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September 27, 2013 12:31 PM Jesus the Supply-Sider

By Ed Kilgore

I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the guy who has done the most to popularize the insipid “War on Christmas” meme. But it seems Bill O’Reilly has written a Life of Christ depicting the Lamb of God as sort of an early version of Grover Norquist, dedicated to (and eventually martyred for) the good fight against high taxation. Or so we are told by Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and early church studies at Notre Dame, writing at Daily Beast. I’ll just have to take her word for it, because there is no power on earth likely to convince me to read O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus. If I need to deepen my understanding of the Road to Golgotha, I’ll just consult Fr. Raymond Brown’s Death of the Messiah.

Moss lumps O’Reilly in with the large and disreputable class of “scholars” who have explored Jesus’ life to reinforce their own prejudices:

Killing Jesus has all the critical rigor of your local church’s Nativity play.
The basic argument of the book is that Jesus died because he interfered with the taxation-heavy Roman revenue stream. The reason the Jews eagerly anticipated the Messiah, writes O’Reilly, is, “When that moment arrives, Rome will be defeated and their lives will be free of taxation and want.”
It’s true that the people did long for the Messiah, that the majority of them were poor and oppressed, and that very few benefited from Roman occupation. But even if the Romans had been overthrown the people would have still been paying tithes to Jewish authorities to sustain the Temple, as Biblical and Jewish laws demand….
Even if Jesus’s actions had been all about taxes, he died protesting a skeletal taxation system that privileged the rich. Wealthy citizens were exempt from most taxes altogether, non-citizens paid a flat-rate poll tax regardless of income, the property tax was 1 percent, and the money from taxes was used to build roads and fund the military. It’s not like the Romans did anything obscene like tend to the poor.

Well, you get the drift. But I’m guessing the same people who buy Sarah Palin’s upcoming “War on Christmas” book during Advent will turn to Killing Jesus for Lent. And the Prince of Peace will be forced to suffer once again at the hands of these secular opportunists.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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