Chris Hallquist thought it was weird that I was jumping from talking point to talking point without responding to the criticisms I had raised. Here is my response:
First, I posed two questions. One had to do with what you thought we did have hard evidence for. The second had to do with how you would regard the evidence if it was presented about the life of Rabbi Hillel, a person about whom no supernatural claims are made that I know of. I don’t think I’m just jumping from talking point to talking point, I am first, trying to get a sense of what will count as evidence here, and second, how the supernatural character of Jesus’ claims is affecting the rules of evidence. If this were about Hillel, it seems to me that most of us would be happy with the amount of evidence provided, as opposed to discounting it all because it came from supporters. I would have thought that testimony in the Gospels is at least some evidence, even if that evidence is defeasible.
My own view is that the supernatural element in these works is going to incline people towards skepticism to varying degrees, depending on the remainder of your belief system. So when I talk about this sort of thing, I am inclined to bracket the effect of the supernatural on one's priors, and ask what kind of evidence is actually there. Is there something that is difficult for the naturalist to explain, setting aside the question of whether a supernaturalist option might be deemed intellectually feasible.
My other point by way of response is taht skepticism about the sources solve the explanatory problems. There is hard evidence for the Persecution of Nero, and there is also hard evidence (Josephus) for the martyrdom of James the Lord’s brother. Martyrdom doesn’t prove the truth of the beliefs in question, but it does prove a high likelihood for the sincerity of those beliefs. So something had to have convinced those people that Jesus was Lord. What could that be? If nothing like the Jesus story was true, and they were all just making it up as they went along, why wouldn’t they head for the exits when Nero started rounding Christians up and killing them? As for James, what would convince you that your brother was the Lord? Why go on missionary journeys where you get arrested time after time unless there was something to convince you that the truth about God was to be found in Christ crucified and resurrected? If we impugn all the sources, then you’re left with a bunch of people butting heads with Jewish leaders, and ultimately with the Roman emperor, but why?
At least a hallucination theory gives you a proposed explanation for why these people have the convictions that they do.