The Bible Code - Proof that the Bible is Inspired?
A couple of years back The Bible Code made the best-seller list round the world. The book's author claims that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament contains coded messages that make all sorts of amazing predictions, including the date for the end of the world by atomic warfare. This code can only be discovered with the aid of a computer, thus proving that the author of the Bible - whether supernatural or extra-terrestrial - must have had access to computers in order to create the text with this embedded code.
The idea of the code is simplicity itself. Let us suppose that you want to see what the Bible has to say about Bill Clinton. Start with the first letter of Genesis 1:1 and then note every second letter. Perhaps somewhere in the Psalms you will find that every second letter spells out B - I - L - L. If you are unsuccessful, go back to the beginning and try every third letter, then every fourth letter and so on until you are either successful or your letter spacing is equal to a quarter of the number of characters in the Biblical text. (In this latter case you have to conclude that the Bible has nothing to say about Bill Clinton.)
Having found "BILL" at - shall we say - a letter spacing of 100, divide the surrounding text up into lines 100 characters long and arrange them so that the letters B - I - L - L are lined up one beneath the other. You have now created a large word square puzzle, the sort of thing you find in the puzzle books that people do while they are waiting for the train. Search this word square to see if you can find other words, like WHITEWATER or SCANDAL, forwards or backwards, horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
Using this method the author of The Bible Code claims to have discovered various words that predict world events. For example: he claims to have found the name ”Yitzhak Rabin" in a certain place. Nearby are the related words ”assassinated", "Amir" (the name of the man who shot Rabin) and "Tel Aviv" (the place where Rabin was shot).
These facts - for the words are certainly there, just as the author says - have caused many people to become somewhat excited. Some have started to read their Bibles with renewed conviction, feeling that here at last is the definitive proof that the Bible is an inspired book. Others, with a more sceptical frame of mind, are attempting to mock and make fun of the whole thing.
A couple of weeks ago a friend presented me with a newspaper article about the book and asked for my comments. I took the paper away and studied it. The first thing was to check whether the author‘s discoveries were more than just chance, and to do that I needed a computer. Unfortunately, I do not have the Hebrew text of the Old Testament on my hard disk. Indeed, the only large text file I have is an American book of church history called The Great Controversy by Ellen White. (This was in the days before Google came along. Now there are any number of books available on-line if you want to try this for yourself.)
The first step was to edit the text and get rid of all the garbage - page headings and so on; a short computer program did that for me. Next I screened the text to get rid of all spaces, punctuation marks and things like dashes, brackets and marks of quotation, none of which occur in the Hebrew Bible. That left me with 1,041,557 alphabetic characters, so it was time to start searching.
The actual search program took me about ten minutes to write and, simply because it was one of the names mentioned in the newspaper article, I instructed the program to search for the word "HITLER". The computer did its thing for a minute or two and then the result flashed up on the screen. I leaned forward and felt the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise. At the top of the screen was a quotation from page 34: "animosity against the Jews". Start at the ”H" in that phrase and count every twentieth letter and you will spell out the name "Hitler".
T O T H E F U R I O U S A N I M O S I T
Y A G A I N S T T H E J E W S T O T H E
F I E R C E E X C I T E M E N T O F B A
T T L E A N D T O T H E I N S A T I A B
L E H O P E O F P L U N D E R T H E S O
L D I E R S S A W E V E R Y T H I N G A
R O U N D T H E M R A D I A N T W I T H
G O L D W H I C H S H O N E D A Z Z L I
N G L Y I N T H E W I L D L I G H T O F
T H E F L A M E S T H E Y S U P P O S E
D T H A T I N C A L C U L A B L E T R E
A S U R E S W E R E L A I D U P I N T H
E S A N C T U A R Y A S O L D I E R U N
P E R C E I V E D T H R U S T A L I G H
T E D T O R C H B E T W E E N T H E H I
N G E S O F T H E D O O R T H E W H O L
E B U I L D I N G W A S I N F L A M E S
The first word square, showing HITLER, NAZI and WAR
What is more, a little searching in the word square revealed other significant words. "War" showed up at a letter spacing of 45 while "Nazi" was also present, written backwards and at a rather greater letter spacing. I haven't bothered to look for other words, but no doubt they are there.
I then decided to try for a related word and the first one I thought of was "MUNICH". Once again I was astonished. The phrase at the top of the screen was ”a simultaneous movement for their destruction" from page 635. Starting at the first ”M" in that phrase count every eighth letter and you get "Munich".
A S I M U L T A
N E O U S M O V
E M E N T F O R
T H E I R D E S
T R U C T I O N
A S T H E T I M
E A P P O I N T
E D I N T H E D
E C R E E D R A
The second word square, showing MUNICH
I sat back and considered. Either I had to conclude that The Great Controversy was just as inspired as the Bible - a revolutionary thought indeed - or there had to be some other explanation. Out of curiosity I decided to continue the search. ”Hitler" occurs at least ten other times in The Great Controversy (at letter spacings of 6, 20, 31, 41, 44, 45, 47, 70, 71, and 88, which is as far as I‘ve gone) and only that once does it appear to have any significant relationship with the plain text.
Getting bored with this I decided to try a different word and settled upon "NAZI". I started finding that four-letter combination all over the place, helped by the fact that Americans use "Z" much more than the English do - "realize" instead of "realise" and so on. Light began to dawn, but just to make sure, I decided to search for a longer word. The Great Controversy has a lot to say about the papacy and one of the most significant popes of recent times has been John Paul. I entered JOHNPAUL into the search program and set it running. A long time later I reached a letter spacing of 1024 without a single discovery and needed to use the computer for other things.
Another long word I tried was "BRUSSELS", which didn‘t appear anywhere, either forwards or backwards, but "EU" and "EEC" were all over the place. "MEINKAMPF" didn‘t appear, forwards or backwards, but "GORBY" and "RUSSIA" did, though not in any significant association. "IRAQ" and "SCUD" were everywhere but "SADDAM" only turned up twice up to a letter spacing of 256. "WAR" appears three times in the passage reproduced above. Once, at a letter spacing of 44, has been marked by green letters. Starting at the same "W" you can find it at a letter spacing of 51 and it also occurs at a letter spacing of 77 starting at the "W" in the first line. There may be others; I haven‘t tried further, but it was all enough to give me the answer.
Hebrew is a curious language. The alphabet has just twenty-two letters, all of them consonants. (Aleph, often thought of as ”A", is really a breathing sound, as is ayin. They are often represented by the marks ' and ` rather than by any particular letter.) The majority of words in the language are formed by a three-letter root. In order to provide all the inflexions, tenses and persons a language requires, other letters may be added before and after the root, but a typical verb such as ”she will talk" - which is all one word in Hebrew - will be made up of four or five letters. "Yitzhak Rabin" is a mere six letters in Hebrew, "Tel Aviv" is five, "Amir" is three.
Look at it this way: imagine throwing a dice 1,041,557 times and recording the result of every throw. You are certain to have thrown a six in all that lot. Indeed, you are practically certain to have thrown a double-six - or any other sequence of two numbers you might care to name. What are your chances of a triple-six? - a quadruple-six? It becomes obvious that the shorter the sequence of numbers you hope to throw, the greater your chances of throwing it. Conversely, the longer the combination, the less your chances of success.
The letters of the alphabet are just the same as throwing a 26-sided dice - in the case of Hebrew, a 22-sided dice. The more letters there are - i.e. the longer the text through which you search - the greater your chance of finding any particular combination of letters. Of course, as any Scrabble player knows, some letters are rarer than others - "Q" and "W" spring to mind - and this complicates the situation a little, but given a large enough number of throws, even sequences that include rare letters can be found.
As I discovered in my search through The Great Controversy, a six-letter sequence is not too hard to find. Four letters crop up all over the place. Three letters you can find anywhere. Under these conditions and searching in any direction, it is not hard to understand how a determined researcher can find related words of three or four letters within a short distance of each other.
The dates for the end of the world are equally easy to explain. Hebrew numbers are expressed in letters and, owing to the peculiarities mentioned above, it is quite easy for those letters to form words, a problem that the Jews themselves have encountered. In Hebrew "A"=1, "B"=2 and so on. "Y"=10, so 11 is written "YA", 12 is written "YB" and 15 should be written "YH" - 10+5. However those two letters are the start of the sacred name of God - YHWH - so when it comes to 15 the Jews write 9+6! In other words, you are not looking for numerals when you search for a date, but for another sequence of letters.
One question The Bible Code does not adress is, of course, the question of which Hebrew text was used for the computer search program that made all these wonderful discoveries. The Masoretic text, the standard version of the Hebrew Bible, is a relatively late development in the history of the Biblical writings. The Dead Sea scrolls represent another textual tradition and although nothing found in them alters our understanding of the Bible, there is no doubt that there are differences - and when you are counting letters, even a single difference can change things dramatically.
Suppose that you have found, right in the middle of the Bible, something significant at a letter spacing of 60. To take "Hitler" as our example again, letter 1 is "H", letter 60 is "I", letter 120 is "T" and so on through 180, 240, and 320. Then along comes some scholar and proves that the central word in the Bible should be spelled with four letters, not five. "HIT" is fine at 1, 60, 120, but now "LER" is at 179, 239 and 319. What you actually get with your original letter spacing is, shall we say, "HITQZP", which isn‘t terrible meaningful!
To take our "Hitler" discovery as an example, just beneath the "R" of Hitler you have the words "shone dazzlingly". Now if only the word "shone" was spelled "SHON" you would then have "NAZI" at a letter spacing of two. Wouldn‘t that be significant! (In actual fact, the word NAZI appears in the passage, spelled backwards at a letter spacing of 85, starting at the "I" in "the Insatiable". (See the red letters.) As I said, a four letter combination is easy to find.) Unfortunately scholars have found scores of variant readings in the Hebrew text - and there are even mistakes and variations within the Masoretic tradition. These in no way alter the meaning of the text, which can be easily reconstructed, but they wreak havoc with any letter counting program.
The conclusion is that although I would like to think that computers can prove the inspiration of Scripture, I fear that The Bible Code is the result of nothing more than chance and Hebrew grammar. All is not lost, however. As the author of a letter published in a later issue of the newspaper wrote, the best way to find the secret code of the Bible is to start at Genesis 1:1 and work your way through the text using a letter-spacing of one!