Monday, May 31, 2010

"The Many Fine Augustan Chroniclers..."

As the regular readers of this blog know, I am often exasperated by what I see as the logical shortcomings in the arguments of religious people against atheists and agnostics, their tendency to ignore scientific and/or historical and archaeological evidence which does not harmonize with their preconceived notions, or to make things up and then present them as valid arguments.

Lately, in a part of the Internet where many people come and discuss religious topics, I have encountered many atheists who are doing exactly the same things. Or maybe it's only a few who seem like many because of the great frequency and mindless monotony of their comments. One of these atheists is the author of the quote which is the title of this blog post: in the writings of "the many fine Augustan chroniclers" who were contemporary with Jesus, according to a comment recently posted by this particular atheist, there is no mention of Him or His miracles.

There are a few problems with that statement, as I see it. The word "chronicler" is used more often to describe medieval historians, then ancient ones. But that's a bit nit-picking on my part: strictly speaking, any history which describes events in a strict chronological order may be termed a chronicle, and many ancient historians fit this bill. Also, if Jesus was born around 4 BC, which seems to be the current consensus among those who believe He existed, then he would have been around 18 years old when Augustus died. Most of the events for which He is famous are alleged to have occurred in the reign of Tiberius -- but let's let that go, too. The main problem, as I see it, in speaking about "the many fine Augustan chroniclers" contemporary with Jesus is the word "many."

Who are these many people? Livy died around AD 18, earlier than all of the most widely-noted alleged events of Jesus' adult life, and anyway his ab urbe condita is said have to ended with events of the year 9 BC. (Only about a quarter of it survives, books 1-10 and 21-45 of a total of 142, plus a few fragments.) The next prominent Roman historian, Tacitus, was born in the 60's AD, after Jesus alleged death. Velleius Paterculus lived until AD 31, but his history only goes until the death of Augustus.

It's frustrating, this comment about "the many fine Augustan chroniclers" and the supposedly suspicious absence of any mention of Jesus in their writings, this and many similar comments. Frustrating, because it seems to indicate that the people who present such pseudo-arguments, although like me they have rejected some religious nonsense and do not believe in things like miracles, are, just like the religious people they are debating against, more interested in defending preconceived notions than in making sense. The plain truth is that there is NOT a wealth of contemporary descriptions of the time of Jesus so great that His absence in them would be suspicious.

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