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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Bill O'Reilly's "The Last Days of Jesus" book

A few weeks ago Allison Verost, Director of Publicity at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group contacted me  to ask if I would review Bill O’Reilly’s soon to be released book “The Last Days of Jesus: His Life and Times”.  This is an adaptation of O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus” book and is written for children 10 years and up.  I agreed to read and review the book. 

I should mention here that I  have never read any books by Mr. O’Reilly and don’t watch his Fox News programs (though I did many years ago so I am familiar with who he is), so I had no idea what to expect.

**According to O’Reilly’s Bibliography he used the Protestant NIV Bible, so I will quote that Bible in this review**

*********WARNING SPOILERS*********

I am no theologian but I am pretty well studied in the Scriptures and because of that fact found I had several "issues" with the book. Some people will probably disagree with me, but here is my take on the book...

First up, the book tells a completely fictional story of Jesus as a young boy who along with Mary and Joseph run for their lives from Roman soldiers who are slaughtering Jews in the market place.  I don’t know where exactly O’Reilly got this story from, but its not in any Bible I can find. 

Some people might like a fictional Jesus story, I don’t so right of the bat I was offended.

Next up an example of one of many times O’Reilly CHANGES Sacred Scripture to tell a different story (he does this often in the book and if you don’t know the scriptures you will not know it is altered).

In this example O’Reilly says that the disciples John and James were “jockeying for position” in Jesus’ “new regime” and requested that they each get to sit to Jesus’ left and right in positions of power.  

The Bible tells the story a bit differently…the NIV titles the passage “A Mother’s Request” yet O’Reilly makes no mention of a mother at all.

Matthew 20 [NIV Bible]- A Mother’s Request  20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”“We can,” they answered.23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”


No big deal?

OK, lets move on.

Catholics (like me) might take exception to O’Reilly’s version of Simon Peter and Jesus.  The Bible shows in Matthew 16 that Jesus gives Peter the keys to the Church (authority) and tells the disciples he (Jesus) was creating a real Church on earth – O’Reilly ignores most of this in his own chapter circling these events without mentioning the focal points to talk about other things.
The NIV Bible: Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Now O’Reilly’s version:

No keys, no Church, no authority, no papacy…its been gutted. If you are going to write a chapter about this exchange between Jesus and Peter then why leave out the most important parts?  O’Reilly rips out the 18th and 19th verses which his own faith (I believe he claims to be Catholic) highlights as the foundation of Jesus Christ building His Church on earth.  Hardly a trivial matter to Christianity.

Next he guts the Last Supper – no Eucharist.  The focus of this chapter for O’Reilly is that Jesus washed someone’s feet.  For O’Reilly this is the most important part of the Last Supper, yet in the Scriptures the foot washing is not mentioned in Matthew, Mark or Luke, only in the Gospel of John and the reason it is mentioned is to show that Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him (verse 11). Judas was the "unclean" one among the disciples. The significance of the Last Supper- the Eucharist being instituted is simply not shown in this book at all.   

Here is O’Reilly’s version…

Now here is what the Sacred Scriptures says about the foot washing…
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet  13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. –end-

And here is what Scripture says about the Last Supper
Luke 22 (NIV Bible) - Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus 1 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.The Last SupperThen came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.-end-

Other issues I had… in chapter one, O’Reilly claims Joseph only had a bad dream that terrified him so much he woke up Mary and Jesus and bolted out of Bethlehem.  No mention of the “angel of the Lord” telling Joseph to take his family and leave (Matthew 2:13). 

In chapter two, O’Reilly talks about Jesus sleeping on roof tops and how rare red meat and fish are to Jesus’ diet as a child.  Could he have slept on roof tops and rarely eaten red meat or fish, sure, but that’s not in the Bible. According to Isaiah 7, Jesus ate curds and honey as a child.
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

In chapter five, O’Reilly portrays Mary and Joseph as “shocked” by Jesus’ knowledge of God because never before has Jesus nor anything else in their life given them the impression that their son was anyone special. Yet the Bible clearly shows both Mary and Joseph were well informed by God that this was no ordinary son. Luke 1:31-35
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

In chapter seven, O’Reilly has John the Baptist proclaim he [John the Baptist alone] “saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him” before Jesus even got to the water to be baptized.  According to the Bible, Jesus was baptized THEN Heaven opened up and dove came down… (Matthew 3:16).

O’Reilly goes on to write that “John the Baptist says “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” in chapter seven, but later in chapter thirty O’Reilly claims that John the Baptist “is beginning to doubt his initial faith in Jesus as the Messiah”

In chapter twenty-eight (the Crucifixion scene) O’Reilly doesn’t mention the Disciple John being with Mary at the cross or Jesus giving Mary to John to care for (John 19:25-27) now that Jesus is going to die on the cross and soon ascend into Heaven (after he comes out of the tomb and walks the earth for 40 days).  Also left out of this chapter is Christ's words: “Into your hands Father I commend my Spirit” (Luke 23:46), the earthquake when Christ dies on the cross (Matthew 27:51), the temple curtain torn at the moment of Christ's death on the cross (Matthew 27:51) and the people raised from the dead (Matthew 27:52-53).  No mention of any of those major events.

Most chapters (in my opinion) show Mary, Joseph, the disciples and others as completely clueless about who Jesus is and what he is doing most of the time. I didn't care for O'Reilly's view or depiction of these Saints. 

And the final BIG issue for me… the very last sentence in the last chapter of the book… "To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.”  No mention that Jesus was seen after the Crucifixion for 40 days (Acts 1:3) or that people watched him ascend into Heaven (Acts 1:9).

The book ends with an “Afterword” that includes assorted religion’s varying views of Jesus (Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Hindus etc).  This also includes what some writings and history say happened to the Apostles and other biblical characters (Pontius Pilate, Mary Magadalene etc).

Because I found too many alterations of Sacred Scripture and missing key Scriptural points I could not recommend this book to ANY parent to give to their child. Better they learn about Jesus from a child's Bible than this fictional portrayal of Jesus.

I am sure this is not the review Bill O’Reilly or his publisher were hoping for, but I have to be honest. I am sorry to say I simply did not like this book and cannot recommend it.

In Christ,

Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner


  1. Julie, have you or any good, solid Catholic ever reviewed O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus” book? I have been trying to find a REAL Catholic review of this book.

    Thanks for this review on this new book of his. O'Reilly is NOT what he portrays and I figured it would bleed out in his books.

  2. At least O'Neal gets us out there. I loved the book and I found no disrespect to our Lord. Yes some accounts are unclear or incorrect but not so much as to discourage the average reader who might not pick up a Bible at the local store. The only absolute correct version of events would be our Bible. So with that said let's get our story out there whenever we can as long as there is no harm done and just maybe the next book the reader buys would be our Bible. The average person picking up the book wouldn't even remember when the dove landed.

  3. Corr. O'Reilly, auto correct!!!


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Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner

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