destroy videotapes of his team’s horrific work, he unwittingly set in motion a series of events that led to the release this past week of the most massive, detailed documentation of unlawful behavior by high-ranking government officials and intentional infliction of…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Law Of The Lord

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Feast Of The Holy Family (YR B) Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 Col. 3:12-21 Luke 2: 22-40 Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. In a particular way this refers to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. However, it also refers to all families that are striving to live according to the ways of holiness and truth.…Continue Reading

Pope’s Message For World Day of Peace . . . “No Longer Slaves, But Brothers”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is the text of Pope Francis’ message for the 48th World Day of Peace, which is celebrated on January 1, 2015. For a text with footnotes, go to www.zenit.org. + + + At the beginning of this New Year, which we welcome as God’s gracious gift to all humanity, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . True Joy Awards Intense Preparation For Christmas

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK With the arrival of these days of late Advent, we have already journeyed through the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and Gaudete, or joy, Sunday. We have taken the opportunity to deepen our love and devotion for our heavenly Mother in celebrating the singular prevenient grace of God that equipped her unique preparation for…Continue Reading

Debunking The Sola Scriptura Myth… Summing Up

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 8 According to Sacred Scripture itself, the Bible is not, and was never meant to be, the only source of divine Revelation and sole rule of faith. Jesus neither wrote anything Himself nor commanded anybody to write. On the contrary, He commanded the apostles to preach, viva voce. He commanded the apostles to preach…Continue Reading

The Canon Of Scripture

By DON FIER For several weeks in this series we’ve been examining how God, in His loving Providence, has made Himself known to us. We’ve discussed the twofold means by which His divine Revelation has been transmitted to mankind — Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture — and how the two together are inseparable elements of a single Deposit of Faith.…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . Blessed Urban V

By CAROLE BRESLIN The year 1309 marked the beginning of the Avignon papacy, under Pope Clement V, who was French. The Popes of Avignon built a papal palace, increasing it in size over the next 70 years. The first crack in the control of the papacy by the French began when Pope Urban V left Avignon to reside in Rome…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Sabbas

By CAROLE BRESLIN Silence. Quiet. The search for peace, serenity, and calm has led many in today’s world to take up Yoga, Eastern mysticism, or life in remote areas to escape the noise of our modern world. This is not a modern quest. The quest for quiet has been with man for millennia. Although St. Anthony the Great (died 356)…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading