It is easier to believe that the Jesus story is a pack of lies and myths when you find other characters in that category. The book of Acts mentions Simon Magus as living at the time of Jesus. He supposedly tried to buy the power to give the Holy Spirit from Peter.
Irenaeus of Lyons stated that Simon Magus claimed to have suffered in Judea (page 290, The Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics) which seems to hint that Simon’s followers believed that Simon was really Jesus. Irenaeus wrote: “This individual claimed that he appeared before the Jewish people as the Son but came down from Heaven in Samaria as the Father and visits other nations as the Holy Spirit”. Perhaps Simon pretended to be the risen Jesus after having the body nicked for all we know.  Or is it a hint that Jesus did not live in the first century but long before and that the gospels have placed him in the wrong century.  That would explain how Simon could say he was Jesus on the cross. That things like this could have been said shows that the evidence for Jesus was non-existent or weak enough for Simon to do these things and pull it off.
According to The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Simon Magus used magic to turn a ram into his own image and this metamorphosed creature was beheaded under the Emperor Nero so that everybody believed Simon had died. But three days later Simon was back claiming to have risen from the dead. It is agreed that some tales in the book go back to the second century. What is even more shocking is that starting with the Christian authority Justin Martyr in the second century all agreed that Simon did have miraculous powers which they, naturally, attributed to Satan.
Justin recorded that Simon went to Rome and did miracles there and ended up with a statue being erected in his honour. The statue of a pagan Sabine god with the inscription SEMONI SANCO DEI was found making many believe Justin was misread the inscription but Justin could have been informed that Simon was regarded as an incarnation of that god. But anyway the description in the inscription of Simon as a holy person shows that Simon was regarded as holy role-model and not the libertine of Christian tradition.
Justin stated that the miracles Simon did in Rome in the time of Claudius were stupendous and nearly all the Samaritans and many Gentiles adore him as a God. When the real Simon would not have been able to do miracles it is clear that they were adoring a Simon who did not exist so the climate was right in those days for the creation of a totally non-existent Jesus. The book of Acts probably from round the same time says that Simon was considered to be the power of God, meaning a man filled by the power of the Lord, by the Samaritans and who like Jesus had captured all their hearts and had them spellbound with his great powers meaning that he taught a reasonably orthodox theology for the Samaritans were similar to the Jews. He was accused of trying to buy the power to give the Holy Spirit from Peter who cursed him for it but that is just gossip. Anyway, was the story of Jesus plagiarised from that of Simon? The Mandaeans have ancient traditions that Jesus was a magician and Simon Magus was his true identity (page 61, Jesus the Magician). The traditions are old when they match what St Irenaeus was saying in France while this sect was based in Iraq.

Strange how nobody from the first century denying the miracles of Jesus is evidence among Christians that he did miracles. And yet they deny the miracles of Simon Magus whose miracles were not contested either.  Worse, unlike Jesus Simon was unmistakably believed to do obviously supernatural things. The problem with Jesus was that many of miracles could be taken as natural events and trickery. Jesus did nothing spectacular in the miracle department. Jesus had only biased believers saying he did miracles. But in Simon’s case, it was the Christians and his rivals who were saying Simon did miracles. Who has the most credible God then? If Simon was a fake, then Jesus could more easily have been one.

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