For lay readers, section 1 is a must-read. Beginning with Jim West, who lays out an easily understood framework for viewing the Gospels as mythical writing, with no pretense at historical accuracy, these essays will challenge the "common sense" wisdom that Jesus must have existed. Niels Peter Lemche's essay is also an important read for the armchair enthusiast, as it provides a sobering look at the open animosity and sometimes vitriolic opposition to even the suggestion that the Gospels are not, in fact, historical documents, and that perhaps Jesus was a mythologized, or even entirely invented character.
With a reasonably sound understanding of mythicism and minimalism under his belt, the casual reader will find some very compelling arguments for this kind of reading of the Bible in section 2. In particular, the essays by Mogens Müller and Thomas Verenna are must-reads. The relationship between the Pauline Epistles and the Gospels is one of the central battlegrounds between historicists, mythicists, and agnostics, and these two essays illustrate the differences of opinion very well (with Müller arguing for the Epistle author's knowledge of Jesus' earthly life and Verenna arguing against it). Neither essay is an easy read for non-historians, nor are they intended to be, but together, they are an important illustration of the differences of opinion regarding methodology. Verenna argues:
In order to avoid the problems associated with this sort of investigation... the reader should be reminded that the question, 'why has this story been written?' can never be answered with 'because it happened.' Some questions need to be asked as a result: (1) 'What is the literature if it is not history?' (2) 'Why is this story being told?' (3) What is the reader required to believe?' and (4) 'Why should it be believed?'
Verenna goes on to argue (convincingly, by this reader's estimation) that Paul's "constant appeal to direct revelation, his desire to infuse Scripture into nearly every theological point he makes, should direct the reader to pause..." before blindly accepting the notion that Paul knew of an earthly Jesus. He addresses Paul's references to Jesus' crucifixion, drawing a distinction between two linguistic subtleties, and whether or not the broad context of passages related to the crucifixion are more parsimoniously explained as a "spiritual renewal or rebirth" or a historical event on earth. He also takes on the "consensus" view that Paul makes a direct reference to Jesus' earthly brother, James, and offers perhaps not a lock-tight rebuttal, but at least a question that must be answered before James can be argued as a proof of Jesus' earthly existence.
Section 3 delves into the Gospels themselves. For the lay-reader, James Crossley's defense of the position that John is a fabrication will be of special interest, as will Thomas L. Thompson's illustration of Jesus' temptation as a moral allegory. Threading through many Old Testament books, including Jeremiah, from which comes the tempter's offer for Jesus to create bread from stones, Thompson clearly articulates the kind of argument common to those scholars who view the Gospels as having little (if anything) to do with history and everything to do with culturally relevant edification through storytelling.
Many "regular folks" may experience minor difficulties with this book for a variety of reasons. As an example, Emanuel Pfoh blithely tosses out an entire paragraph in French, and provides no translation. In an online version with cut-and-paste capability, a reader could easily enter it into Google Translate, but as this book is only offered in hard copy at this time, the average reader will either have to skip the paragraph and infer its content, or take far too much time transcribing it into a translation app, or find a French speaker to read it to them. The language employed by many of the writers is scholarly, and assumes the reader knows a significant amount of historical jargon. These are minor quibbles that may be easily overlooked, since this book is designed for scholars who are generally polyglots.
It's very easy for establishment scholars, when they do leave their ivory towers, to wave their hands dismissively and haughtily espouse the "obvious" nature of Jesus' historicity, which everyone knows. And, of course, everyone thinks they know that Jesus obviously existed. But ask the average American to explain even the basics of the case for historicity (or mythicism, or agnosticism), and there's about a 90% chance they'll get it completely wrong. The average American -- whose religion is founded on the certainty of Jesus' existence -- needs to know what real historians say about it, but they have no idea. They need a book like this.