The Bible Code
Is it for real, and if so, does it provide new evidence of the supernatural origin of the Bible?
by Dr. David R. Reagan
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)
The evidence that the Bible is the Word of God is overwhelming to people of faith. We know that it is God's Word first and foremost because of the transforming effect it has had upon our lives. We know first hand the truth of the statement that "the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
There are many other reasons we know the Bible is God's Word. For example, there is the amazing fact of its internal harmony. The Bible is not one book. It is 66 different manuscripts written by 44 different people over a period of 1600 years. Yet, it harmonizes as if it were written by one person — which, of course, it was; for the overriding author who worked through human instruments was the Holy Spirit: "All Scripture is inspired by God..." (2 Timothy 3:16).
Further evidence of the Bible's supernatural origin is to be found in the unique character of its biographies. The great men of God are revealed with unusual candor, warts and all. The histories are written in a blunt, revealing and unbiased way that is not characteristic of human writing. Just flip through the Old Testament histories and look at the judgments that are rendered regarding each king, and you will see what I am talking about.
Of course, one of the most convincing evidences of the Bible's supernatural origin is the fact that it contains prophecies which have been fulfilled in history. The Bible is the only book in the world that serves as the basis of a religion that contains prophecies regarding the future. There are no prophecies in the Koran or in the Hindu Vedras or in the sayings of Confucius or Buddha.
Two other factors that establish the Bible as the Word of God are its unsurpassed wisdom and its advanced medical and scientific knowledge. The Bible's moral and ethical content could not have originated from fallen human nature. Its precepts for daily living are wise beyond human wisdom. And long before science made the discoveries, the Bible contained the fundamental principles of hygiene (Leviticus 13-15) and revealed such things as the shape of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), the existence of ocean currents (psalm 8:8), the hydrological cycle of weather (Ecclesiastes 1:7, 11:3), and the second law of thermodynamics (Romans 8:20-21).
In the 19th Century a new science began to develop that would provide additional evidence of the Bible's historical accuracy — the science of Archeology. The history of Biblical archeology is ironic for it has been dominated by skeptics who have been determined to disprove the Bible. Yet, every time they turn a spade of dirt, they find new evidence that verifies the Bible! They must be the most frustrated group of scientists on planet earth.
Now, many people are pointing to a new discovery called "The Bible Code," claiming that it provides new scientific evidence that the Bible had to have a supernatural origin. Does it? Let's take an in-depth look at it.
The first person we know of who detected a possible code in the Bible was a rabbi by the name of Rabbeynu Bachayah who lived in the 14th Century. He noted that words could be spelled out by skipping letters in equal distant spacing. His concept was picked up by another rabbi at the turn of this Century — a brilliant man by the name of Michael Dov Weissmandel who lived in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He spent years manually counting letters in his search for words and messages. He discovered, for example, that the word "Torah" is spelled out at the beginning of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy when a skip sequence of 50 letters is used. He called this procedure "equidistant letter sequencing," commonly referred to today as "ELS."
In the mid-80's a world famous mathematician in Israel heard about Weissmandel's work and began to investigate it using computers. He was an Orthodox Jew by the name of Eliyahu Rips. He is the one who refined the Code and established its credibility. He did so through an amazing series of experiments.
He and two of his mathematical colleagues decided to run the Code on the book of Genesis to see if they could find three hundred common word associations like husband and wife, hammer and anvil, and tree and leaf. To their amazement, all three hundred were found in the 78,064 characters of Genesis. They wrote up this experiment and published it in a European statistical journal in 1988. They concluded that there is definitely a code in Genesis and that it could not exist by coincidence. In fact, they calculated that the odds of it appearing by coincidence were one in fifty-quadrillion.
Their next experiment was even more amazing. They went to a Jewish encyclopedia and selected the 34 greatest Torah sages (scholars) in Jewish history. They then fed their names into the computer to see if the Code could find them in the book of Genesis. All 34 were found, and in the immediate vicinity of each name was either the date of the person's birth or death. They went back to the encyclopedia and selected 32 more names. They too were found in the book of Genesis a total of 66 names of Torah sages! This research was published in a journal of statistical science here in the United States in 1994. One reviewer concluded that the odds of the names appearing by chance was one in two and a half billion!
To make certain their results were not mere chance, Rips and his team ran the same code searches in other Hebrew documents, including a Hebrew version of Tolstoy's War and Peace. The results were totally non-significant.
The editor of the American journal, Robert Kass, wrote: "Our referees [scientists who reviewed the paper before publication] were baffled. Their prior beliefs made them think the book of Genesis could not possibly contain meaningful references to modern-day individuals. Yet, when the authors carried out additional analyses and checks, the effect persisted. The paper is thus offered to Statistical Science readers as a challenging puzzle."
The research was checked and confirmed by Dr. David Kazhdan, chairman of the Harvard mathematics department and by Harold Gans, a senior code specialist with the U.S. Army. Both concluded that the Torah Code actually exists and that it could not have occurred by chance or by human design.
The Code Goes Public
Until this year few people outside a small circle of mathematicians, Orthodox Jews, and Evangelical Christians knew anything about the Code. What brought it to widespread public attention was the publication of a book by Michael Drosnin called The Bible Code (Simon & Schuster, new York, 1997).
Drosnin is an agnostic Jew who lives in New York City and makes his living as an investigative reporter. He is best known as a biographer of Howard Hughes.
In 1992 Drosnin was in Israel on an assignment when he heard about the Code. He decided to investigate the matter, with the thought in mind of writing an article to debunk it. But when Eliyahu Rips began to show him all that he had uncovered, including a prophecy that gave the exact date that the Gulf War began in 1991, Drosnin's skepticism turned to curiosity. He got a copy of the Code's software and took it back to New York with him. He began experimenting with the Code, and in the process he discovered that the name of Yitzhak Rabin appears only once, at an ELS of 4,772 between chapters 2 and 24 of Deuteronomy. Crossing Rabin's name he found the phrase, "Assassin that will assassinate."
Drosnin was so disturbed by this discovery that he flew to Israel and hand delivered a warning letter to one of Rabin's best friends, asking him to deliver it to the Prime Minister. That was in September of 1994. Rabin read the letter and shrugged his shoulders. "I am not a mystic," he said. Fourteen months later, in November 1995, Rabin was assassinated.
Drosnin's book is filled with amazing findings that he and others have made with the Code. For example, they have found the names of hundreds of world renowned historical figures, and adjacent to their names they have discovered words relevant to their lives. Next to Napoleon's name are the words "France," "Waterloo," and "Elba." Surrounding Shakespeare's name are the words: "presented on stage" — "Hamlet" — "Macbeth."
Every major advance in modern technology appears to be encoded, from the light bulb to the airplane. And the inventor's name appears adjacent to the invention.
A leading mathematician at Yale whose last name is Piatetski-Shapiro performed tests of the Code and was amazed to find "Hitler" and "Nazi" encoded together with the word "slaughter." He found "Eichmann" encoded with the words "the ovens" and "extermination." Even the gas used to kill the Jews, "Zyklon B," was encoded with Eichmann's name. The Yale professor concluded, "There is no way within the known laws of mathematics to explain seeing the future... What we're talking about here is some intelligence that stands outside... I think the only answer is that God exists."
Amazingly, Drosnin has avoided that conclusion. He says, "I am persuaded only that no human could have encoded the Bible in this way. We have the first scientific proof that some intelligence outside our own does exist, or at least did exist at the time the Bible was written... The Bible Code demands that we accept what the Bible itself can only ask us to believe — that we are not alone." A very New Age, Star Wars type of conclusion, to say the least.
The most important future event that Drosnin feels he has found with the Code is a world war in which nuclear weapons will be used. He feels this is more of a warning than a prediction, and this leads to the incredible conclusion of his book: "[The Code] is not a promise of divine salvation. It is not a threat of inevitable doom. It is just information. The message of the Bible code is that we can save ourselves."
That conclusion made me want to scream: "What spiritual blindness!" It made me realize that Drosnin is like a man who has discovered the magnetic strip that is embedded in every $100 bill. That strip can be seen only if the bill is held up to the light. It certifies that the bill is authentic.
The man is so excited by his discovery that he spends all his time holding the bill up to the light, showing everyone the strip. He is so fascinated by the strip and so obsessed with it, that he never notices the large picture of Ben Franklin on the face of the bill.
That's where Drosnin is with the Bible Code. He is so fixated on something that authenticates the Bible as the Word of God that he cannot see the very clear surface picture that the Bible presents of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Nor can he hear the surface message of the Bible that is calling him to repent of his sins and receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that we cannot save ourselves!
Is it Valid?
But does the Code really provide new evidence that the Bible is the Word of God? Is it authentic or is it a sham?
The harshest critic of the Code is Dr. Ronald S. Hendel who teaches at SMU. He dismisses it as a sham and a hoax. He does so by quibbling with some of Drosnin's translations. But mainly, he simply asserts that the Masoretic text used by Rips and Drosnin (often called the textus receptus) is just one of many Hebrew texts, that it differs from other texts, and that it is full of scribal errors.
But keep in mind that Hendel's basic viewpoint is that of a classic modern day liberal who denies the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and argues that the Bible is really a product of Man's search for God and therefore is full of myth, legend and superstition. It is only natural that he should react with vehemence to any evidence that points to a supernatural origin of the Bible. But the important thing to keep in mind regarding his criticism is that he simply has no answer for the fact that the Code works with the Masoretic text and does not work with other texts.
Another critic is Shlomo Sternberg who is both an Orthodox rabbi and a mathematician. He teaches at Harvard. His basic assertion is that "ELS codes can be found everywhere. In sufficiently long text, in any alphabetic language, one can always find hidden messages by the ELS method." He then demonstrates his point by showing that he found the assassination of President Somoza of Nicaragua by using ELS to search the novel Moby Dick.
The only problem with Sternberg's argument is that it ignores the overwhelming number of matches made in both of Rips' experiments — matches that could not be duplicated in other documents. Rips has proved statistically that his finds are beyond the realm of coincidence, and Sternberg does not address that point.
But Sternberg does make a very good point when he attacks Drosnin for using the Code like a Ouija Board or a crystal ball to try to foretell the future. He points out that "this violates the explicit biblical prohibition against augury, necromancy and the like" (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
Eliyahu Rips agrees with Sternberg on this point. He has also attacked Drosnin for using the Code like a tool of witchcraft: "All attempts to extract messages from Torah Codes or to make predictions based on them are futile and of no value. The only conclusion that can be drawn from the scientific research regarding the Torah Codes is that they exist and that they are not a mere coincidence."
So where does this leave us? I can only speak for myself. Like Eliyahu Rips, I am convinced that the Code is legitimate. Because of that conclusion, I believe it is one more piece of evidence that substantiates the supernatural origin of the Bible.
I also believe it substantiates the verbal, word for word, inspiration of the Bible. Jesus Himself attested to verbal inspiration when He said, "Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter [jot] or stroke [tittle] shall pass away from the Law..." (Matthew 5:18). Modern day scholars mock the concept of verbal inspiration. And like Hendel, they also argue that even if it were true, all we have left are corrupted manuscripts. Well, I happen to believe that the same Holy Spirit who wrote the Bible is fully capable of preserving it from human corruption.
Despite my conclusion that the Code is legitimate, I want to speak a word of caution regarding it. I believe the Code poses a danger — the danger of Kabalism. This is the ancient Jewish mystical movement that has always argued that the true message of the Bible is hidden. They usually find its "true" message by spiritualizing the Scriptures to mean whatever they want them to mean.
The Code could easily be used for this purpose, and in the process it could produce some very weird messages. The reason this can so easily happen is because there are no vowels in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus, a series of five consonants could stand for as many as twenty or more words, depending on the vowels supplied by the reader. It is the context that determines the meaning of the word. And that is exactly the problem with the Code that makes it easily subject to abuse — namely, there is no context when using the Code.
Predicting the Future
I think it is interesting that the major future prophecy that Drosnin claims to have found with the Code is the prediction that there will be a World War III fought with nuclear weapons. He claims this information is encoded in the "Shema" in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
Well, that is not new information. The book of Revelation makes it very clear that there is going to be a future world war of unparalleled proportions in which one-half of the population of the world will die. And I personally think that Revelation also makes it clear that this war will be fought with atomic weapons.
The point I want to drive home is that we do not need the Code to predict the future. The future course of world events is laid out for us in the surface message of the Bible in its end time prophecies. The Lord has told us all we need to know about the future in the surface message of the Bible.
Again, using the Code to try to predict future events will result in Satanic deceptions.
Some Further Evidence
I have saved the best for last. Further evidence of the validity of the Code has been produced by a Messianic Jew named Yacov Rambsel. In his newly released book, Yeshua, he reveals what he has discovered by exploring key Old Testaments passages using the ELS approach manually. His discoveries are nothing short of sensational.
In the most famous Messianic passage in the Bible, Isaiah 53, he found the following phrase encoded in verse 10 at a skip sequence of 20 letters: "Yeshua Shmi." That phrase means "Yeshua is my name." Think of it, the very name of the Messiah is encoded in the passage that speaks of His sacrifice for the sins of Mankind!
In like manner, Rambsel found the name of the Messiah in Daniel's famous prophecy of the seventy weeks of years (Daniel 9:24-27). Encoded in verse 26, counting every 26th letter, is the name "Yeshua."
In Leviticus 21:10-12 there is a passage regarding the rules of the priesthood and the sacrifices offered for the sins of the people. Yacov discovered that counting every third letter this passage spells out the phrase, "Hain dam Yeshua," which means "Behold! The blood of Yeshua."
Drosnin says he considers the Code to be a "time-lock" that has been waiting on the advent of the computer age. I think he is probably right in that conclusion.
But I think the timing of the Code's revelation is significant in another respect. I see it as just one more sign of the soon return of the Lord. As that day approaches, God the Father is providing us with fresh evidence that the Bible is what it claims to be the Word of the one and only true God. The new revised Egyptian chronology which I discussed in our May issue provides fresh evidence that the Bible is trustworthy in its historical records. The Bible Code provides new evidence that it had a supernatural origin.
I believe the Lord is providing us with this fresh evidence to substantiate the Bible because His Son is about to return, and the Father does not wish that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. I praise God for His mercy.
For further information on the Code and the evidences that the Bible is the Word of God, read the following books:
1. The Signature of God by Grant Jeffrey. This is an outstanding book that presents a fascinating summary of a great host of evidence that the Bible came from God.
2. Yeshua by Yacov Rambsel. Published by Frontier Press.
Both of these books should be available at your favorite Christian bookstore.