[Replying to post 5 by Divine Insight
Everyone has to assess this for themselves...
Very true. I've found that some historicists don't wish to allow for free and independent thought. It's their way or the highway. If you disagree with them, then you're a "troll" who stubbornly refuses to recognize their expertise and scholarly methodology. At least that's the way I was treated.
The Gospel authors claim that Jesus was well-known and that people from far off nations were coming to be healed by Jesus. That requires that Jesus was in fact quite popular and well-known even in "far-off" nations. Of course, back in those days, "far off" could pretty much mean the next nation over.
Here is Matthew 4:23-25 says about Jesus' notoriety:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news[d] of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Needless to say, the silence of the historians of the early first century fails to corroborate this passage. Those who argue for a historical Jesus downplay passages like these claiming that Jesus was a "small-time preacher" who should not have been expected to attract the notice of people like Philo. However, Philo did write about some rather mundane events in first-century Judea, so he would be expected to write of Jesus.
There simply is no historical record outside of the Gospels.
All the evidence for Jesus outside the gospels is made up of the epistles and the writings of some non-Christians like Josephus and Tacitus. Upon closer inspection, this evidence proves to be very weak. Paul wrote of a celestial Jesus and never clearly places Jesus on earth. The passages in Josephus' writings are probably Christian interpolations. And Tacitus, like Josephus and Paul and the gospel writers, never divulges his sources about Jesus. We then have no data from the early first century for a historical Jesus.
So for me, absence of this independent historical evidence is a clear indication that at the very best the claims made about Jesus in the Gospels are highly exaggerated, if not totally false.
The argument for a historical Jesus goes something like the following: Sure, there's a lot of baloney in the gospels, but underneath all that bull we have evidence for a real Jesus! You can't dismiss all of what the gospels say about Jesus just because so much of it is made up of lies, now can you?
I just don't agree with the moral compass of this God if he were real. Yet he's supposed to be the epitome of morality. It simply doesn't add up.
At this point I've gone beyond arguing much about Christian theology. To me the issue is settled--there are no gods except in the minds of those who want to believe in them. Now I'm investigating naturalistic issues surrounding religious claims. Even these naturalistic claims are proving to be suspect if not outright false.