Jesus’ “powerful and appealing” life, ethics, and personality were not likely invented by a few simple men.
Arguing that Jesus did not exist, or even changing him into some kind of peaceful guru, makes it hard to imagine how such a Jesus could transform the world. Will Durant is the author of The Story of Civilization. In part three, “Caesar and Christ: A History of the Roman Civilization and of Christianity from Beginnings to A.D. 325,” Durant argues against any such views of Jesus.
Now, this guy is a world class historian. And he’s not a Christian. He thinks there seem to be contradictions between one Gospel and another. He thinks there are dubious statements of history and a suspicious resemblance to legends of old pagan gods in the New Testament. All this granted, he says:
“In the enthusiasm of its discoveries, the higher criticism has applied to the New Testament text tests of authenticity so severe that by them a hundred ancient worthies, Hammurabi, David, Socrates, would fade into legend. Despite the prejudices and theological preconceptions of the evangelists, they record many incidents that many inventors would have concealed. No one reading these scenes can doubt the reality of the figure behind them. That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels. After two centuries of higher criticism, the outlines of the life, character and teachings of Christ remain reasonably clear and constitute the most fascinating feature in the history of Western man.”
Here is a man of world class status who says the higher critics are out in left field. If we follow their methodology, nothing would be considered reliable history. In other words, if you throw out Jesus, you have to throw out all of ancient history.