Wednesday 28th September 2022

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
  • http://jjhayes.bandcamp.com J.J. Hayes

    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!

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  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 su
bscribe 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 150 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

Catechism

Today . . .

">Great News for Italy. Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Giorgia Meloni’s electrifying speech at the World Congress of Families

Bishops, priests and scholars correct Pope Francis’ statement on Holy Communion

(LifeSiteNews) — Four bishops, several priests, and numerous Catholic scholars have signed a statement rebuking Pope Francis for a recent statement about the reception of Holy Communion, according to which “everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb (Re 19:9). To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word.” The Pope wrote these words in his…Continue Reading

A futuristic Nur-Sultan ready welcomes Pope Francis to Kazakhstan

As Pope Francis prepares to depart for Kazakhstan on Tuesday, our correspondent in Nur-Sultan takes a look at his upcoming participation in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, as well as the small Catholic community’s great joy to receive the Holy Father.

Joe Biden Calls MAGA Americans Violent, Ignores Leftist Violence Against Churches, Pregnancy Centers

Illuminated with blood-red lights, draped in inky shadows, and flanked by U.S. Marines, President Biden launched into an angry screed Thursday night, using dangerous and inciting rhetoric to attack so-called “MAGA Republicans.” It was a terrifying sight that drew praise and flowery language from the “journalists” of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 as they lauded the “full frontal attack” and asserted he was “reclaiming patriotism.” “President Biden finishing a 24-minute speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He said as…Continue Reading

Pope Francis creates 20 cardinals for the Catholic Church

Rome Newsroom, Aug 27, 2022 / 08:31 am Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals for the Catholic Church during a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday. “Jesus calls us by name; he looks us in the eye and he asks: Can I count on you?” Pope Francis said in a homily addressed to the College of Cardinals and its new members on Aug. 27. “The Lord,” he said, “wants to bestow on us his own…Continue Reading

Who Makes More Money In America?

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY The money earned by American households has grown enormously since 1967, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson was still in office and the hippie generation was celebrating its so-called Summer of Love.The median household income in the United States that year was $50,803 in constant 2021 dollars, according to the Census Bureau’s…Continue Reading

An Attack On Human Life . . . Pope Benedict Condemns “Intrinsic Evil” Of Abortion

By STEVEN ERTELT (LifeNews) — During his time as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict was a consistent pro-life voice condemning the evil of abortion. In comments posted on Twitter the morning of September 21, Benedict XVI reminded people that abortion is evil and an attack on human life.He made it clear that…Continue Reading

Biden Is Losing The Race For The Cure

By STEPHEN MOORE President Joe Biden recently announced, with great fanfare, his Cancer Moonshot initiative. Biden used soaring and promising rhetoric about, at last, finding a cure for one of the world’s leading killers.Speaking at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on September 12, the president declared:“Beating cancer is something we…Continue Reading

Becoming Pro-Life The Hard Way

By DONALD DeMARCO “Aujourd’hui Maman est morte. Ou, hier, peut-etre; je ne sais pas.” (Today my mother died. Or was it yesterday, I don’t know.) + + This is the celebrated opening of Nobel Laureate Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger. It immediately establishes the main character as a person who, being emotionally unmoved by the…Continue Reading

The Queen: End Of An Era

By JOHN J. METLZER The Queen has died; the page of history has turned. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest serving monarch, has shocked and saddened much of the world despite the sovereign’s declining health and her 96 years of age. Just months after having joyfully celebrated her platinum Jubilee commemorating 70 years…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

On Being Faithful In A Few Things . . . Before Being Ruler Over Many Things

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this commentary on September 17 and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + I. Analysis of the Sinner — In the opening lines of the Gospel, Jesus describes a sinful steward.Delusion (of the sinner) — Jesus said to His disciples, “A rich man had a steward. . . .”Notice…Continue Reading

How Long, O Lord?

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time Readings:Hab. 1:2-3, 2:2-42 Tim. 1:6-8, 13-14Luke 17:5-10 The first reading today, from the Prophet Habakkuk, is very apropos for our time. As it was in his day, so too it is in ours: people crying to God for help, but nothing seems to happen; people crying out “violence,” but God does…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I don’t use rosary beads to say the rosary since I pray in the car or while doing gardening or housework. Is it okay to pray the rosary daily with my fingers? Also, I have seen pictures of St. Joseph with lilies, and I have been told that is the way he was chosen to be the husband of…Continue Reading

Future Bleak for Vatican II Mass

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK My parish is forced back into compliance with the “unique liturgical expression of the Roman rite” this month, as expressed by Pope Francis in Traditionis custodes, with the banning of the traditional Latin Mass in my as well as in other parish churches. This in order to open us to the full experience of the…Continue Reading

Crazy! . . . A Homily For The 24th Sunday Of The Year

(Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this on September 10 and it is posted here with permission.) + + The three parables in this Sunday’s lengthy Gospel challenge conventional thinking. They describe people doing things that we most likely would not do. All three of them — especially the first two — seem crazy. Who would ever do what the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Augustine Of Canterbury

By DEB PIROCH Apostle, Benedictine monk, first archbishop of Canterbury, and the founder of the First Eccliastical See in England, St. Augustine of Canterbury is not a name remembered by many Americans. But as England buries Queen Elizabeth II this week, we hear much of Her Majesty’s Christian faith. Without St. Augustine’s work, would Christianity in England exist at all…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Bridget

By DEB PIROCH “Oh my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that were it possible I would die many other times for each one of them that same death I suffered for the redemption of all” — Words attributed to Christ, Revelations of St. Bridget. + + In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II issued a moto proprio, making…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)