The search for the “Historical Jesus” has been ongoing from the structured quest of Albert Schweitzer on down to the scrutiny and analysis of the 1990s Jesus Seminar gurus to the conspiracy mythicists of today. New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman weighs in with Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, a book designed to bring an end to the wild theories while adding his own spin on the Jesus of history — most notably “Jesus did exist. He simply was not the person that most believers today think he was.”
For someone who gave up being a Christian long ago, Bart Ehrman knows the New Testament through and through and explains it in a captivating way. Although not quite the “historical detective story” that Ehrman trumps it up to be, his book is an easy read written (it seems) with study and discussion groups in mind. If you are planning to use this book in a group study you might want to tone down the expectations of readers expecting Dan Brown’ish revelations as Ehrman’s Jesus turns out to be rather ordinary.
Bart Ehrman Interview with Homebrewed Christianity Podcast