Of Course Jesus Existed
Note: I am not a theologian or scholar. I am a simple layman. The below is a reflection of my own opinion, having studied this subject and engaged in several debates. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect any official position of the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church cannot be held responsible or liable for any errors I might make. The below thesis is simply my own observation, but I believe there is truth to it.
I am a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. I do not wish to partake in this debate, because by doing so I would be stooping to your level and implying you have a case. You don't. Atheists do not even have the right or authority to even question the historical Christ. I just have a few words.
The rise of the "mythicist" theory (that Jesus is mythical) is a direct result of the errors of the Protestant theology of the 16th century. It was from liberal Protestantism that the "mythicist" theory begun.
By rejecting the authority and ontological existence and reality of the Orthodox Church, Protestantism reduced Christianity to a mere "philosophy," and Christ to just another sage or teacher. This was not intentional, but it was a direct result of their anti-Church stance.
The New Testament is one of the greatest proofs of Jesus, as is the existential and empirical reality of the Orthodox Church (which Christ founded). But Protestantism rejected the Church (which is the other greatest proof), and relegated Christ to nothing but the testimony of the New Testament. The New Testament AND the Orthodox Church, comprise the two wings of authority of authentic Christianity. It takes two wings to fly. Protestants rejected the other wing (the Church Christ founded), and thereby damaged Christian authority and the message of authentic Christianity. By rejecting the Church, they made Christianity (and Christ) susceptible to attack. The rejection of the Orthodox Church left Christianity with holes, open to attack.
The protestants were desperate to garner other "evidences" for Jesus, so they amassed a great deal of "extra-biblical" sources in corroboration with the New Testament (Roman sources, Gnostic, Patristic, Jewish, etc), in order to support the historical Jesus. But since they rejected the validity of the Orthodox Church, which Christ personally established, they were rejecting the greatest proof there is for His existence.
The Orthodox Church was founded by Christ. No historical person has ever founded such an institution; especially one that has lasted and survived through every conceivable onslaught for 2,000 years.
The scientific anthropic principle states that, in its initial conditions, the universe was fine-tuned for the existence and sustenance of life.
There is an anthropic truth with the Orthodox Church. It was fine-tuned by the God-Man (Christ) for the existence of spiritual life. The existence of our many millions of saints (which the west is generally ignorant of), is proof that the Church is a Divine institution. It sanctifies and deifies souls. The Orthodox Church maintains, to this day, direct apostolic (or bishop) succession that goes all the way back to Christ. There is an ancient "rule of faith" (regula fidei) that guarantees the truth about Christ and authentic Christianity. Irenaeus (he was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John) states that this "regula fidei" is where correct doctrine (orthodoxy) and bishop succession (the laying on of hands) exists.
WE STILL HAVE THIS IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH TODAY
In Summary and Conclusion,
Protestantism rejected the actual Church that Christ personally founded.
The "mythicist" theory (that Jesus is mythical) came from liberal Protestantism.
By rejecting this Church, Protestantism demoted Christ (though not intentionally) to the level of other sages and teachers; robbing him of His special uniqueness, and making Him vulnerable to attack.
I would say the greatest proofs of Jesus Christ are:
1. The Orthodox Church which He personally founded.
2. Apostolic Succession and the rule of faith (regula fedei).
3. The anthropic spirituality (fine-tuning) within the Orthodox Church that has produced countless saints.
4. The New Testament documents.
5. All the other extra-biblical data.
6. The collective cultural memory and tradition that has been handed down of the original divine knowledge (this is also contained within the authority of the Orthodox Church, apostolic succession and the rule of faith).
The fifth is not what we base the historical Christ on. It is simply what we would expect to find.
The fallacy of the modern "mythicists" and Protestants is that they approached this subject using the inductive method of historical investigation. They investigated this subject backwards. They used the New Testament and the extra-biblical material as if those things alone comprise the totality of the evidence for Christ. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IS THE GREATEST PROOF
There are about 500 volumes of writings and teachings of the Church Fathers in Armenian, Coptic and Syriac. Here are the primary (not secondary) source material in Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, Greek and Latin. If you want to learn and hear what true Christianity is from the best sources, learn these languages and read this material in the original languages.
Armenian, Syriac and Coptic Writers:
Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium ( about 500 volumes)
Cursus Patrologiae Completus , compiled by Migne
Latin series: 220 volumes
Greek Fathers: about 160 volumes
Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (an updated form of the Migne series)
Acts of Ancient Ecumenical Councils:
Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, edited by Mansi
Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, edited by Schwartz
Patrologia Orientalis (about 50 volumes)
The Theodosian Code, edited by Theodor Mommsen
The Code of Justinian, edited in Berlin in the Corpus Iuris Civilis, as well as certain supplemental laws known in Latin as Novellae
English: Anti-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (38 volumes)
INTRODUCTION TO CHURCH HISTORY
The Christian Tradition (five volumes), by Jaroslav Pelikan (recipient of the John Kluge Award and 42 honorary doctorates. Considered the worlds leading expert on Christian history).
There are many what are called "Jesus historians" today who affirm Jesus existed. In fact, no one who is a recognized "Jesus historian"today denies He existed. I have a list and several quotes and sources by them. But they are really insignificant compared to the Church Fathers. None of these "Jesus historians" have the real authority the Church Fathers have. Read the Church Fathers.
Don't read modern day atheists who are 2,000 years too late and have no authority. Read Saints Maxmus the Confessor, Symeon the New Theologian, Theodore the Studite, John Chrystotom, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, etc. Read Ignatius of Antioch, and Irenaeus (Aganist Heresies). These holy men had direct mystical contact with the risen Christ.
There are no atheists in fox holes