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We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them.
To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other.
Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.
Fitzgerald–who, as his book title indicates, takes the “mythical Jesus” position–is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups.
For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians grounded in this perspective have analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth.
They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.
The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Fitzgerald points out that for centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts.
The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity.
But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility.