Ha ha, I'm listening to it now. You have summed it up well, clippo.
I just wanted to comment to Russel and Martin, about the likelihood of the historical existence of Jesus, I am convinced we can know that it is in fact zero. This is my conclusion after reading Joe Atwill's book, Caesar's Messiah.
I continue to wish more activist atheists had a working knowledge of Atwill's argument. I don't want to write it up again here, but I previously started a thread on it, to the usual response, here: viewtopic.php?t=3495
Well, it's all about how the writings of Josephus in the Jewish War, in particular, are a key to decode the canonical gospels. Bear in mind, "Jesus" prophesies in some accurate detail that Jerusalem will be encircled and the temple will be razed so that "no stone is upon another", also that it will happen before the then-current generation passes away. Then, Titus Flavius comes along and does exactly that. Then "Josephus", whose life story is also very colorful and barely believable, writes his history under Flavian sponsorship and Caesar Titus' dedication is on the title page. None of this is controversial and the mainstream noncredulous interpretation is that the Jerusalem and temple razing prophecy was borrowed from Josephus. So the gospels or at least that very important bit had to be written after Josephus' JW.
I'm thinking recently however based on rereading bits of CM here and there, that there is a very important bit of JW that demonstrates that Josephus was also aware of the story of Jesus per the gospels. Seems to me this alone is enough to clinch the argument and that Atwill does not stress it enough. If the JW and the gospels are mutually referential, then they must have a common origin as Flavian propaganda. I'm not referring to the famous (and dubious) Testimonium Flavianum, however, but rather to the "lunatic Jesus" passage of JW. In this passage, there is a crazy character wandering atop the outer wall of the city, coincidentally (or not) named Jesus, preaching end-of-the-world nonsense or some such, who is killed by an artillery stone just above the place where Jesus delivers the famous Son of Man prophecy. Josephus says that the lookouts shout a warning when they spot a stone that is properly translated as "The Son Cometh", but which has been deliberately mistranslated into "The Stone Cometh". Well there is more to it and then it is just a small part of a very extensive argument that is compelling on many levels. It might be an alterrnative place to start if you want to just cut to the chase. Or, there is the Cannibal Mary story, as I go on about in the linked thread. I simply cannot believe that these stories are innocently put into Josephus, or that they are simple history. They are, after all and beyond contestability, official Roman Flavian propaganda.
I sent some copies of the book to ACA a few years ago, you might be able to get one of them. (I'm not associated with the book in any financial way, though, I just think it's very important. Anyhow it's out of print now.) Or you can download it for free now online or pay Atwill $5 for it if you feel so inclined. Here are the links:
http://www.esnips.com/doc/b67761f4-ecd2 ... vent-Jesus
The crazy Jesus story starts on page 179.
Seems to me the book can seem somewhat repititious if you try to read it straight through. There is a lot of real meat in it though and it also seems that you can start at any point and find a compelling argument. For me anyhow I re-read a bit at a time now and then and continue to be astonished by it.
Matt I think has read one of the copies I sent and remains unconvinced by it. As much as I admire Matt, I obviously think he is wrong here. His background is certainly different than mine. I am an utter bible neophyte and was never a Christian per se (though mildly raised one and I once believed in something a little stronger than deism, but never in the divinity of Jesus), but I am pretty scientific. I think anybody who understands first-hand how hard it is to make a complicated computer program work should understand how the parallels between Josephus and the gospels could not have arisen by accident, at least if the parallels are not all in Atwill's imagination. I suppose that is the bone of contention but taken in total they seem completely convincing to me. Others also some of whom have been serious bible studiers have found it quite convincing. You should listen to the son-of-a-baptist-preacher guy who calls in in the middle of the Atwill interview by Infidelguy.
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.
-- James Madison