The question of who killed Jesus or who was primarily responsible for the crucifixion has been debated by scholars, biblical experts and ordinary people for 2000 years. For my part, I hoped to put the issue to rest in my recent article, “God Killed Jesus: That’s What the Gospels Say.” I pointed to definitive citations in the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament that unequivocally state that the crucifixion of Jesus was commanded by God, Jesus’ father, as part of God’s plan for the salvation and redemption of mankind. And as I argued in the article, and more extensively in my book, Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew, if the crucifixion was God’s plan, then accusing anyone else is the greatest of blasphemies against God and Christianity. It denies God’s will, God’s power, and God’s plan. From this Christian perspective all the other players were props in a divinely orchestrated plan.
So it’s no wonder that I was surprised when I opened my New York Times (2-21-13) to a full-page ad announcing the forthcoming publication of Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly, and hailing it as “this Year’s Most Anticipated Book.” The ad gave no hint about the book’s contents. But given Bill’s celebrity and his success with two other “killing” books (Lincoln and Kennedy), the media was all over the announcement, and the Internet buzzed with commentary. Although O’Reilly is keeping tight-lipped, he leaked one revelation on his T.V. show: “We’ve uncovered some interesting things about the execution of Jesus of Nazareth,” he said, “and how it all ties into Roman power.” This disclosure suggests that he’ll be weighing in on the “who did it” debate — and perhaps offering new evidence that the Romans were the primary culprits. His publisher, Henry Holt, confirmed that in a press release.
But will new evidence make a difference in popular perceptions? I doubt it, since despite divided opinions about culpability, Jews have historically been the ones blamed, and, significantly, only Jews have been persecuted for the crucifixion. Moreover, blaming the Romans is problematic for Christians–and possibly for Bill O’Reilly, a practicing Catholic. If the Romans initiated and pressed for Jesus’ crucifixion, it would have been for one and only one reason: that Jesus was an armed insurrectionist and a “Rambo” like rebellion leader who was a threat to Roman authority — not the Lamb of God or the Prince of Peace and Love as Christians maintain.
According to the Gospels, the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Judaism, charged Jesus with blasphemy against Judaism — the only realm (Jewish affairs) that the Sanhedrin had authority over. Blasphemy against Judaism was a charge that the Roman’s couldn’t give a hoot about. From the Jewish perspective, the Roman pagan temples and gods were blasphemies against Judaism. The Romans were in the picture because they were the only ones who could carry out the execution if Jesus were convicted by the Sanhedrin. But if the Romans initiated the action it’s an entirely different story — and not a Christian one.
So for me, the New York Times ad is correct: Bill O’Reilly’s book is “most anticipated.” I hope you have a good story, Bill!
Bernard Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and college professor. He is author of Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew, which is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other major outlets.