Hi there - Doing some catching up on the last few months of the do-you-believe-Jesus-existed thread that I missed. Sorry now that I missed it. *Really* enjoyed your refreshingly complete, thought out critique of the Josepheus/Tactius references.
In re-examining the issue, I think the main problem is that Christianity is so huge, Jesus is such a household name, that most people (many a scholar included) seem to start with the given that Biblical Jesus is an exaggeration of an otherwise real person whose biography, sayings and deeds are in the bible. Starting from that given, it's very easy to find facts that fit the theory. "See? Even Josephus says there was a Jesus!"
I'm intrigued with the approach (and why more people don't approach it this way) from a default of doubt, a la Descartes. "Biblical Jesus is a total fabrication. Prove otherwise." Suddenly, the same evidence *could* be pointing to biblical Jesus, or a number of Jesuses who got mashed into one, or any number of known events that get tacked onto one name, or there was a local folk-hero Jesus but didn't say or do anything close to resembling anything in the scriptures.
Or even that it could have been entirely fabricated. Maybe not as probable, but certainly plausible.
Anyway, as I'm trying to break back into the thread I was reviewing past posts and wanted to give a thumbs-up on yours. ;-)