Killing Jesus

Overall Rating

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Leans toward a biblical worldview


Ranking Categories:
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance 2.5stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships 3.0stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations 2.0stars.png
Family Viewing Suitability 3.0stars.png
Entertainment Value 4.0stars.png
view our criteria

Summary

Just in time for Easter this year comes the National Geographic Channel presentation of KILLING JESUS,  a three-hour television movie premiering on Palm Sunday, March 29th at 8 ET / 7 CT.  Executive produced by Ridley Scott (EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, GLADIATOR) and based on the best-selling book, Killing Jesus: A History, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, KILLING JESUS features a strong cast, including Muslim-raised Haaz Sleiman as Jesus, Kelsey Grammer as King Herod, Rufus Sewell as Caiaphas, John Rhys-Davies as Annas, Stephen Moyer as Pilate, Emmanuelle Chriqui as Herodia, and Eoin Macken as Herod Antipas.   

Following in the pattern of previous collaborative efforts by O’Reilly, Dugard and National Geographic to bring to television audiences the lives and deaths of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy (KILLING LINCOLN and KILLING KENNEDY), KILLING JESUS examines the socio-political context of the life of a very influential figure in human history. By chronicling the life and death of Jesus through three perspectives—that of the Roman occupiers, the Jewish religious leaders, and his family and followers—Scott and his team depict Jesus as fully human, but barely divine.


Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance

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According to the Bible, Jesus is the pivotal figure in all of human history. The Old Testament points forward to the redemptive life, sacrificial death and resurrection of a Jewish Messiah who will break the bonds of sin and redeem mankind—ushering in the Kingdom of God and restoring peace between the Creator and the created. Likewise, the New Testament points back to Jesus as this long-awaited Messiah—a savior, deliverer and king who is both fully human (Son of Man) and fully divine (Son of God). Indeed, Scripture teaches that it is in, by and through Jesus that all things come together and have their being. 

Given the historical centrality of the person and work of Christ to Christians, the biblical relevance of the story of Jesus as the God-Man cannot be overstated. However, by focusing on the humanity of Jesus and largely ignoring the many supernatural and miraculous events described in the Bible—including clear claims to His divinity—the makers of KILLING JESUS get the story only half-right.


Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships

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For many characters depicted in KILLING JESUS—particularly the Roman and Jewish leaders—the texture and nuance of their motivations is presented in ways that are both commendable and highly engaging. We understand why Herod, Pilate, Antipas, Caiaphas, Annas, Herodia, Salome and Nicodemus make the choices they make—and they are congruent with the socio-political context presented in the Bible. Even the depiction of Judas Iscariot makes sense and is compatible with biblical teaching.

 

When it comes to Jesus and his family and followers, however, KILLLING JESUS offers a mixed bag in terms of the depiction of characters and their relationships. Mary the mother of Jesus seems unaware of the special call on Jesus’ life and expresses concern that He is a sorcerer. Brother James remains highly skeptical throughout until the final credits when he is mentioned as a martyr according to traditional understanding of the fate of each of the disciples.

For their part, the disciples are depicted as highly skeptical—unsure who Jesus is yet somehow, rather inexplicably, willing to give up their prior lives to follow Him.  Even Peter, who more than the others seems to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, doesn’t truly believe until an extra-biblical scene unfolds in which he returns to his fishing job after Jesus’ death and receives a second “big catch” on one side of the boat—after seemingly praying for the first time.

Most importantly, the depiction of Jesus will cause some concern for faith-driven viewers. While his human anger and frustration in certain circumstances is portrayed in ways that are understandable, KILLING JESUS presents Jesus as a man who only very slowly grows into relationship with God as Father—and the subsequent understanding of who He is and what He’s being called to do. Here, Jesus is often depicted as tentative and hesitant—testing the waters to build confidence and showing only flashes of the flint-like resolve and clarity recorded in the Bible.


Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations

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Given the challenges associated with making decisions about which biblical stories and historical events to include in a television movie about the life of Jesus, it’s understandable that the makers of KILLING JESUS conflate some of the stories and make passing reference to some important events recorded in Scripture.

And while the socio-political climate leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus is presented well in KILLING JESUS, viewers looking for many traditional elements of the story of Jesus—including signs, wonders and miracles—will be largely disappointed. There is no angelic visitation upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, nor is there a joyous kicking in Elizabeth’s womb by John the Baptist.  Joseph receives no direction in dreams and there is no Roman census requiring him and Mary to go to Bethlehem. And while the Magi accurately visit a Jesus who is likely about two years old, there is no star to guide them and their method for identifying him is decidedly Eastern.

Beyond these early years in Jesus’ life, there is no depiction of Jesus as a young teen in the temple engaging with the biblical scholars and, significantly, precious few miracles that point to His divinity. There is only a hint of the supernatural in two instances—fishing with Peter in the Sea of Galilee and in the healing of a demon-possessed child, who is shown as likely having epilepsy. Otherwise, the miraculous is downplayed—there is no wine from water at Cana, no walking on the water with Peter, no multiplication of loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes, no Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus at His baptism by John in the Jordan, no temptation by Satan in the desert, no resurrection of Lazarus, no earthquake or darkening of the sun when Jesus dies, no tearing of the temple veil, and no angel at the tomb telling the women that He is risen. 


Family Viewing Suitability

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While the biblical message of KILLING JESUS is meant for people of all ages, discernment must be taken with younger children due to the unavoidable inclusion of some mature themes, including the murder of male Jewish infants by the decree of Herod, incest, suicide by hanging, violence and the brutal scourging and crucifixion of Jesus. 

On a spiritual level, care must also be taken to discern that the teaching of Jesus as presented in KILLING JESUS is distilled into the largely inoffensive, humanist and universalist messages that “God is love” and one must only look into one’s heart to find both truth and the kingdom of God.  While these are biblical concepts, without the fuller teaching of Scripture they are incomplete and can easily lead to unbiblical conclusions. Here, it's significant that KILLING JESUS largely avoids any mention of the need for repentance, and rather than portray Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” shows Him to be merely a righteous teacher who represents a “new light” and a “new dawn.”


Entertainment Value

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Despite its spiritual limitations, KILLING JESUS offers the high quality production values and attention to detail that one expects from National Geographic. Each scene unfolds in a way that is engaging and artful—with impressive sets and cinematography. And it’s nice to see a racially diverse cast that more accurately represents the time and place depicted in the story. 

At 132 minutes in length, KILLING JESUS is a well-paced and entertaining epic that depicts the life and death of Jesus from a strictly humanistic historical perspective—largely ignoring biblical claims to His divinity. While the makers of KILLING JESUS do a good job exploring the socio-political times in which Jesus lived and died, the primary focus on His humanity paints an incomplete picture and leaves the viewer wondering what could possibly compel all but one of His disciples to die spreading His message—and why 2.2 billion continue to follow Him two thousand years later.


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  • I am a member of faith driven consumer and I always appreciate your view of things, but I must say that in this review you were more than kind to O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus.” I found twenty eight problems with this movie and wrote a review dealing with only eight, see:
    http://www.americanprophet.org/Nat-Geos-Killing-Jesus-a-Flawed-Excursion-into-Serious-Error_1748.htm
    I always ask my self one question – if I were not a believer or a very new convert would a movie lead me to Christ or strengthen the new faith I had found. In KJ I am forced to answer no to both questions.
    Rev Michael Bresciani
    American Prophet.org
  • As the younger folks often say, “Yeah what he said”. Spot on Duane Caldwell. Bill claims to be a Christian but speaks of a point of view which often seems based culturally than spiritually based. I watch him often but always with an wary eye on spiritual topics. What ever his religious training and background may be, he has obviously missed the gospel message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. All his other books make judgments and draw conclusions about a man from the reviewing their historical record. “The best of MEN are still MEN at best”. His book about the God/man are totally different at the jump. Bill selectively ignores the supernatural historical evidence and claims of Christ lumping Jesus in with other MEN Bill has written about from a secular perspective. Seriously, the Son of God from a secular perspective screams out, “Why bother writing the book at all”. This book may well be a commercial success as his others book but I doubt it will have a positive effect for Jesus Christ.
  • It’s unfortunate that Bill O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard in their quest for the “Historical Jesus” have elected to remove all the supernatural elements from the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah or Christ. The accounts of those searching for the “Historical Jesus” typically reflect the viewpoints and sensibilities of the one writing it, rather than relating an accurate account as revealed in the Bible.

    O’Reilly has clearly depicted a Jesus who is not divine, who does not know his mission, has no authority other than his own, has no hope of a resurrection, is as surprised as anyone else to see a miracle, and whose main message is one of love, not redemption. Such a depiction begs the question – how did a man whose apparent end was the shameful death of a criminal on a cross, inspire his dejected, fearful, cowering-behind-doors followers to fearlessly preach a message of resurrection that has reverberated around the world for 2 millennia converting billions of people? That’s the problem with O’Reilly’s depiction. Very few people, in my estimation would follow him. I surely wouldn’t. It’s quite a different story for the Jesus as revealed in scripture – who spoke with the authority of God, fed the people, healed the sick, calmed the storm, cast out Satan, and showed mastery over death by raising the dead. That Jesus I would and do follow.

    It’s unfortunate that many people’s concept will be shaped by this film; or worse that the only thing they know of Jesus is from this film. My advice, if you want to see a more Biblical depiction of Jesus, watch “Son of God” by producers Roma Downey, Mark Burnett and Richard Bedser. Or better yet read the Bible gospel accounts yourself. For some of the numerous problems with this production see http://rationalfaith.com/2015/04/killing-jesus-a-review/.
  • It’s disgusting but not utterly surprising to read some of the blatant anti catholic comments here. One commentator writes “I have not seen one catholic film that is acceptable for spiritual consumption”, yet billions of people world over including millions of evangelicals watched Mel Gibsons the passion of the Christ and still watch it. The commentators reveal their own ignorance and anti-catholic bias. One person wrote that Catholics don’t believe that Jesus is divine! What an insult! You moron, Catholics throughout history fought for the doctrine if Jesus divinity and Catholics gave you the bible from which you quote. If you think you are more bible literate then think again especially if all you can do is just quote chapter and verse. There are many Catholics who can do that as well and probably better. As a catholic I was bored and disappointed watching this movie. My first reaction was they took away the divinity of Jesus and made this a purely humanistic movie. So before you go accusing Catholics again keep in mind many Catholics themselves may be disappointed with this version. And when you go watch the AD miniseries or if you watched the Bible miniseries on the History channel, keep in mind that the catholic Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett produced it.
  • I have to agree totally, this is not a film to enrichen ones Spiritual life.
    The Jews of hollyweird were more knowledgeable of Jesus than the Catholic O’ Reilly. He could tell about the lies of their Mary and her Mother as being higher than Jesus. They claim that Mary and her mother were sinless…if that were so there would not have been a reason for Jesus to die, it is called “eliminating the BLOOD”.
    I have not seen one Catholic film or documentary so far that would be acceptable for spiritual consumption.
    Be glad to see some story lines that would line up with Constitutional Conservative Protestant Christians like the Founding Fathers were, much less the original followers the Catholics murdered on a daily basis for thousands of years.
  • After reading Killing Jesus I am not surprised the O’Reilly and the “other guy” (is is likely the real author) would have such a tepid depiction of Jesus’ Divinity.
    Bill is a ratings chaser and despite his protestations to the contrary, he is soft on religion. Claims devoutly his is religious, but not as I watched his show over the years,
    he knows squat about doctrine. Political, more so and that’s why the political figures are perhaps more developed.

    Point that Ridley Scott is involved is pointless—ANY director can be reigned in and TOLD the script will say THIS. When they could only find a Muslim to play Jesus I
    a saluted having a non-blue eyed euro in the role. However, it was also a dead give away that the movie was going to have the heck compromised out of Jesus as
    it would have been TOTALLY more appropriate for Jesus to be play by a real Jew and not an Arab. Wonder if ol’ Ridley or any of the “money people” are Jewish and didn’t want any sense of
    “Messianic Jewishness” to be in the movie??? I think I may skip it.
  • Considering the fact Bill O’Reilly is a religionist—regardless of what he calls himself—rather than a true Christian engaged in a relationship with Christ, we can hardly expect him to understand the divinity of our Lord when his religion (Catholicism) doesn’t recognize it, and has even added unScriptural writings to their ‘version’ of the Bible (at the Council on Trent in 1548) to convince their adherents of the lies that the religion previously told about themselves and God back in the Dark Ages.

    1st Corinthians 2:14 says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

    In the next couple of verses 15 & 16, the Bible talks about the true Christian, who, through relationship with Christ, has received the Holy Spirit: “The spiritual man makes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement: 16’For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’
    But we have the mind of Christ.”

    That’s the difference between someone lost in a religion and someone involved in a relationship with Christ.

    Add the fact that Ridley Scott, the director, is not even remotely Christian, and you get the typical Hollywood ‘humanist’ worldview of the Scriptures. How can ‘men who are without the Spirit’ understand Christianity—much less the Scriptures—nor produce a film that accurately depicts Jesus Christ as who He IS, and not a mere ‘great teacher’ or simple ‘prophet?’ The only possible answer is, they can’t.

    Which is why Christians must rely on organizations like ‘Faith Driven Consumer’ to preview and review such films, to help us discern which ones are worthy of our patronage. So, thank you, Faith Driven Consumer, for yet again revealing that I don’t need to watch “Killing Jesus” this Sunday evening!
  • I am not surprised by the movie being supposedly a historic looksee into Jesus’ life. OReilly has stated this on television numerous times and attempts to bring a secular world closer to bring Christ’s teachings, I hope ? Problem is, without the miracles, Holy Ghost and other Biblical teachings so as not to offend a secular worldview, Bill has basically written a simple historical narrative without including world-changing Christian beliefs and hopes. I have not seen the movie so can only go by your review, but it is definitely flawed(the movie) if it simply attempts to make Christ a great teacher ! If a person believes the word of the Bible, it is apologetically impossible for Christ to have been a great teacher ONLY ! The resurrection isn’t mentioned in your review, but I’m guessing it wasn’t included either. This is the major life changing event for the disciples ! Jesus lives ! Omitting that one aspect of the Christian religion in fact destroys the Christian religion. Either you believe this or you don’t,that Christ rose from the dead and is alive now. There is no reason to make this movie, especially if this one life changing event is left out. Unless money or Bill’s vision of Christian apologetics is lacking. I will watch it to understand what Bill is attempting to relate to the general public and see what I can learn from Bill, even though reading the Word is teaching enough.
  • First off, I watch and enjoy the “Factor” almost everyday. I cannot understand why Mr. O’Reilly, claiming to be a Christian, would put time and resources into making a movie which ignores the proofs of Jesus Christ’s deity and the Biblical purpose and meaning of His life, death, and resurrection. Is it just me or is it ironic that it avoids the spiritual BUT is airing on Easter Sunday of all times.
  • I caught O’Reilly on FOX promoting the show.
    Right out of the box, he INCORRECTLY assesses the reason Jesus was crucified.
    Why would I buy a book, or watch a film produced by someone who doesn’t
    even understand THAT???
    Catholics have a weak and distorted understanding of scripture, and I KNOW that,
    having been raised a Catholic. Based on that, I can forgive O’Reilly’s ignorance,
    but I still wouldn’t waste my time watching ERROR.
  • You saved me wasting an hour and half of time. I pretty much had guessed it would be like this – because of the title of O"Reilly’s book “Killing Jesus” – fact is none killed Yahshua – he said that no one takes his life, He said He had power to lay it down and power to pick it up. He said He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. He said when He prayed that the cup be removed from Him that He was “exceedingly sorrowful – but what can I say for this reason I came into the world”.

    I have no use for movies that present Yahshua as nothing more then human (all of them “The Bible”, “The Son of God”) and this one. Yahshua was never killed – he gave up his life after living a perfect, sinless life – he exchanged his life for anyone who would accept the sacrifice and be washed in His Redeeming Blood. He went around doing good and casting out demons and healing all oppressed of the devil. If you are going to make a movie about his life – stop doing it “politically correct” "New-Agey (which is the anti-Christ spirit anyway) or “Universalist” and tell the real story. It is so much more important and compelling. O’Reilly should have just stuck to the “killing of men” not cheapened and diminished the Greatest Story Ever Told and the willing sacrifice of our Passover Lamb!
  • I wouldn’t waste my time on the Bill O’Reilly version of Jesus and Biblical truth. He should stick to commenting on political issues. More importantly he needs to get right with God by Biblically believing in Jesus.