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Old thread, but what the hell. Why doubt the existence of Jesus? The existence of a wandering rabbi named Yeshua in first century Judea is a perfectly ordinary claim. Doubt the extraordinary claims: the walking on water, the transforming water into wine, the miracles of the loaves and fishes, the exorcisms, the healings, the resurrections. Dude didn't do that shit.
I've always felt whether or not Jesus the human actually existed to be a matter of supreme indifference.
Well, Diana, I have some of the same questions that you do. Ehrman is respected in his field but I cannot see eye to eye with him. People would (and have) told me that my study for the ministry was in mail order courses and Bible thumping preachers, and not form the "serious" colleges that would give a doctorate. Then I have to ask anyone if the "serious" institution possibly started with a belief and simply wanted to add a little believability to it. Until the late 1960's a Biblical archaeologist had a spade in one hand and the Bible in the other. After that time the Bible was not included and we found that the Bible does not support real history. It is a book of myth and fable that was resolved upon it the fourth century.
A claim that Paul knew the relatives of Jesus is hard to swallow. Paul never met Jesus as he claimed and Peter and James did not trust the man. This is plain in all of Paul's writings, some of which are also of dubious authorship. I'm inclined to believe today that the book of Revelation actually refers to Paul as an antichrist with Roman entanglement. The book therefore is not about an end time apocalypse with a god that is coming back, it was about being fooled in that day and time.
If I move on to what Paul knew and preached, you could sum it up in a small paragraph. He preached that Jesus was a sacrifice for our sins, that he came from the line of David, and that he was crucified, died, and rose again. Paul gives us no other details. All the story details of the gospels with all the miraculous stories about Jesus and what he did are missing. I have to conclude that Paul had heard stories but he had no access to the 4 gospels (or other gospels) in his lifetime.
This puts the whole Bible system down as a myth that was fully created around 325 AD when the legend that we know today was born. Believers have rebelled and pulled away, starting many new churches ever since, and that pattern continues.
Constantine saw the sign of the cross and heard the words "in this sign you will conquer." Some people cannot see the Roman origin of their religion. Maybe they just never thought about it.
What Constantine claimed to have seen was a superimposed CHI AND RHO .... the first two letters of the word christ. Didn't have Jack Schidt to do with any clown "named" Jesus/Yeshua.
The only "historical Jesus" I ever heard of was/is Jesus Alou. He's still alive at 72.
My indifference to the jesus story might result from my 12 years in Catholic schools, where bible reading was all but forbidden and accepting what a priest said was required.
Seeing the sometimes long debates on atheist sites about the existence of a jesus character leaves me asking if doubting / disbelieving / denying (choose one) makes leaving or staying away from xianity easier.
One thing you are forgetting, and mythicists often forget, is that the Jesus-myth theory also has to fit evidence. It also makes predictions, which don't fit the evidence.
For example, we have no record of any early sources claiming that Jesus never existed. With all the enmity against the early Christians, if he were made up you'd think someone would have gone to Nazareth and asked about his supposed origin there (yes Nazareth was inhabited at the time of Jesus). The Gospels include a lot of place-names and other details in addition, that a skeptical Jew might have debunked at the time, if they were false.
The evidence that Jesus did exist is from a lot of different lines of evidence. It isn't JUST Paul saying he met Jesus' brother. It isn't JUST the Nativity story of Jesus - a verifiably untrue story that looks like Jesus was actually born in Nazareth, and the storyteller had to rework it to get him born in Bethlehem. It isn't JUST the Aramaic features in the earlier Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) which make it obvious the Gospels were translated from Aramaic written or oral sources.
It's many different things, and Bart Ehrman can't mention them all in a short radio interview.
To familiarize yourself with the evidence about Jesus' historicity, see Did Jesus Exist?, by Bart Ehrman.
Also see Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? by Maurice Casey, another leading (deceased) historian and Bible scholar, also a nonbeliever. I haven't read that book, but I've heard it's good, maybe better than Bart Ehrman's book. I got the impression Bart Ehrman didn't enjoy writing about Jesus mythicism.
I've read that Bible scholars think it's a funny idea, that they're all so brainwashed by Christian conditioning that they can't contemplate the idea that Jesus didn't exist. That's because Bible scholars have come up with so many theories about Jesus that would be very displeasing to Christians - that Jesus was gay; that Jesus was married and had children. New Testament scholarship is analytical study of the New Testament and that time of history, and the bread and butter of scholarship is arguing and challenging other scholars' beliefs.
All the same, I like to read what nonbeliever Bible scholars say on the subject. With what Christians say, not being a Bible scholar myself, I always have a question in my mind about whether the person is letting their faith get in the way of their thinking.
However, there are nonbeliever and Jewish Bible scholars as well - there's even a Jewish annotated New Testament. They all agree that Jesus existed.
I have kind of familiarized myself with the arguments, and they seem convincing to me. What's personally most convincing is the "embarrassing" features of the Gospels, the aspects of the stories that don't look invented. The crucifixion of Jesus LOOKS like the Romans swatted this troublesome preacher like a fly, by crucifying him - hoping to humiliate him completely and debunk his claims to be "king of the Jews". Later, the Christians rationalized this by coming up with the idea that Jesus got crucified in order to atone for everyone's sins.
The evidence fits Jesus' historicity very well, and it does not fit Jesus mythicism well. In order to argue for mythicism, you have to dismiss lots and lots of evidence; say Paul was making it up about meeting the brother of Jesus, etc. etc. etc.
And as one Bible scholar said - look, mythicism is a theory about Jesus, but it needs to pass peer review, from Bible scholars who really know the evidence. Mythicism isn't true or even likely just because some atheists like the idea.
Jesus mythicist atheists should be asking themselves why mythicism is attractive to them. Atheists (at least on A/N) are refreshingly unlikely to push other fringe theories. I haven't seen much global warming denial, advocacy of homeopathy, anti-vaccination talk, 9/11 "truth", etc. etc. on A/N. So why Jesus mythicism? And, less commonly, Big Bang denial?
Perhaps it results from having been exposed to the glorified, magical image of Jesus that's presented in the Gospels. That Jesus really is a myth. But the historical Jesus is very different from the "Jesus of Christian confession". Bart Ehrman wrote a good book about the historical Jesus, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium; I liked it better than Did Jesus Exist? Maurice Casey wrote a long book on the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, which I've read part of (it's rather technical).
To me, the historical Jesus is interesting. I'm not sure whether Jesus was really special among the many apocalyptic Jewish prophets of that time, other than being a gifted person. I suspect that it was possible to idealize him so much because he was crucified while he was still young and idealistic, and if he'd lived longer he'd have become corrupt and abusive, just as Jim Jones did.