I've been studying Christianity for over 20 years. In my youth, I jumped into it with enthusiasm and blind faith. Growing up in the buckle of the Bible belt, it seemed to be the right thing to do to seek a responsible path to adulthood.
In 1984, I received a degree in Theology and began teaching at a Bible college in St.Paul, MN. I taught there for six years, but I quit my job and changed occupations once I began to believe that Christianity was a fabrication. My discoveries are not revelations. Knowledge that Christianity has mortal problems is well documented for those willing to take the time to look.
I'm going to start a multi-part series on Why the Christian Story is Unbelievable. This part regards its lack of historical proof.
First, let's establish a timeline of events that are less controversial.
30 CE If Jesus existed, he probably died around this year. 37 CE The Apostle Paul is converted and believes Jesus is the Messiah. He never knew Jesus before the crucifixion. 37 CE Josephus Flavius was born. He grew up in Galilee similar to Jesus. He became the most noted Jewish historian of his time. 39 CE Philo (b.20 BC d.45 CE) wrote from Palestine. He was a Hellenized Jew who was contemporary to Jesus. He recorded Jewish history and philosophy. c.49 CE Paul starts writings epistles to churches. He writes the majority of the NT outside of the Gospels. c.62 CE Paul is killed in Rome for charges of treason. Paul dies without ever having read the Gospels, which would not be written for another 10 to 20 years. 64 CE Nero becomes emperor of Rome. The stories of his persecuting Christians may or may not be true. However, there is no proof that recanting of religious views would save anyone's life. 66 CE The Jews revolt against Roman rule in Jerusalem. The revolt is crushed by Commander Vespasian. 69 CE Vespasian becomes emperor of Rome.
70 CE Due to continued Jewish revolt, Vespasian ordered Roman troops into Jerusalem. The city is partially razed. The Temple is completely destroyed. Thousands of Jews are killed. c.75 CE Gospel of Mark was published anonymously. It probably did not look exactly like the version we have today- especially the ending. Our current version is 661 verses. Mark, who was later credited for this writing, never met Jesus. c.80 CE The Gospel of Matthew is written anonymously. Matthew copies from Mark to produce a Gospel of 1068 versus. Of Mark's 661 verses, he uses 606 of them to produce Matthew. c. 80 CE The Gospel of Luke is written in 1149 verses. He also uses the anonymous work of Mark, but he only uses 302 verses of Mark. Because Mathew and Luke often contradict each other (eg, date of Christ's birth), Luke did not have the Gospel of Matthew when he wrote Luke. Therefore, they were probably written about the same time. Luke never met Jesus. c.85 CE Doctrines of Gnostism (specifically docetism) and adoptionism begin to divide Christianity. Christian writings of this time defend against these doctrines. c.90 CE Gospel of John begins to be written. It was probably edited up until around 150 CE. John does not use any other Gospel.
Note: For reasons too lengthy for this article, I actually believe that that Gospels Matthew and Luke were written later that 80 CE. However, I'm using more traditional dates until I can explain my view more fully on this topic.
What I Think IS Believable:
I think Jesus existed, and he was a teacher and preacher in the hills of Galilee with a small following. Perhaps he even claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews. The Jews were looking for a messiah, but they were looking for someone who would deliver them from the oppression of Roman rule not deliver them from their sins. History does reveal several other people who were killed around this time by the Romans because the person claimed to be the messiah. These types of people...