This won't actually be much of an update for people actively following academic and extra-academic discussion of the Historical Jesus. So far as I can tell, there haven't been any bombshells on that front lately. (The Gospel of Jesus' Wife recently presented by Mary L King, prematurely rejected as a phony by the normally over-credulous public, is a bombshell, but, as Prof King pointed out to the mostly-not-listening public, it's a bombshell about a 2nd-century Christian sect and not about the HJ.)
The academic mainstream continues to convince me that most (not all!) mythicists are ill-informed amateurs at best. On the other hand, I continue not to be able to see their reasons for so confidently assuming that there was an Historical Jesus. Also on the other hand, surely there will eventually, finally, be significant numbers of academic specialists in the New Testament willing, eager, to discuss the question of Jesus' historicity, so that at last that discussion will take place among those best qualified to investigate it. Can't happen soon enough. (They, the mainstream, say it's already happened. They don't say when and where.)
Well, actually, it's worse than my not being able to see the academics' reasons for being certain that Jesus existed: I think those reason are becoming more and more clear to me, and they're flimsy.
For the moment let's take what appears to me to be an especially egregious example of flimsiness, which I will call the Unexpected Suffering Messiah Postulate: the academic mainstream, the historicists, say that the core story of the Gospels couldn't have been made up because the very idea of a suffering Messiah would have been very unexpected to 1st-century Jews.
If you just did a spit-take and shouted "WHAT?" at your computer screen: I'm right there with you. Either I'm a drooling pinhead, or mainstream New Testament Studies has taken the position that the unexpected, in myth, is somewhere between extremely improbable and impossible. I'm surprised that full-time mythicists don't call the tenured guys out more often and emphatically over this one. It's almost like saying that there's never been anything like originality in the history of the writing of myths, that only nonfiction is capable of surprising us. I'd say that nonfiction often surprises, and that myths do also, the originality and the ability to surprise, to come up with the unexpected, are in fact essential factors in almost all myths.
But hey, that's just me.
If unexpectedness were as rare as this historicist tentpole suggests, then the word "unexpected" would be fairly rare. I'd have to explain to you what it meant. but of course I don't, because we encounter the unexpected all the time, in myths among so many other places. If we don't encounter it in myths we tend to fall asleep. And not in a good way.
Christianity was full of the unexpected when it was new. If the only way you can explain that is by maintaining that it was full of truth, you can go play with Benny Hinn. Or James McGrath. I don't want to hang out with you. One of us is a drooling pinhead.
Attentive readers may have noticed that I haven't even gotten around to the point that some 1st-century Jews may indeed have expected a suffering Messiah.
New to me, although not necessarily to those interested in the inquiry into the Historical Jesus, is Dennis R McDonald's book The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark.MacDonald's thesis, somewhat startling in academia when this book was published in 2000, and perhaps somewhat less startling now, is that Mark borrows very heavily from the Iliad and the Odyssey. The parallels he points out are really quite striking, and number in the low three figures. MacDonald, who is currently John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Claremont School of Theology and co-director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate University, mentions in passing that he takes for granted that although Mark borrowed very extensively from Homer, Jesus actually existed. Disappointingly, he does not mention why he takes this for granted. He doesn't seem to feel the need to explain why he takes it for granted.
I've said it many times before: I, and many other people who strike me as being quite intelligent and reasonable, even if none of us holds an advanced degree in "one of the relevant fields," just want to see the topic being discussed. They, the mainstream, say it's been discussed and laid to rest. Where? When?
As I said at the beginning of this post: nothing new on this front.