Tim is back with much, much more on the case for why Jesus was a historical figure!
Tim blogs about history here. Here’s an article that I used to try to grill Tim a bit on the counter arguments, for your reference.
Here’s the post he specifically mentioned responding to Carrier’s paper.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 58:19 — 54.3MB)
30 thoughts on “AS276: Jesus Mythicism, with Tim O’Neill, Part 2”
Much better arguments in this episode. I’m leaning historical Jesus now.
I didn’t listen to the first part, as after reading O’Neils amateurish attempts to misrepresent David Fitzgerald’s arguments in his review of Nailed, I had little confidence he would offer anything intellectually rigorous or actually adress what mythicists claim.
Then I read in the Part 1 comments that he would explain why scholars view the Testimonium flavium as genuine in part. As Ehrman didn’t do this in his “did Jesus Exist” book, nor did either Thiesen or van Voorst in their books summarizing the extra biblical evidence, I was curious enough to listen.
But it get off to a terrible start with the claim that Tarico has taken Ehrman out of context, when clearly she hadn’t, she didn’t even try to claim that the simple lack of mention was proof, it was included to demonstrate that the evidence is on very shaky ground.
Still, I will try to see if he can do better with the other points, as I do at least want to see if he manages anything better than “well, it could be something based on an original quote” for the Testimonium
I got to the bit where he claimed that because the passage contains the phrase “Wise man”. which Josephus used two other times, to describe figures in Jewish mythology/history, so he had probably used the same glowing term for this rabbi who was put to death for rebellion against the Romans, and realised there was no point listening to the rest, as it would just be a desperate attempt to make the evidence fit the conclusion.
I did listen to the rest of the argument, but it was no better, just special pleading, wishful thinking and cherry picking, with no concern that his arguments have already been thoroughly rebutted.
“and realised there was no point listening to the rest, as it would just be a desperate attempt to make the evidence fit the conclusion.”
Pardon? Can you explain why that perfectly reasonable conclusion, accepted by leading Josephan scholars, is ” a desperate attempt to make the evidence fit the conclusion”?
“I did listen to the rest of the argument”
I suppose that’s one way of dealing with arguments you don’t like. One beloved by fundamentalists everywhere.
“with no concern that his arguments have already been thoroughly rebutted.”
They have? Where? By whom? Please produce these thorough rebuttals.
“after reading O’Neils amateurish attempts to misrepresent David Fitzgerald’s arguments in his review of Nailed, I had little confidence he would offer anything intellectually rigorous or actually adress what mythicists claim.”
“Amateurish attempts to misrepresent”? That’s quite a strong claim. If you want it to be more than just a weak sneer, now would be a good time to back it up with some substantiation. How exactly is my detailed critique of Fitzgerald’s self-published book “amateurish”? How precisely do I “misrepresent” his arguments? Details please. For the reference of others, here is my critical review of Fitzgerald’s book:
“But it get off to a terrible start with the claim that Tarico has taken Ehrman out of context, when clearly she hadn’t”
The quote she gave from Ehrman is absolutely out of context, as anyone who has read the book it was taken from would know. Given that Ehrman has written another book arguing that Jesus *did* exist, using that quote from one of his earlier books to try to make the case that he didn’t is quote mining of the most pathetic kind. Everything that Ehrman says in that quote is correct. But it doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t exist.
” she didn’t even try to claim that the simple lack of mention was proof, it was included to demonstrate that the evidence is on very shaky ground.”
It’s presented as one of the five reasons in an article entiled “Five Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed”. It isn’t a reason to suspect Jesus didn’t exist, Ehrman didn’t present it as such and Ehrman doesn’t believe Jesus didn’t exist. It’s quote mining.
I’m 8 minutes into part two and I had to stop to comment. Concerning the quote mine of Erman, where he says there is no pagan authors mentioning Jesus and that’s what one would expect.
Since we don’t know who authored the gospels, isn’t that saying, we don’t know who wrote about Jesus but we know who didn’t?
It seems to me that all we can say is, we have these documents about Jesus, and we don’t know who wrote them. I don’t see how either argument is furthered by this.
” isn’t that saying, we don’t know who wrote about Jesus but we know who didn’t? ”
No, it;’s saying that these pagan writers didn’t mention Jesus and should have if he existed and so he didn’t exist. Which is wrong. There is no reason to think that any of those writers *should* have mentioned Jesus given that they didn’t mention any other early first century Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants. So the attempted argument from silence fails.
Thank you for the reply.
I don’t have an opinion on Jesus’ existence because I don’t have any scholarship in that area, but I find the discussion fascinating.
I understand why the argument from silence fails by your explanation, but I don’t know why it doesn’t fail before the subjective idea of expectation due to there being unattributed mentions of Jesus as a historical figure.
Somehow I feel I should mention I am an atheist.
” I don’t know why it doesn’t fail before the subjective idea of expectation due to there being unattributed mentions of Jesus as a historical figure.”
I’m not sure I’m quite getting what your objection here is. If you mean that some of the sources about Jesus are of uncertain authorship and are at least second hand, then historians of ancient history deal with these kinds of sources all the time. You just take that into account when using them and you don’t take them at face value. No historian or critical scholar just accepts that what the gospels say are true, for precisely this reason. But, as I said to Thomas, there are elements in them that make the most sense if they had some kind of historical core.
“Somehow I feel I should mention I am an atheist.”
I’m not sure why. I’m an atheist too. So?
I don’t have an objection. It seems there is an extra step and I don’t know why.
If it is accepted that there are unattributed sources that mention Jesus as a historical figure, then literally anyone of the time, place and ability could be those authors.
What’s interesting me is that it’s not necessary to speculate that certain pagen authors wouldn’t be expected to write about Jesus … They are still on the list of possible authors because we have these unattributed writings. Saying we wouldn’t expect the pagen authors to mention Jesus is weaker than just saying maybe they did. This would defeat the argument from silence without relying on what one would expect. It seems there must be a reason why this less subjective argument is passed over and I’m curious as to what that reason is.
Sometimes I come across as adversarial in print, I don’t intend to be, and if I am being adversarial I apologise. Thank you again for the replys.
“If it is accepted that there are unattributed sources that mention Jesus as a historical figure, then literally anyone of the time, place and ability could be those authors.”
So? Why is that a problem? They can still be used to analyse what those later anonymous authors believed about Jesus. Then this can be compared across several of these sources, in this case the various gospels, to try to determine what they tell us about the origin of these ideas.
” It seems there must be a reason why this less subjective argument is passed over”
I’m afraid I don’t understand what this “less subjective argument” you refer to is.
okay. Now listened to both parts. Have two thoughts:
1) It would be interesting to have Tim and Richard Carrier on at the same time. Otherwise all they do is put each other down in the other’s absence. Surely one must admit that Richard Carrier is a professional historian who does research with legitimate methods. The kind of show that you had just seems very one-sided, when I think it’s fair to say that everyone may be doing their own confirmation bias. I know Tim talked about it. But he admitted that history doesn’t prove anything, so I’m still not convinced that his way of looking at it is any more reasonable or rationale than Richard C’s.
2) One question comes to mind: Who cares? Does it really matter? All atheists agree that the supernatural Jesus did not exist. So, were there people with that name in those times at that place? Sure. Were there leaders among the people and people traveling around preaching? Sure. Could one of those have the name Jesus? Quite possible. So what? All the son of god, rise from the dead, healer/walk on water, etc is all bullshit. So in that sense, this isn’t anything I really care much about anyway.
” It would be interesting to have Tim and Richard Carrier on at the same time. Otherwise all they do is put each other down in the other’s absence.”
I don’t think questions of history are well served by debate style formats. And I don’t put Carrier down, I just say his arguments are flawed and warped by his bias.
“Surely one must admit that Richard Carrier is a professional historian who does research with legitimate methods. ”
Sure. Unfortunately he is also a historian with an ideological agenda and this warps his analysis. And that’s not just my opinion – the failure of his academic career and the fact that his articles and books are cited by pretty much no-one means his peers also hold him in faint regard. The way he keeps being held up as some kind of mighty expert is simply weird.
“I think it’s fair to say that everyone may be doing their own confirmation bias. ”
Really? What’s mine then? As I said, I don’t care if Jesus existed or not – it makes no difference to me at all. I’m simply totally unconvinced by the contrived Mythicist arguments.
“One question comes to mind: Who cares?”
People who are interested in history. Given that this Jesus guy is the point of origin for a religion that is followed by an estimated one third of the population of the planet, his existence is a non-trivial historical question.
“So in that sense, this isn’t anything I really care much about anyway.”
Okay. Others do.
At the risk of moving the goalposts I think why many atheists are interested in this issue is dissatisfaction with the Jesus as Great Man narrative. I think Christians and conservatives more broadly use the consensus that there was an historical Jesus as something positive about Christianity outside of the supernatural. To say that even if you don’t accept the divine nature of Jesus you can’t deny the power of his ideas that changed the world. I think a lot of atheists want to say that Jesus was nothing special. Just another in a long line of Jewish apocalyptic preachers and there was nothing unique in either his philosophy or personality that was responsible for Christianity’s later success. As far as I know both these views are constructed entirely from wishful thinking. I’d be interested if there’s a consensus historical view?
Yea. it’s hard to sift through all the ad homenem attacks here. You really need to have carrier on at the same time to defend himself. I find the article you linked to didn’t really help Tim’s case. He spends way to much time attacking carrier personally. I’m not sure who is right here but without having them on at the same time it seems like he said, he said.
I’ve really grown tired of the egos and shit and just want to learn something interesting.
It does seem that religious scholars are approaching this from an angle that he already must have existed. And they seem to be just trying to justify that, which makes sense since they have vested interest. But that’s not very good skeptical reasoning from my point of view.
Saying “why would we expect him to be mentioned when no other preachers were mentioned” seems kind of spurious. Supposedly they charged him and crucified him but he never was important enough to show up in records. I’m sure we can find references to other criminals in the records, and he would have been a possibly really famous one. This doesn’t prove he didn’t exist but I don’t see how you can use that line of reasoning to say he did either.
In the end I’m supposed to take in that a magical religious cult leader existed just on the writings of their magical book. Even without the magic part, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
“Yea. it’s hard to sift through all the ad homenem attacks here. ”
Sich as? Saying he’s biased and that his arguments are flawed are not “ad hominem attacks”. It’s not like I say he is a big fat poopyhead.
“He spends way to much time attacking carrier personally. ”
Where? Examples please.
“It does seem that religious scholars are approaching this from an angle that he already must have existed.”
Which is why I pay attention to the non-religious scholars.
“Supposedly they charged him and crucified him but he never was important enough to show up in records. ”
Which “records” would those be? We have no “records” of that kind for any where in the Roman Empire. We have none at all for first century Judea. So how can he show up in “records” that don’t exist?
“In the end I’m supposed to take in that a magical religious cult leader existed just on the writings of their magical book. ”
And the reference to him in Tacitus. And the two references to him in Josephus, including the one where he mentions the execution of Jesus’ brother which happened in Josephus’ home town when Josephus was 25. And the non-magical reference by Paul about meeting Jesus’ non-magical friend and the same non-magical brother. It takes some hard work to make all that go away and turn Jesus into a non-historical purely magical figure rather than just a historical guy who, like many other ancient historical guys, had magical stories told about him later.
But to what extent is Josephus writing about what ppl believed?
Good question, though one we could ask about pretty much any ancient writer on pretty much any subject. Firstly, one of Josephus’ mentions is about the execution of Jesus’ brother. This was an event that occured in Josephus’ home town, a small city of about 80,000 residents, when Josephus was 25. It also triggered the deposition of the high priest, so as a young man of a priestly family himself, it’s something Josephus would have noted carefully at the time. So as ancient historical sources go, this is about a close to first hand testimony as we usually get and much closer than most sources we have. Secondly, when people “believe” someone existed, it’s usually because … they did. It’s pretty rare for them to think someone existed in recent memory if they didn’t. So it’s actually perfectly reasonable to assume that they believed he existed because he did – that’s the default position unless we have good reason to think otherwise, which we don’t in this case.
well if some of the story with James is possible interpolation… Couldn’t “brother of Jesus, who they called Christ, whose name is James” also be such? We don’t have exact manuscripts and they were copied by Christians in the 11th century… Jesus was obviously a popular name… How popular was James? Couldn’t “who they called Christ” be added”? Doesn’t Origen take note that joesphsus doesn’t consider Jesus as “the Christ”? Is there any other connections to the biblical Jesus, birth place or something? Could they be talking about a different Jesus? What details of a connection to “the Christ” does James have? To what degrees is the James account reliable? If it’s anything other than highly… Doesn’t that leave room for the wrong Jesus?
And historically speaking I’m perfectly ok with rejecting certain ppl from existing. I don’t really count Socrates as existing… It’s possible or it could have been Plato. I have never looked into
It or at least it’s been awhile and I cared more about what was said then who at the time. With Jesus I don’t know if he existed. It’s possible. not really a mythicist.
“well if some of the story with James is possible interpolation… Couldn’t “brother of Jesus, who they called Christ, whose name is James” also be such?”
Another good question. Though it’s the Bk XVIII reference that is at least partially added to, not the Bk. XX one about James. But could the ““brother of Jesus, who they called Christ” be added? There is a good reason to think not. Christians were not in a position to be doctoring copies of Josephus until at least the fourth century – before that they were not only a fairly small cult, but an illegal and periodically persecuted one. But in the mid third century we have Origen refer to the story of James in Josephus and he quotes the exact words we find in the Bk XX reference.
So in *Antiquities* XX.200 the phrase Josephus uses is τον αδελφον Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου (“the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah”). In Origen’s *Commentarium in evangelium Matthaei* X.17 we find the identical phrase: τον αδελφον Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου. In *Contra Celsum* II:13 we find it again: τον αδελφον Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου. And in *Contra Celsum* I.47 we find it with one word changed to fit the context of the sentence grammatically: αδελφος Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου. This means that the passage included this key phrase when Origen was writing, which was about 100 years before Christians were in any position to be adding things to the text.
Then there is a further problem of *why* they would be adding this here. In the Bk XVIII passage it’s quite clear why they added to/changed the text: the changes bolstered their claims that Jesus was the Messiah and that he rose from the dead. But why do it here? What purpose did adding a passing mention of Jesus’ brother to a mention of some other James serve? It’s not like there were Jesus Mythicists in this period who needed to be convinced he existed. And this passing mention doesn’t help early Christians with any of their other claims. So it makes more sense that it’s original to the text.
Finally, we have good textual reasons to think that the Bk XVIII reference was added to, because we have the Latin, Arabic and Syriac variants that indicate this. We have no such textual variants of the Bk XX reference.
“Doesn’t Origen take note that joesphsus doesn’t consider Jesus as “the Christ”? ”
He does. Which indicates that Josephus’ text *did* say something about Jesus when Origen read it in the third century, otherwise what was Origen basing that on? If, as seems likely, Josephus referred to Jesus as merely “*called* Messiah” then this would indicate that Josephus didn’t consider him so, as Origen reports. Especially given that in some contexts the word λεγομενου (“called”) has a neutral to sceptical edge – closer to “alleged” or “so-called” in English.
“Could they be talking about a different Jesus? What details of a connection to “the Christ” does James have? To what degrees is the James account reliable? If it’s anything other than highly… Doesn’t that leave room for the wrong Jesus?”
There is a strong and very old Christian tradition that Jesus’ brother James became a leader of the Jesus sect in Jerusalem – he is still regarded as the first bishop of that city in Catholic, Orthodox and Nestorian traditions. And there is also a very old tradition that James was executed by the temple priests sometime before the Jewish Revolt and that this execution was by stoning. So Josephus tells the story of a man named James, who was a prominent citizen of Jerusalem, who had a brother called Jesus who had been “called Messiah” and who was executed by the Temple priest by stoning in the period before the Revolt. It would be a remarkable co-incidence for there to be *two* people who fitted this very specific description.
“And historically speaking I’m perfectly ok with rejecting certain ppl from existing.”
So am I. If there is good reason to do so or not good reason to accept they existed. But there are multiple vectors of evidence that indicates pretty clearly that this one did exist.
After changing my mind on the Nazareth issue I was interested in this next episode. It seems likely that there was some dude these stories were based on , but how much and how closely. I guess the question I wish had been asked was , ” if I gave you a bible and a time machine could you track down Jesus? “. The answer to that would I think show how much the historical Jesus resembles the biblical character.
As I’ve noted before, if you take away the miracles, most of the gospel stories boil down to “Jesus went to this place and did some preaching. Then he went somewhere else and did some preaching”. That’s about it. This is not exactly implausible.
Am I allowed to ask anyone when I get there? Because the only exact date in the Bible that we have is the day of the passover/Day of the preparation FOR the passover, in Jerusalem, and that doesn’t have an exact year on it. But I can guess his general whereabouts, even if they are, unfortunately, pretty much just “Around Galilee, with his 12 buddies, including his brother James.” If I go earlier I might be able to ask for John the Baptist, or even show up in Nazareth asking for Jesus, son of Joseph. It’d be really hard to track around a wandering preacher in the ancient world, it’s not like anyone would have his cell number.
But I suppose that if I were able to go back and watch the person we today call Jesus, I’d be able to identify him using the Bible.
I just want to note a couple of mistakes I made in this part. Since I was speaking off the cuff without notes for nearly two hours, this is hardly surprising, but I want to correct the ones I picked up:
12.10 – I muddled up *Antiquities* Bk XX and Bk XVIII. Contrary to what I said here, the Testimonium is in Bk XVIII, not Bk XX.
17.42 – This is a major error. The paraphrase of the Testimonium in the Arabic Agapius does *not* say “called Messiah”. It says “he was *perhaps* the Messiah”. The point still stands, as this – again – would be an odd thing for a Christian author to change if the text he was working from said “he *was* the Messiah”. Similarly, the Jerome paraphrase of the same passage has it saying “he was *believed* to be the Messiah” and the Syriac version in Michael the Syrian has it as “he was *thought* to be the Messiah”. All vary from the received text in a way that indicates the statement “he *was* the Messiah” was doctored from something that was less emphatic and seems to have referred to what others called him or believed about him. Apologies – this is what happens when you’re working from memory at 7 am on a Sunday.
34.15 – I said the story of Jesus sending out the disciples to the towns of Israel was in Mark. It’s actually Matt 10:23
“when people “believe” someone existed, it’s usually because … they did. It’s pretty rare for them to think someone existed in recent memory if they didn’t. So it’s actually perfectly reasonable to assume that they believed he existed because he did – that’s the default position unless we have good reason to think otherwise, which we don’t in this case.”
I’m interested in this comment, Tim. Ehrman in his book says there are about 15 sources of varying usefulness for the existence of Jesus (7 sources behind the 4 canonical gospels, Thomas, Paul, Acts, Tacitus, Josephus, Clement, Papias, Ignatius, etc. Can you think of any other comparable character in ANE history with this many documentary sources whose existence is doubted? If not, then I presume the mythicists must be confusing doubts about his existence and the bare facts of his life with doubts about the miraculous. But I have read that there are miraculous elements in much ancient writing, admittedly not as much as in the gospels, but that doesn’t prevent historians accepting the basic facts of those accounts either.
Do you have any comment about all that?
“Can you think of any other comparable character in ANE history with this many documentary sources whose existence is doubted?”
“If not, then I presume the mythicists must be confusing doubts about his existence and the bare facts of his life with doubts about the miraculous.”
Many people who accept Mythicism do. I often have people try to defend Mythicism by pointing out that miracles can’t happen or by noting that someone who really fed 5000 people and raised the dead would attract some kind of mention in contemporary sources. These may be good arguments against the miracle stories being historical, but they are not necessarily arguments against Jesus being historical.
” But I have read that there are miraculous elements in much ancient writing”
There were – people told miracle stories about all kinds of historical figures. Augustus supposedly had a miraculous conception. Caesar supposedly ascended into heaven after his death. Vespasian supposedly healed blind and lame people with his touch. That doesn’t mean these men never existed, it just means miracle stories were told and believed about various people in the ancient world.
Ok, just got through both episodes and have many questions.
A: First I will put out there that I’ve never been religious and always thought that Jesus was just some guy who did some stuff and people exaggerated it. Now I don’t think this is the case, I think everything we know about Jesus is a myth, but does this mean he did not exist?
How can someone whose life is a myth exist at all, as if there was a person, but all the stuff he did was made up, then the person we know about did not exist.
Now onto the points. I will start with the basic myth I understand which is by Robert Price and not Carrier.
A1: Price says he just thinks it more likely, not he’s sure, and the reason for this ir that the gospel of Mark is complete fiction. From start to and it’s all based on old testament and Homer. This means we know nothing about his life or death.
A2. Paul does not seemed concerned with his life, or the teachings that he gave to these disciples.
Conclusion, there is no real life man we know about.
Now to refer to Tom’s points.
I thought the two points against is being real was
1. The people who has the library first, was it origin, knew nothing about it.
2. The place it appears is after a disater and the next line is about another disaster, so it seems shoehorned in.
Is it strange that there is nowhere written anyrhing about not accepting Paul as he never new Jesus, or Paul saying that Jesus did this or his disciples did that, there just seems no indication that there was a ministry with disciples.
Now here I think you are using a strawman, as where in the workd of him,it he ever mentioned? What we know is what he wrote, nothing about him. Now Jesus we are said to have many stories about hima and his life, his death is very important, so we should expect to know more, and have less contridicting views.
Now about the parsamoneus nature.
What is the difference between
A. There was guy, and after his death loads of people made up different stories about him.
B. There was this god/angel, and loads of people made up different things about him.
Both ways we have loads of made up stories, and if you need to fit your story into a previous one it can cause problems.
I don’t understand this one, as you said yourself there are some cases where there are stories of Jesus not having a physical body, how is this not a history of these not being an actual Jesus who walked the earth?
We also have, as you mentioned, only the records of the victors in this battle, and snippets of them defendin themselves, but none o what was said about them or back. Easy for people to destroy all the record when yu win the war.
Now saying this, why would a Pagan make a big deal about jesus not walkiing the earth, when all there gods also didnt walk the earth.
That’s it, my little response to the podcasts. I hope I’m not to dogmatic, and I actually find it more reasonable to think people started with a god whom they wanted to make more human, than a man they wanted to make into a god, as it seems to me from history that great man and leaders were made into gods, and this is one thing we do know, there was no great man at the time called Jesus, as great men are mentioned.
Of course Tim O’Neill can answer for himself, but let me give it a try.
A: The point is, not all the stories and facts about Jesus’ life are made up.
A1: That Mark is complete fiction is just a very questionable hypothesis. The reason virtually no scholar buys it is that people like Price see the OT and Homer everywhere, even if there is just a very far-fetched similarity. If we would treat other historians that way, virtually no history would be left, because ancient historians often modelled their stories upon the great literature.
A2: Paul is concerned with Jesus’ life and teachings. He mentions some of the latter, and one very crucial point he stresses again and again is that Jesus was crucified. However, Jesus’ life and teachings not the subject of his letters – they are only mentioned when it suits Paul’s message to a particular community in a particular situation.
1. That Origen knew nothing about the passage in Ant 18 is contested, but that he knew the passage of Ant 20 is virtually certain.
2. That’s not an argument against authenticity, it’s only an argument which shows that it is possible to delete this passage. Which is true for a lot of passages in every author.
Your argument is not very clear, but it is obvious that Paul met a lot of resistance and had a difficult relationship with James the brother of Jesus, Also, Paul himself mentions ‘the twelve’.
You miss the point of comparison, which is also true for Socrates or even Plato or Pelagius, to mention only a few. There are many different scholarly interpretations of these figures. That fact alone does not mean they didn’t exist.
It is wrong to just compare two hypothesis, the point is to test them against the evidence.
– Those who said Jesus didn’t have a physical body didn’t deny he appeared on earth in history, only that he had a body of flesh and blood. Moreover, this view must be explained as a development from the earlier view as expressed for instance in the Gospel of John. It originated when people got difficulties with accepting that a god became a human being with a mortal body. This view is attested from the early 2nd century onwards (for instance in the letters of John and Ignatius), and not earlier.
– We have a lot of documents from the ‘losers’, for instance in the Nag Hammadi collection. Moreover, in the writings of the ‘orthodox’ these views are quoted at length and then refuted. So we know a lot about these other views, so if there was a group which claimed Jesus was not a historical character on earth we very probably would know about it.
– A pagan would make a big deal if Christians claimed Jesus was a historical person AND he thought that was nonsense. Celsus, for instance, or his Jewish informants, do not do that. They think Jesus was a scorcerer and deceiver.
As to your last remark: Christians *thought* Jesus was a big deal, the most important human to have ever lived. They remembered him and made up a lot of stories about him. If we think Jesus was important in his own time doesn’t make a difference in this respect.
“How can someone whose life is a myth exist at all, as if there was a person, but all the stuff he did was made up, then the person we know about did not exist.”
Not all of them are. We believe there really was a man, named Jesus, who was raised in Nazareth in the early first century. That his mother was named Mary and his father was named Joseph. That they were a peasant family, somewhat like construction workers, called ‘tectons.’ That this man gathered around himself several followers, was supported financially by some of his female followers, and had 12 particularly close male followers, amongst them was his brother James, and a man named Simon, who he had affectionately nicknamed ‘Rocky’ (i.e. Peter.) That man preached about the coming end of the world and an upturning of the social order. That he was baptized by a man named John, and that he traveled around Galilee for a while with his friends. That his 12 close friends were seen as not being merely an informal ‘inner circle,’ but that they were some sort of defined group, to whom Jesus promised leadership of the tribes of Israel. That he frequently argued with the Pharisees, as he believed the purpose of the Law was primarily focused on love and brotherhood. That towards the end of his life, he traveled to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. That when he got there, he caused a large commotion in the temple and predicted its destruction. That one of those twelve disciples told some secret about him to the priests of the temple, who arrested him and had him brought in front of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover. That this Roman governor ordered him executed. That he was mocked for calling himself the King of the Jews. That he was then executed by crucifixion.
You could find plenty of peasant preachers executed by the Romans. But if you could find two people from history with that biography, you would have done something quite impressive.
Just as an FYI: here is a quick reference list of “Two Centuries Worth of Citations” to the historical Jesus: