So.....long story short: no one during Jesus' lifetime wrote about him. Not even the man who supposedly had him put to death. There exists one 'reliable' extrabiblical reference to Jesus-Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews (Kindle version here) .mentions something about James, the brother of Jesus, 'who they call messiah'. To be sure, there is much debate over how and why the text has been interpolated, but because it remains contentious and the text unclear at best, it can hardly be called evidence-at least not evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus. You can read more about that here.
The greatest thing of interest in the excerpt from the book is this little trio of snippets (note the ellipses)
The problem with pinning down the historical Jesus is that, outside of the New Testament, there is almost no trace of the man who would so permanently alter the course of human history...In a brief throwaway passage in the Antiquities...Fleeting and dismissive as this allusion may be (the phrase “the one they call messiah” is clearly meant to express derision), it nevertheless contains enormous significance for those searching for any sign of the historical Jesus
Aslan, in this little bit, covers his academic gonads supremely well. I cannot fathom the level of cynicism that it must take to simultaneously acknowledge the overwhelming lack of any credible evidence to support your thesis, the importance of the character whose reality you champion but cannot even remotely demonstrate, and the mealy mouthed admission that the contemporaries of that character disbelieved his wild and clearly incoherent claims about himself, all the while fleecing your followers and convincing them to once again dole out money for their belief in a fictional character.
Now, the emphasis in the above is mine. I put it there because this is the entire lynchpin of Mr. Aslan's argument. The Sine Qua Non so to speak. The argument Aslan puts forward is this: because Josephus mentions Jesus once and only once, he must have been a real person-because why would a historian mention someone if they didn't exist? The rest of the argument is really much ado about nothing. it's a rehash of why Josephus is important to Aslan's argument, and apparently a call to fundamentally change the epistemology of historical studies, and really, of everything else human beings study. We should now, on Mr. Aslan's view, begin accepting things not on the basis of having more evidence, but less.
Let's take a look at the only two possible destinations using Mr. Aslan's roadmap:
If we want to agree with Mr. Aslan, that one credible historical mention is sufficient to establish the existence of something, we can then say that therefore anything with a 'credible' historical mention is or was real, or that the more something is credibly mentioned, the more likely it is to be real (this last one is what we actually do, that is, those of us in RealityLand™. On the first account, it would then follow that Red & White, Invisible Boogieboos exist. And they do. I just mentioned them, and you've no reason to doubt the veracity of what I just claimed, nor can you establish that I've some sort of mental illness, or other reason for creating a fictional character out of nothing. In fact, I'm so credible on the Boogieboo question that to even question my credibility on the subject labels you a horrible bigot. On the latter account, something like George Bush's "Axis of Evil" ™ or WMDs™actually exists-because there is little to no evidence that they do or did.
No, Mr. Aslan, you're going to have to do better. A professor indeed.
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