Minimal Characteristics of a Historical Jesus
What would be the absolute minimum set of characteristics such that they would demonstrate that the stories of Jesus are 'based on' an actual historical person?
The purpose of this question is because I want to get an idea of how strong we can make the claim of Jesus mythicism. For instance, if we were to hold that Jesus must at minimum be exactly as described in the Gospels, then to me this seems an unreasonable burden, since it eliminates the possibility of even slight embellishment or error in the Gospels. On the other hand, if our minimum is so open that 'some guy who preached stuff' fits the bill, then literally any old street preacher would qualify as the 'historical Jesus'.
So, it would be nice to know what a minimum set of conditions would be that a) would correctly identify 'the real Jesus' if he really did exist, and b) demonstrates the mythicist case by being unlikely to ever be demonstrated. Now, again, I don't want to set the bar too high for b), so that we are being unfair. Remember, the condition should be able to identify 'the real Jesus' if he did in fact exist as the inspiration for the stories of Jesus. Therefore, we should seek the *minimal* characteristics.
Now, I'm no Bible scholar, and I wasn't ever a Christian, and I haven't even read the whole Gospels, so I'm no authority at all. But here's my own stab at this to give you an idea what I'm asking for:
1) He was actually a human, or of close-enough-to-human form that nobody at the time could tell the difference.
2) His first name was actually "Jesus" or the local equivalent (Yeshua, or whatever).
3) He had more than 1000 followers while alive.
4) When he died, at least 500 of his followers believed he was resurrected, and preached as such.
Now, as far as I'm aware, nobody can prove all four of these things. However, they seem completely reasonable, even if this Jesus guy was not really divine, but merely inspired the Gospels and hence the religion of Christianity.
Notice that I'm not asking about what are the valid historical methods that could possibly demonstrate these characteristics. That's a separate question to what I'm asking. Specifically, I'm not asking for the minimal evidence of a historical Jesus, just the minimal characteristics that the evidence should demonstrate.
If you think these characteristics are too loose or too restrictive, please comment. Also if you think it wouldn't be reasonably possible to demonstrate these characteristics using valid historical methods.
Would love to hear comments from those who've actually studied this area, as well. Thanks!
- I was thinking that maybe it would even make sense to relax conditions 3 and 4 to 'at least 12 followers'. Because really, how many people in that time would have had even one or two followers, let alone 12? And of those who do, how many would be named Jesus? And of those (even if there were any), how many of those would make it into historical evidence? Unless it was 'the real Jesus', probably zero. Thus, the conditions would be incredibly easy to satisfy if 'the real Jesus' actually existed, but unlikely to be coincidentally demonstrated if he did not. Comments?