If the Gospel description of the Passion of Jesus Christ is not the record of something real, then there was concealed somewhere in the provinces ruled by Tiberius a supremely powerful novelist who was also, among other things, a highly modern realist. I think this improbable. I think that if there had been such a uniquely realistic romancer, he would have written another romance, with the legitimate aim of money; instead of merely telling a lie, with no apparent aim but martyrdom.
-G. K. Chesterton,
The Everlasting Man
It is of no use to say that Christ, as exhibited in the Gospels is not historical, and that we know not how much of what is admirable has been superadded by the tradition of his followers. Who among his disciples or among their proselytes was capable of inventing the sayings attributed to Jesus, or of imagining the life and character revealed in the Gospels? Certainly not the fishermen of Galilee, still less the early Christian writers.
–John Stuart Mill