Facts and Friction of Easter

Great article. A few noteworthy quotes:
"For while mainstream scholars disagree on many things about the life of Jesus, there is a very strong consensus that the basic narrative of the Gospels is historically sound."
"Take the question of Jesus' existence. Dawkins may have his reservations; so might Onfray and Hitchens. But no one who is actually doing ancient history does. I contacted three eminent ancient history professors this week and asked if they knew of any professional historian who argued that Jesus never lived. They did not."
"Vermes is a leading biblical historian and committed Jew. He explained what virtually everyone in the field today considers beyond doubt: Jesus did things which friend and foe alike thought were supernatural. What those things were the historian cannot say. All we know with near certainty is that Jesus' contemporaries found them extraordinary."
"Few biblical historians accept all of the details of the Gospel accounts - to the chagrin of some Christians - but most, whether Jewish, Christian or agnostic, agree that these writings have preserved a reliable core of information about the tumultuous final days of Jesus' life...."
"What most scholars do affirm is more modest, though not without significance: Jesus' tomb was empty shortly after his crucifixion and significant numbers of men and women experienced what they believed to be appearances of the risen Jesus. These are the historical facts of Easter Sunday: an empty tomb and resurrection experiences. They are accepted not only by serious Christian scholars but also by leading Jewish historians such as Vermes and self-confessed agnostics such as Professor Ed Sanders of Duke University, who once wrote: 'That Jesus' followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.' This is typical of the responsible historian's approach to Easter: whatever the explanation, something extraordinary happened."
"This is where history leads us - and leaves us. How we go on from here to interpret the historical evidence involves our other beliefs about the world."