Among the chief objections made to filmmaker James Cameron's claim that he may have located the tomb of Jesus is that the names found on the ossuaries were common in that time and place. I wondered a few days ago, how common?
James Dobson's Focus on the Family cites a Liberty University professor: "But Gary Habermas, a professor at Liberty University who specializes in resurrection research, said finding burial boxes with those names doesn't establish anything. He told Family News in Focus as many as half of Jewish girls at that time were named Mary, and Jesus was a common name as well.
1 Simon/Simeon 243 (9.3%)2 Joseph 218 (8.3%)3 Eleazar 166 (6.3%)4 Judah 164 (6.25%)5 John/Yohanan 122 (4.65%)6 Jesus 99 (3.8%)7 Hananiah 82 (3.1%)8 Jonathan 71 (2.7%)9 Matthew 62 (2.4%)10 Manaen/Menahem 42 (1.6%)
Of 328 Palestinian females, the top four names were distributed this way:
1 Mary/Mariamne 70 (21.3%)2 Salome 58 (17.7%)3 Shelamzion 24 (7.32%)4 Martha 20 (6.1%)
Now, we aren't interested in calculating the odds of a particular man named Joseph marrying a particular woman named Mary. What we want to know is what is the likelihood of any man named Joseph marrying any woman named Mary. I'm going to neglect that some of the women named Mary are post-menopausal, and unlikely to be the object of Joseph's interest. I'm going to neglect, also, that some of the men named Joseph are fat, rowdy beer-drinkers that no sweet young thing would be interested in. And, I'm going to make the improbable assumption that everybody marries.
0.083 x 0.21 = 0.0174, or 1.74%
Slightly less than 2% of the married couples in Palestine have the names Joseph and Mary.Next, let's make the improbable assumptions that:
- All of those marriages yield children, and
- The distribution of male and female children is exactly equal, e.g., 50 male children born for every 50 female children born.
The likelihood of a married couple with the names Joseph and Mary producing a male child is then 0.0174 x 0.5 = 0.0087, or 0.87%.