Well, no, we don't possess the works of fifty such writers, of course we don't. I put it in quotes because it's someone else's assertion, not mine, and I put it in the headline because it's so breathtakingly wrong. That's right, kiddies, it's Stupid Atheists Time again here at The Wrong Monkey!
The thing is, a meme is abroad in the land of those who feel qualified to pontificate upon the nonexistence of Jesus without first taking something like a good World History 101 course, to the effect that it is downright suspicious that there are no contemporary mentions of Jesus. I'm not the world's leading authority on the evidence for Jesus' existence, but clearly, I'm way ahead of some people. I could be wrong, but I believe that the number of historians whose works are extant who spent so much as a day in Jerusalem between 10 BC and AD 40 -- that's right, we don't know when Jesus lived if he did but if he did it was very likely somewhere in that time frame -- is not fifty, but zero.
I expressed this opinion to the person who holds the position immortalized in the headline of this blog post, and challenged him to name those fifty writers and more. He produced the following forty names: Apollonius, Persius, Appian, Petronius, Arrian, Phaedrus, Aulus Gellius, Philo, Columella, Phlegon, Damis, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Pliny the Younger, Plutarch, Epictetus, Pomponius Mela, Favorinus, Ptolemy, Florus, Lucius, Quintilian, Hermogenes, Quintius Curtius, Josephus, Seneca, Justus of Tiberius, Silius Italicus, Juvenal, Statius, Lucan, Suetonius, Lucian, Tacitus, Lysias, Theon of Smyran, Martial, Valerius Flaccus, Paterculus, Valerius Maximus, and Pausanias.
I pointed out that many of these writers were not historians, that many of them did not live during Jesus' supposed lifetime, and that to my knowledge just one of them, Josephus,had ever spent any time in Jerusalem. Even if they were just passing through. Upon closer inspection of the list, I see one other person who may well have spent some time in Jerusalem: Joseph of Tiberias. And he was an historian, too. But none of his works have survived. We know his name only because Josephus and, centuries later, Photiusmentioned him. And Justus was a contemporary of Josephus, who was not a contemporary of Jesus. It may be that a couple more from the list at least for a moment stood in Jerusalem or rode through it; still, we're woefully short of possessing the works of fifty historians contemporary with Jesus who were in Jerusalem. And, much more to the point, still many clowns short of a rodeo inasmuch as this guy is nowhere near ready to realize that his image of the extent of ancient writing we possess about Jerusalem is drastically mistaken, and perhaps even more to the point, nowhere near ceasing to assume that anyone such as your humble correspondent who attempts to direct him to broader knowledge and away from error is a Christian.
By the way, when this turnip gave me this list he chided me for not doing my own research. I let it go at the time, and mention it now to give you more of the flavor the whole experience. Also, another person mentioned to him that we possess no contemporary non-Roman evidence of Julius Caesar, to which he startlingly replied that there was an abundance of such evidence in Britain, that Julius Caesar had spent time in Britain after its conquest by the Romans had begun under his predecessor Claudius. I pointed out that Caesar was Claudius' predecessor and that he had been killed in 44 BC. Judging from my experience with him so far, that attempt at correction will not leave much of a dent.
It's all just breathtakingly stupid. Not just ignorant, but ignorant and bitterly determined to stay that way, determined not to learn. And I'm telling you all this because this individual is far from unique. There is a whole huge wave of stupid atheism rising, accurately diagnosed here by the very intelligent atheist and historian of early Christianty R Joseph Hoffmann, who is so intelligent that he's often mistaken for a religious believer by those among the atheists who cannot comprehend writing written in breaths longer than sound bites. This wave didn't rise spontaneously. It has leaders, and the leaders' conceptions of ancient history are crunked up. Just as the "moderate" Christians and Muslims energetically shirk responsibility for the extremists they breed, so do Dawkins, Hitch & co overlook their role in the spread of beliefs such as, "We possess the works of more than fifty historians who lived in Jerusalem during Jesus' supposed lifetime, and none of them mention him!" That's right, I'm finally coming right out in public and dissing New Atheism. It gets a C- or worse in Ancient History. I've been somewhat unclear about that for too long, but I finally decided to grow a pair.
Btw, Dawkins' work on biologyremains brilliant. Hoffmann seems to think so too.