Re: [long] Re: [ANE-2] Whose tomb ?
- If they have they should know a couple of things about Ben. First, he
is among the very few who supported and still supports the authenticity
of the James Ossuary inscription. Second, the very persons involved in
the Talpiot Tomb program were involved with him when he peddled the
In other words- he's all for the James Ossuary (with its questionable
inscription) and he's all against the latest "big news". He is, in
other words, hardly a disinterested bystander.
Doug Weller wrote:
> Have people been following this blog?--
> Doug Weller
Jim West, ThD
http://drjewest.googlepages.com/ -- Biblical Studies Resources
http://drjimwest.wordpress.com -- Weblog
- At 07:33 PM 3/2/2007, Joe Zias wrote:
>The math/probability is a real snow job, e.g for starters pop. ofFor a population of 25,000 the numbers are 6,780,056,542.97 "Jesus
>Jrsm ca 30 AD was about 50,000 at the most and a good percentage of
>those were not even Jewish.
groups" out of 16,272,135,703,118,800 possible 4-person combinations.
>They up the ante to 100,000 as if everyone was Jewish and rig theOf course I don't buy into it. The official web site linking the
>math game as they have all along. don't buy into it. They have
>rigged the 'game' from the beginning, their geneaolgy chart is a
>good example of ignoring the fact that the tomb is an extended
>family running up to 100 yrs from 30 BC to 70 AD.
pirates' skull-and-bones flag to the tomb was a "subtle" hint as to
how serious this was.
But I focus on the statistics for a reason.
In statistics the issues are much simpler than in the interpretation
of archeological evidence or of ancient texts. That's why it was so
simple, once I had some calculations to work with, to reduce their
claims to absurdity.
But the real reason is that we, humans, have a blind spot when it
comes to assessing odds.
Our brains can do amazing things. Practically everyone can crumple a
page of paper into a very irregular shape and throw it into a waste
basket 3 feet away - a trajectory that is expressed in complex
aerodynamic equations. But when it comes to odds, our brains don't
have that ability. If we had there would be no casinos. I know,
through learning & training, to asses odds. At the same time when I
talked last week to a high school classmate and found out that the
names of two of his daughters are the same as my wife's and my
youngest daughter's I had this "what an amazing coincidence" internal
sensation. Even though I fully realized that there's nothing
surprising since these are very common names, another part of me was
Most people will be able to follow the pro/con archeological and
historical argumentation, if they wish to, but the "600 to 1" claim
takes advantage of a cognitive blind spot.
Is that wrong? Depends what you do with it. Magicians take advantage
of our blind spots all the time, and so do con artists. Questions is
where are Jacobivici et al on this scale.
When Uri Geler claims supernatural powers instead of trickery and
slight of hand, he is being dishonest, but he still presents his act
as entertainment. Dan Brown wrote a novel, not a scientific paper.
Swift claimed in "Gulliver's Travel" that the story is true, but he
didn't present it to his generation's Discovery Channel, the
Geographical Society, but published it as a novel. In all such cases
people know from the context they are about to be entertained, not
about to learn truths about reality.
Jacobivici, on the other hand, presents his "masterpiece" in another
context, a "this is real" context. For me the money he makes is not
honest wages for honest entertainment but the dishonest proceeds of a
con job. And it's not a con job that takes advantage of someone's
moral defects (greed etc), but one that takes advantage of this
statistical blind spot, like conning a blind man into buying a
"beautiful" picture. A dirty con.
And when I say "Jecobivici et al" I include everyone making money out
of this pseudo-scientific circus. That includes every reporter that
makes in the back of his mind a "it's a good story so I will not
check if it's just supermarket tabloid material" decision. And
specifically it includes the Discovery Channel. If they air it they
are, to me, con artists.
May they all be blessed in getting the same respect they give to others.
[100% bona fide dilettante ... delecto ergo sum!]
Ariel L. Szczupak
AMIS-JLM (Ricercar Ltd.)
POB 4707, Jerusalem, Israel 91401
Phone: +972-2-5619660 Fax: +972-2-5634203
- Hi Folks,
I want to thank Doug for this analysis he gave the forum a few days ago.
If there is any follow-up, or if it has been posted on a blog, please let us know.
The only other interesting discussion of the statistics that I have seen
was by Joe D'Mello and was on the NTGateway blog of Mark Goodacre.
While they are in some senses complementary I believe that Doug has done
the best overall job of really trying to wrestle directly with the statistical issues,
writing with a real savvy and flair and comprehension. D'Mello emphasized more
the *interpretation* of the existing numbers given by the film makers rather than trying
to find a proper and accurate *formulation*. And the latter is ultimately far more important.
The fly in the ointment of much of the discussion (and was never even remotely
discussed in all the brouhaha) is the difficulty of what is sometimes called "post facto
probability" calculations. This pops up in all sorts of venues and defining the proper
input parameters is very dicey since there already is a bullesye target (what actually
happened) staring you in the face. So it is very difficult to go back to *before* what
happened.. happened.. and develop the proper formulations and questions that give
a sound resultant calculation number.
To give an example of a post facto probability (one that was never really
done, afaik) in the public arena that actually made a lot of sense and could
have well-defined input .. when Hillary made her $100g on futures trading
one might be able to go back and say .. given a-b-c .. what is the likelihood
that she could gain that amount by *luck* as opposed to a little "help" from
the person entering the profits and loses (ie. perhaps doing a little winnowing
out of losses to help her accrue gains.)
However the variables in the ossuary situation are a lot more difficult. I will
give an example of one. Jose is an extraordinary name in one sense, in that
it did not show up on ossuaries much. On the other hand it is all over the
Talmud and other ancient Hebraic realms and was apparently simply much like
"Joe" is today to Joseph, a shorthand, a nickname. John Gill discusses this as well.
And most graves today do not have a Joe, they have Joseph. So if you hit a grave site
today with "Joe" how easy would it be for you to figure out what Joseph or Joe was
involved ?.. (answer, very difficult .. especially as most people with one name are
sometimes called the other).
Difficulties like this are all over the ossuary calculations.
Enough for now. Thanks, Doug.
Doug Weller -
>I just found this statistical analysis - like the other one, it assumes the names are correct.
>I have computed that the probability of the tomb in the Talpiot
>district of Jerusalem being the family tomb of the Jesus of Nazareth
>is at least 12 to 1 *against*. Apparently the makers of the movie
>calculated the probability that more than one family living in ancient
>Jerusalem would produce a cluster of names like the ones discovered in
>the tomb in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem, and found that this
>probability is very small and that therefore this must be the tomb of
>Jesus of Nazareth's family. But I think they asked the wrong question.
>The right question is: How many families living in ancient Jerusalem
>would produce a cluster of names in a tomb that would appear to be as
>similar to the names in Jesus' family as the cluster of names actually
>found? And the answer is that more than 12 families would have
>produced such remarkable cluster of names in a tomb.
>Here is how I computed this number. According to the gospels Jesus'
>family consisted of Joseph and Mary, Jesus, and four male brothers of
>Jesus named James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (besides unnamed female
>siblings). We also know the approximate frequency of names in ancient
>Palestine. According to
>these are: 9.2%, 8.3%, 6.2% and 3.8% for Simon, Joseph, Judas and
>Jesus respectively for male names, and Mary's name frequency is a
>whooping 21.3% for female names. The tomb discovered in Talpiot
>contained 10 ossuaries, of which 6 carried inscriptions. The relevant
>inscriptions here are "Jesus son of Joseph", "Mary", "Mary", and
>"Joseph". These inscriptions were in different languages and used
>different forms for these names, but that's about it. (see:
>http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070228135009.htm ) I read
>somewhere that first century Jerusalem had about 50,000 inhabitants.
>As the period in question spanned various generations I used a
>population of 10,000 families.
>I wrote a computer program simulation that actually randomly produced
>10,000 families of 10 members each (keeping the right name
>frequencies) and then proceeded to compute the following average
>111 families would have a Jesus son of Joseph. I understand that in
>fact other ossuaries have been found with the inscription "Jesus son
>75 families would moreover have at least one Mary.
>71 families would moreover have one more name that belongs to Jesus'
>family, be it Joseph, Simon or Judas, or maybe a second Mary
>(supposedly Mary Magdalene).
>43 families would have two more such names. One of such clusters might
>be: [Jesus son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Joseph], as is the one
>discovered in the Talpiot tomb.
>And 16 families would have three more such names. Here is in detail
>the very first family case my simulation produced: An unnamed (i.e.
>with no relevant names) couple have three children: a daughter Mary, a
>son Joseph, and an unnamed second daughter. Their daughter Mary
>marries Simon and produces an unnamed daughter. Their son Joseph
>marries an unnamed wife and produces two children, Jesus and Mary.
>Voila: A family cluster of 10 whose tomb might have had inscriptions
>"Jesus son of Joseph", "Mary", "Joseph", "Mary", and "Simon" - all
>names related to the circle of Jesus of Nazareth, but this is not
>Jesus Christ's family. Nevertheless this cluster would appear to be
>even more statistically conspicuous than the one discovered in the
>The film producers have tested the DNA of one of the Mary's and
>discovered it is not maternally related to Jesus' DNA. I compute that
>adding this condition we still get 12 families. Here is the very first
>such case my simulation produced: A Jesus (whose father was named
>Joseph) marries a Mary and has 4 children: Simon, Jesus, and two more unnamed ones. Their son Simon marries a second Mary but have no children that would be buried in the family tomb. One unnamed daughter marries Joseph and has a daughter Mary. That's the second Mary who is also not maternally related to "Jesus son of Joseph". - So, any of these 12 families might have produced tomb even more conspicuous than the one found, but at most one of these families could be Jesus'. Hence the chance of the Talpiot tomb being Jesus is less than 1/12.
>Further: Taking into account that Jesus' family was not from
>Jerusalem, that his family was too poor to afford a family tomb, that
>if Jesus' bones were put in an ossuary one would expect the ossuary
>itself or the inscription on it to be more special in some way, and
>that if Jesus' body was buried in a tomb to decompose and then put in
>an ossuary then probably somebody would have found out back then when
>so much was made of Jesus' bodily ascension to heaven - taking all
>that into account the probability of the Talpiot tomb being of Jesus
>is much less than 12 to 1 against. Finally, if the movie producers
>really believed that this was Jesus' tomb one would expect that they
>would have asked neutral professional archeologists to evaluate their
>evidence or argumentation - which they haven't done.
>There is some more arguments, such as the "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus" ossuary (see:
>having come from this same tomb, but the archaeologist who first
>studied the tomb flatly denies it (see:
>and the archeological report on the Talpiot tomb counts six ossuaries
>with inscriptions, all accounted for (go to
>click on "Enter the Tomb", then on "Download Documents" and then on
>I did the above computations in a hurry and it's possible that I have
>committed some mistake. If you send me an email to
>dianelos@... I will gladly send you a copy of the program I
>wrote, so that you can check it yourself. It's written in Pascal, and
>it's a simple 150 lines program that any programmer can read.