Well over a decade ago when I was still very interested in the truthfulness of Christianity a group of scholars got together and decided to find out if the words and deeds attributed to Jesus in the Christian text where in fact accurate.
They concluded that Jesus was little more than a two thousand year old street preacher who said/did less than half of what has been attributed to him.
Now there’s another group getting together and their goal is somewhat different in that they plan to determine if there actually was a street preacher named Jesus.
An initiative of the Center for Inquiry, an Amherst-based secular think tank, and its Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), the project is an extension of the no-less controversial Jesus Seminar, which has been convening twice annually for 23 years.
There’s one key difference: Whereas the Seminar has operated on the premise that Jesus was an actual person – it was what he said and did that is up for grabs – the scholars in this latest effort regard Jesus’s existence as a “testable hypothesis.”
Like judges in a courtroom, project members will sift through mountains of material to ascertain what evidence is admissible, stripping away theological and mythical accretions.
“We believe in assessing the quality of the evidence available for looking at this question before seeing what the evidence has to tell us,” writes project chair R. Joseph Hoffman, an historian of religion at State University of New York, on the initiative’s website.
The scholars say they do not believe their task is to produce a “plausible” portrait of Jesus prior to considering the motives the Gospel writers had in telling his story, and their intended audience.
Personally, I’m of the mind that there was no literal Jesus as to my knowledge there really isn’t any historical record of the man himself, just the various Christian sects. Even if there was such a man, I think he’s lost to time and can never be reconstructed without the invention of time travel.