Tuesday, April 22, 2008

News from Toronto on Talpiot Tomb

The Globe and Mail just released a story following Andrey Feuerverger's publication of his statistics article which we learned about at the Talpiot Tomb conference in January.

Excerpts from this story:
In a peer-reviewed article published last month in the prestigious Annals of Applied Statistics, Andrey Feuerverger places the odds of the 2,000-year-old tomb not belonging to the Jesus family at 1 in 1,600.

This figure is even more bullish than the 1-in-600 figure that Dr. Feuerverger calculated a year ago, when interviewed for The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a $4-million documentary produced by James Cameron and directed by Toronto's Simcha Jacobovici...

For years, archeologists attempted to deflect speculation about the tomb, saying that the names inscribed on the Talpiot ossuaries were common to the period. But Dr. Feuerverger's analysis rejects that argument, noting that while the individual names might have been common, this specific cluster of names so resonant of the New Testament is not. Indeed, in January, at a symposium with about 50 academics in Jerusalem, no one made the case for commonality.

Instead, opponents have challenged Dr. Feuerverger's historical assumptions, notably that the unusual Greek name Mariamne found on one of the ossuaries is an appropriate designation for Mary Magdalene.

But even discounting the Mariamne assumptions, Dr. Feuerverger's 51-page paper says that the tomb has a 0.48 chance of belonging to Jesus. That means, says James Tabor, head of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, "that if we had two tombs to examine, one of them would be the Jesus tomb. With Feuerverger's paper in print, a more responsible discussion of the Talpiot tomb name frequencies and statistics can take place."...

University of Detroit professor Jane Schaberg, one of the world's ranking experts on Mary Magdalene, says it is "quite possible, even probable," that the inscription on that ossuary describes Magdalene and adds that the tomb "may very well belong to Jesus and his followers, as opposed to Jesus and his family. My gut tells me it's a movement site."

UPDATE: Here is a link provided by a reader in the comments to stats paper and all the comments on it. Thanks!

1 comment:

MSH said...

Will someone please keep James Tabor away from math? A 0.48 chance does not mean that one in two tombs would be the Jesus tomb. The number is derived wholly from the parameters of the study, not the presence of two tombs, and so has no consideration of the number of tombs! This is statistical manipulation, which is why those of us who study ancient texts should leave the math to the statisticians. Readers should note that one of Feuerverger's referees was Randy Ingermanson, who also published a paper on the same subject in the same issue of the same journal - and his odds are lower than Feuerverger's. You can get this paper and all the other responses to Dr. Feuerverger's conclusions at: http://www.ingermanson.com/jesus/art/stats.php