My main interest in this subject is, was the Angulimala sutta a real sutta?
Or was it an exaggerated version of a real historical character?
Is it possible the whole story was completely fabricated?
I'm wondering about the chronology of the sutta, as well as if in the vinaya and other text there are corroborating evidence that Angulimala actually existed. One would think if a killer who successfully killed 999 people and attempted to kill a samma sambuddha, there would be some interesting to say about it in the vinaya, as well as stories of how Angulimala interacted with his fellow monastics, etc.
The wiki article gives a good overview and an interesting quote
Richard F. Gombrich, in his paper Who was Angulimala?, has postulated that the story of Angulimala may represent an encounter between the Buddha and a follower of an early form of Saivite or Shakti tantra. Gombrich reaches this conclusion on the basis of a number of inconsistencies in the sutta text that indicate possible corruption (particularly the failure of the verses in the Theragatha to conform to accepted Pāli metrical schemes), and the fairly weak explanations for Angulimala's behaviour provided by the commentators. He notes that there are several other references in the early Pāli canon that seem to indicate the presence of devotees of Siva, Kali, and other divinities associated with sanguinary tantric practices, and that Angulimala's behaviour would not be inconsistent with certain violent practices that were observed in India by Thuggee-like transgressive cults into recent times. However the fact that Thuggee itself was an army of ex-soldiers of the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad, who were Muslims, as documented by Sleeman et al., detracts from Gombrich's claim. If Gombrich's thesis could be conclusively proven, it would establish the Angulimala Sutta as likely being the earliest known documentation of tantric practices in South Asia, about which very little is known before the 7th century CE.