O Sepulcro Esquecido de Jesus e a Estatística

Para quem quiser ver algo realmente sério sobre os cálculos estatísticos presentes no caso do Sepulcro Esquecido de Jesus, há uma boa leitura em:

Bayes’ Theorem And The “Jesus Family Tomb”

Publication of the book The Jesus Family Tomb in late February, 2007, sparked a media firestorm. Could it be that the actual tomb of Jesus of Nazareth had been found in a suburb of Jerusalem? The book’s authors, Simcha Jacobovici and Charles Pellegrino, believed it has. The book was followed up by the showing of a related documentary on the Discovery Channel on March 4, 2007.

The reaction to the book/documentary was intense, and things got particularly hot around the blogosphere. A number of folks criticized the probabilities quoted by Simcha and Charlie in the book. Simcha and Charlie alleged that the odds were “600 to 1” that this is in fact the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. As support, they cited the calculations of Prof. Andrey Feuerverger, of the University of Toronto.

I read the book as soon as I could get a copy and thought hard about the calculations presented there. Because I have extensive experience in computing probabilities of such “remarkable events,” I did my own set of calculations and posted them on this web site in an article titled Statistics and the Jesus Family Tomb. My conclusion was that the tomb seemed very unlikely to be the family tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.

The article quickly earned a lot of notice around the web, even getting me several mentions on the blogs of Dr. James Tabor and Dr. Mark Goodacre, two well-known New Testament scholars.

Shortly after my article appeared, I received an email from Jay Cost, a graduate student in political science at the University of Chicago. Jay had written an influential article on the Real Clear Politics web site noting the importance of Bayes’ Theorem to the issue. In his email to me, Jay reiterated his comments on Bayes’ theorem and also asked some pointed questions about my calculations.

That email prompted a long and intense discussion between me and Jay on the statistics of the Jesus family tomb. At first, I was skeptical of his comments, but after doing some analysis, I quickly decided that he was correct — there was more to say about the Jesus family tomb. After many hours of talking, we have fused his ideas with mine. I can now report our conclusions.

I should note that Jay also introduced me to Dr. James Tabor, one of the leading players mentioned in the book The Jesus Family Tomb. Prof. Tabor has strongly urged the academic community to give the tomb hypothesis a fair chance.

I agree. There is nothing to gain by dismissing the whole idea out of hand, merely because it was proposed by a documentary producer. Either the tomb once contained the body of Jesus of Nazareth or it didn’t. Dr. Tabor and I agree that the issue needs to be studied carefully, without fear of where it will lead. We disagree on a number of issues, but he has become a valued friend. Jay and James have also introduced me to a number of other experts on the subject. And a few other experts took the initiative to contact me. Those folks have helped me distinguish between points that are generally agreed on and points subject to judgment calls.


Jay Cost and I have written a detailed report of our analysis and conclusions, which we have published as a PDF file titled: “He Is Not Here” Or Is He? Along with this article, I created a spreadsheet that does all the calculations described in our article. You can easily change the assumptions in the calculations by adjusting numbers in the spreadsheet to see how it affects the results.

Download the PDF document “He is Not Here” Or Is He? to read our detailed analysis.

Download the Excel spreadsheet JesusCalculations.xls to replicate our calculations.

The article is unfortunately a bit technical. If you don’t want to read through all the math, then this page will summarize the line of argument and show you some selected conclusions (cont.).

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