Is Special’s Stat Man Backing Off? Used by permission

By: Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2007
“It is not in the purview of statistics to conclude whether or not this tombsite is that of the New Testament family.”

Is Special’s Stat Man Backing Off

Used by permission

The latest is from the statistics man for the special, Andrey Feuerverger. Site is below. Here is the key citation.

“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 whose tomb this might be, under certain specified assumptions.”

In addition, he cites the assumptions he is working with (which impact the numbers):

“The results of any such computations are highly dependent on the assumptions that enter into it. Here are some of the more important ones:
  • We assume that the physical facts of the case are as stated.  (Note that the inscriptions on these ossuaries and the fact that they were provenanced properly do not appear to be under dispute.)
  • We assume that the available onomasticon data is adequately relevant to the study at hand and that, on a time-cross-sectional basis, the assignment of names is, for practical purposes, adequately modeled by assuming independence.
  • We assume that ‘Marianemou e Mara’ is a singularly highlyappropriate appellation for Mary Magdalene. Note that thisimportant assumption is contentious and furthermore thatstatistically this assumption drives the outcome of thecomputations 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 (other than factoring in its combinatorial role). We also assume that the Yehuda son of Yeshua ossuary does not invalidate the find but we ignore it in the computations. This last assumption is contentious.
  • We assume that this tombsite observation represents the ‘best’ of many ‘trials’. It is estimated that there are approximately 4000 inscribed male ossuaries and somewhat fewer than half as many inscribed female ossuaries in existence. The number of `trials’ is then taken as being approximately 1000.The computations do not take into account families who could not afford ossuary burials or who did not have sufficient literacy to have their ossuaries inscribed.”

Very enlightening. The remark on the Magdalene name is key as we have been saying all week. Thanks goes to Clay Porr of Princeton N.J. for this one.


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