R117, my assertion is no firmer than yours that they [italic]did[/italic] exist. I simply offer some critical takes on those issues which espouse a different point of view. There's simply no evidence for Jesus or for Paul that hasn't been debunked.
[quote] Did my argument about crucifixion and Pilot not sway you?
No, it did not. I'm aware that you're offering what to you seems like the right amount of skepticism; I'm merely offering you more.
There's not any evidence of oral history, much less that biblical stories spent any time as oral traditions. 'Oral history' is an apologists' trope, proposed as a way of bridging the gap (of decades or as much as centuries) between the earliest manuscript evidence and the ostensible period being depicted in the narrative. The purpose is to perpetuate the claim that the narrative reflects some sort of eyewitness testimony of an actual historical event. It ignores the findings of critical scholarship that biblical texts show evidence of literary development, of a history of having been a written text, changing over time.
[quote][italic]We tend to discount these when we really shouldn’t, as long as we consider the source, and motive of the authors - as we should with all histories!
Considering the 'source' and the 'motive' are something you [italic]assume[/italic], i.e. the idea that "Pauline letters" were written by Paul, or that gospels were written by the apostles whose names are attached (actually, the gospels are anonymous works).
The first canonical gospel, the Gospel of Mark, wasn't written as a history but as an allegory, based upon material from the Septuagint, from Philo and Josephus (the latter from whence comes the mention of Pontius Pilate). But in the main, Mark is transvaluated from the Homeric Epics.
Later gospel authors, dissatisfied with some aspect or other of Mark, sought to rewrite or correct it. The gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John were each composed to supplant previous gospels, not supplement them. Matthew and Luke copied some 98% of Mark into their texts, altering and embellishing as they saw fit. John, although quite different from the Synoptics, nevertheless follows Mark's narrative structure.
Let me give you an example of something believers regard as a historical account, but which is instead the product of literary borrowing - the story of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus: