I cannot provide historical documentation, but I can provide a logical framework.
I find it interesting to mentally strip the supernatural out of the new testament and look at it as a purely historical document. Of particular note is the story of christ from Luke, which makes perfect sense once you consider that the Romans, as conquerors, were considered the embodiment of the power of evil.
in the days of ceasar augustus, after the conquest of Isreal, Ther Royal family of the Line of David (of which Joseph was a member) was required to register any new royal birth so the Romans could keep tabs on who potential ‘king in exile’ were to prevent future civil war. Joseph followed the letter of the law, but along the way the word was spread to the peasants that a ‘new rightful king was born’. Insert typical holy chorus, flights of angels, and virgin birth here. insert laughing Romans at the idea of matriarchial primogeniture.
They took him as a kid to Jerusalem, where an ex-member of the ruling elite confirmed that he was, indeed, of the line of David through Mary (although maybe not through Joseph, who was of the right bloodline but couldn’t inherit) and rightful heir to the kingdom.
(Considering the Era, when travel was rare and dangerous, the fact that Joseph and his wife and kid made an annual trek to Jerusalem for passover strongly suggests that it was a publicity trip for them rather than simple devoutness… showing the heir to the people every year is a good political move so they don’t forget that they are NOT, in fact, Romans. They also possessed considerable wealth, as their friends and relatives made the trek with them… enough people that they could ‘lose’ jesus when he was twelve and not notice for at least a day.)
Jesus shows that he is a prodigy, asking really serious questions. Considering the fact that Joseph, as non-inheriting royalty, was likely very closely related to Mary, his lack of mental defects was taken as a VERY good sign. Or, in fact, a sign that ol’ Joe may not have been his father… Since the Romans were sniggering about the non-inbred kid who couldn’t have possibly been of the line of David, a story had to be found. Insert ‘virgin birth’ and ‘son of god’ here. Jesus of course believes the hype, and calls the temple ‘my father’s house’.
John, an accomplished rhetorician, starts raising the idea of rebellion from Rome, citing the son of god and the rightful heir. starts organizing an infrastructure for said rebellion, and preached against the evil Romans.
Luke then presents Jesus’ royal lineage, through the patriarchial lines, as spoken to the Romans. of course, the Romans, thinking Joseph was a cuck, didn’t pay any attention. The ‘son of god’ shtick, however, was enough to get them worrying when jesus hit about thirty and his people started taking him seriously.
So teh Roman military governor, whatever, nabs him and pretty much starves him for a month and a half, applying the typical post-conquest deal well-established in Roman literature, and encouraged by a bit of starvation and general torture to make him compliant. “Hey” says roman general (Henceforth referred to as ‘the most evil guy around, the embodiment of Roman cruelty, otherwise known as ‘satan’), “These people here seem to take you seriously as King. How about we give you the usual deal… we make you local governor, feed you, protect you, and all you have to do is bend knee to Rome and acknowledge Roman gods and taxes?” a deal which had, in the past, worked out well for Rome. They also acted like he was some sort of fanatical idiot, and offered to let him kill himself to prove his faith.
Jesus, being a true believer, says “Nope, my god says we are a free people. Take your deal and shove it where the sun don’t shine”. Jesus, being very canny (and probably not really as fanatical as the backwards tribesman the romans thought him) dealt plenty of decent counter-rhetoric. Worried about a general uprising, the Roman general finally cut him loose. Of course, considering that their ‘king’ was returned after Roman indoctrination, a lot of folks didn’t trust him any more… they thought he may have become a stooge for the empire (as experience taught them most politicians became) and they demanded he perform miracles, which he countered with the old saw ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.
Cue a few evangelist tricks here, mostly to spread his ‘son of god’ status around, and add in a healthy dose of rebellion and recruiting lieutenants, and explains away the reasons why they seemed to be so well treated and eating regularly.
Of course, the rabbinicals, who were sort of ruling for rome, got a bit pissed at this upstart, running around claiming he was the son of god, preaching rebellion from their well-paid sinecures, and breaking religious laws right and left without getting struck with lightning.
Of course, with the populist movement he was building, he was still experimenting and learning how to work people, so he made a few mistakes, basically telling his lieutenants that they needed to stop looking and behaving like the cabinet of the rebellion government because it was getting noticed and casting doubts on his rebellion government (much the same mistakes that the soviets made)
He also started setting down the laws for creating a decent populist government-in-exile as he figured them out. Cue more evangelist stuff, and some Romans buying into it, as well as delegating the evangelism to his buddies.
Realizing that he was REALLY pissing Rome off, he warns of assassins or legal repercussions, most of which, in Roman law, call for torture or death or both. Some Roman anti-terrorist task forces confirm this by killing off some of his supporters, a total dick move.
He finally figures out a decent formula for rulership (he who governs least governs best) and clearly wants to be a decent guy and a good ruler. Mentions again that Rome is corrupt and that their bureaucracy is filled with stupid (which is true) and soon turns his teachings from passive resistance to active rebellion, giving Rome’s government the finger in the process. Generally a bad idea from a personal survival point of view.
He feels that the coming of his new government is very close, so, since he knows about the hazards of a rebellion populist government, he starts making plans to make it a decent place for a noble to live…a brilliant and shrewd move, but he sort of figured Rome was dying, and made his move a bit too soon, underestimating the ability of certain factions to ‘put down this upstart’. He finally runs his soft rebellion, calling himself King in fact, and free from the power of Rome. Not to mention his personal rancour at the yids who would turn his new kingdom into a copy of the corruption of Rome. When they question his sovereignty, he tells them to suck it up, and outlaws Roman currency.
cue Roman anti-rebellion tactics, crown of thorns, killing christ like he was a common crook and ridiculing his ‘King of the Jews’ cue another couple of hundred years of screwing with Christ cultists, as his legend spread and his messages of simple government, personal freedom and responsibility catches fire, eventually turning all Rome into the cradle of Christianity it eventually became.
Even if you are not a believer in the supernatural, the story of christ is a damned fine tale, and a valuable historical and political document from the time of the Roman conquests… Once you screen out the supernatural stuff, it becomes utterly believable as well. His later teaching also became the foundation for some of the most benevolent, just, and enlightened civilizations that have ever existed among humanity, and for that reason alone it should be respected.