Just statistics

I actually thought the Documentary on the Discovery Channel about the alleged coffin of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, their son, and a few other family members would be based on more than statistics. But According to the Discovery Channel website.

All leading epigraphers agree about the inscriptions. All archaeologists confirm the nature of the find. It comes down to a matter of statistics. A statistical study commissioned by the broadcasters (Discovery Channel/Vision Canada/C4 UK) concludes that the probability factor is 600 to 1 in favor of this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

So, yes, the inscriptions are real, and the coffins may date to the right era. That they are Christianity’s “First Family” is entirely a matter of statistics.

I showed a few weeks ago that according to one site, statistically speaking, Drew Barrymore doesn’t exist.

I wouldn’t want to be involved in the production of this ‘documentary’. Without more than statistics to offer, there’s no good reason to air it.

0 thoughts on “Just statistics

  1. Christy

    I think Occam would agree with the makers of the documentary. That this is the tomb of the Jesus is a far more simple explanation than the idea that he ascended corporeally into heaven.

  2. John

    Ahh, agreed there. Especially since I have never been taught to believe the latter.

    But it is a far simpler explanation that this is another family that inclulded a Joshua, Joseph, James and a Mary.

    I wonder…2000 years from now, if my tomb were discovered, and all it said was John son of Michael….I wonder who they would think I was…

  3. Kathy


    as some one who was raised Catholic, I’ll chime in here.

    The first thing that struck me, was even if you don’t believe in the Resurrection, it was stated that the tomb was on the other side of the city from the crucifixion. Since the crucifixion happened during the Passover and at the just before Sabbath, it states that they used a tomb nearby. That part pretty much has to be accurate because observance of the Sabbath is a major priority in Jewish tradition and that was not going to be broken.

    If he didn’t rise from the dead, would folks then want to risk getting caught moving him? They were still hiding in fear because at the time, the hierachy and the Romans considered him a criminal.

    Also, if he did rise he wouldn’t have a need to be buried again, now would he?

    Any tomb then, would not include his remains just the rest of the family

  4. John

    This article says it was common at the time for bodies to be left decomposing in tombs for a year…and then moved to an ossuary. If so, the ossuary wouldn’t need to match the location specified in the NT for the tomb.

    Observance of all the 613 laws are (and I believe were) treated, for the most part, equally. The concept of the ‘top ten’ commandments is, I believe, Christian in origin. Today there is a philosophy that all but 3 can be broken if “life is at stake”. I’m not sure how far back that philosophy goes. (The three are the laws against muder, suicide, and idolatry.) However, it is a law that one cannot be buried on the Sabbath, so if Jesus died right before the Sabbath he would have to either be buried very quickly, or they would have had to wait until after the Sabbath.

    However, I don’t know if they considered the ‘burial’ to be the placement in the tomb where the body decomposed for a year, or the placement in the ossuary. Part of me wonders if the two-stages was a legalistic method to get around the difficulties caused by deaths immediately prior to the Sabbath.

  5. Christy

    I’m not sure I agree that it’s ANOTHER family with those names is a more simple explanation than to think that these are indeed the bones of the Jesus, Marys and Joseph accepted as historical figures (even if you don’t believe in the resurrection, or the immaculate conception, the angelic visits and perhaps do believe that the wedding at Cana, was that of Jesus).

  6. John

    To decide it is the Historical Jesus’ family requires one to discard the existence of two unknown names. The son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene can be discarded as a cover-up…but who is the Matthew? The author of the gospel wasn’t, to my knowledge, a member of the family. I’ve read Jesus is not known to have had any siblings with the name of Matthew.

    That’s one reason I think it is simpler that it’s another family. It makes things more complex if we have to come up with reasons to discard conflicting information. Especially since I don’t believe carbon-dating is going to narrow the date down to within a generation. We’re probably dealing with a period of a couple hundred years within which the Historical Jesus just happens to fall. From what I’ve read “Joshua son of Joseph” isn’t too far different from my example of “John son of Michael”.

    I’m going to want to read some scientific responses to the claim that the statistical probability is 600-1 — and what assumptions went into that calculation.

  7. John

    I win?
    But what does that mean?
    That it’s not Jesus.
    Or that you just grew tired of the thread before me?
    If the former we need to contact the news and tell them we’ve resolved the dispute.

  8. DL Emerick

    Statistically, the chances of your being you are well nigh impossible.

    (But, even so, who’d want to be me?)

  9. DL Emerick

    Well, as a matter of historical record, there was the destruction of Jerusalem, John. That date seems to put a rather sharp end to the possibility that the graves were those of people who named their families after the leading names of a popular cult figure.

    Hence, the time period would be winnowed down to the decades before 70 CE.

    Other fixes on the time period are possible — such as neighboring graves and their “occupancy” dates — the feel for the burial arts employed, for decoration, the materials and their carvings and so on. All of these help triangulate upon a more distinct and narrow window in history, such as the one that the BoJ thesis underscores.

    As for the name of Matthew, who knows, maybe he married into the family? Or, even, maybe because he was a tax collector for the Romans, no one wanted to connect him in that way, familially, to his “brother” — you know, we never like to mention the black sheep in our own families, or the skeletons in the closet ostuary either! Or, maybe, when Matthew died, things were dire in Jerusalem, and the family of Jesus gave his body a place in the grave, because he was an old family friend, sans relatives of his own to bury him!

    Speculation can go anywhere. There is no end to explanations of the odds and ends of the ISness of actual history, as we dig it up.

    Who knows what the Romans felt, given that their act of executing Jesus allegedly was an attempted appeasement of a lynch mob? That is, the Roman Governor chose to pervert both law and justice. And, like most politicians, he could blame it on some of the people themselves — that it was popularly demanded. Hence, historically, Jews got the blame — when it was the forces of empire, and its purposes, that were served.

    Did the Romans thereafter regard friends and families of Christians as threats to the Government? Oh, it’s clear, under Jewish law, that such Christian cults were heretical. For instance, consider the strong law against calling up the spirits of the dead and consorting with them. The Christian cults are founded on just such an express violations of the (holy) law. Jews, as I understand it, do not pray to the dead, to invoke their spirits as aids to the living. We do pray to God, not to Moses, nor Samuel, nor even Elijah!

    Eventually, as texts like Acts purport, the Christian cults began to see that that they were not, in essence, any longer a form a Judaism — nor bound, then, to follow the prescriptions of Jewish law. The great rhetorician Pual makes this quite clear; he proposes the thesis that the life of Judaism under the law is a way of death, but the Christian way, seeking to express affirmatively only the love man has for God and for man, equally, and the latter before the former, is the proper way of living. Love, when so held as the highest value of the duty of the living, then overcomes the narrow strictures by which legalistic minds (such as Alberto Gonzales) can escape the duties of love, in their evil ways for practicing perversions of both law and justice.

    (Love is spelled properly, and understood best, as duty. (Jewish law lacks the egoism of “rights” that Romans and the English advanced, as part of their imperiums.))

    Doctrinally, following Judaism, Christianity would never have needed nor permitted itself the doctrine of a bodily resurrection == but such an idea was already well embedded in most pagan cultures. It was to those nonJewish cultures that Christians began to appeal, for followers. Hence, it was easy for early Christian writers and theologians to graft such a doctrine onto the myths of those cultures. It improved the marketability of Christianity, vastly.

  10. John

    Speculation can go anywhere, as it can, in conspiracy theories. And that is all it is, a conspiracy theory, until there are substantial facts to base it on. Which there won’t be because the history is way too buried in the past.

    Jews weren’t banned from Jerusalem by Rome until 135 CE. Though persecuted, I think Christians were still permitted to live there. And Christianity flourished in the 4th century in Jerusalem, under Emperor Constantine. Joshua would likely have remained a common name among both Jews and Christians of that era. Jews would have continued naming sons after the character who toppled the walls of Jericho. I’m not sure how common the name Mary would have been among Jews. I don’t see Christians not naming their sons Joshua. They do today; why not then?

    On the other side, I’m not sure how it is limited to the decades prior to 70. Could it have been 200 BCE? If not, why not?

  11. DL Emerick

    I’d sooner believe that Moses was taken from the bullrushes during a pogrom than that Jesus rose from the dead.

    The former makes sense, the latter doesn’t. The latter serves no purpose, at all, as a matter of teaching people to be nice to one another — but the former does.


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