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Peter T Chattaway

Killing Jesus

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Nat Geo Teams Up Again With Ridley Scott And Bill O’Reilly For ‘Killing Jesus’

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 25, 2013) With the record-breaking success of the National Geographic Channel (NGC) factual drama of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling history “Killing Lincoln,” NGC President Howard T. Owens announced today that the network will once again join forces with Scott Free Productions to produce a film based on “Killing Jesus: A History,” the recently announced book from O’Reilly with co-author Martin Dugard, to be published by Henry Holt and Company on Sept. 24, 2013. The announcement comes as the network is also in pre-production on the film adaptation of “Killing Kennedy,” expected to air globally on National Geographic Channels later this year.

Killing Jesus is part of NGC’s commitment to authentic entertainment that challenges perceptions and expands understanding of stories you think you know with smart and imaginative storytelling. Not a new theme for the network, NGC has a rich history of producing thought-provoking programming on religious topics, such as the highly regarded special Gospel of Judas.

The factual drama will be true to the incredibly popular narrative storytelling devices used by O’Reilly in his previous two books, telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers and recounting the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable and the changes that his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow. . . .

March 25

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I never saw Killing Lincoln, so what exactly is a "factual drama"? A drama based on facts? A documentary with occasional dramatizations?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The cast was announced today -- and, as often happens with these films, it's kind of eclectic. Jesus is being played by a Lebanese-American, Herod the Great is being played by Kelsey Grammer, and Welsh Bible-movie veteran John Rhys-Davies is playing Annas, among other things.

 

The most interesting revelation, to me, is that an actor will play the prophet Isaiah. Apart from Martin Scorsese, has anyone else ever played Isaiah in a Jesus movie before?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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... and Welsh Bible-movie veteran John Rhys-Davies is playing Annas, among other things.

 

Wait, he has multiple roles, as he did in The Two Towers? ;)


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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So, out of curiosity (and, I suppose, a sense of professional obligation), I read Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard's book... and boy, is it sloppy.

 

It's not clear how much of the TV-movie will be based on the book and how much of it will be a more-or-less direct adaptation of the gospels (e.g. the book has entire chapters devoted to the Roman emperors, but there is no mention of them in the TV-movie's casting announcement, and the TV-movie will apparently include the prophet Isaiah, who is *not* a character per se in the book), but since the TV-movie will bring attention to the book, I figure it's only fair to take a look at the book itself.

 

Among the more stunning errors of fact:

 

"The northern portion of this kingdom [israel] fell in 722 B.C. to the Philistines..." Uh, no, it fell to the Assyrians.

 

"Twenty-six generations separate [Joseph's father] Jacob from Abraham, and at least fourteen separate him from David." Yikes. This appears to be a garbled version of Matthew 1, which says that there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile, and 14 from the exile to Joseph. O'Reilly & Dugard have apparently squished the last two groups of 14 into a single group of 14. But it gets worse: as anyone who knows the Old Testament could tell you, Matthew *himself* skips over some names (there were actually *18* generations between David and the exile, not 14). This is sloppy *and* an uncritical reading of the text.

 

"The Roman Catholic Church believes that Mary remained a virgin throughout her entire life. This doctrine was first put fourth four centuries after Jesus lived, by an early leader in the Church named Simon." Huh? St Jerome wrote Against Helvidius -- arguing for the perpetual virginity of both Mary *and* Joseph -- in the 380s AD (i.e. only 350 years after Jesus lived). And the Protoevangelion, i.e. the so-called Infancy Gospel of James, which is the earliest written reference to the idea that Jesus' siblings were actually the children of Joseph from a previous marriage, is generally dated to around AD 150 (i.e. only 120 years after Jesus lived).

 

"Though Mary Magdalene is not mentioned by name in this story (Luke 7:36-50), it has long been the tradition of Christian teaching that it was she." Um, in the Western churches, sure, but not in the Eastern churches.

 

"After his body was found missing, the Gospels state that Jesus appeared twelve times on earth over a forty-day period. These apparitions range from a single individual to groups of more than five hundred on a mountain in Galilee." Um, there's a lot of conflating going on there. For one thing, the "forty-day period" comes from Acts, not the gospels. The appearance to a group of five hundred comes from one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians, not the gospels (and he never says *where* it happened). I'd like to see a list of the actual apparitions that they have in mind here, to see which accounts they are conflating and which ones they are not.

 

"Matthew's Gospel and the first book of Acts attributes Judas Iscariot's death to suicide." Um, the book of Acts ("first book"!?) does no such thing. How to reconcile the different accounts of Judas's death in Matthew and Acts is one of those things we used to discuss in Sunday School when I was a kid. This is pretty basic stuff, and it's kind of amazing that an editor *assigned to a book on this topic* didn't catch it.

 

Bizarre omissions:

 

"There, soon after entering the city, a most amazing thing happens: the Roman military officer in charge of Capernaum declares himself to be a follower of Jesus. / Jesus is astonished. This admission could end the man's career or even get him killed. But Jesus turns to the centurion. 'I tell you the truth,' he says with emotion. 'I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.'" Um, isn't there supposed to be a miracle or something there?

 

"The thick crowds of pilgrims treat Jesus like royalty, hanging on his every word and greeting him with enthusiastic awe. In the village of Jericho, two blind men call out to Jesus, referring to him as 'Lord, Son of David,' a designation that could be applied only to the Christ. The disciples are encouraged when Jesus does nothing to rebuke the blind men." Um, isn't there supposed to be a miracle or something here?

 

Among the more debatable elements:

 

"Finally, [Herod is aware of the prophecy that] the child's mother must be a virgin." Um, no. N.T. Wright, for one, is pretty clear that no Jew interpreted Isaiah 7 as a prediction of the messiah's virginal conception until Matthew *applied* that passage to the birth of Jesus decades after it had already happened.

 

"[The word 'Israel'] was once again put into use when the independent Jewish state was founded on May 14, 1948 -- almost four thousand years after the first Jews crossed into the Promised Land." Four thousand years? *Some* scholars date Abraham as early as 2000 BC, but plenty do not -- and even if they did, the word "Jews" was first used in the Bible circa 600 BC to refer to members of the kingdom of Judah. It definitely did not refer to all Israelites, let alone to all descendants of Abraham. (If "crossed into the Promised Land" is supposed to be a reference to the Israelites under Joshua, then *that* event is usually dated to around 1200 BC, or only three thousand years ago and then some. But even then, it would be inaccurate to refer to the entire Israelite nation as "Jews".)

 

"Many scholars believe that Matthew was written in Greek by the disciple and former tax collector, sometime between A.D. 50 and 70. . . . John wrote independently of the other Gospel writers, using his unique eyewitness testimony in the same manner as Matthew." Um, many scholars believe that Matthew was written in Greek, yes... but beyond that, I don't think *anything* O'Reilly and Dugard say about Matthew here could be called a majority view among scholars.

 

"John [the Baptist] has heard this comparison before. Like him, Elijah was a prophet who preached that the world would soon end." Huh? Elijah preached that there would be no rain. And then he held a contest with the prophets of Baal. Where was there any end-of-the-world apocalypticism in Elijah's preaching? (Is there some apocryphal text that I'm not aware of?)

 

"However, the Gospels were written as many as seventy years after Jesus's death (Mark in the early 50s, Luke between 59 and 63, Matthew in the 70s, and John between 50 and 85)." That kind of contradicts what they said earlier about Matthew. And some of those dates still sound somewhat early to me.

 

"The crowd is stunned as Jesus finishes. The speech is less than two thousand words long. Yet there is great power in its brevity. 'The Sermon on the Mount,' as it will come to be known, may be the most important speech in history." Does *any* scholar believe that Matthew 5-7 documents an actual single speech that Jesus gave on a single occasion somewhere? Most scholars *I* know of would argue that the sermon is a literary device that allowed the author of Matthew to collect a number of Jesus' sayings in one place (similar to a movie montage -- which is indeed how Pasolini filmed the sermon).

 

"Jesus is not a prince like Moses or a warrior like David. He is an intellectual. He deals in logic. . . . To claim he is the Son of God would make Jesus one of three things: a lunatic, a liar, or a divinity who fulfills Scripture." So Jesus was a first-century Josh McDowell, then?

 

"In A.D. 132, with the city of Jerusalem still not completely rebuilt, there was a second uprising against the Romans known as Bar Kochba." That's an awkward sentence. I would accept "known as the Bar Kochba revolt" or some such phrasing, but "known as Bar Kochba" sounds like it ought to refer to the man who actually bore that name, and not the uprising.

 

Things I wonder about:

 

"The third prophecy is that the child must also be a direct descendant of David, a fact that can easily be proven by the temple's meticulous geneaological records." Do we have any evidence that such records actually existed? And would peasants in Galilee have made a point of registering their births and weddings and whatnot with the temple hierarchy?

 

I know, I know, it's a Bill O'Reilly book, so what should I expect. Still, I've heard good things about Killing Lincoln and/or Killing Kennedy. Those books, of course, had the advantage of having a lot more data to work with: 150-year-old newspaper clippings from the day of the assassination and whatnot. So it's possible that Killing Jesus isn't indicative of these books as a whole. But still: as one who did a *lot* of reading on the historical Jesus in the 1990s (not so much in this millennium, alas), I found this particular book rather shoddy.

 

I do think the movie versions of Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy were pretty good, for whatever that's worth, so here's hoping the movie version of Killing Jesus is better than the book.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The first trailer (more of a featurette, really).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The first real trailer (I was on the set, sitting behind a monitor, as they filmed a few of these scenes):

 

 

My exclusive first look at the poster.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Over a dozen new photos, and links to a few set-visit reports. My own reports should start going up in a day or two.

 


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Okay, so it took me a week. What can I say, the kids are on spring break -- which means they're home with me, and I have less time to work.

 

My visit to the set of Killing Jesus in Morocco. Includes soundbites from Haaz Sleiman, Kelsey Grammer, and others -- plus a whole sidebar on John Rhys-Davies.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My post on how this film (and A.D.: The Bible Continues) is breaking new ground by fleshing out, however slightly, the character Joanna.

 

The best part about writing this post was contacting the publicist and letting them know that I was going to do a post on this subject, and I had a photo of A.D.'s Joanna (taken from the A.D. website), but I couldn't find a photo of Killing Jesus's Joanna among the dozens of images they had sent me, so could they check their archives and find me one? And they found me one!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Lots of new videos, with profiles of the actors and various other behind-the-scenes stuff. Includes some new clips from the film (including one in which Judas Iscariot uses his 30 pieces of silver to buy the rope with which he hangs himself, instead of giving it back to the priests a la Matthew 27 or buying a field with it a la Acts 1 -- the fact that there are rival narratives in the Bible makes me less inclined to criticize the film for introducing a third option, but at the same time I wonder why they didn't go for one of the more familiar narratives).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, my interview with Haaz Sleiman, which was done very off-the-cuff as I had been told there *wouldn't* be any interviews at the Sun Valley Film Festival, and then, while everyone was waiting for their dinner at a nearby restaurant, one of the producers suggested we could do an on-the-record interview at one of the tables off to the side. Thankfully, our food was still warm when we got back to the main table.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Very interested to see what everyone thinks about this project.  I haven't been able to watch [no cable].  Aside from the inaccuracies, I was wondering about the production value and performances.   

 

New to this board and can't post a new topic - so pardon if I highjack the thread for a moment...

 

I've been working on a project with Bill O'Reilly for the past year - Legends & Lies, The Real West.  Our production company is out of Montana [known for reality show Mountain Men].  This is our first forray into the [semi] scripted world, and my first venture as a writer and Supervising Producer.  

 

The show premieres tonight [4/12].  As someone who has a passion and desire to impact culture through TV - I was very hopeful I could get some critical feedback on the show.  Looking for some very honest and sincere opinion on the good, the bad and ugly of it all.  

 

Working with FoxNews and Bill O'Reilly was actually a very positive experience for me - not at all what was to be expected.  They were gracious and complimentary with no alterior motives, other than telling a great story and entertaining an audience.  I know there will be several issues of competing thoughts on historical accuracy, but we attempted to stick as close to the documented truth as possible - thematically at least, if not literally possible.

 

So, please, if the opportunity presents itself - I would so appreciate your professional feedback, as candid as possible.  [hopefully that's not inviting too much trouble]

 

I really value the open dialogue that I have seen on this forum and could really use a Christ-centered perspective as I work toward more creative and fully-scripted projects.

 

Again, pardon the topic high-jack.  

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