The Bible Codes
Another great controversy is raging
between the religious and scientific communities. Seventy years
ago the question was whether the theory of evolution could be
taught in the state of Tennessee. Those who accepted a literal
interpretation of the Bible insisted that the earth, and all life
upon it, was created in seven literal days. The scientific
community said that was all a myth, and that the theory of
evolution was their best guess as to how the various species of
life appeared on the earth. The religious folk looked upon the
scientists as totally Godless men, while the scientists viewed
the Creationists as uneducated fools.
In 1925 a young school teacher, John T. Scopes, was arrested and charged with violating a Tennessee state law that prohibited the teaching of evolution in the public schools. He was brought to trial. The prosecutor in the case was a famous lawyer, politician (unsuccessful presidential candidate), and orator, William Jennings Bryan. Another famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow defended Scopes. Both men volunteered their services. It was called The Great Monkey Trial, and the entire nation was eager to hear the latest news about the proceedings. John Scopes was found guilty as charged. The state supreme court overturned his conviction, but upheld the state law forbidding the teaching of evolution. In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court declared a similar law unconstitutional.
Today, in addition to the controversy concerning creation vs. evolution, an even bigger issue is looming. It is about whether the Bible contains hidden codes that could only have been placed there by an intelligence far greater than that which any man possesses. In other words, the question at hand is; do these Bible Codes prove that an all-knowing God wrote the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
This is a most fascinating topic, and one that has captured the attention of large numbers of people, of all educational backgrounds. Some argue that if the Bible Codes are truly encoded in the Scriptures by a Creator God, then man will no longer have any excuse for ignoring the plain teachings of the Bible. Yet many people remain totally skeptical, believing there must be some other explanation. They say that either the codes do not prove what they seem to prove, or there is some statistical flaw in the research work that has been done that has yet to be uncovered.
~ Current Books ~
Although Israeli researchers have been working on the Bible Codes for many years, the past year has seen the publication of a number of books that deal with the subject. This writer has reviewed the two most popular of these books, along with a handful of articles on the subject. These books are:
The Bible Code
by Michael Drosnin
pub. by, Simon & Schuster
New York, 1997
264 pages; US $25.00
Cracking the Bible Code
by Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.
pub. by, William Morrow & Co.
New York, 1997
346 pages; US $23.00
The approach of these two books is
quite different. Drosnins book, The Bible Code, is
by far the easier read of the two. Drosnin is an investigative
reporter who claims -that he does not believe in God, but does
believe in the Bible Codes. He has interviewed a number of the
principal researchers and has learned the Hebrew language so that
he could run his own tests on the Bible Codes. (There is computer
software available so that anyone can do code research. The catch
is, you must know how to read Hebrew and how to correctly
translate English words into Hebrew.) Drosnin has been working on
this project for several years, so he is not a newcomer to the
The Bible Code has become an international best seller since its publication last spring. It has already been translated into several other languages. However, some people feel that Drosnin has dealt with the Codes in the way a newsstand tabloid would do. The researchers apparently do not like the fact that he tries to predict the future through his own code research. They feel the purpose of the Codes is for people to know that God is God, and that He wrote the Torah, and that people need to recognize that fact. They do not see the purpose of the Codes to be a way to accurately predict the immediate future.
Jeffrey Satinover is the man who wrote the original article for Bible Review magazine. It was this article that brought the code research to the attention of the general public. Satinovers book, Cracking the Bible Codes, takes a much different approach, as it is far more technical. He goes to great lengths to explain the way the codes are found in the text, the history of code research, and the statistical information behind the codes that are explored in the book. Satinover points out that the codes were known to exist anciently, but they were very difficult to find until computers became powerful enough to take over the task.
Satinovers book is not always an easy read, especially for those who do not have a fairly good background in mathematics and/or statistics. Yet he does make every effort to explain, in laymans terms, the significance of the statistical evidence that has given scientific credence to the existence of the Bible Codes.
~ Bible Cryptology ~
Before the advent of television, it
was common to listen to the radio for home entertainment. When I
was a boy there was a whole series of fifteen minute radio
serials for children that ran in the late afternoon, between the
end of school and the dinner hour. Many of these were a mild form
of adventure drama. I can remember being a regular listener to
What I really waited for was the end of the program when a secret message would be given. Listeners (and especially parents) would not know what the secret message was unless they had the Captain Midnight Decoder Badge. The badge consisted of two scrambled English alphabets printed in two circles, one inside of the other. The inside ring had a knob on it so that it could be rotated. Before the secret message was given the announcer would give a code setting. Something like; "Set the letter "c" of your inside ring to line up with on the outside ring." Then he would read off a number of letters which you would jot down on a piece of paper. Once you had made the proper setting of the inside ring, you could translate the letters the announcer had given you into a valid message. Usually the message had some commercial to it like; "Eat Kix cereal."
Of course each year brought a new decoder badge, and you could not translate that years messages unless you had the new badge. When cleaning out my mothers house, after her death a few years ago, I found two of my treasured Captain Midnight Decoder Badges.
This was a very simple form of the science of cryptology, the establishing and breaking of secret codes. The science of cryptology was instrumental in the Allies winning World War 11, for they became very adept at breaking the German and Japanese codes.
What most people do not know is that cryptology has its origins in the Kabbalah (Kahb-bah-lah), the ancient book of Jewish mysticism. It was the Kabbalists study of the secrets found in the Scriptures, that led them to discern that they contained hidden messages, or codes. Indeed, the Bible Codes are a form of cryptology.
Today the primary researchers in the Bible Codes are highly intelligent Jewish men who are trained in higher mathematics and/or physics. A good share of those associated with this work either were, or have become, practicing orthodox Jews. In a few cases they came to the code work as agnostics or atheists, but became believers in God because of what they found in the codes.
~ Locating Bible Codes ~
Specifically, the Bible Codes
consist of words, or groupings of related words, that occur
within the Hebrew text at specific letter sequences. For example,
if they are looking for the name of Aaron, the first High Priest
of Israel, they would begin a search for his name () at some
specific point in the Torah. First they would locate the initial
Hebrew letter of his name, an aleph (). (Remember,
Hebrew reads from right to left.) Then they would check to see
where the next letter of his name, a hay () appeared. For
example, let us assume the second letter appeared five letters
from the first. Establishing five letters as a possible interval,
they would then check five letters after the second letter to see
if the third letter of Aarons name, a reysh (), appeared
there. If indeed the reysh appeared at that specific spot they
would count another five letters and look for a nun (noon), in
either its regular () or final form (). if this
letter also appeared in the sequence, they have found the name of
Aaron encoded at a five letter equidistant letter sequence
or ELS. If the full name of Aaron did not appear at any ELS from
the first aleph (), the code search program would go to the next aleph
in the plaintext (plaintext = the regular Bible text) and begin
another search from there. Of course, all of this is done by
To find ELS words all spaces are removed from the text. Thus, the Torah becomes a giant string of 700,000+ Hebrew characters, just as it was originally written. ELS words can occur in either direction on the string. That is, the word can run from right to left (the way Hebrew reads) or backwards, (left to right).
Once a word is found, the section in which it occurs can be laid out in a rectangular form so that the located word lies in a vertical format. For example, if the name Aaron is found at ten letter intervals, you might want to lay out a grid that has 10 character lines. This will cause the word to appear in a vertical position. (The following example is given in English for easier understanding.)
XXXXXXAXXX XXXXXXAXXX XXXXXXRXXX XXXXXXOXXX XXXXXXNXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX
In this position it is possible to look for other hidden words which might be near by that have a connecdon with the key word just found.
XXXXXXAXXX XXXXXXAPXX XXXXXXRXXX XXXXXIOXXX XXXXEXNXXX XXXSXXXXXX XXTXXXXXXX
In this example the word PRIEST is not only found in close proximity to the name AARON, it actually intersects his name. PRIEST is found in an ELS of eleven letter spacing. Thus the Torah becomes one giant Bible Codes crossword puzzle.
~ Multiple Occurrences ~
It is important to understand that
just finding a name or word encoded in ELS does not mean anything
by itself, for any Hebrew word can probably be found at some ELS
within the 700,000+ letters of the Torah. However, the codes
become significant, from a statistical point of view, when a key
word occurs many more times than would be expected by chance
within a specific area of scripture.
This type of ELS significance is demonstrated by the coded appearance of the name Aaron a large number of times within the opening passage of the book of Leviticus. This particular passage concerns the rules being laid down for the priesthood, so one would expect to find Aarons name in this vicinity. Aaron himself is not mentioned once in the plaintext of this passage, although his name is referred to several times in the phrase; "sons of Aaron." A random set of four letters would be expected to be found coded only eight times within this chapter of 716 letters. However, the name of Aaron was found ELS encoded a total of 25 times. The probability of finding this many occurrences of the name Aaron within this passage is calculated to be 1 in 400,000.
~ Related Word Clusters ~
Another type of code is found when significantly related words are clustered within a passage. An example of this type of coding is found in the passage Genesis 1:29-2:16. It begins with a verse about the plants that are good for food:
"And God said, See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food."
Within this single passage are
embedded the names of the seven species of seed-bearing plants
found in Israel.
They are: barley, wheat, vine, date, olive, fig and pomegranate.
Overlapping this passage is another which runs from Genesis 2:7 through 3:3.
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
Thus begins the passage about Adam and Eves brief stay in the Garden of Eden, and their experience with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Within this passage are found encoded all twenty-five of the trees said to traditionally be found in Israel. They are: wheat, vine, grape, chestnut, thicket, date palm, acacia, boxthorn, cedar, pistachio, fig, willow, pomegranate, aloe, tamarisk, oak, poplar, cassia, almond, terebinth, thornbush, hazel, olive, citron and gopherwood. While we would not classify some of these plants as trees, this is the traditional classification from ancient Jewish sources, based on the Hebrew word translated as trees. The odds of finding all twenty-five of these trees within this passage are said to be 1 in 100,000.
~ Clusters That Add ~
~ Information ~
Another type of word cluster
includes words which add significant information to a key word.
These are especially important when dealing with historical
information that is unrelated to the scripture passage itself.
An example of this type of word cluster is found in some of the Bible Code tests that have been run. The classic test involved taking the names of thirty-four of the greatest Jewish sages (all of whom lived in the 9th to 18th centuries) and looking for their names in the book of Genesis along with their birth and/or death dates. Obviously, if a mere man wrote the Torah he could not possibly have known who these sages would be, much less when the were born or died.
Jeffrey Satinover relates the criteria for the experiment:
"1. Names of Great Sages would be selected according to some arbitrary criterion that would limit the data set, but could in no way influence the outcome. The first criterion would simply be that the names were all of those Gedolim with text entries three columns long or longer from a scholarly Hebrew-language biographical reference, Encyclopedia of Great Men in Israel.
"2. Then, only those names were used for which a date of death or a date of birth or both were given.
"3. From this smaller subset, only names within a certain size range were used because of technical limitations. (This additional selection process would not affect the outcome, ...)
"4. Each date (whether of birth or death or both) was written in three standardized Hebrew-language formats, ..." (p. 200)
Satinover tells us the results of this test were astounding.
"Although the purpose of the experiment was to pare down the unwieldy mass of varying kinds of amazing findings, and homogenize them, the result was actually a testable hypothesis that was even more amazing than what had preceded it: that, on average, properly matched names and dates belonging to any one individual will be found as ELSs in Genesis in closer proximity to one another than improperly matched names and dates; or than in control texts; or than would be expected merely by chance.
"It is the implication of all this that is so astounding: that the names and dates of Great Sages will be found encoded in Genesis in such a way that the text displays an extraordinarily high degree of foreknowledge as to details of their lives. That knowledge was embedded in the text many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years before those people ever existed.
"The positive results astonished even the Israelis themselves. The odds of what they found having occurred merely by chance were astronomically small." (pp 20 1-202.)
The odds of finding this kind of
information clustered in this manner by mere chance is said to be
I in 50,000.
It was this particular test which was written up and submitted to the U.S. journal, Statistical Science, a review journal of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. It was published in August, 1994 (vol. 9, no. 3). The authors of the article were Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg.
It took more than three years for a serious scientific rebuttal to the Great Sages experiment to be published. This was done in June, 1997 by Brendon McKay of Australia and Dror Bar-Natan of Hebrew University. According to Satinover they posted their results on the Internet.
"They perform a set of experiments identical to that of Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg, using the same list of rabbis but with a new set of variations in the form of the dates of birth and/or death, devised according to different criteria than in the original. ... Their conclusion is as follows: In each case, the result was unambiguously negative. No indication of any extraordinary phenomenon was found.
"But this is not the end of the story. ... Harold Gans had received the corrected list of cities and rerun his experiment: the P-value actualLy improved. ... (ed. note: P-value is a way of expressing the odds against such an occurrence happening by chance.) Witztum and Rips promptly found at least fourteen errors of fact and spelling in the new data set compiled by McKay and Bar-Natan. When the errors were corrected, the experiment produced a p< 1/1,000 -- if accurate, this would constitute the first truly outside validation of the phenomena, by openly hostile critics, no less." (pp. 262-263).
Certainly the arguing and testing will continue for a very long time, as it should in a scientific setting.
~ More Background ~
According to Jewish tradition, the
first five books of the Bible were given to Moshe
(Mow-shay = Moses) during the time he spent with God on Mount
Sinai. It is said that God dictated the Torah to Moshe
letter by letter, without any spacing or punctuation. Thus, the
original Torah scrolls, or stone engravings, contained a
single continuous string of Hebrew letters. This method of
writing is called; scripta continua.
"hereisanexampleinenglish" = "Here is an example
Not only was Moshe given the entirety of the Torah (over 700,000 letters) in one continuous string, it is said that he was also given the correct understanding of where each word, sentence, paragraph and book break came in the text. Not only was it all written in one continuous string, the original Hebrew had no letters or markings that represented vowels. The entire language was written without vowels. "hrsnxmplnnglsh" = "Here is an example in English."
Today, much Hebrew is still written without vowel markings, however, it is written with word breaks. For someone just beginning to learn Hebrew, the lack of vowels makes it almost impossible to read. Therefore, most beginning Hebrew texts use a system of vowel pointing so one will know how to correctly pronounce the words.
Vowel points were added to the Hebrew Scriptures sometime after the time of Yeshua. This was done after the destruction of the Temple by the Sopherim (So-fir-eem = Scribes), so that the correct pronunciation and meaning of the scriptures would not be lost. Word breaks were probably placed in the text sometime during or after the time of Ezra.
Archaeologists have discovered ancient parchments written in scripta continua. The most unusual of these ancient finds is the entire book of Ezekiel carved on sixty-four marble and granite tablets, in raised letters. (Can you imagine the amount of time and effort it took to carve Hebrew in raised letters?) These tablets were discovered in Iraq during Israels War of Independence (1948). They were brought to Israel and, according to Satinover, are now ...on display in a little known facility in Jerusalem."
Jewish tradition claims that Moshe was told by God what the correct pronunciations and divisions of words and thoughts were to be. This is one of the claims they make to validate the Oral Torah. (The verbal instructions which they believe God gave to Moshe, in addition to the written Torah.) Without these oral instructions, it would be impossible to have a correct understanding of the written Scriptures.
Is this really true? Well, consider how difficult it would be if English had no vowels or vowel markings to tell us how to pronounce a word. Taking the two consonants; n and t, and putting them together without vowels produces nt. Now, inserting each of the five English vowels between these two consonants produces a number of very different English words: nat, net, nit, not, and nut." Adding another vowel to the end of each word produces more words: "nate, nete, nite, note, and nute.
Now, let us construct a very simple sentence: "I have a nt," by insetting some of the legitimate words into this sentence. The result is a number of sentences with a variety of meanings:
"I have a net."
"I have a nit."
"I have a not."
"I have a nut.'
"I have a note."
As you can see, it is absolutely essential to have the correct vowels and word spacing in order to have the correct understanding of the text.
~ Correct Rendering ~
Is it possible for one to be sure that the current understanding of the Hebrew scriptures is the correct rendering of them? The Jewish Priests, Levites and Scribes, who returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity, did have a correct understanding of the Scriptures, for among the people that God sent back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and restore divine service, was a chosen vessel, Ezra the Scribe.
"... this Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.
"For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel"
On the first day of the seventh month (Rosh HaShanah = Feast of Trumpets), the people came together at the Temple Mount to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
"Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel.
"So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, of men and women and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of the people were attentive to the Book of the Law....
"And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, Amen, Amen! while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
"Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading."
The primary reason the Jews had been
sent into captivity was because of their sins of idolatry and
breaking the Sabbath. It was during the time they were in exile
that God required them to purge their worship of all idolatry and
to learn how to keep the Sabbath holy (separate). In order to do
this, they had to revive the ancient understandings of the
Scriptures by "... rightly dividing the word of
truth." (II Tim. 2:15).
When Yeshua appeared on the scene some 400 + years later, new problems had arisen within the practice of the Jewish community. However, idolatry, Sabbath breaking and a wrong rendering of the Scriptures were not among those problems addressed by Yeshua. For example, they were so strict concerning the Sabbath that some of them accused Yeshua of breaking it.
~ A Divine Charge ~
The Brit Chadasha (Breet Hahdah-shah = Renewed Covenant or New Testament), confirms that the Jews were given responsibility for maintaining the scriptures.
"What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?
"Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God."
Have the Jews accepted this charge
and been faithful to it? Most all Torah scholars answer
in the affirmative. Comparing modern Torah scrolls with
the most ancient relics available, shows an absolutely remarkable
consistency at the individual letter level. In other
words, they have not only maintained the sense (or meaning) of
each passage, they have actually held each letter to be sacred,
as having come directly from the mouth of God.
Jeffrey Satinover also addresses this issue in his book. He says there exist about 130 transmission errors in the entirety of the Torah. Considering the fact that the Torah contains over 700,000 letters, and the transmission has been taking place for about 3500 years, that is a remarkable feat.
Consider also the fact that Yeshua never Questioned the validity of the Scriptures as they existed in His day. He quoted from them regularly and at length. What Yeshua condemned in some of the Scribes, Pharisees, and Saducees, was their lack of love and compassion for their fellow Jews, especially those who were poor and in need. He condemned those who interpreted the customs and traditions in a way that added "... burdens hard to bear ..." (Luke 11:46).
In addition, Yeshua had this to say about the validity of the Torah as it existed in His day:
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."
The word jot in the
Greek is iota. Its equivalent in Hebrew is the yod
( ), the
smallest letter in the language. The word tittle is keraia
in Greek and stands for the decorations found on the Hebrew
letters. This is an example of the letter "I" as found
in the type style used in this publication. This is an example of
the letter "I" found in a different type style. This
second I does not have the little decorative lines on
the top and bottom of the letter. What Yeshua was saying
is that not even these little decorative lines will disappear
from the Hebrew text of the Torah until "all is
The Masoretic Hebrew version of the Torah that we have today is so close to being perfect that we need have no doubt about its validity. The problem is not with the text, it is with our limited understanding of what it means and what it is telling us we should be doing.
~ Emendations ~
According to Satinover, it would
take seventy-seven destructive changes to the text of
the Torah to make the text invalid for finding Bible
Codes within it. A destructive change consists of the
adding or deleting of letters.
Changing letters will only effect the outcome of the codes if the word being searched has one of its letters fall on that specific change.
The 97-2 issue of Hebrew Roots contained an article entitled: Emendations of the Sopherim, in which were listed all of the places in the Hebrew Scriptures where the Sopherim (Scribes) had altered the name of God (YHVH) and substituted the word Adonai. However, YHVH ( ) and Adonai ( ) both contain four Hebrew letters.
Therefore, the Bible Code counts will not be affected by the emendations of The Name. Only if an individual codeword letter falls within one of the modified Names will it effect the reading of that single code. There are only thirteen places in the Torah where this change has been made. This number of substitutions is not considered sufficient to make for a significant change in the reliability of the codes. In this writers opinion, it could actually improve the codes if the emendations were corrected.
In the 97-4 issue of Hebrew Roots we published an article entitled: More Emendations. Here we explored the places where the Sopherim actually changed the sense of the Scriptures in twenty-six places, only three of which are found in the Torah. While these changes may have involved adding or deleting letters, the quantity is not sufficient to cause the codes to destruct.
Thus we can see, that the emendations the Sopherim made to the Torah fall far short of the seventy-seven destructive changes that would be needed to invalidate the codes.
~ What Does It All Mean? ~
There is much more to the story. We
have only just begun to explore some of the actual codes that
have been discovered hidden in the text. God willing, the next
issue of Hebrew Roots will explore more of the codes and
discuss whether or not the Bible Codes point to Yeshua
as Messiah, and whether the codes can and/or should be used to
predict the future.
To be continued...
~ Sources ~
Drosnin, Michael, The Bible Code,
Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997.
The Open Bible, The New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1985.
Maoz Newsletter, Bible Code: Is It Real?, Maoz, Box 763100, Dallas, TX 75376, October, 1997.
Maoz Newsletter, The Bible Code: Can It Predict the Future?, Maoz, Box 763100, Dallas, TX 75376, November, 1997.
Satinover, Jeffrey, M.D., Cracking the Bible Code, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1997.
Strong, James, S.T.D., L.L.D., Strongs New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa Falls, 1986.
Wigram, George V., The Englishmans Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1960.
Wigram-Green, The New Englishmans Greek Concordance and Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1982.
He who throws dirt
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