Bill O'Reilly claims to be writing history here, but he really isn't. What he presents is an awkwardly harmonized (and often lightly fictionalized) retelling of the Gospel story, decked out with tidbits gleaned from history and archaeology (for example, the kind of sandals that would have been worn by the Syrian mercenaries who carried out Herod's slaughter of the innocents).
The scholarship on display here is shallow at best. One key example is O'Reilly's discussion of the authorship of the Gospels. Matthew was written by the tax collector, he says; Mark by John Mark, Luke by the physician Luke, and John by the "beloved disciple," the brother of James son of Zebedee. O'Reilly claims that there is "growing agreement" among scholars as to these attributions. But he couldn't be more wrong, and you needn't go any further than the discussion of the same subject in the notes to the recent revision of the (Catholic) New American Bible to see how wrong he is.
As a harmonizer of the Gospels, O'Reilly leaves something to be desired. A prime example here is the cleansing of the Temple. In three Gospels, it appears at the end of Jesus' ministry, and helps precipitate the final crisis; in John, the last to be written, it appears at the beginning, and seems to be Jesus' way of launching his challenge. The solution, for O'Reilly? Jesus cleanses the Temple twice. This unlikely version of events is a direct result of his insistence on taking John not as a spiritual meditation on the meaning of Jesus, but as a literally true account by an eyewitness who, in O'Reilly's view, should be given "the last word" about chronology. This flies in the face of virtually every scholar who has written on the historicity of the Gospel of John in the last hundred years.
Some of his historical digressions are baffling. One of the longer sections in the book is an account of the reigns of Julius, Augustus, and Tiberius Caesar. O'Reilly is clearly in his element here, and relishes the stories of the financial, political, and sexual corruption of Rome. As fascinating as this material is, it feels like padding: really, in a book about Jesus, the point could have been made in a couple of paragraphs.
As a narrator, O'Reilly is brisk and engaging. He uses his years of experience hectoring people on TV to good purpose. But does he deliver what he claims to deliver in this book? Not by a long shot. He seems blissfully unaware of the massive amounts of scholarship that have focused on how to use the Gospels as historical sources - some of it by eminent Catholic scholars like the Jesuit priest John Meier - and chooses instead to take the Gospels at face value as historical accounts.
(I know that many people of faith will take issue with my opinion on this. But I think what I've said fairly characterizes recent scholarship on the Gospels. For an authoritative account, check out Bart Ehrman's lectures on "The Historical Jesus" in the Great Courses lecture series.)
If O'Reilly admitted that he was writing a faith-based account, I wouldn't argue with his approach. But he doesn't; he claims to be following the scholarship, and he isn't.
Someone once said to Alexander Pope, regarding his translation of The Iliad: "It is very pretty, Mr Pope, but you must not call it Homer." This is very pretty, Mr O'Reilly, but you must not call it history.
Please don't get me wrong that there is new information that I learned in this book, but there was far more repetition of things I already knew than there was of things I didn't. This is an excellent book for non-believers. In fact the way it was written almost promotes itself to non-Christians. If you have non-Christian or agnostic friends that are interested in a fact based history on Jesus Christ's life then this is the book for them. Established Christians will learn new things from this book as well, but there will be a lot of repetition especially if you are well versed in the Bible.
although liberties were taken on what the thoughts and motivations were of some of the historical moments it was well written and well read.
Man I'm addicted to audible!! I enjoy fiction books a little too much
it's a must read for all those who wonder about the facts from other sources outside the Bible. This will really bring the reader into the culture and truly give you a richly filled historic view of the most iconic person who ever walked this earth.
I enjoyed the narrator even in spite of his using pronunciation of landmarks that I had never heard. It was moving to listen to this story during Holy Week and I learned more about the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion such as the emphasis on getting Jesus to say something blasphemous. Excellent