> but a historical Jesus isn’t a point of contention for historical/biblical scholars.
Also existence of Bigfoot is not a point of contention for lifelong believers. I don't understand why you appeal to a source with such a conflict of interest.
Point of Contention
This is considered the most scholarly SECULAR analysis of the historicity of the Jesus narrative. It doesn't deal with the Old Testament except in passing, but it is a very good analysis of the evidence for the historicity of the New Testament.
For the Old Testament, this one is hard to beat - and it's a real eye opener - put together by two Israeli archaeologists, and they don't hold back:
If you want an actual historical perspective, (that focuses more on the historicity of Jesus as presented in the Bible) and at the same time pretty much demonstrates that the bible is just a load of folklore that has been passed down, try Dr. Richard Carrier's "On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt:", a link at Amazon is [https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1909697494/]
> Dude, Jesus never existed.
"A" Jesus ( "יְהוֹשֻׁעַ"/Yehoshua/Jesus) did exist, to a high level of reliability and confidence, during the time period and geographical region of interest. Please review my debate statement and argument and see if I state that "THE" Jesus of the canon Gospels or Saul/Pauls missives was (1) conceded to exist, (2) conceded to exist with the biographical details as presented in these canon narratives, (3) conceded to exist as having actually said/preached the words/narratives as presented in these canon narratives, and (4) conceded to have performed acts which are associated with the 'supernatural' or 'Divine' (that is, credibly violating or negating physicalism to actualize a actual "miracle") as presented in these canon narratives - all of which are required as necessary (i.e., necessary logical truth) for the contingent dependent claim of Christianity - and you will find that these necessary truths/facts are not conceded. Only trivial facts are conceded - the rest is up to those that claim the full historicity of Jesus as depicted in the Bible.
> According to Richard Carrier...
Sure, let's go with Richard Carrier :)
Source: On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, by Richard Carrier, Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd (2014)
Carrier does acknowledge the trivial point that it is likely that a man named Jesus existed during the timeframe and geological area of interest.
(p. 31) "4. The Minimal Theory of Historicity
"There were thousands of men named Jesus in Judea in any given generation,
so obviously countless historical men of that name 'existed' in a trivial
sense. It's even statistically certain that several men of that name were
crucified by Romans, even by Pontius Pilate. It's also statistically likely that
several men named Jesus participated in the early Christian movement. If
1 in 26 Jewish men of that time were named Jesus (as the data indicates is
close to likely), 17 and a hundred men were crucified in Judea in any given
year (a number that is arguably unreasonably low), we can be certain Pilate
alone (governing ten years) crucified dozens of men named Jesus (unless,
of course, crucifixion was actually rare)."
Even Carrier accepts the trivial Jesus historicity to which I conceded.
Additionally, one of the arguments I have against the Biblical historicity of the Jesus character is Carrier's identification of the Biblical Jesus within the context of a hero or God-King motif/archetype, and what Carrier calls the Rank-Raglan hero-type (based on the two scholars who discovered and described it, Otto Rank and Lord Raglan).
The onus is still on the person that claims (1) that a man named Jesus was used as the source or archetype for the character named Jesus in the canon scripture, or (2) that any man (regardless of name) is portrayed historically and accurately in Sauls/Pauls vision-quest dreams and the canon Gospels.
> Remember the Gospels and Acts were composed AFTER Paul's letters.
Yes indeed. And the controversy between the earlier spiritual resurrection of Jesus vs. the later bodily resurrection of Jesus claims does add credibility to an argument the unknown writers (and editors) of the Gospels did not have (full) access, or were unaware, of Saul/Pauls missives. Even though both Saul/Paul and the Gospel writers may have access/been aware of the many tales of the Jesus as The Christ stories going around.
And remember that Saul/Paul was a prosecutor (as in how the KKK, in the USA, "prosecuted" [beat,killed/murdered] blacks and minorities. Saul/Paul was not a good man) of early Jewish-Christian cultists and would have likely had some awareness of the various stories and claims of Jesus as a successful Christ claimant where it is not unreasonable that these same stories (in some form) were used in the questionable "Q" document and the Gospel Accredited to Mark.
Finally, I am offering to debate the historicity of Jesus as presented in the canon scriptures - which is the basis for Christianity. The issue of the historicity of the unknown authors of the Gospels and of some of the Pauline missives is anther debate issue altogether! Heck, if we wanted to go down the series of necessary claims related to Christianity - we would start with the claim that the God YHWH exists; is the God of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Sarah, Rachel, Leah, and Rebecca; and that the construct of monotheistic Yahwism is correct (there is, and only has been, only one God and that God is YHWH).
On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt is a very comprehensive 6 year study on the subject.
Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All is a much more summary view on the topic
So I'm pretty familiar with the modern version of "Jesus mythicism", which is what you're talking about. I'll try to summarize without writing too long of an essay.
(For further reading, look into books or presentations by Richard Carrier, author of the peer-reviewed scholarly work On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt or David Fitzgerald, author of a much more approachable Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All . Here is a 60 minute presentation of the theory laid out in Carrier's book.)
There are two major thrusts of this argument:
Arguments around 1) have been around for a long time (although there are interesting recent developments), but 2) is where Richard Carrier, specifically, is making some significant contributions. Unfortunately, the publication of his work is very recent, and it is as-yet-unclear whether it will be broadly accepted.
So with regard to the evidence, let's list a few and their problems:
Aaaaand then we have like a huge gap before other documents start appearing. And most of these other sources are evidence of Christianity or Christians, not evidence of Jesus, per se. For example:
Getting a little long, so for part 2 (how did we get Christianity, then?), I'll mainly refer you to Carrier's Presentation. In short, Carrier thinks that the original conception of Jesus was of a celestial Jesus in the heavens, and he was later euhemerized (put into stories on earth), and then the latter stories became popular as the gospels, and the original stories/ideas were lost/discarded.
Hope that makes sense.
(Edit: replaced presentation link with a better quality video. Also, fixed links to Carrier's new blog.)
I'll try to tackle both of your questions.
There absolutely is a burden of proof on the claimant. In the case of alien life, pretty much all we have is argumentation. We don't have any alien lifeforms just argumentation that their could be life as you mention based on the vast size of the universe. I suspect you could pole scientists (astronomers/cosmologists/astrobiologists) and get a spectrum of belief on the existence of alien lifeform. Some could be completely doubtful while other scientists have stronger beliefs that alien life exists.
Obviously, you could make the argument that due to the vastness of space, God is likely but I wouldn't find it convincing. The primary reason is because most Christians believe their God is active on Earth now and not some distant, has-to-yet-to-be observed entity like alien lifeforms. Believing God is active here on Earth preently makes the vastness-of-space argument null and void.
So it comes down to primarily to how you define God. A God that heals the sick and manifested himself as Jesus Christ 2000 years ago is apparently unencumbered by the size of the universe. Consequently, the size of the universe shouldn't factor into the argument.
The majority of biblical scholars believe Jesus existed. The Mythicists camp (which believes Jesus was a myth that became historicized (msp?) over time) is small but growing. I'm not a biblical scholar so I can't argue for one position over another the other and I'm willing to concede that Jesus Christ existed. Here are some articles and a book reference if you want to learn more about the mythicist position.
On the Historicity of Jesus