Not surprisingly, there are no sources about Jesus written during His lifetime. Indeed, the earliest gospel is thought to date from about 70 C.E., thirty odd years after the crucifiction. And Thallos, the earliest non-Biblical source, wrote only of one aspect of Christianity, the darkening of the skies at Christ’s crucifiction, and that only that same number of years later at a minimum, and what we know of Thallos’s writings is itself only second hand.
But there enough sources and with a wide enough basis both inside and outside of the Bible to give strong support to believing that Jesus really did walk the Earth and become the basis of what we refer to today as Christianity.
Even so, that belief, that Jesus existed, is not universal. The written evidence is, as noted, all coming from several decades after the crucifiction. Although there may have been written records present to keep the beliefs true during that time, it is more likely that oral history was the common mechanism for passing down the stories and beliefs across those decades. Whether or not they were elaborated upon during that time cannot be said with certainty, but it is a strong possibility.
Indeed, Robert E. Van Voorst writes, “the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth … does not become a leading Christian theme until near the end of the first century.” (p.67, Jesus Outside the New Testament.) Van Voorst’s observation says that beliefs about Jesus and His life took on different weights over the years. Was the idea of a virgin birth present from the beginning or was it a fabrication that, over the years, became accepted as gospel? Unfortunately, there simply is no way to know.
To a certain degree, then, belief that Jesus existed is, itself, somewhat a matter of faith. There is some evidence but not much, indirect in nature, and written well after His supposed lifetime.
Regardless, I have an acceptable answer to the first of my three questions.
Did Jesus exist?
I will say, Yes, there is sufficient evidence that, with a little faith, I will assume it is so.
And with that question laid to rest as best as it can be, I will now turn my attention to the second question: Did He perform what we would term “miracles” that would only possible for someone with divine powers?
My quest continues.