A friend of mind who goes by the name GakuseiDon has written a powerful rebuttal to Earl Doherty's ideas about the second-century Christians and their attitudes about the historical Jesus. To Doherty, there were many Christian leaders in the second century who denied that Jesus existed historically. As GakuseiDon shows, Doherty's arguments are wholly unpersuasive, based on misreadings, misunderstandings, and mistranslations of the text, as well as contradicted by several more persuasive explanations. My personal favorite is summarized by Mr. Don here:
Most of the second century apologists’ ire was directed towards Marcion and the Gnostics. Strangely enough, even MJ authors like Theophilus wrote against Marcion, though his work is not extant. But in no case is there any mention of heresies involving a group of Christians who believed that Christ never walked the earth.
Doherty briefly notes the lack of writers who openly and in unmistakable words rejected the figure of a historical Jesus, and puts this down to “2000 years of Christian censorship” as well as to the inaccessibility to materials in the ancient world for anyone who might attempt such a thing.
But this hardly explains why such views were not noted by the anti-heretical works of the day. At a time when the Gnostic views on the nature of Christ’s physical body were being vehemently fought against, the lack of any reference to heretics who believed that Christ didn’t walk the earth at all is a significant gap.
The emphasis is mine but the argument is Don's. Excellent point. Okay, maybe if there were ever any Mythical Jesus Christians in the second century their writings were not preserved (though plenty of gnostic writings were), but how on earth could they escape the notice of those gung-ho Christians so offended at the notion that Jesus walked the earth but was made out of different stuff than we were (as advocated by Marcion and other gnostics)? The answer is obvious, they would not have. Surely Tertullian or Iranaeus would have not have spared such heresey, much less all of the second century Christian apologist who even Doherty admits affirmed a historical Jesus.
This is just a taste, Don is thorough and convincing. He did the homework Doherty should have done.