“Killing Jesus” is the third adaption by National Geographic Channel of O’Reilly and Dugard’s work. The men previously paired up to write historical accounts of prominent presidents with Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot and Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever. Both titles have sold more than 5.6 million copies in various formats. The “Killing Kennedy” and “Killing Lincoln” productions proved successful for the cable network, with the former earning an Emmy nomination and both works emerging as National Geographic Channel’s most-watched programs ever.
Like the book, “Killing Jesus” the movie solely focuses on “the historical story of how Jesus’ message and preachings led to his persecution and execution by a group of conspirators who saw him as a threat to their power.” O’Reilly and Dugard purposely avoided taking on the spiritual significance of Jesus’ life, death and what Christians believe was Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
National Geographic Channel explains in a press release:
KILLING JESUS begins in the era of Jesus’ birth, with King Herod the Great ruling Judea, but feeling uneasy about potential threats to his power. This uneasiness leads Herod to order the murder of all boys under age 2, but a young Jesus and his family have already escaped.
Moving 26 years into the future, we follow Jesus as he starts to develop and spread his message and begins to amass a following of devout believers. At the same time, new political players, including Herod’s son, Antipas, and Roman-appointed ruler Pontius Pilate, find themselves troubled by the growing influence of Jesus, while leaders in the Jewish Temple, Caiaphas and Annas, question his teachings and methods.
To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.
Jesus is played by Lebanese and Muslim-raised actor Haaz Sleiman (“The Visitor”).