Is Name Popularity a Good Test of Historicity?

A Statistical Evaluation of Richard Bauckham’s Onomastic Argument

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Kamil Gregor Institute of Greek and Latin Studies, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Search for other papers by Kamil Gregor in
Current site
Google Scholar
Brian Blais Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Bryant University, Smithfield, RI, USA

Search for other papers by Brian Blais in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



In Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham argues that the popularity of personal names in Gospels-Acts corresponds remarkably well to name popularity among late ancient Palestinian Jews and that this can only be the case if Gospels-Acts characters are in most cases historical as opposed to invented in the process of ‘anonymous community transmission’. We re-examine Bauckham’s conclusions, asserted with a remarkably high level of confidence but almost entirely without an actual statistical evaluation of his onomastic data, and perform the appropriate statistical analysis on the most recent onomastic dataset. We show that Bauckham’s thesis offers no advantage in explaining the observed correspondence between name popularity in Gospels-Acts and in the contemporary Palestinian Jewish population over an alternative model of ‘anonymous community transmission’. Moreover, our statistical analysis identifies some, albeit weak, evidence against Bauckham’s thesis.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1676 1676 111
Full Text Views 66 66 13
PDF Views & Downloads 173 173 27