I was looking forward to seeing the new film “Killing Jesus” based on the bestselling book by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. I was curious as to how the “facts” of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth would be translated on the screen. I enjoyed reading the book and thought it was quite good despite a few of what I thought were questionable historic facts. You can read my review here. Unfortunately, the movie did not rise to meet expectations.
There were some things that I liked about it. For example, some of the dialogue had a natural, conversational flow to it as opposed to parroting the Gospels verbatim as some films seem to do. The conversation between Jesus and the disciples when he asked them who people thought he was was a good example of this. I also appreciated that the actor playing Jesus wasn’t “pretty” or the stereotypical iconic image we have grown accustomed to seeing.
Jesus ministry begins when he is fishing with Peter. The two of them are in a boat on the lake fishing, but they’re just sitting in the boat watching nothing happen. Jesus suggests they pray. Before you know it, the fish are jumping into the nets. Jesus seems almost as surprised as Peter at the “miracle”. And other than “healing” a demon possessed boy, there are no other “miracles” in the film. But then there weren’t any in the book either as they don’t constitute historic facts according to the authors. And there were the fake beards several characters were wearing.
While some of the dialogue felt like it had a natural flow, it seemed that most of the sayings and teachings of Jesus were mixed up with no natural flow to his teachings during his three years of ministry. For example at the trial before the Sanhedrin, there are no false witnesses, the high priest cuts to the chase and asks Jesus if he is the anointed one. When Jesus replies, “I am”, the priest is quite nonchalant in his response to the “blasphemy” as he has Jesus’ head covered so he can be beaten and asked to prophecy who hit him. And some of them had obviously fake beards.
The most egregious error occurred when Jesus teaches the golden rule. The movie has Jesus stating it in the negative, “Don’t do to others…” This is how it expressed in other religions. To obey it, you simply need to remain inactive, mind your own business and leave others alone, you don’t have to do anything. However, Jesus is recorded stating the rule in the affirmative, “Do unto others…” This gives the connotation of a command to be actively involved with lives of others. And there were the fake beards.
The crucifixion was followed with Nicodemus, Joseph, Mary Magdalene and a few others finding the tomb empty. There are no scenes of any post mortem appearances by Jesus. Just the final scene where we find Peter fishing, sitting in his boat watching nothing happen – until he decides to pray. And voila! Fish are jumping in the nets, and Peter is looking up in the sky laughing. I guess he somehow figured out Jesus was resurrected? Peter’s beard appeared pretty authentic.
The post script notes of the film mention the “traditions” of how most of the disciples died. I really felt at that point that much of what I was watching was signed, sealed and delivered by the Jesus Seminar via producer Ridley Scott, not the fact based historical narrative the authors gave us in the book. The close of the film was quite the contrast to these statements found in the afterword of the book: “What comes next is the very root of the Christian faith. The Gospels record that Jesus’s body was not stolen. Instead, Scripture puts forth that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. After his body was found missing, the Gospels state that Jesus appeared twelve times on earth over a forty day period. The apparitions range from a single individual to groups of more than five hundred on a mountain in Galilee. Some in that crowd would speak vividly of the event for years to come . . . After the crucifixion, the disciples of Jesus underwent a radical shift in behavior. They were quite positive that they had seen a resurrected Jesus and soon went out into the world and fearlessly preached his message. Known as the apostles, the men paid a tremendous price for their faith.”
As I thought after I read the book, so I still feel now. If Killing Jesus was written primarily to tell the truth about important people, then there just has to be the sequel – Resurrecting Jesus! Perhaps the upcoming mini-series “A.D.” will prove to be more factual and trustworthy, with better beards.
Take my word for it – read the book, don’t watch the movie,
Have a little hope on me,