Paulkovich and the list of Silent Historians

Introduction

Micheal Paulkovich is a Jesus mythicist who presented a list of 126 “contemporaries” of Jesus in his book “No Meek Messiah”. Contemporaries who should/could have mentioned Jesus but don’t. This list gets thrown around a lot on the internet by other mythicists as evidence that Jesus did not exist because none of the 126 guys mentions him. Besides the fact that this argument is highly problematic, Paulkovich’s list has some problems of it’s own as we will see. First let’s have a look at the list as found on the following page.

126


Problems with the Argument

The argument assumes that Jesus made such an impact on Palestinian society, someone must have noticed it, but this is flat out wrong as Biblical scholar E.P. Sanders tells us:

“Jesus became such an important man in world history that it is sometimes hard to believe how unimportant he was during his lifetime, especially outside Palestine. Most of the first-century literature that survives was written by members of the very small elite class of the Roman Empire. To them, Jesus (if they heard of him at all) was merely a troublesome rabble-rouser and magician in a small, backward part of the world. When he was executed, Jesus was no more important to the outside world than the two brigands or insurgents executed with him.” – E.P. Sanders – The Historical Figure of Jesus (p.49)

So the historical Jesus was a nobody except to his followers who thought of him as the promised Jewish messiah. Jesus was punished in the most humiliating way known in those days; death by crucifixion. The Romans didn’t even use that punishment on its own citizens but reserved it for the lowest of criminals. Why would these “contemporaries” write about a common criminal?

Jesus was a miracle worker of which there were many. Theudas, the Egyptian, Honi the Circle Drawer, Hanna Ben Dosa were all miracle workers and none get mentioned by any of the sources mentioned by Paulkovich. With the exception of Josephus who also happens to mention Jesus. Why would these “historians” write about test another miracle worker? The line between the natural and the super-natural world was thin in those days. People accepted openly that miracles were possible, so a miracle worker back then wasn’t a big of a deal as again E.P. Sanders tells us:

“In the modern world Jesus’ miracles have played a substantial role in the evaluation of Christianity. Some have viewed the miracles as obviously fictional and have concluded that Christianity is based on a fraud, while others find in them proof that Jesus was more than merely human, the incarnate Son of God. We shall see that both of these extreme views miss the ancient perspective, which saw miracles as striking and significant, but not as indicating that the miracle-worker was anything other than fully human.

Though today somewhere between many and most people in the industrialised countries think that there are no true miracles, in the ancient world most people believed in miracles, or at least in their possibility. Jesus was by no means the only one to whom miracles were attributed.”E.P. Sanders – The Historical Figure of Jesus (p. 132)

Also, we do not have each and every writing from these “silent historians”, a lot is lost to us, so we have no idea if perhaps they did mention Jesus anywhere assuming they knew him.


Problems with the List

The argument from silence isn’t the only problem this list of “contemporaries” is facing. When closely examined a few names do have a few problems.

– Josephus and Tacitus:

These two actually do mention some things about Jesus although mythicists try to discredit both by calling them forgeries. I won’t go into the arguments here, but for now it’s enough to say that the mainstream view by scholars is that both are sources for the historical Jesus. Josephus contains a rather obvious interpolation, but the text can be reconstructed without the interpolation and Tacitus is considered authentic.

– Roman Emperor Titus:

We do not have any writings of Titus at all. Everything we know about this Roman emperor comes from Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio. No personal writings survived as far as we know. Sometimes it is argued that there are letters from Titus to Appolonius of Tyana, but these are words attributed to Titus by Philostratus who wrote about Appolonius of Tyana.

– Gaius Valerius Flaccus:

Flaccus was a first century Roman poet and not a historian. His only work known to us is Argonautica and it’s dedicated to Verspasian. I really see no reason as to why he should have mentioned anything about Jesus, assuming he ever heard anything about him.

– Petronius:

A Roman courtier under Nero and considered the author of Satyricon, a satirical novel. Besides Satyricon, nothing survived from his hand.

– Lucceius Albinus:

No writings survived from him.

– Alcinous:

Was a character from Homer’s Odyssey and not a real historical figure. This is the sort of nonsense mythicist present in order to make there case.

– Attalus:

Can refer to a general or a king (Attalus I). The first one died in 336 BCE and the second one died in 197 BCE. So this man wasn’t even around when Jesus was preaching.

– Pomponius Mela:

He was the earliest known Roman geographer, not a historian. Why should a geographer have written anything about Jesus?


Conclusion

I can go on and cite more names as these aren’t the only ones who struck me ass odd.  Bottomline is that the argument is terribly wrong in itself and the list has been compiled without researching each and every name on it. These are the sort of arguments mythicists present and still they expect people to take them seriously.

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