To find if there was a historical Jesus, scholars who study the gospels apply a number of techniques to sift through theology and miracles to find if there is a kernel of truth. Thomas Sheehan’s Historical Jesus is an excellent introduction to the methodology.
Since searching for this Historical Jesus a popular topic, a large number of books are still published each month. Adam Gopnik at New Yorker has a wonderful article which summarizes the current state of affairs in this field.
Malcolm X was the very model of a modern apocalyptic prophet-politician, unambiguously preaching violence and a doctrine of millennial revenge, all fuelled by a set of cult beliefs—a hovering U.F.O., a strange racial myth. But Malcolm was also a community builder, a moral reformer (genuinely distraught over the sexual sins of his leader), who refused to carry weapons, and who ended, within the constraints of his faith, as some kind of universalist. When he was martyred, he was called a prophet of hate; within three decades of his death—about the time that separates the Gospels from Jesus—he could be the cover subject of a liberal humanist magazine like this one. One can even see how martyrdom and “beatification” draws out more personal detail, almost perfectly on schedule: Alex Haley, Malcolm’s Paul, is long on doctrine and short on details; thirty years on, Spike Lee, his Mark, has a full role for a wife and children, and a universalist message that manages to blend Malcolm into Mandela. [WHAT DID JESUS DO?]
One of the points Gopnik makes is that the four canonical gospels were written after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. If you go to the church in Niranam, a small village in Southern Kerala, there is a board which tells you that the church was found by St. Thomas in 52 C.E. If Thomas came to Kerala at that time, he would not have known about the four canonical gospels. Even if he had known about Mark or the source Q, he would have known a different Yeshua. For example, in Mark there is no virgin birth or resurrection; those came in later gospels.