Bill O’Reilly is certainly no stranger to controversy and his latest book, Killing Jesus, will assuredly become part of the ever-growing list associated with his name. In his latest book, the host of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” offers up a retelling of the last days and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Using sources as varied as the Christian Gospels of of Mark, John, Luke, and Matthew and the Islamic texts, O’Reilly gives an account, often in “gory” detail, about an alleged event that took place in Judea two millennia ago. But whether one agrees with the author and his version is completely up to the reader, the former newsman suggests.
In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” part of the premiere episode for the news magazine’s 47th season scheduled to air on Sept. 29, Bill O’Reilly talks about Killing Jesus and about his take on the central facet of Christianity — the death of Jesus Christ — with Norah O’Donnell. With just about any book concerning Christianity’s central figure holding the potential for controversy, O’Reilly courts it with an unvarnished and brutal look at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and in the fact that some familiar parts of the story are left out of his book altogether.
“You go in great detail to describe Jesus’ crucifixion — in gory detail,” O’Donnell said as preface for a follow-up question (in a video clip shown on CBS’ “Morning Show” Sept. 27. “Why?”
“It’s important to understand the brutality of the day,” O’Reilly explained, “and what they did to this guy, who did absolutely nothing.” He then added, “And life was cheap.”
O’Reilly also noted that certain popular depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion were wrong as well. Those showing the man crucified by having nails driven through his hands were wrong. O’Reilly explained that crucifixion was performed by placing the nails through the wrists, as the hands would have torn under the body’s weight, allowing the individual to fall to the ground.
O’Reilly said that a seat which normally was affixed to a cruciform device, to prolong death. However, Roman soldiers, he said, removed the one attached to Jesus’ cross.
“They didn’t want the folks seeing him on there. They thought there was going to be big trouble if they saw him there. So they wanted to kill him — and out of there.”
Although O’Reilly’s take on the crucifixion might be a bit on the blunt or graphic side, something that might well get Killing Jesus compared to the Mel Gibson’s visually graphic “Passion of the Christ,” those details might not be as controversial as what he some details he left out.
O’Donnell said that O’Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard quoted Jesus while on the cross, supplying two well known quotes. But they left out perhaps the most famous quote: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” She asked, “Why not?”
“We don’t put in things we don’t think happened,” O’Reilly said matter-of-factly.
“How do you know?” O’Donnell quickly inserted.
“Because you couldn’t say something like that, audibly, that people would hear. You die on the cross from being suffocated — but your lungs can’t take in any more air. You can hardly breathe. We believe Jesus said that, but we don’t believe he said it on the cross. ‘Cause nobody could have heard it.”
O’Donnell immediately touched on where the potential for controversy was strongest — the idea of the biblical and/or scriptural infallibility. People will quote the bible and the words attributed to Jesus, then say, “…but Bill O’Reilly says that’s not true. So I should believe Bill.”
“You believe what you want. If you want to take the bible literally, then that’s your right to do that.”
O’Donnell then accused O’Reilly — and Dugard — of picking and choosing from the sources of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
“Right,” O’Reilly quickly amended, “but that’s not our only source. We use Muslim sources. We use Roman sources. We use Jewish sources.”
“So this is the gospel according to Bill,” she pressed.
“This is the best available evidence according to Bill,” he rejoined. “We believe the oral history in the bible is accurate, but we’re not taking it literally.”
Killing Jesus will undoubtedly debut in the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Several, as a matter of fact, given that, according to Christian Post, it topped the general religious books, religion-related history and Christology lists at Amazon just days before its release (Sept. 24).
Killing Jesus is Bill O’Reilly’s latest look at history. His two previous historical works, Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln have combined to sell more than 5.6 million copies in various formats to date.
And nothing sells like controversy. O’Reilly’s account will join Reza Aslan’s Zealot on the best sellers list. Zealot also depicted the times and circumstances around Jesus’ death. Aslan’s work became controversial when some took exception to the fact that he was Muslim, questioning his right to produce a book documenting the life of Jesus Christ, a charge that Aslan easily refuted by noting his credentials in holding a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Sociology, specializing in the history of religion.
Bill O’Reilly’s “60 Minutes” interview regarding Killing Jesus airs on Sunday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. (EST) on CBS Television.