Statisticians clarify “Without Mary Magdalene . . . “

“Another revelation concerned Andrey Feuerverger, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Toronto, who had done the initial statistical study that concluded a 600:1 probability in favor of the tomb being the Jesus family tomb. At the conference, Professor Feuerverger revealed for the first time that his statistical model has now been peer-reviewed and accepted by the leading statistical journal Annals of Applied Statistics and will be published in their first issue of 2008 in February.” Marketwire (press release) January 17, 2008

Even the “Yeshua? bar Yehosef” inscription does not help the cause. Feuerverger estimates that statistically, with an average of 25 bodies occurring in each tomb (that’s low according to Joe Zias), there should be one “Yeshua bar Yehosef” in every 10 tombs. With a minimum estimate of 1,000 tombs in the area around Jerusalem, there should be at least 100 individuals by that name among the city’s tombs. Two of these individuals have been discovered thus far. There must be many more (even among the unidentified bones among the uninscribed ossuaries of the area).

“Without Mary Magdalene the tomb is like any other tomb with an unremarkable common set of names”. “This is not my expertise. It is up to the epigraphers to prove that this is or is not the ossuary of Mary Magdalene.”

James Cameron:

Mary Magdalene: “the missing piece, the Ringo

Press Conference at the New York Public Library, March 2007

“Now, the missing piece was provided by Simcha, and I just want to say right now, Simcha is the real live Indiana Jones of this project, and he’s, although he will quite humbly, immediately say that he’s not an archaeologist, he happens to know so much about archaeology and, you know, Biblical history that he can compete with them in a conversation without flagging, for hours on end, and as a documentary filmmaker, he has the instincts of an absolute bloodhound. And when he got wind of the fact that there were these ossuaries with these names, he was able through his research group to find the missing piece of information, which is that Mariamne is, according to certain Christian texts, of the early Christian texts such as the Acts of Phillip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mariamne is the name of Mary Magdalene. So that’s the missing piece, that’s the Ringo, and that’s what set this whole investigation in motion. Now, every film is a journey, every investigation is a journey, and this journey took us into places we didn’t think it was going to go – and I’ll let Simcha unveil some of the aspects of that.”

However at this Symposium:

on Maria/Mariame/Mariamenou (repeat)

The epigraphers on hand, J. Price and S. Pfann agreed on the letter by letter reading of the inscription on the so-called Mary Magdalene ossuary, though they did not agree on the presence of two scribal hands (note, however, that Pfann provided evidence from microscopic photos for the two hands). Both Price and Pfann read: MAPIAMH KAI MAPA (or MAPIAM H KAI MAPA). Either way, both agreed that the names are common forms of Mary and that the all-important and unusual form Mariamne (with an “N”) is not to be found in this inscription, as the original catalogue incorrectly reads and the filmmakers insist.

Download “Mary Magdalene is now missing


Gnostic Gospel expert A. DeConick pointed out that “Mariamne” does not actually begin to be used for Mary Magdalene until the 3rd century CE and even then, not exclusively. The Mariamne of the Acts of Philip, used to support the filmmakers’ claim, is actually a composite of two “Mary” characters from the New Testament: Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) and Mary Magdalene. In addition, she is purported to be the sister of Philip, a designation known only from the Gnostic gospels and in tension with the New Testament accounts. S. Pfann pointed out that the sole first-century historical witness to Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus, the New Testament, provides mixed uses of the two names Mariam and Maria for both characters, since every Mary had a formal name “Mariam” and an informal name “Maria” (like Jennifer/Jenny; Kathleen/Kate; Elizabeth/Betty). In the New Testament, Mary the mother of Jesus is designated Mariam 13x and Maria 6x, while Mary Magdalene is called Mariam 4x and Maria 11x. (Note that the scale tips in the opposite direction toward “Maria” for Mary M.) In all cases, the earliest witness Mark uses “Maria” for both women. If anything can be derived from this, it is that if there is indeed a “Lady Mary” in the ossuary, it should refer to the mother of Jesus, rather than to Magdalene (not seriously!).

Link to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Ten scribal errors in three words? One Too Many Mariamenes

In layman’s terms: The Ossuary of RIKEGŒ ¬ “RICH”

“Without Mary Magdalene the tomb is like any other tomb with an unremarkable common set of names.”

Andrey Feuerverger, Mathematician, University of Toronto

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