Against All Odds

“I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family.

– Prof. Andrey Feuerverger

The following statistical disputes have been made regarding the validity of the Jesus Family Tomb theory, primarily that the calculations of Prof. Andrey Feuerverger, the University of Toronto statistician who provided the calculations for “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”, were biased by assumptive data. According to Feuerverger the odds are 600 to one in favor of this being the Jesus Family Tomb based on these assumptions. He took the information given to him to come to these conclusions, taking for granted that it was reliable data. His job was merely doing the configurations and he gave Jacobovici, Tabor, and Cameron what they wanted the hear. Feuerverger now is stating that he does not support the theory, nor do Israeli Archaeologists consultants Amos Kloner and Joe Zios who call it “nonsense” and “dishonest”. Prof. Feuerverger discusses how he came to his conclusions on his website.

What the statistics did consider:

  • The probability that this tomb found in Jerusalem contained the remains of the family of Jesus of Nazareth.

Here are some assumptions:

  • That Mariamne was the wife of Jesus, son of Joseph.
  • That Mariamne was the mother of Judah, son of Jesus.
  • That Jesus and Jose were brothers.
  • The credibility of The Acts of Philip.
  • That Matthew is related to Mary but not her son.
  • That the 10th ossuary belonged to James, the brother of Jesus.

The statistics did not consider:

  • If the Talpiot tomb was the final resting place of Christ, the Messiah.

Prof. Feuerverger quotes:

“I have to tell you that a statistician working with a subject matter expert, in this case biblical historical scholars, essentially is obliged to rely on assumptions that come from them. It’s not a secret that the assumptions are contestable. I tried to stay with things that vaguely seemed reasonable to me, but I’m not a biblical scholar. At the end of the day, I went with specific assumptions and I try to make clear what those assumptions were.”

“There is a mismatch between how the media works and how academia works.” “When I was doing the calculation, I was naively unaware of the extent to which the filmmakers might be depending on the ultimate result of it.”

“It is not in the purview of statistics to conclude whether or not this tombsite is that of the New Testament family. Any such conclusion much more rightfully belongs to the purview of biblical historical scholars who are in a much better position to assess the assumptions entering into the computations. The role of statistics here is primarily to attempt to assess the odds of an equally (or more) ‘compelling’ cluster of names arising purely by chance under certain random sampling assumptions and under certain historical assumptions. In this respect I now believe that I should not assert any conclusions connecting this tomb with any hypothetical one of the NT family. The interpretation of the computation should be that it is estimating the probability of there having been another family at the time living in Jerusalem whose tomb this might be, under certain specified assumptions”

“As you pile on more assumptions,
you’re building a house of cards” –
Keith Devlin, Stanford mathematician and NPR’s “Math Guy”

 

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