There isn’t really debate about the plural of “Jesus.” If it were Latin, then perhaps “Jesi” would be appropriate. But as the Anglicized rendering of the Greek form of a Semitic name, it is better to go with “Jesuses.”
I have yet to even begin watching the TV series American Gods, but I gather that it has had multiple Jesuses too.
Here, however, I want to talk about the widespread mythicist claim that somehow the various things that people have said about Jesus means that we cannot talk meaningfully about a historical Jesus. Commenter Mark clarified things so admirably that I asked permission to quote him in a post. Here is what he wrote:
[T]his is all based on what Kripke calls the ‘disguised description theory of names’. There are not many Jesuses ‘the Jesus who raised Lazarus and who also …’, ‘the Jesus who was either killed by Pilate or … and …’ etc etc. This confuses the /truth of a statement/ with /the reference of a name occurring in it/. I cannot recommend reading “Naming and Necessity” highly enough; of the great works in the canon of the history of philosophy it is among the most readable.
The fact is that /either/ the use of the name ‘Jesus’ that comes down to us by the copying of the letters of Paul and the gospels etc. refers to a particular human being /or else/ it doesn’t.
The question, as Kripke shows, is very simple. Paul’s particular use of the name ‘Jesus’ (a common Aramaic name in the period) //defers// to the use of his predecessors whom he had formerly ‘persecuted’. When he says he saw ‘Christ’ whom he also calls ‘Jesus’ in e.g. 1 Cor 15, he means that he ‘saw’ the one they were already talking about, inter alia under the name ‘Jesus’.
To find the referent, then – if there is one – we now go to the usage of this popular 1st c. name for boys by ‘those who came before’ Paul – this is what the reference of Paul’s usage depends on and inherits. (People in Paul’s congregations also used the name ‘Jesus’; the reference in the sentences they formed by repeating this expression depends on or inherits the reference of Paul’s uses – and perhaps on the uses of the other independent Jesus-messianists who came their way). The question is whether /Paul’s predecessors’/ use of ‘Jesus’ depends on and continues, in the familiar causal way, a particular use of the name ‘Jesus’ for a particular 1st c. Palestinian human being. Either it does or it doesn’t. If the chain of repetition comes to a limit in a human being, then “Jesus” refers to a human being, and it is true to say “Jesus really existed”.
Given a genuine proper name referring to a real individual, there is no limit to the nonsense people can go on to attach to it as predicates. No amount of false predication affects the reference of a genuine personal name, if it has any. I don’t get to invent ‘a Jesus’ for each such predication – e.g.
“Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead” and ask ‘whether that Jesus exists’. I just ask whether the sentence is true…If the referential chain exists, all uses of the repeated name refer to the original bearer. It doesn’t matter what people are saying /with/ the name through which they intend to replicate the chain. The point is developed with overwhelming force by Kripke. People can say wilder and wilder and more diverse and impossible things about Jesus – but they keep the same referential chain, saying ‘Jesus’ /because/ some predecessors said ‘Jesus’ – so they are along referring to the same 1st century individual whatever they say. You say “One group had this idea, other group had another idea” – and this is about the predicates they apply and have //no bearing// on the question of the referent of the name; it doesn’t change what they are applying these predicates to. They can’t change this, it is fixed by iron in the fact that even as they change doctrines they repeat the received expression ‘Jesus’ and entering into dispute with their immediate predecessors. Of course they are all massively wrong; but it’s a first century Galilean they are massively wrong about.
Our question is about 1st c Palestine; it is historical not anthropological.
If there is an original John Frum, an American soldier say, then that’s John Frum; sentences containing ‘John Frum’ are true just in case they are true of John Frum. The claim that he is identical with Manehevi, even if this is directly asserted, is in that case simply false, even if Manehavi exists. If ‘John Frum’ was introduced as a name for Manehevi, then things are different. The case is in fact of zero interest, as I said above. Frum is mirror and parody of Jesus; the reproduction of the cult depends on this internal relation to the Christianity they are rejecting.
In proto-Christianity have to do with a Jewish messianic movement. The charismatic target of all such movements actually existed and is unique and unambiguous. It is the same if we extend the expand the notion to include e.g. corresponding Islamic phenomena. Thus Menachem Schneerson, Sabbatai Sevi, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad all of course existed. Similarly, Jesus existed. John Frum and General Ludd and Robin Hood are not names preserved for us by Jewish messianic movements.