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]