Philip Davies has entered the discussion and his involvement is most welcome. He concludes:
But why care? The issue of whether history or kerygma (let’s use the fancy theological term for such fabulation) should provide the basis for New Testament theology or Christian faith has been a persistent theme of New Testament scholarship since Strauss’s Life of Jesus (where myth reared its beautiful head). Still, both history and theology converge on a proper answer to this: the historical Jesus will always be a fabrication, and the search for him antagonistic to true religious belief. Yet some peculiar literal-minded historicist brand of (largely Protestant) Christianity finds impossible the temptation to replace the icons of Orthodoxy or statues and images of Roman Catholicism with the One True Image of the Lord: the Jesus of History. The result: poor history and, dare I say, even poorer theology.
You will want to go read the whole thing. Go read it and then come back. Back? Good.
His discussion of the main issues in New Testament and the problems that plague those of us who even bother to *question* historicity are spot on. The only minor issue that I might adjust is that he writes:
But one should not argue from these, as do Thompson and Verenna, that Jesus was invented.
But to my knowledge neither Thomas or I suggest that in our articles and I certainly haven’t suggested that Jesus was invented recently. I make a point in my chapter to distinguish the claims that ‘Jesus was invented’ and ‘Paul’s Jesus is irrelevant to the Historical Jesus’ are entirely different. One claim does not eo ipso lead to the other. Indeed, even if Paul believed his Jesus was a completely heavenly, he could have been completely wrong. My article was only to support the conclusion that Paul is useless as a witness to a historical figure, not that there couldn’t have been one because of it.
Though I would remark, and Philip might agree, that traditions can be invented and thus certainly most traditions surrounding a figure of Jesus are wholly invented (they have to be since only one tradition can be the ‘right’ one, presupposing historicity). With that in mind, it isn’t so implausible to suggest that we haven’t even stumbled across the ‘right one’ (if there is one to find) and none of the ‘Jesus’ we have concocted in our academic quests resemble that historical figure.
Other than this one minor grievance, Philip’s article is wonderful and a welcome contribution to the conversation.