I argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is essentially a myth. The Gospels are largely fiction. They were created around the turn of the first and second century in order to give concreteness and substance to the Jesus who, as the Messiah, had appeared to Paul and his fellow apostles in ecstatic visions.
The most 'authoritative' accounts of a historical Jesus come from the four canonical Gospels of the Bible. Note that these Gospels did not come into the Bible as original and authoritative from the authors themselves, but rather from the influence of early church fathers, especially the most influential of them all: Irenaeus of Lyon who lived in the middle of the second century. Many heretical gospels existed by that time, but Irenaeus considered only some of them for mystical reasons. He claimed only four in number; according to Romer, 'like the four zones of the world, the four winds, the four divisions of man's estate, and the four forms of the first living creatures- the lion of Mark, the calf of Luke, the man of Matthew, the eagle of John.
Paul also never quotes from Jesus's purported sermons and speeches, parables and prayers, nor does he mention Jesus's supernatural birth or any of his alleged wonders and miracles, all of which one would presume would be very important to his followers, had such exploits and sayings been known prior to the apostles purported time. Turning to the canonical gospels themselves, which in their present form do not appear in the historical record until sometime between 170-180 CE, their pretended authors, the apostles, give sparse histories and genealogies of Jesus that contradict each other and themselves in numerous places. The birth date of Jesus is depicted as having taken place at different times. His birth and childhood are not mentioned in 'Mark, ' and although he is claimed in 'Matthew' and 'Luke' to have been 'born of a virgin, ' his lineage is traced to the House of David through Joseph, so that he may 'fulfill prophecy.' Christ is said in the first three (Synoptic) gospels to have taught for one year before he died, while in 'John' the number is around three years. 'Matthew' relates that Jesus delivered 'The Sermon on the Mount' before 'the multitudes, ' while 'Luke' says it was a private talk given only to the disciples. The accounts of his Passion and Resurrection differ utterly from each other, and no one states how old he was when he died. In addition, in the canonical gospels, Jesus himself makes many illogical contradictions concerning some of his most important teachings.
It's true, though, others won't understand me. I know that. I'm still an alien in the American Christian subculture. Each evening I retreat from it, and I go straight to the Gospels. It's not out of duty that I read about Jesus; it's a respite.