Ed Christian Ph.D.
Department of English
Kutztown, PA 19530
Perspective Digest, 5/3 (2000):52-56
A “great earthquake” is forecast for either 2000 or 2006! In 2012 the earth will face annihilation by “comet,” but it will be a false alarm! In 2113 a “great terror” will leave the world desolate! In “the end of days” an “atomic holocaust” will be narrowly averted! That’s what Michael Drosnin says the Bible reveals.
Did God place a secret code in the Old Testament? Did He know humans would someday invent the computer and discover this code? That’s what some people think. Is that how God works?
In his 1997 bestseller The Bible Code (New York: Simon & Schuster), Drosnin claims that this code reveals the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and Saddam Hussein’s attack on Israel (both the date and the kind of weapons). By letting the computer adjust the number of letters in each line of text, then treating the result as a giant word search puzzle, using what are known as “equidistant letter sequences,” the author finds that the Bible reveals the future. (In some of these sequences, the letters are equidistant, but separated by over 13,000 other letters. No wonder we had to wait for computers to be invented!)
One of the most popular purveyors of prophecy, Grant Jeffrey, wrote about this code in 1996 in The Signature of God (Toronto: Frontier Research). Both that and his 1998 book, The Mysterious Bible Codes (Nashville: Word), have been bestsellers in the religious market. Drosnin is a secular Jew, and he doesn’t look for Jesus in the code. Jeffrey claims that the Hebrew name for Jesus, “Yeshua,” is found encoded throughout the Old Testament. So are the names of the twelve disciples, and much more.
Where did this code come from? Exodus 32:16 says, “[T]he writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.” Hidden in that verse, however, revealed by the code, is the phrase “it was made by computer.” The law of God on the tablets of stone was computer generated!
My friend Ron du Preez points out that on p.179 Drosnin writes, “The message of the Bible code is that we can save ourselves.” I agree with Ron that “this anti-Christian statement should end the debate about the merits or demerits of this spellbinding but heretical work.”
Nevertheless, a multitude of Christians are investigating the Bible Code, even while reviling Drosnin’s take on the code’s message. Thousands have purchased the software that allows them to do their own word searches. I received e-mail from one man who claims to have found Ellen White and every General Conference president in the Old Testament. In that case, it must surely come from God, right?
I don’t question Grant Jeffrey’s commitment to Christianity, even though his livelihood depends on popularizing a steady stream of poorly documented and highly questionable “Astonishing Biblical Discoveries.” However, he is gullible, he’s no scholar, and he is unwittingly leading many of his readers into the arms of a supernatural counterfeit of God and His ways.
Perhaps you have already read these books, used the computer program, and are an enthusiast. Perhaps you are about to stop reading. First, let me explain why I take this stance. Perhaps you will change your mind.
For about two years, Lori Eldridge ran the “Torah Code Archives” as part of Jack Van Impe’s “Prophezine” web site. She was a true believer, and her web page was very popular. Then she turned against the code. She explains why in her article “Why I’m No Longer Researching the Codes.” When she read the research of Hebrew scholar Dr. James D. Price, she had the guts to do an about-face, despite her embarrassment, and give up her research.
What did Price discover? He explains in three brief articles, “Self-Contradicting ‘Codes,'” “God is False? ‘Codes,’” and “Two More Negative ‘Codes’“. What Price did was to take assertions about God, supposedly discovered in the Bible Code in Hebrew, restate them as negatives, and see if they too were in the Bible. In every case they were.
Using the Bible Code, Price writes, one finds the Hebrew phrase translated “Jehovah is a liar” eight times. “Jehovah is dead” occurs twenty-three times. “There is no Jehovah,” Price writes, “occurs dozens of times in the Torah,” as does “There is no God.” Price also found the phrases “Satan is Jehovah” and “Satan is God.”
How can a Christian continue to work with these supposedly God-given codes after reading this? Price has also used the Bible Code software to find six thousand Hebrew words (of the 9,597 in the Old Testament) merely in Isaiah 53. Other scholars report that if one uses the criteria used in the Bible Code, one can find just about any prophetic message one looks for in a few pages of just about any secular writing. By this light, the code doesn’t seem nearly so inspired or prophetic.
How does the Bible Code work? It’s a giant ‘find the word’ puzzle with a number of tricks which make it easier to find the words you’re looking for. These tricks should be apparent to someone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew, but in Drosnin’s book the Hebrew letters are shown in the code samples, but they are never analyzed. He never mentions whether the “word” he finds is generally translated the way he translates it, or whether his way is an unusual alternative with many more likely translations. For example, the word he translates “assassin” in connection with Yitzak Rabin’s assassination is generally translated “murder” or “murderer” in the Bible. While some of the discoveries seem unlikely, difficult to account for, here are some things to bear in mind when considering the validity of the code:
1. In finding the code, the Torah or some other text is placed on the computer-equivalent of a cylinder which can be expanded or contracted until a match is found. With every letter added to the horizontal length of the lines, a whole new set of words becomes possible vertically and diagonally (they remain the same horizontally). The reference to the ten commandments being computer-generated is found in a segment only ten letters wide, whereas some words have letters spaced chapters apart—which can be juxtaposed only by expanding the cylinder to a thousand letters or more in width.
2. The hardest part to find is a person’s name, but given that the name can be read in any direction, with any number of equidistant spaces between the letters, and that the computer can adjust the line length, and that any possible variation of spelling is allowed, and that abbreviations, initials, and nicknames are allowed, the wonder would be if any name could not be found. Code researchers generally find the name vertically by expanding or contracting the line length, then look for the words around it.
3. The Hebrew used for code research is “unvocalized,” it does not use vowel pointings, but Drosnin uses the letters aleph, ayin, waw, and yod as semi-vowels where convenient. These semi-vowels can be used to approximate a number of vowels (yod might represent IH, EE, EYE, EH, EI, for example). Thus, exact spelling is not essential—”sounds similar” is close enough. If none of these semi-vowels occur, the word is simply read without vowels. (For example, President Clinton’s name is spelled Q L Y N T W N. “President” is N S Y A which means “leader” or “ruler” and is in fact the Hebrew word for “president” today, though it could also be seen as “Nazi.” “Hitler” is found as H Y T L R, and “Nazi” as N A DZ Y. “Shakespeare” occurs as Sh Q S P Y R, “Macbeth” as M Q B T, and “Hamlet” as HMLT. Note the cavalier attitude toward vowels.)
4. In giving the computer names to search for, every possible spelling is used, whether or not the spelling has ever been used. This increases the likelihood of a match. Also, usually the words used are Hebrew, but sometimes they are English (names).
5. Without vowel points, a three letter Hebrew root may have many meanings, thus perhaps quintupling the likelihood of a match. For example, the Hebrew root ‘Ayin–Lamed–He, “‘LH,” with one set of vowels, can mean to ascend or break or excel or fall or offer (and many more), or with different vowels it means “holocaust” or “burnt offering”; or with yet other vowels it means a branch or leaf, or with other vowels it means occasion, or, with other vowels, iniquity. But Drosnin translates words in whatever way seems convenient for the meaning he wants to find.
6. Many modern Hebrew words are based on old words with ancient but related meanings. This makes it easier to find ‘modern’ words in the ancient text, even though when written, the words did not have the modern meanings. For example, the word for missile.
7. Hebrew has letters which represent different sounds but might be transliterated in English by the same letter. For example, he and heth might both be represented by an H, but the latter has a gutteral CH sound. Kaph and Qoph might be written as K, Q, or C. Taw and teth might both be written as a T. Samech, sin, shin, and zayin all might be seen as S sounds. These are not used interchangeably in Hebrew, nor do scholars who transliterate Hebrew in books and articles use them interchangeably, but they are in the Bible Code, whenever convenient. This increases the chance of a match.
8. The letter field used is not made up of random letters, but of Hebrew words without vowels. This increases the chance of a horizontal match in Hebrew, of course, even if one rearranges the letters. That is to say, on any page, whatever the line length, there will be many Hebrew words already there, read right to left. Read left to right, some of these words have other meanings. If one begins with the second letter in a word rather than the first letter, one may get yet more words.
9. The dates are based on a letter / number code in which each letter represents a number. As the Torah is all letters, this also makes a match more likely. Also, modern Hebrew dates often leave off the millennium number (1891 would be written, in Hebrew letters, 891). Thus, Drosnin’s finding of dates such as “2013” could as well be 1013 or 3013. He never explains this to his readers. Imagine finding your name in code on one page of the Bible and assuming that any word on that page—out of context, backwards or forward, up or down or diagonal—is God’s prophetic word about your life.
10. Most “pages” have a thousand or more letters to choose from, nearly every three of which constitute a Hebrew word root, in any direction. The chance of finding something somewhat significant on a page with a name on it is quite high. If nothing is found, perhaps the computer might find the name elsewhere.
The Bible Code is a modern day equivalent of the “mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter” and who are forbidden to God’s people. We don’t need a secret code when we have God’s clear word: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Is 8:19–20, NIV & KJV). The Bible Code fails the test.