The Gospels: Nothing but Hype?
The historical Jesus was quite a charismatic and polarizing figure. If you had the opportunity to meet him, he would have left an impression on you, whatever you might have thought of him.
Not surprisingly, people told stories about him - some of which, we have records of today. The question is: how closely do these reflect reality? People today can be rather loose with their facts sometimes. Why should these stories be any different? Would the Gospel authors have been able to invent a Jesus that never existed?
Problem 1: Eyewitnesses were still around 40 years later
The first Gospel to be written was probably Mark. Critical dating places it around 70 A.D., and given that Jesus likely died in 30 A.D., that only leaves 40 years for the stories to be inflated.
40 years is not enough time to wipe out the core facts of a story, even if you wanted to. Eyewitnesses were still alive at that point. And, if you think about that for a second, that means that eyewitnesses who did not believe in Jesus would still be around as well. At the time that Mark would have been written down, people on both sides of the issue would still have been alive and could have corrected stories about Jesus if they wandered too far from the truth.
Problem 2: Ancient people had better memories than we have today
Approximately 90% of people in the 1st century were illiterate. That means most people had absolutely no way of recording information outside of remembering it. So, if you wanted to keep a piece of information, you had to remember it or be able to ask someone who did.
Because people were so reliant on memories, they would create mnemonic devices for stories and engage in a process of telling and retelling them to reinforce their memories. This was standard operating procedure for all information - not just religious stuff.
By themselves, these two points do not prove that the Gospels are inerrant or even mostly accurate. However, the situation in which stories about Jesus were told was not the free-for-all ring of gossip we are often told about (where anything and everything can get made up).
Given that eyewitnesses on both sides were still alive, and ancient people took great care to remember things, it would have been quite difficult for the Gospel authors to completely make up stories about Jesus, even if they wanted to.