Having missed the beginning of this, I had to go back to read the first article, I'm happy to see such an excellent overview and summary of the issues. Although I was an Asian and intellectual historian for some twenty years that was a side job based on teaching world history.
Needless to say alternating between modern and ancient history for university freshmen for years led me into early Christian and Middle Eastern history. The trauma of the introduction of modern history to the world of parochial and unquestioning students who had slept through high school, or didn’t sleep but were never presented with critical, historical analysis, caused me to take some historical care with how slaughtered their sacred lambs. Or gored their parent’s ox, for that matter.
That caused me to spend some years following biblical archeology that you have referenced. Being old enough, I remember the appearance of the mythical Jesus movement and alternative plunge of small town Christianity into the fundamentalism that has destroyed what was a much milder literalism.
Just as you have so carefully laid out, the only logical and defensible position is an historically critical humanism in the land of the agnostics. Since I gave up teaching history twenty-five years ago, you have a much better handle on the continuing debate on these things although it does not seem to have gained any new ground.
Historically in mythology I maintained an openness to the assumption of some historical reality behind the Jesus stories but, again, as you have shown it was not a specific person. But then, recently, I’ve been dealing with an old interest in the flow of ideas across the ancient Eurasian landmass. We do see much more archeologically on that now with intriguing indications of cross referencing and distant travelers bringing new ideas.
My own assumptions put most weight in the formation of Christianity on Saul of Tarsus and his heavy Hellenic, Logos, influence. He certainly made sure that, has there been any individual Jesus artifacts or relatives that they were completely eliminated or discounted. That is very understandable under the mystery cult traditional focused on abstractions. But a recent book suggests a tenuous connection between Greek philosophy and the Buddhist tradition.
The Greek Buddha by Christopher I. Beckwith traces the connection of . . .
Pyrrho of Elis went with Alexander the Great to Central Asia and India during the Greek invasion and conquest of the Persian Empire in 334–324 BC. There he met with early Buddhist masters. Greek Buddha shows how their Early Buddhism shaped the philosophy of Pyrrho, the famous founder of Pyrrhonian scepticism in ancient Greece.
My thought is that the Hellenized Jewish community may have been directly influenced by this. Pyrrho is only known by two or so short secondary references and the idea that he must have been crazy but Beckwith does a good job of making the case he was an early Greek Buddhist.
There is little history that can be found here but as my interests now are Buddhist and the evolution of that spiritual philosophy as a replacement for the intellectually bankrupt Western Christian tradition, I find this connection fascinating.