My impression of the talk, and the preface to the book, and a few other bits and pieces I have seen of Eviatar’s current work is that he does in fact endorse the view that Buddhism goes back to the Buddha and not to a committee, and even further that perhaps even some of the phrases and certainly the core ideas go back, again to an individual.
The argument is more about the suttas as whole pieces of writing, and finding some way of explaining the formulaic aspects of those in a way that makes sense of them in the context of their textual production.
The picture that is sometimes defended, that more or less immediately after the death of the Buddha, Ananda stood up before several hundred enlightened monks and recited, pretty much word for word, all the several millions of words that make up the 5 nikayas, and that these words where basically identical with the very words that the buddha spoke on the occasions and at the locations mentioned is patently absurd.
I doubt very much that anyone who engaged with them deeply over the last few thousand years seriously held that view, it being more likely a rhetorical form, designed to indicate to the reader/reciter not the literal, realistic facts, but symbolically, synoptically, indicating that the tradition went back to the earliest followers, that these followers had heard the teachings directly from the buddha, and that there was widespread consensus about them.
I also imagine, as I said above, that many of the repetitions may be explainable by their being recitation traditions in different locations that insisted that their versions of the same teaching also make it into the canon.
For me it is precisely the conviction that there was a Buddha and that he taught something very deep and interesting and liberating that makes me interested in this type of scholarship, because in the EBT’s we have something that is nothing at all like transcriptions of speeches given by an inspired mind, what we have is something that sounds very much like it was chanted by groups over and over to preserve what could be preserved of the tradition.
The Suttas themselves constantly describe groups of students studying various topics from say the 37 wings, and being encouraged, exhorted, taught and trained, by senior monks, that is we have many times when the suttas state that senior monks where going into great detail, answering endless questions, giving inspiring metaphors and similes and analysis, again, what we have in the suttas isn’t that, it is the barest outline of that, a series of gestures towards that, as when in MN9 we get to hear Sariputta analyze right view - we don’t get much more than what we ourselves could have built up by simply copying and pasting various examples from the rest of the canon.
The examples are really pretty much endless as to why the suttas cannot be simply the speeches of the buddha as recalled by ananda and recited after buddhas death - the number of events that occur between various monks “plunged into the deep forest” when Ananda was not there for a start, unless we picture the buddha patiently recounting his day to ananda in the evening to make sure he “got everything”
The EBT’s are a literature. That literature was created after the time of the Buddha. It was not intended as reportage or history or journalism in the sense we mean those terms today. It contains plenty of evidence on purely philological grounds that many parts of it are much more recent than many other parts. It shows evidence of evolution and elaboration. None of this is to say that Buddhism was invented by a committee. It is simply to say that the earliest extant teachings we have, the EBT’s are not the same thing as say, the transcribed speeches of Martin Luther King, and that we therefore cannot read them naively as if they where.
Somewhere between the straw-man of “Ananda remembered” and the straw-man of “made up by committee” is a realistic picture of what we have and what it might mean.