In C. H. Dodd’s expert but overlooked work, History and the Gospel, the renowned former professor of divinity at Cambridge pointed out a surprising piece of evidence which indicates the ultimate historical integrity of the early church’s memories about Jesus.  By describing Jesus in ways that did not align with any Jewish expectations for what the Messiah would look like–and, moreoever, by failing to render him narratively in many ways that were universally expected by the people of God–these earliest Christians are difficult to understand psychologically if they are merely fiction writers.  If you are going to make up a Messiah and start a new religion, why in the world would anyone argue that he was like this?  Not only was no one looking for such a redeemer, but in fact the portrait of Jesus we have in the gospels radically contradicts most Jewish expectations for the coming Messiah:

“How, may it be asked, do we know that Paul is not describing an ideal Messianic figure, rather than an historical person?  To this I will reply with another question.  Where will you find in the Messiah of prophecy or apocalypse the moral character which Paul attributes to Jesus as Messiah?  Admittedly the general attributes of righteousness and obedience to God are inherent in the Messianic idea.  But humility, meekness, gentleness, agape, forgiveness of enemies–where are these?…Paul’s account of Jesus as Messiah, while it corresponds to the one essential point in the Messianic idea without which Messiahship is meaningless–that the Messiah is the divinely appointed Head of the people of God, and the bearer of His Kingdom to the whole world–in all other respects represents the Jewish Messianic idea reversed.  The Messiah should have exhibited the attributes of power and dominion on earth; instead, He ‘took the form of a slave’.  He should have united Israel under His sway; instead, He was rejected by Israel.  He should have vindicated the Law; instead, He died under the curse of the Law as a malefactor.  The phenomenon of a ‘cruficied Messiah’ was a ‘scandal’ to the Jews.  It could not have come from anywhere except out of history.” (pp. 66-67)