According to biblical scholars (non-christians included) historical Jesus existed. Details/sources/evidence on his life and actions and character are sketchy and will always be extremely vague and almost meaningless. It's probably a waste of time to research just what kind of guy Jesus was.
However it is not at all a waste of time to watch "The life of Brian" which paints an extremely speculative (and absurd) portrait of Jesus ... only a million times more believable than St. Johns gospel.
I think we can all agree he most likely wasn't the son of God. I'm reading C.S. Lewis now, and his claim that Jesus was "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" seems like a false dilemma.
Agreed, but we can fix it. Jesus was Liar, Lunatic, Exaggeration, Fabrication, or a combination of these.
Is there historical evidence he ever claimed to be God in the first place?
Taking an agnostic, scientific approach to a historical Jesus: given the scant evidence it's virtually impossible to confirm that Jesus existed or (if we assume he did exist) put together a historically valid portrait of the man, his life and motivations.
The miserable substitute for evidence is the incomprehensible mess of assumption, conjecture, and contradiction among biblical "scholars". The vast majority of them work for religious institutions in a field of study with standards lowered to the degree where Christian apologetics passes off as scholarship.
Posts about your opinion on Jesus's legitimacy/character as well as reading material on the subject would be greatly appreciated.
My opinion is that Jesus may have existed, but I don't know. If he did, there was no virgin birth, no resurrection, no assumption up to heaven, and he didn't perform any miracles. (These things were added to the story of his life over the centuries as it was told and retold.) He was a wandering Jewish philosopher who preached social reform using parables until he annoyed those in lofty places and was executed. Jesus may personally have reinforced his teachings with claims of personal Godhood, or maybe his followers invented this aspect after his death.
If you're interested in reading material that at least attempts a scientific approach to a historical Jesus (which is scarce), visit the Jesus Project at the Center for Inquiry site. The project is no longer active, but you can click through the long list of Fellows, read the bios, and check out some of the titles they've written on the subject.
Depends on if you want to assign any essential historical accuracy to the gospels. If you do, then fabrication and exaggeration are ruled out, and Lewis also makes a pretty good case that liar and lunatic should be ruled out as well. So he's either the Son of God or someone who really shouldn't be all that noteworthy, in which case, why is everyone on this planet so curious about him?
Jesus was a Jewish Zealot who lived under Roman occupation. He opposed Roman rule and those Jews who sympathized and colluded with them like the priests and money changers at the temple. He was executed by Rome for sedition. I think that much is clear from all the evidence that we have. I would recommend the book Zealot by Reza Aslan. It's a great read.
Personally I don't believe he existed based on the lack of credible evidence, plus the fact there are no records of him in the Roman record... no documentation, nothing. This at a time when he was supposed to be the talk of the town. Add to this the fact that Nazareth never existed at the supposed time of Jesus and the whole thing smells of bullshit.
This is a good video on it.
(Not having watched the video). Your argument doesn't take into account the possibility that a perfectly ordinary street corner preacher got his ass executed, and then after his death a huge legend got built up around him. The records wouldn't show him existing because he'd be too small potatoes to be worth recording, at the time they nailed him up.
I know the prevailing opinion is that a historical Jesus existed. Historian Richard Carrier makes a very interesting case for why he does not believe this. (Edit: I realize this has already been posted.) I recommend watching the whole lecture, I found it extremely interesting.
Carrier says that around the alleged time of Jesus, there was a trend of new religions which would mix Greek philosophy with some other culture. He states that the story of Jesus is a mix of Greek and Jewish thought in a way that is very similar to other mixing of Greek and Egyptian, Greek and . There was also a trend of dying and rising gods who gave salvation by being resurrected. (At about 13 minutes.)
As much as I've searched I've never been able to find any evidence that he existed. What I did find was shown to be forgeries. Anybody out there know of some solid evidence that this guy actually existed? I think it's an interesting question.