600-1: A Tomb of Jesus follow-up

I’ve just had an email. Prof Andrey Feuerverger has put up reasoning behind his 600-1 figure online. It helps make more sense of an odd claim and appears to confirm that this is an example of the Prosecutor’s fallacy. For example here are some of the assumptions:

  • We assume that ‘Marianemou e Mara’ is a singularly highly appropriate appellation for Mary Magdalene. Note that this important assumption is contentious and furthermore that statistically this assumption drives the outcome of the computations substantially.
  • We assume that Yose/Yosa is a highly appropriate appellation for the brother of Jesus who is referred to as Joses in Mark 6:3 of the NT.
  • We assume that the Latinized version Marya is a highly appropriate appellation for Mary of the NT.
  • It is assumed that Yose/Yosa is not the same person as the father Yosef who is referred to on the ossuary of Yeshua.
  • We assume that the presence of Matya does not invalidate the find but we assign no evidentiary value to it…

These assumptions are the very things we are testing for. It is claimed the statistics help prove that one of these ossuaries is of Mary Magdalene, but the statistics in fact are part of the claim that Mary Magdalene was buried with Jesus.

If those assumptions were proven, then the calculation may make sense, but what cannot logically be done is take these assumptions back to shore up the attributions. Yet this is exactly what Prof Tabor is doing in the press conference when he asks how many Jesuses would have a mother called Mary or a brother Joseph and builds the case for attribution from there. It would appear that Prof Feuerverger has been meticulous with some arbitrary data.

Scientific American also has a special report which is worth reading.

Feuerverger says he was neither asked nor did he attempt to calculate the odds that the Talpiot tomb was the final resting place of Christ, the Messiah.

Among the assumptions that Feuerverger made to yield his odds: that the scholarly text he used as a source of names (to determine the frequency and distribution of Jewish monikers in the era of Jesus) was a representative sample of the five million Jews who lived during that era. He assumed this even though the text, called the Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity was published in 2002 and only includes 2,509 names.

Scan The Lexicon of Jewish Names, which includes names from ossuaries, ancient texts and every other source available, and you will learn that the names unearthed in the so-called Jesus Family Tomb were among the most common of that era. One in every three women listed in the Lexicon was named Mary, for instance, and, at that time, one in every 20 Jewish men was called Yeshua, or Jesus.

It seems Prof Feuerverger has been abused by some cynical people. I have sympathy, though if one publishes via press release perhaps it’s not completely unreasonable to be judged by that press release.

[Cross-posted from Clioaudio]


3 Responses to 600-1: A Tomb of Jesus follow-up

  1. Lying about the name Jesus, for profit, yet again…

    Hello all,

    The most interesting aspect of this Jesus Tomb story revolves around the actual names on the bone boxes compared to what is being asserted in the effort to make a profit. Pay special attention to the tortured explanations of how names like Jesus, Mary, Matthew, Joseph, and others were “translated” (interpolated) from inscriptions that actually say otherwise. Most specifically, both Christians and those who are promoting this “Jesus Tomb” discovery and its associated assertions are profiting from the very same long-term process of obfuscation and meticulous misdirection. For anyone, whether Christian leaders and adherents or James Cameron to keep a straight face while claiming that the name Jesus was one of the most common in Second Temple Israel is highly instructive. The name that is commonly translated as Joshua was very common, but the name Jesus is a very unique and narrowly targeted construction of recent centuries that simply cannot have truthfully appeared anywhere in the ancient Near East. Likewise, many are writing that Jesus is instead the english form of Joshua, as if the millions of english speaking Christians and Jews named Joshua have foreign names. Furthermore, does anyone know of any person named Joshua who would seriously assert that the English form of their name is Jesus? These deceptive assertions are beyond absurd.

    This long-term charade about a name that simply could not have been written or pronounced in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, or even Latin, which is now being touted as one of the more common names from ancient Israel/Judea, serves as an illuminating microcosm for the entire New Testament and the many dubious assertions and activities that have accompanied it and Christianity throughout their entire existence. As Christians rally to “prove” that this archeological find can’t be the tomb and bones of the “Jesus” and “Mary” of the New Testament, they too should honestly answer questions about why it is correct to interpolate those names in such a unique way to support the veracity of the most profitable story in history, but not to interpret an archeological discovery. Christians must truthfully answer the question of why it is wrong for the “Jesus Tomb” crew to use Christianity’s own methodology to arrive at the names now being asserted as appearing on those bone boxes.

    Read More …

  2. Alun says:

    I’m not sure I follow the argument. The claim isn’t that Jesus is the common name, but Yeshua was and this is what is on at least one of the boxes. Joshua is a direct translation from the Hebrew, which is a non-Romanised alphabet and Jesus is a transliteration of the Greek translation of Joshua. Much of the New Testament was written by Roman citizens in Greek. This allows some confirmation of the translation claim as references to other Yeshuas in the New Testament are also translated as Jesus in the Greek. I assume that English translations use Joshua for other Yeshuas to avoid confusion with the main character.

    The big problem with the names is that Mariamne e Mara is in Greek while the others aren’t and translation would normally be Mara of Mariamne or Mariamne / Mara being two people. Claiming this is transliteration in Greek of Aramaic and that Mariamne has a male title is proposing a unique translation which normally doesn’t happen in Christianity.

  3. danutz says:

    I felt the documentary did a good job of representing the information and allowing for critical analysis.

    the lost tomb of jesus blog

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