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Statistical Analysis of an Archeological Find

"In 1980 a burial tomb was unearthed in Jerusalem containing ossuaries (limestone coffins)bearing such inscriptions as Yeshua son of Yehosef, Marya, Yoseh – names which matchthose of New Testament (NT) figures, but were otherwise in common use. This paperdiscusses certain statistical aspects of authenticating or repudiating links between thisfind and the NT family. The available data are laid out, and we examine the distributionof names (onomasticon) of the era. An approach is proposed for measuring the“surprisingness” of the observed outcome relative to a “hypothesis” that the tombsitebelonged to the NT family. On the basis of a particular – but far from uncontested – setof assumptions, our measure of “surprisingness” is significantly high.Key words and phrases: Jesus of Nazareth; distribution of names; onomasticon; data;statistical inference; conditioning; coincidence; ‘relevance’, ‘rareness’, and ‘surprisingness’;tail areas; historical assumptions; a priori hypotheses and post hoc inference."

Author(s):  Feuerverger, Andrey
Format:  Article
Source:  The Annals of Applied Statstics