I find this fascinating: Some of the same people who criticize Young Earth Creationists for thinking themselves qualified to deny and correct the conclusions of the academy in matters of biology, paleontology, physics, and geology, nevertheless deny the conclusions of 99% of historians when it comes to the existence of Jesus.
Yes, it’s just another brand of denialism.
I’ve found that arguments against Jesus’ existence usually start with “lack of contemporaneous witnesses”, even though that has never been a historian’s “standard” for separating myth and historicity!
Of course, if that were to be adopted as the ultimate standard, most historical figures from the ancient world would thereby be labelled non-existent. I’d give some examples (e.g., Euler, Euclid, if I recall) but my reluctance to exert myself on a very lame topic just doesn’t motivate me to do someone else’s research for them.
Yet, the topic reminds me to investigate whether a former colleague who was pursuing a second Ph.D. in folklore followed through on his proposed dissertation topic. He told me how the non-existence of Jesus rarely got much serious traction until the Internet cultivated an “everybody knows that” type of meme outside the academy–if I recall his wording. He had an interesting hypothesis about how such ideas take hold, and he developed classifications similar to those used in the academic study of popular “conspiracy theories”, apparently because the driving force behind the non-existence idea was that the academy’s admitted consensus was based on various “evil motives” similar to creationists’ claims that “they’d all lose their jobs if they dared express doubts of Jesus’ existence.” (Yeah, right.)
Since retirement I no longer attend the relevant academic conferences so I don’t know if there’s been any important papers which have studied the development of this Jesus-never-existed idea amongst the general public. Nevertheless, I will say that the Jesus-never-existed denialists come very close to annoying me almost as much as Kent Hovind. Yes, it puts me in a very foul mood.
So I will restrict myself to just one admonition: If you find yourself tempted to promote any Jesus-never-existed nonsense, please investigate why the academy shows so little interest in Robert M. Price, who describes himself as a “Christian atheist.”
Even a Wikipedia-level of research on the “historicity of Jesus” and “the Christ myth theory” will get you started. To my knowledge he’s not listed in the Encyclopedia of American Loons but if they were to broaden their definition of “loons”, I think a place could be found for him.
And if you are wondering if I considered providing any footnotes for this essay, the answer is no. My advanced age brings me few special privileges but I will declare myself eligible for the privilege of declaring, “Jesus-never-existed denialists don’t deserve that kind of exertion.”