One of the more curious rhetorical gambits of Christopher Hitchens in his anti-Christian speeches has long bothered me: he liked to refer to the people of Palestine in the years of the BCE/AD/CE world odometer zeroing as being in “the Bronze Age.”

He marshaled this aspersion repeatedly. And yet he was quite wrong; the history is well known. The time of Jesus was well within the Iron Age. The Greeks and the Romans had conquered the known world with iron swords. The Iron Age really began with the Hittites, putting the monotheism of Akhenaten at the transition between eras. (See, for fun, a main plot line of Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian.) The Current Era started resolutely in the Iron Age.

So, was this a Hitchens mistake, or was this an attempt at poetic hyperbole?

This question has long bugged me.

Moses was Bronze Age. Jesus (and before him, the Teacher of Righteousness) was in the Iron Age.

Since then, of course, we have come a long way, and baby, how long. The Gutenberg Era helped give birth to the Industrial Age, which has given birth to the Information Age.

Hitchens, who knew history better than I do — I have certainly never read Livy and Tacitus, though Polybius and Suetonius are under my belt — was wrong on this, and wrong repeatedly. He must have been informed. I guess he was just trying to be a smarty pants?

But the smarty-pants play does not work well when delivering misinformation.