Indiana Jones and the Gospel According to Sitchin

I can remember my first Indiana Jones experience. I’d always been interested in anything old and strange, so there was a natural hook. I was graduating from high school and had only recently been exposed to this book we call the Bible when Raiders of the Lost Ark was released. From the incredible opening scene where that immense boulder came thundering down on Indy after an incredible sequence of death-defying stunts, to the vaporization of Nazis in the hands of angry God, I was awestruck.

The only thing that struck me about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the thought that Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas had again done the impossible: transforming one of the coolest movie franchises in the world into a colossal bore. I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. This latest film is awash with unsurprising sight gags, lifeless dialogue, disconnected scenes, meaningless characters, desperate attempts at humor, contrived relationships, and an unforgivably unimaginative storyline. It was truly a spectacularly supine experience.

In the same way I struggled for superlatives as a high school senior who’d just seen the movie event of his lifetime, it’s difficult to express how bad this movie really is. I thought about conveying my contempt through alternative titles: Indiana Jones and the Tarnished Legacy, Indiana Jones Owes Me a Refund, Indiana Jones and the Search for a Plotline, Indiana Jones and the Uninspired Director, Indiana Jones Gets a Lobotomy or, my current favorite, Barnaby Jones Meets ET (that’s for the over-forty crowd especially insulted by this cheesefest). I kept hoping I’d see the Mystery Science Theatre robots in the lower right-hand corner so I’d be assured this was all in good fun, but alas, it wasn’t to be. I think maybe my teenage daughter said it best: “Dad, I grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies and now it’s all ruined.” Yep.

So who’s to blame for this steaming pile of cinematic crap? It’s easy to blame Steven Spielberg, whose name was splashed across the screen in the TV ads. Sure, Harrison Ford looks old in this movie, but it’s Spielberg who’s showing his age. Frankly-and be honest-what’s the last really entertaining film you saw that Spielberg was connected with? Yeah. It’s been a long time. Your streak is still intact, Steven.

Actually, I blame George Lucas for making my daughter cry. (Okay, she didn’t cry; she just dozed off a few times). After all, he wrote the story. He’s the one who anesthetized us with this mind-numbing dreck. Surely the movie gods of clever script writing must have killed a kitten with each keystroke. But then again, this is the guy who gave us the memorable dialogue of Anakin Skywalker to Natalie Portman (“you’re soft, not like sand”), not to mention Jar-Jar Binks. George, to quote Darth Vader from way back when you could write a good script, “You have failed me for the last time.”

Well, if you’ve enjoyed this review so far I have to warn you that the fun is over. Sorry, but I have to talk about what’s actually in the movie. It’ll only going to be one paragraph so I don’t expect to lose many of you. You may want to have the defribillator handy, just in case.

Basically, the thing – that – would – normally – be – called – a – plot has Indy being forced by Soviet Commies to direct them to an alien corpse hidden away by the government in a warehouse located at what would become AREA-51 in the Nevada desert. Turns out Indy was involved with the Roswell recovery n 1947, ten years earlier. He escapes, is solicited out of the blue by Shia LeBeouf to find an old friend who had discovered a crystal skull, fully detailed with alien almond eye sockets and elongated cranium. The Soviets are after it soon enough, too, since their scholar – babe – in – charge (Kate Blanchett) believes it holds the key to paranormal knowledge and power. (If you’re anticipating the clever connections crafted by Lucas to tie all these elements together, recall the dead kittens I told you about earlier). All of this is just a vehicle, though, for Lucas and Spielberg to promote the idea that space aliens were the gods of antiquity. Wow. Never heard that before. Just one more agonizingly inane lesson for the masses about how humanity owes everything to extraterrestrials. Zecharia Sitchin ought to get a credit at the end. Those of you who are familiar with me of course know what I think of the ancient astronaut nonsense. If not, you do now. In honor of the moment I’m going to begin rewriting (and expanding) my Sitchin critiques right here on PaleoBabble earlier than expected (as in tomorrow). My own happy ending!

I could end here but a spasm of wishful thinking for another cool Indy movie compels me to say something constructive. I know Indy is done, especially since Lucas and Spielberg aren’t going to give up control of this cash cow to anyone who can actually write a great story that would do the Indy tradition justice. But how cool would an Indy movie focused on some real ancient mysteries be? Wouldn’t it be great to see Indy find the lost tomb of Alexander the Great? How about something having to do with what happened to the Anasazi, or Easter Island? How about the Takla Makan mummies or a search for Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat? Heck, even unearthing a giant human skeleton would be light years more interesting than what we just got. Hard to believe that in all the years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the best that Lucas and Spielberg could do was this twaddle.

All in all, I can honestly say Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has no redeeming qualities. It was a disappointing, insulting bore.

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Was Jesus Married According to the Gnostic Texts from Nag Hammadi? (Video 1)

Most people who read The Da Vinci Code never bothered to actually read the Gnostic Gospels themselves to see what they say about Jesus being married. That was unfortunate, and is a textbook example of why you should always go right to the source material for your information. The video below (and the several that will follow) are my attempt to get people to actually read the Gnostic material from Nag Hammadi in regard to the question of whether Jesus was married according to those texts, not the “filtered” New Testament. Do these Gnostic texts that were allegedly suppressed and expunged from the “original” New Testament (so the bogus claim goes) say anything about Jesus being married? As always, I don’t want readers to take my word–I want them to see for themselves. To that end, I’ve made a video of me doing a database search of the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Gospels for all occurrences of any form of the word “marry” (e.g., “marry”; “married”; “marries”; etc.). Don’t be frightened–you just see my computer screen. It ain’t exciting, but it’s as close as English readers will ever get to the kind of research scholars do in these texts. The video is 6:47 and you’ll need a high speed connection (10 MB file). Turn your volume up, too.

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The Crystal Skulls: Not Alien Relics (What a Shocker)

It just kills me how, when certain people find an impressive work of craftsmanship or art that appears old they conclude it must be alien.  “I couldn’t have made anything like that, and no one I know could have, either. They must have an extraterrestrial origin!”  Good grief.

Here’s a recent article on the crystal skulls, now immortalized in the title of the new Indiana Jones movie. Sorry, Indy, they weren’t made by ETs.

And yes, I’m going to see the movie.

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UFOs in Religious Art? Nope.

Well, it isn’t the ancient world, but it still fits the kind of thing I’m doing on PaleoBabble. I keep getting links and emails related to the “compelling” evidence for UFOs in Renaissance art, so my annoyance meter has passed the tolerable level.

The UFOs in Renaissance art nonsense primarily extends from Matthew Hurley’s website. An informed rebuttal to this has been out on the web for some time, but it apparently hasn’t been widely discussed or circulated — likely due to the fact that most of it isn’t in English.

Art historian Diego Cuoghi (yes, a real art historian) has a website devoted to analyzing the paintings on Hurley’s website. Sorry, they aren’t extraterrestrials and space ships. The main site is here, but it’s in Italian.  But Parts 1 and 5 have been translated into English. I highly recommend them – very interesting and informative, but not for those who are fundamentalist ETH’ers (ExtraTerrestrial Hypothesis).

You definitely need high speed for all these images, too.

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Logic and the Jesus Tomb, Part 2 (of 2)

As I suggested in my first post on this issue, there is a serious need for clear thinking with regard to the Jesus tomb theory and the names in the tomb.  The Jesus tomb theory is only compelling if two items are true: (1) that the Jesus of the tomb’s Jesus ossuary was in fact Jesus of Nazareth, and (2) the names of the people in the tomb are related to the Jesus of this tomb in the same way that people with those names were related to the Jesus of the New Testament. Both these items are inextricably linked. We can only embrace the Jesus tomb theory if its Jesus figure was Jesus of Nazareth, and that in turn can really only be established if the other people in the tomb are the people who knew Jesus of Nazareth. Hence the Jesus figure of the tomb only takes on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth if it can be established if the other people in the tomb were related to the Jesus figure they way the New Testament describes. The inscriptions must match the New Testament record to get Jesus in the tomb, so to speak. If they do not, there is no case.

This means that from the outset the reader must make a basic decision before embracing or rejecting the Jesus tomb theory. You must decide if you are going to make your decision to embrace or reject on the basis of data that actually exist or data that are speculated to have once existed. The former is real; the latter is the domain of the imagination. This decision is fundamental to processing the inscriptions in the Talpiot tomb in terms of what we can really know and what we imagine might be knowable.

The actual data provide us with six ossuaries with inscriptions:

  • Mariamenou [e] Mara (“Mary, who is Martha / lord”); or, more likely, MariameÌ… kai Mara; “Mary and Martha”; (Pfann, 2007–Pfann’s reconstructions have thus far gone unrefuted)
  • Yhwdh br Yshw’ (“Judah/Jude, son of Jesus”)
  • Mtyh (“Matiyahu”; “Matthew”)
  • Yshw’ br Yhwsp (“Jesus, son of Joseph”)
  • Ywsh (“Joseph/Yose”)
  • Mryh (“Mary”)

Notice that only two of the names have what is called a patronym-a descriptive phrase denoting family affiliation or ancestry (e.g., “Jude, son of Jesus”; “Jesus, son of Joseph”). What this means is that, in terms of data that actually exists, the Talpiot tomb tells us only that we have a Jesus who was the son of a Joseph, and a Jude who was the son of a Jesus. We know nothing about the other relationships of the other people in the tomb.

Despite this paucity of information, Jacobovici and his associates know how the mind works. Since millions around the world are familiar with the names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Mary Magdalene–whether because of biblical literacy or The DaVinci Code–the creators of the Jesus Family Tomb documentary assumed correctly that when a person hears those names presented together, the mind will immediately cluster them in a manner associated with the New Testament. The mind therefore “defaults” to the supposition that these people are related in the way the New Testament describes, and so the mind is predisposed to equate them with the actual New Testament characters. But that isn’t what the data from the tomb tells us since there are no patronyms that produce that conclusion-it’s just where the mind goes subconsciously.

The actual data of the inscriptions speak to two family relationships. Now here’s what we don’t know, based on the lack of patronyms, not on where our mind wanders:

  • We do not know if all or even most of the people in the Talpiot tomb are related. It is assumed that the Talpiot tomb is a family tomb, but we do not actually know that. It’s probably a fair guess, but it doesn’t lend any clarity to the situation.
  • We do not know who among the named occupants of the tomb were immediate or distant relatives. We have only two sonship patronyms on six ossuaries, but that isn’t as helpful as it has been assumed.
  • We do not know if the people in the ossuaries were adults or children. There is nothing inscribed on any of the ossuaries that tells us anything about the age of the occupants.
  • We do not know if the two Jesus names on the ossuaries are one and the same. That is, we don’t know if Joseph, Jesus, and Jude are grandfather, father, and son. Those relationships are assumed by the defenders of the Jesus Family tomb theory, but they are actually only speculation. These three individuals could be unrelated in terms of immediate family, but still belong in the family tomb because they are more distantly related to the immediate family members in the tomb.
  • Though it is assumed, we do not know that Mary (not the Mariamenou) in the tomb is the mother of Jesus. There is no patronym that conveys this information.  That Mary may have been the sister of the tomb’s Jesus, or an aunt, or a grandmother.
  • We do not know if the Mary (Mariamenou) of the tomb was married to the Jesus of the tomb. This marriage is only speculated since it is assume that the Mary is Mary Magdalene. But even if it was the Magdalene (quite unlikely; Pfann, 2007), such a marriage itself is only speculation–there is no text, in either the canonical gospels or the Nag Hammadi Gnostic gospels (or any other ancient source) that has Jesus and Mary married.
  • We have no way of knowing from the data that actually exists if either Mary was married to the Joseph in the tomb who was the father of Jesus.

The general point to be made by these observations is important. If we have no data with which to match the family relationships that existed between the people who bore these names in the New Testament and the named individuals in the Talpiot tomb, we cannot make an evidenced-based claim that this is the Jesus Family tomb. That conclusion cannot be drawn from the existing data; it must be supplied by means of the imagination.

Tabor might possibly respond that the mitochondrial DNA evidence lends support to his view of the names in the tomb. We read from a different blog post:

There are two “Marys” in this tomb, known by different forms of that name, namely Maria and Mariamene. The mitDNA test indicates the Mariamene in this tomb is not related to Yeshua as mother or sister on the maternal side. That leaves open the likelihood that Maria could well be the mother, especially if we have two of her sons, Yeshua and Yose, in this tomb. It would make sense that she would be buried with her children in this intimate, small, family tomb and that her ossuary would be inscribed Maria.  (Tabor, “Imagining A Hypothetical Jesus Family Tomb,” 2007)

Yes, this would make sense–if the data actually told us that Yeshua and Yose were the sons of Mary–but of course there are neither patronyms nor DNA evidence for that. The absence of patronyms means that this Mary could be the wife, sister, or cousin of Yeshua or Yose.  The fact that the mitDNA test indicates the Mariamene in this tomb is not related to Yeshua as mother or sister on the maternal side does not rule out a host of other possibilities, including sharing the same father.  Yeshua and Mariamne could have had the same father with different mothers or could be paternally related as cousins, aunts-uncle, grandparents, or father-daughter. They could even be close family friends.

The bottom line is that you the reader must decide if you are going to draw conclusions based on evidence that exists or evidence that might be fun or interesting to speculate once existed. I don’t want to be construed as a stick in the mud, though. It’s fun to speculate and develop hypotheses–but that’s what they should be called, and if you’re a scholar, you shouldn’t use language that moves non-scholars toward processing your hypothesis as a reality that’s just lacking more evidence. Frankly, I can think of several adjectives that would characterize that method, but compelling isn’t one of them.

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Logic and the Jesus Tomb Discussion, Part 1

As I and others have noted before, the real weight of the Jesus tomb debate hinges on primarily two points of data: (1) Whether a name that refers to Mary Magdalene is on one of the ossuaries, and (2) Whether the inscribed name “Yoseh” corresponds to the Yose of the New Testament. I’ve already posted the epigraphic work that undermines the former (see the May 6 posting regarding Stephen Pfann’s work). It’s time to simplify things, though, by applying some good old-fashioned logic to the material.

Warning: If you are a humanities scholar, especially in biblical studies, you may not want to read on. Okay, that’s a bit sarcastic, but I’m jaded. I actually do believe that every person who gets a graduate degree in biblical studies and archaeology should be forced to take a course in logic before they get the degree. If you think I’m kidding about the need for this, spend some time studying logic and reading about how to form logical arguments (and even better, dissect arguments for logical coherence) and then start reading journal articles (on just about anything controversial) in biblical studies. It won’t take long for you to come over to my side on this one. It’s pretty disgraceful, actually.

Anyway, I have to pick an example from James Tabor again–but it’s only because I can’t really find anyone else in the biblical studies arena who defends the Talpiot tomb as being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. Granted, some are non-committal, but who else is defending it? If you know of anyone else, please let me know so I can take a look.

Tabor argues strongly that the ossuary bearing the name Yoseh (composed of the Hebrew letters, yod-waw-samech-heh; Joseph) belongs to Jesus’ brother by that same name in the gospels. For Tabor, this correlation would support his idea of a Jesus dynasty because it would place Jesus’ oldest brother-the male in direct dynastic descent behind Jesus-in a tomb with Jesus and other important members of his family.

Tabor’s main line of evidence for an identification of the Yose in the tomb and the Yose of the gospels is that the name is very rare. Tabor writes on his Jesus Dynasty blog:

In the time of Jesus, that is, in 2nd Temple times, before the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, this nickname Yoseh is extremely rare in either Hebrew or Greek. As far as Hebrew goes, it is found only here, in the Talpiot tomb, on an ossuary, and one other time in a slightly different, but equivalent spelling (Yod, Samech, Hey), on an ossuary from Mt. Scopus. It is also found once on a tomb inscription from the period (Jason’s Tomb), and once in a papyrus from Wadi Muraba’at (pre-135 CE). In Greek, its equivalent forms (Ιωσε/Ιωση/Ιωσης), which are usually translated Yose/Jose or Joses/Joses in English, occur on only five ossuaries. In contrast, the full name Joseph/Yehosef is found on 32 ossuaries and many dozens of literary references in the period. . . . This nickname Jose/Joses in Greek is found in Mark 6:3 as the nickname for Jesus’ brother Joseph. (Tabor, 2007)

In the same blog post Tabor admits,

Of course this alone does not prove that the Yoseh in the Talpiot tomb is the brother of Jesus. But the data does indeed argue that as a rare nickname, known only on a handful of ossuaries and from two inscriptions of the period, found in a tomb with a “Jesus son of Joseph,” Yoseh is quite striking. And that Mark knows this as the unique and rare nickname of Jesus’ brother Joseph, is surely significant evidence. (Tabor, 2007)

One could rightly ask, “significant evidence for what?” This is characteristic of Tabor’s writing style. He produces data, is honest enough to admit the limitations of the data, but then proceeds to give the reader the feeling that, despite the fact that the evidence does not and cannot prove idea X, the reader still ought to find idea X pretty compelling. This is little more than assuming what one is trying to prove [logic point], and Tabor does this with regularity, as many reviewers of the Jesus Dynasty have pointed out. (Peerbolte, 2007; Witherington, 2006; Evans, 2006).

Tabor’s argument that the rarity of the name Yose actually proves nothing. That a name is rare doesn’t mean it’s exclusive [logic point], and if not exclusive, there is no necessary connection between it and the Yose of the gospels [logic point]. Tabor of course admits there are other occurrences of the name besides the Talpiot tomb, but that doesn’t stop him from steering the reader toward a more positive assessment of Tabor’s idea than the evidence can sustain. Tabor’s argument is further hampered-and I would say undone-by two considerations: (1) We have no proof that the Yose of the tomb is actually related to any of the other people named on the tomb’s ossuaries [logic point]; and (2) even if Yose is related to the other people in the tomb, we have no idea HOW he was related since Yose’s ossuary lacks any patronym, or statement of kinship relation [logic point].

But there’s more . . .

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ET Gods in the Garden of Eden?

I thought I’d share a recent email I received from someone with a question about a new book that claims that one version (source) of the book of Genesis teaches readers that humankind was created by a group of gods:

>>

Hello Michael,

I was talking with Kevin Smith (via email) a few weeks ago, about his interpretation of creation according to the book of Genesis.

As you may know, Kevin is the author of the book ‘Gods in the Garden’ which puts forward the idea that there were essentially two creation origins of “man”…. one by the Lord God, and another (previous) by the “gods” (elohim).

I don’t claim to be a Hebrew scholar, but having read much of your material, I respect your work in this area. Therefore I was curious if you had read Kevin Smith’s book, and could give me your impression of his work?

>>

Kevin Smith is an internet radio talk show host. His show, The Kevin Smith Show, focuses on paranormal topics.  His website notes that “He is a former International Police commander, a native of Texas, and graduate of Dallas Baptist College.”

I have been interviewed by Kevin (a couple years ago as I recall) and found him more well read than most talk show hosts I’ve interacted with.  I could tell he had a nose for information (former cop) and a ready mind.  He was pretty well acquainted (for someone who had no knowledge of the biblical languages) with critical approaches to the Bible.  He was also very engaging.  All that said, his idea here doesn’t have a prayer.  His lack of knowledge with respect to biblical languages is his undoing.  Here’s my response:

** [Dear X] I haven’t read Kevin’s book, but it’s easy to see what he’s doing.  Since the late 19th century it has been fashionable in critical biblical scholarship to see the Pentateuch as a patchwork quilt of sources (not written by Moses). The sources are called:  J, E, D, and P.  J and E are so named because (so the theory goes) one source uses Jehovah (Yahweh; the LORD) as the name for God and the E source uses Elohim. Kevin is taking this common source-critical idea and using it to argue as you describe.

** Other than the problems with the traditional (since the late 1800s!) view of source criticism for the Pentateuch, Kevin has one fundamental, “my view is D.O.A.” problem.  Even if the source divisions are correct, the “E” source (that uses elohim for the name of God) NEVER has elohim as the subject of a plural verb (EVER) when describing creation (of anything).  If you have read my discussion of Zecharia Sitchin’s nonsense you know that elohim, though “shaped” as a plural noun, gets grammatically paired with a SINGULAR verb form nearly 1500 times in the OT.  That is because “elohim” became a proper name for the singular God of Israel – and Hebrew grammatical agreement reflects that.  Therefore, when elohim creates in the E source, it is a SINGLE elohim, not plural.  Kevin’s idea is doomed by the text.  Don’t waste any time considering it.

Let’s hope Kevin sticks to things he knows in the future. He’s good at what he does, but this is nonsense.

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When Jesus Tomb Math Doesn’t Count

There’s one thing that practically everyone who has discussed the Jesus Tomb can all agree on: If you don’t have the name “Mariamne” (the alleged Mary Magdalene) in the tomb, the statistical odds have no chance of supporting a Jesus family tomb. It seems that many who are parading the statistical work of Dr. Feuerverger and others (e.g., Kilty and Elliott) have somehow forgotten that that the only close epigraphical examination of the “Mariamne” inscription–the one done by Dr. Stephen Pfann of Jerusalem (a friend of mine)–has not been overturned. In short, his analysis, which Dr. Mark Goodacre of Duke University called “a model of clarity” dooms the statistical defense of a Jesus family tomb. Read Dr. Pfann’s analysis and see for yourself–Mary Magdalene has left the building (in fact, was never there).

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James Tabor and Jesus Tomb Math

Will someone please keep James Tabor away from math?

Dr. Tabor is a New Testament scholar and, judging by my exchanges with him, a very nice guy. He just happens to be the only scholar out there who is still defending the idea that the Talpiot tomb (“Jesus Tomb”) is the tomb of Jesus. One of the defenses for this tomb being the Jesus tomb has been that the mathematical odds of the tomb being that of Jesus and his family are quite favorable. That simply isn’t true, and hasn’t been true from the beginning. The mathematician whose work was part of the Discovery Channel’s Jesus Tomb TV documentary (dubbed a piece of “archaeoporn” by other scholar-bloggers) was Dr. A. Feuerverger. Feuerverger’s work was not submitted to peer review until this past month. It has now been published in a scholarly journal for statistics research (Annals of Applied Statistics). My friend Dr. Randy Ingermanson, a computational physicist with a good grasp of statistics, was one of the referees for Dr. Feuerverger’s article, and contributed an article of his own in the same issue. Randy has been addressing the math issue since the Jesus Tomb special aired, and makes it digestible for people like me who don’t understand math … but apparently I do better than James Tabor.

If you understand professional statistics work (James, if you’re reading this, please don’t follow the links), you can read the abstract of Feuerverger’s article (it isn’t free) or read Randy’s article (this one is free). I’d also advise you to read Randy’s lay-person analysis of Feuerverger’s work (James, I recommend this one). Once you do, you’ll feel the same pain as I did when I read the blog entry below by Dr. April DeConcick — note Tabor’s interpretation of the math. Aarggh!! Feuerverger’s work did not conclude that there was a 48% chance of the Talpiot tomb being the Jesus tomb. That figure comes from earlier work, which Feuerverger’s new work now invalidates. As Randy points out (and he refereed Feuerverger’s article!), Feuerverger concludes that the chance is 1/655. Randy thinks the odds are even worse. PLEASE, someone keep James from the math! In Randy’s own words (at the link above), here is what Andrey Feuerverger’s calculations do:

  1. He first made a list of the persons one should expect to find in a family tomb of Jesus
  2. For each of those persons, he made a list of the “relevant” names that could apply to that person (such as the formal version of the name and any abbreviated forms of that name)
  3. He then estimated how often each of the forms of these names were actually used in first-century Jerusalem, using the frequency of names found in ancient literature and inscriptions
  4. He made a random simulation by populating the ossuaries in the tomb with randomly chosen names from first-century Jerusalem
  5. He tracked how often a randomly chosen tomb was as “relevant and rare” as the Talpiot tomb
  6. He then used the results to estimate a probability that the Talpiot tomb might belong to some family other than the family of Jesus
  7. Finally, he computed the probability that a family tomb as “surprising” as the Talpiot tomb would be found in the vicinity of Jerusalem if the names are chosen at random. This probability was 1/655

April Deconick’s post:

The Globe and Mail just released a story following Andrey Feuerverger’s publication of his statistics article which we learned about at the Talpiot Tomb conference in January.

Excerpts from this story:

In a peer-reviewed article published last month in the prestigious Annals of Applied Statistics, Andrey Feuerverger places the odds of the 2,000-year-old tomb not belonging to the Jesus family at 1 in 1,600.This figure is even more bullish than the 1-in-600 figure that Dr. Feuerverger calculated a year ago, when interviewed for The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a $4-million documentary produced by James Cameron and directed by Toronto’s Simcha Jacobovici…

For years, archeologists attempted to deflect speculation about the tomb, saying that the names inscribed on the Talpiot ossuaries were common to the period. But Dr. Feuerverger’s analysis rejects that argument, noting that while the individual names might have been common, this specific cluster of names so resonant of the New Testament is not. Indeed, in January, at a symposium with about 50 academics in Jerusalem, no one made the case for commonality.Instead, opponents have challenged Dr. Feuerverger’s historical assumptions, notably that the unusual Greek name Mariamne found on one of the ossuaries is an appropriate designation for Mary Magdalene.

But even discounting the Mariamne assumptions, Dr. Feuerverger’s 51-page paper says that the tomb has a 0.48 chance of belonging to Jesus. That means, says James Tabor, head of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, “that if we had two tombs to examine, one of them would be the Jesus tomb. With Feuerverger’s paper in print, a more responsible discussion of the Talpiot tomb name frequencies and statistics can take place.”…

University of Detroit professor Jane Schaberg, one of the world’s ranking experts on Mary Magdalene, says it is “quite possible, even probable,” that the inscription on that ossuary describes Magdalene and adds that the tomb “may very well belong to Jesus and his followers, as opposed to Jesus and his family. My gut tells me it’s a movement site.”

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