I find the historical evidence for existence of Jesus pretty compelling as far as ancient history of antiquity goes. Just to play devil’s advocate, how confident can we be that Paul’s letters have not been significantly doctored over a period of decades, inserting references to a historical Jesus when no such references exist in the originals? What are the oldest fragments and whole letters of the Pauline epistles?
Interesting question. I think I need to answer it more fully than just by giving a comment because some of my work (Misquoting Jesus) has been used by some people to claim that I don’t think we can know *anything* about an early form of the texts of the New Testament. And that ain’t true. My view is that we cannot know for *certain* about the original texts at any point, since we lack manuscript witnesses from near the time. That is a very BIG problem for fundamentalists and hard-core evangelical Christians – a number of whom see me as the devil incarnate, even though I’m simply dealing with the realities of history. It’s a problem for them because they are committed to the idea that the very words of Scripture are inspired by God. If the reality is that there are places we do not *know* the very words, well, what’s the good of saying that those words (that we don’t know) were inspired?