I don’t like the term, you understand, Historical Jesus, but it is what we have. Maybe a Jesus as the historical basis of the Gospels?
Anyway, I was reading a wee bit and found a reference to the fact that for four centuries, the Cross wasn’t used to depict Christians.. On of the interesting things is that presenting Noah as a sign is not completely out of the imagination and was somewhat common as a theological image for centuries after Constantine.
First, you have the Genesis Apocryphon which has Noah sharing some similar traits as Matthew, Luke and John’s Jesus. Then, you have Wisdom which has the world to be saved by a piece of wood. For Justin, this was surely the cross and he went so far as to suggest that the Jews removed it from Scripture in order to avoid giving in to the Christians. However, if you read Wisdom in context, it is the Ark which Noah built (10.4; 14.5). We should remember that the Cross is not a Gospel invention, but found in Paul, and is a disgrace. Even Deuteronomy says it. Paul agrees, somewhat. So, we have a death-on-a-cross tradition from Paul, modified to suggest that Jesus died as/among a political rebel(s) by the Gospels. By the way, I believe that Casey’s argument about the ransom motif in Mark is accurate well enough. The cross is a sign of shame. If it was indeed the symbol of an atoning messiah (v. ransom, don’t confuse the two), surely it would have been better used.
The Ark is used because it is a symbol particular to Israel, to the Jews, following Casey’s ransom motif, I think. Remember, if an atoning messiah was the original image of Jesus, the cross would have been better used.
Anyway, this is just some thoughts that I am playing with.