Paul was born a gentile in a town that was not only heavily influenced by Mystic Cults and the gods such as Attis, Adonis, Mithras, Osiris and Baal-Taraz but was actually named after one of these gods (Baal-Taraz => Tarsus). Also found in Tarsus were Jews who were called 'God-fearing' because they accepted the teachings of Judaism but were unwilling to be circumcised or adopt all of the food laws of Judaism. Paul was either born to 'God-fearing' parents or he converted as a young man and headed for Jerusalem to study with a view to becoming a Pharisee (the most highly respected Jewish philosophers). His early childhood influences included much exposure to the pagan gods and Mystic Cults that were so prevalent in Tarsus.
Having failed to make the grade as a Pharisee (he was bright but lacked the logic ability required, as demonstrated by his often muddled theology, especially in Romans) he became one of the High Priest's hired thugs (the High Priest being a Sadducee appointed by Rome). After the death of Jesus he was sent to kidnap some of Jesus' followers who had fled to Damascus and return them to the High Priest for punishment. Investigating these followers of Jesus, Paul saw a lot in the idea of a resurrection that was in common with the myths that he had grown up with. Having failed to reach his goal of becoming a Pharisee and having been reduced to the role of a thug for a quisling Roman collaborator, Paul cracked and experienced a breakdown of some sort which left him with the basis of the ideas that became Christianity. He dressed up Jesus in the clothes of Attis, Adonis, Mithras, Osiris and Baal-Taraz added his own imagined divinity to this and set out to finally become the important man that his ego required of him and that had brought him to Jerusalem to begin with.
JP> Hmmmmm. Who do you agree with:
JP> those who maintain Jesus existed? Or
JP> those who maintain Jesus never existed ?
I feel that, based on all the evidence that I have found, that someone existed, who is now called Jesus, who was most likely a messianic hopeful, who tried to lead a revolt against the Roman government, who was executed for crimes against the state and whose actual purpose and reality was distorted by a mentally ill religious fanatic named Saul from the city of Tarsus. Saul blended what he had heard (and misunderstood) about Jesus and merged it with his own dominant religious beliefs in Tammuz and Mithras and came up with the Christ as his proposed deity. A decade or two later his influence caused the writer of Mark to merge oral traditions about Jesus with Saul's delusions. The authors of Matthew, Luke and John followed on Mark's heels at roughly 10 year intervals (John was possibly a 20 or even 30 year interval and was much more heavily influenced by gnostic ideas) perpetuating Saul's misunderstandings and each adding more to them.
Sources available upon request.
Some of those who claim that Jesus never existed at all make a strong case but I do not feel that it is conclusive.
Any more questions?