Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly, who is writing an upcoming book titled "Killing Jesus," proclaimed on his program Wednesday night that "a lot of the Bible is allegorical," and the New Testament Gospels contradict themselves.
O'Reilly made the remarks during an interview with "Touched by an Angel" star Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, executive producers of "The Bible" TV miniseries which begins this Sunday night on the History Channel.
Downey, who portrays Jesus' mother Mary in the series, opened the interview by declaring her solid faith in Holy Scripture.
"Bringing the Bible to the screen came with a huge responsibility and one we took very seriously," Downey said. "We had a great team of scholars and theologians helping us, making sure that we told these stories accurately and truthfully. I've been a believer my whole life, and that was very, very important to us. Something else that we wanted to do was to make it really, really cool. You know, we have teenagers at home and [it's] hard to get them to read anything, and one of the goals here was to get this generation interested and excited about Scripture, and I think we've been able to achieve that."
O'Reilly then asked Downey: "When you say you're a believer, do you believe in the Bible literally? I mean you believe that Adam and Eve were out there, and the snake and the apple and all of that business?"
"I do indeed. I believe the truth of the Bible," she affirmed. "That's what I was taught, and it's been a wonderful, wonderful faith for me my whole life. I grew up in Ireland. Earliest memories, my father reading the Bible to me sitting on his knee. And this was something that I had wanted to do and it's wonderful to be able to work together with my husband [on the TV series]. The good news is we're still speaking to each other."
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O'Reilly then turned to Burnett, the well-known Hollywood producer of shows such as "The Voice," "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."
"Look, a lot of the Bible, Mr. Burnett, is allegorical, and we know that in creationism and things like that," O'Reilly claimed. "So what you're doing here, I assume, is just telling the story the way that the prophets put forth, without any commentary in it. Is that correct?"
"That's exactly correct," Burnett responded. "Right down the middle, telling the Bible as written. As fact. Five hours Old Testament, five hours New Testament."
O'Reilly followed up by asking, "Are you telling people that they should believe in Adam and Eve? That they should believe in Noah's Ark? Jonah and the whale? Are you telling people that this is the way to go?"
"We made this as a great drama, as a beautiful, beautiful, expensive drama, and you feel the stories," Burnett said. "People will believe what they want to believe. The worst thing would be to try to preach to people and tell them how to feel about these stories. People will love these stories."
O'Reilly brought the questioning back to Burnett's wife, saying: "Ms. Downey, I'm writing a book, 'Killing Jesus,' about why Jesus of Nazareth was executed. It's a history book. But obviously, the Gospels that discuss this were involved with that. But there are some contradictions among Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And then it's my job and Martin Dugard, my co-author, to cut through the contradictions and to try to give a narrative of what actually happened to Jesus, because he was executed. When you were producing 'The Bible,' there are some things in the Bible that are obviously allegorical as I just mentioned. Did you take that into account?"
Downey explained: "We worked from the position that the Bible was a true story. We haven't taken a position on that except to bring the stories to life meaningfully. We have filmed the passion of Jesus, we've taken it right through resurrection, the conversion of Paul and through to Revelation, and that episode will be on Easter Sunday evening."
O'Reilly never elaborated on the contradictions he alleges exist in the New Testament, but he did predict secular media would be critical of "The Bible" miniseries.
Burnett responded by noting, "We love the story. It's the most important book in the history of the world. We've discovered in the last four years of working on this, amazing biblical illiteracy. I really, really believe the Bible should be taught in public schools. It's sort of embarrassing for young Americans [who are] gonna go overseas in their mid-twenties after college, doing business in Rio de Janeiro or Berlin or Paris and not know who David and Goliath were. It's kind of embarrassing."
"It is," O'Reilly agreed, "and certainly the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, have been played down in this country."
O'Reilly defended his remarks the following evening after getting email objecting to his assertions:
"The Bible" television series was shot entirely in Morocco from February through June of last year, and is 10 hours long in total.
While Downey says they were striving for accuracy, viewers may find some flaws.
For instance, the trailer for the series depicts three wise men presenting their gifts to baby Jesus the night the Savior was born and put in a manger in Bethlehem.
But according to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, no wise men were in attendance the night He was born. Only shepherds were present, having been invited by angels to see the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
The famous wise men – the Bible never specifies their precise number – arrived later, possibly up to two years later, to present their gifts to Jesus when He was a young child in a house, not a babe in a manger.