Reaction of Tal Ilan and Others

By: Dr. Darrell Bock; ©2007
One of the key people interviewed on this special is Tal Ilan. She has written a catalog of names for the centuries in question that is at the root of the statistical work.

Reaction of Tal Ilan and Others

Used by permission

One of the key people interviewed on this special is Tal Ilan. She has written a catalog of names for the centuries in question that is at the root of the statistical work.

There is a story posted today about her reaction to the special[1]

Check this out.

Here are some points of the piece called–Says Scholar Whose Work Was Used in the Upcoming Jesus Tomb Documentary: “I think it’s completely mishandled. I am angry”:

“Of special note was Tal Ilan, whose Lexicon of Jewish Names was essential to the statistical calculation made by Andrey Feuerverger, the U. of Toronto professor of statistics and mathematics who is quoted in the documentary as saying that the odds that any family other than that of the historical Jesus family would have the same names as that family, and be buried in the Tomb the documentary covers, are 600 to 1. In other words, that number argues, the odds are slim that this isn’t the tomb of Jesus.”…

In an interview I conducted this morning, the scholar Tal Ilan, without whose work these calculations would have been impossible, expressed outrage over the film and its use of her work–she’s the source of the quotation in the headline of this post….

Jodi Magness, a professor of archaeology and Jewish history of that period at UNC Chapel Hill, had this to say in an interview conducted yesterday:

‘I’m reacting to something that has not been published or peer reviewed and I haven’t even seen the film – the entire way this has been done has been an injustice to the entire discipline and also to the public.

I think it’s a very important point to make – that this is almost a wikipedia form of scholarship. They’re presenting it or setting it up as though we have a discovery and you can react and it’s all legitimate and valid which it’s not.’

Jim Tabor on how this went public first and the director of the program, Simcha Jacobovici:

‘He’s a facilitator – no one had ever contacted a statistician or a DNA person. There’s a sense in which one reason he did this is that I wasn’t thinking of doing this, and the DNA guy wasn’t thinking about it–it almost needed a single person to say “This is what I want to do.” Then it just began to skyrocket because Cameron came in and it became high profile and that gave us the budget. If we were just talking about one subject, the names, then I think it would be correct that we would not say let’s have a documentary on that – we’d publish first.
The publicity of its all then was then picked up by Discovery, but that’s their decision – they’ve taken a lot of heat for it. I don’t want to be critical of that–I’m not paid by them in any way. I and about 4 other people were brought in as consultants – Shimon Gibson for archaeology, me for history etc. Nobody was paid – they paid our expenses, but no stipends and we have no stake in the film.’

Finally one of the forensic experts on the DNA, Carney Matheson, and what was the significance of their find:

‘The only conclusions we made was that these two sets were not maternally related. To me it sounds like absolutely nothing.'”

A pretty good summary when things are all said and done.


  1. NOTE: Original article was posted at:

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