Statisticians helped 'Jesus tomb' filmmakers

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NEW YORK -- To resolve the question of whether the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdalene may have rested in two limestone boxes discovered in a Jerusalem suburb, the filmmakers of a new documentary took novel approaches —- including turning to statisticians.

Some religious scholars and archaeologists, however, have not been convinced by the numbers.

Filmmakers showed the two boxes on Monday while promoting their documentary,"The Lost Tomb of Jesus," produced by Oscar-winning director James Cameron and airing on the Discovery Channel on March 4...

  • The first of the ossuaries' inscriptions, written in Aramaic, reads,"Yeshua bar Yosef," or"Jesus son of Joseph."

  • The second, in Hebrew, reads,"Maria."

  • The third, in Hebrew, reads,"Matia," or"Matthew."

  • The fourth inscription, in Hebrew, reads,"Yose," a nickname for"Yosef," or"Joseph."

  • The fifth, in Greek, reads,"Mariamene e Mara," which the filmmakers said means"Mary the master" or"Mary the teacher."

  • The sixth, in Aramaic, reads,"Yehuda bar Yeshua," or Judah son of Jesus."

  • [Toronto filmmaker Simcha] Jacobovici said the ossuaries did not initially seem extraordinary because the names were all common.

    But the filmmakers had statisticians calculate the likelihood that any other family in first-century Jerusalem would have had that cluster of names.

    "The numbers range from 1 in 100 to 1 in 1,000 that there is some other family," said Andrey Feuerverger, a professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto.

    Related Links

  • 'Lost Tomb of Jesus' press conference (60-slides)
  • Israel may open 'Jesus tomb' to public (Jerusalem Post)
  • True or not, `Lost Tomb' tale is never dull (preview in Toronto Star TV column)
  • The 'Lost Tomb of Jesus' Nonsense (L. Brent Bozell III)
  • Is this the biggest archaeological story of the century? (selected views of New Zealand Herald readers)
  • Official website of"Lost Tomb of Jesus"

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    Beth elana p - 2/28/2007

    Here's the official site about the finds, the research, the history, and debates. There's also original footage: