An old friend I used to know when I was a Christian sent me a few questions. Here’s one of them:
“What is your current view on the historical person of Jesus now? Was he just a crazy person?”
I do not believe we have enough historical evidence to conclusively determine whether or not the Jesus character of the New Testament existed. Of course, if we can’t determine his existence we certainly can’t determine the truth behind the supernatural claim that he was divine.
The Liar, Lunatic, or Lord argument is incomplete because it leaves out the very real fourth possibility, that of “Legend.”
Is it possible Jesus is merely a legend, a collection of stories passed down and exaggerated through the centuries? An extended game of telephone on a grand scale?
We don’t know who wrote the four gospels. Their authorship is anonymous, and the books were written several decades after the purported timeframe of the death of the Jesus character – we certainly do not have any eyewitness accounts of Jesus.
Historians of the time, and there were many, don’t mention Jesus at all, which is astounding to me, given all the amazing things that supposedly happened around him. There is only the single, brief mention by Josephus, but that is an obvious after-the-fact forgery.
This is a real problem for me. If our eternal salvation actually rests in our being convinced that Jesus existed and is the Son of God, why would god allow the record of his existence and divinity to be so thin and questionable?