The Bible Code is a book written by Michael Drosnin, a reporter formerly with the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. First published in April 1998, it chronicles his five-year investigation into the Code from a secular perspective.

The theory here is that historical and future events are encoded in the original Hebrew text of the Bible. It's all about equidistant skip patterns. In order to reveal the code, the Hebrew is printed without spaces between words. This long line of text is then run through a computer which rearranges it into lines of equal length, forming a sort of crossword puzzle. For example, if the computer were skipping every fourth character of the text, it would be arranged in lines four characters in length, like the sentence below:

RIPS
EXPL
AINE
DTHA
TEAC
HCOD
EISA
CASE
OFAD
DING
EVER
YFOU
RTHO
RTWE
LFTH
LETT
ERTO
FORM
AWOR
D

Once the text has been arranged in this way, information is revealed horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Related information is encoded closeby, or sometimes overlapping.

The Bible code was actually first introduced in a paper published in Statistical Science (1994, Vol. 9, No. 3) by Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg entitled "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis." Rips and company searched the Hebrew text of Genesis for the names and birth and death dates of thirty-two sages from Biblical to modern times. They also searched a Hebrew translation of War and Peace and two other original Hebrew texts. All of the information they looked for was found encoded in Genesis. Nothing was found in the three control texts. After passing a peer review by three experts, the paper was published in Statistical Science. At the time of The Bible Code's publishing, no rebuttal had been offered.

Harold Gans, a senior code-breaker with the National Security Agency, heard about the surprising discovery made in Israel. In an effort to prove that the code indeed did not exist, he performed his own trials. He searched the original Hebrew text of Genesis for the same information that Rips and his group looked for. He found it all. Still unsatisfied, he decided that if the dates of the births and deaths of the sages were encoded, the cities of their births and deaths should be as well. Gans also added another thirty-four wise men to the list. He found all the information on his list encoded in Genesis.

Since the discovery of the Bible code, many historical events have been found encoded, such as:

  • Bill Clinton's election as president
  • Watergate and Nixon are encoded with "Who is he? President, but he was kicked out"
  • "Economic collapse" is encoded with 1929
  • The collision of Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter was found with the accurate date
  • Hiter, Nazi, slaughter, and holocaust were all found together
  • The date of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin was found a year before it occured. After the event, the name of the assassin was also found.

Rewrite 07/20/01, 23:17. Thanks for the update, kto9. However, I'd be interested in a longer writeup detailing how the code was disproved.
Many of the claims about the Bible Code are outdated. A full rebuttal was made in the fall of 1999 (Statistical Science Vol 14 pp 150-173). The rebuttal paper is Solving the Bible Code Puzzle, by Brendan McKay, Dror Bar-Natan, Maya Bar-Hillel, and Gil Kalai. Here is the abstract:

A paper of Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg in this journal in 1994 made the extraordinary claim that the Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis encodes events which did not occur until millennia after the text was written. In reply, we argue that Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg's case is fatally defective, indeed that their result merely reflects on the choices made in designing their experiment and collecting the data for it. We present extensive evidence in support of that conclusion. We also report on many new experiments of our own, all of which failed to detect the alleged phenomenon.
The most significant and damning conclusion from the rebuttal was that Witzum et al "tuned" their data to get the result they wanted.

A copy of the paper can be downloaded (pdf format) from: http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/StatSci/StatSci.pdf

The bible code at first look seems quite astonishing. How could the bible possibly contain all these secret messages about the future without being written by god himself? Looking at the accuracy of the predictions in the bible code, it seems highly unlikely that these will appear by chance.

This is all true. It is highly unlikely that one short excerpt of text will contain accurate hidden messages. The thing is, the bible has a lot of short text excerpts. Using the bible code's system there are millions, probably billions of places to look for hidden messages. As the bible code is very loose about the size of matrix and the skip (distance from the end of one line to the start of the next in the text), it is easy to see how small pieces of text can have huge numbers of ways of being written. For example, the above paragraph could be written as

skip=5
start character=1

thebiblecodeatfirs
seemsquiteastonish
wcouldthebibleposs
ontainallthesesecr
sagesaboutthefutur

or

skip=7
startcharacter=6

blecodeatfirstlo
quiteastonishing
dthebiblepossibl
nallthesesecretm
aboutthefuturewi

As you can see, these two completely different blocks of text were both generated from one very small paragraph. Using this system with the bible, which is several hundred thousand words long, there would be a massive number of places to look for hidden messages.

Even so, you may say that only the bible will contain words in the same block which all have relevance. One of the bible code's key supporters, Michael Drosnin agreed. He said,

"When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them. "

Unfortunately for him, his critics did just that. In Moby Dick they found references to the assassinations of Ghandi, JFK and Trotsky, among others. Also found in Moby Dick was references to the death of Princess Diana. You can get examples of these people's assassinations at http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/moby.html

I write this node not to make noders "believe," but rather to bring more information into the picture (and also to force myself to read the rest of The Bible Code). Do I believe it? I don't know. I'd like learn ancient Arabic and analyze the original قرآن; learn ancient Hebrew and go through the original Apocrypha (which doesn't exist any more); look at the first copy of the Tipiṭaka; then get back to you. Also, reading this will be a bit easier if your browser'll let you see Unicode Hebrew letters, and it might even make sense if you speak Hebrew.

Thoughts taken from and inspired by The Bible Code:1

Isaac Newton tried to find a code like this in the Bible, considering this effort more important than his Theory of the Universe. He learned Hebrew and spent half his life searching through the Bible for such a code, wanting to "read the riddle of the Godhead, the riddle of past and future events divinely fore-ordained" (Newton, from source 1) Without a computer, however, he didn't get very far. In the 1940s, Rabbi H. M. D. Weissmandel noticed that if you skip fifty letters from the first ת in the beginning of Genesis, write down the letter, skip another 50, write down that letter, &c., you get the word תורה ("Torah"). Same with Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He never published this little discovery of his, but there is mention of it in a book2 by some students of his, which Drosnin found in the National Library in Israel.

Drosnin posits that the Bible is indeed a code that was to remained locked until humans invented the computer. According to legend, Moses recieved the Word of God as one continuous length of Hebrew letters, without spaces or accents, 304,805 letters long. A Torah missing even one of the letters, or with an extra one, or with one in the incorrect place, is considered invalid. We can stick this sequence of letters into a computer, analyze it, and find completely new "words of God" in a book we've had for thousands of years. Drosnin also suggests that since the technology available at the time of the Bible's appearance (i.e. reading and writing) allowed one interpretation of the Bible (as it is), and today's technology (computers) allows another interpretation (the Bible code), what's to prevent us from thinking that a future technological development might allow us yet another interpretation of the Bible? Some technology as strange to us as computers would be to desert nomads from 1000 BCE, and a message as magical and mysterious to us as the prediction of the future would seem to those nomads? You know, like that monolith of Arthur C. Clarke's?
Skeptics (whom I will refer to as "skeptics" for lack of a better objective word) point out that the Hebrew text used is most likely not the exact text Moses "recieved." See links in the "Hang on a minute" section below for more information.

The books of Daniel and Revelation contain predictions of horror to be revealed when a secret book is finally opened at the "end of days": "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?' And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon" (Revelation 5:1–3). In the book of Daniel, intersecting the year '5757' (the Hebrew year from September 1996 to September 1997*) and after the verses "for you the encoded" and "hidden secrets," an angel says "but thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (Daniel 12:4) (n.b.: the phrase used for "run to and fro" has the connotation of "investigate," and "knowledge" in this case can also mean "wickedness"). In Genesis, "the end of days" intersects '5756' (1996) and 'computer' (מחשב). This implies that 1996 was the end of days and the "book...sealed with seven seals" was opened that year. Is the Bible code that "book"? "Sealed before God" intersects 'Bible code' (צפותוכ) in one place, and encoded elsewhere in the Bible is the phrase "He encoded the Torah and more" (צפנתורהועוד). When God gives Moses "the tablets of stone, and the Torah," He said "behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will work miracles" (Exodus 34:10) — within these words of God appears 'computer'. 'Computer' appears six times throughout the Bible as part of the word "thought" (מחשבה). Four of the six appearances are in verses describing the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Commandments. Hidden in the verse "and the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets" (Exodus 32:16) is the phrase 'it was made by computer' (מוחשב).

Joseph is one of the prophets of the Bible. In Genesis 41, he told the Pharaoh (probably the Hyksos king Aphophis) that a dream of his predicted a famine, and the Pharaoh makes him Regent and dubs him Zaph-nath-paaneah (צפנת פענח). The Bible Code says the name has been said to mean "revealer of secrets" or "the god speaks and lives" (other sources say it means "the savior of the world" or "the one who furnishes the nourishment of life"3), but according to Drosnin, the name means "decoder of the code" in Hebrew. In the book of Daniel, the king tells Daniel, "truly your God must be the God of gods and the Lord of kings, and the revealer of secrets, to have enabled you to reveal this secret" (Daniel 2:47; underline mine); however, the underlined verse may also be translated as "...and he revealed the secrets enough that you were able to reveal this secret scroll" — that is, the code. Isaiah even reveals that "for you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll" (Isaiah 29:11).

One of the main foci of the book is (if the code is accepted as true) whether or not the events foretold in the code can be changed. Drosnin remains hopeful that this is the case, since the letters representing the Hebrew year 5756 also spell 'will you change it', and the word 'delayed' appears throughout descriptions of many disastrous events. Near one appearance of 'holocaust of Israel' are the years '5756' (1996) (also 'will you change it', remember) and '5760' (2000), but the last letter of '5760' starts the phrase "you delayed." In another place, "Israel and Japan" is intersected by "they delayed the year of the plague." Near the words 'world war', a part of Deuteronomy 31:29 ("evil will befall you in the end of days") is preceeded by a hidden message: 'you knew it will be delayed'.


Without further further ado...
Events "predicted" in The Bible Code that have occurred:

Assassinations:

The only time the full name 'Itzhak Rabin' (יצחקרבינ) appears in the code, it is intersected by 'name of assassin who will assassinate'. Close by is the name 'Amir' (עמיר) and the phrase 'name of assassin'. Running across Amir's name is "he changed the nation, he will make them evil." In another place, 'Rabin assassination' appears near '5756' (Hebrew year 1995–1996), 'Tel Aviv' (תלאביב) and 'Amir'. Nearby is 'he struck, he killed the prime minister' and 'his killer, one of his people, the one who got close'.

'Sadat' is crossed by "he will assassinate," near "8 Tishrei" (October 6 in 1981), and 'Chaled will shoot Sadat' appears in another place.

'M. Gandhi' appears, immediately followed by "he will be killed."

'President Kennedy' (נשיאקנדי) appears once, near 'to die' and 'Dallas' (דאלאס). In another place, 'Oswald' (אוזוולד) appears near "marksman," "he will strike in the head, death," and "name of assassin who will assassinate," the same phrase that appears near the mention of Rabin's assassination. Near Oswald's name is the name of his killer, 'Ruby' (רובי), and the phrase "he will kill the assassin." Near President Kennedy's name also appears 'R. F. Kennedy' (רפקנדי) as well as 'S. Sirhan' (ססרחאנ) and "second ruler will be killed."

'A. Lincoln' appears in Genesis and Deuteronomy, crossed in one place by three occurrences of 'Booth' and in the other by 'assassinated'.

Notable events:

Just after fighting began in Ramallah in late September 1996, "Ramallah...fulfilled a prophecy" was found crossing 'atomic holocaust'.

'Oklahoma' (אוקלהומח) appears near 'terrible frightening death' and "there will be terror." Elsewhere, 'Murrah building' is crossed with "desolated/slaughtered," "killed/torn to pieces" and "death." In the book of Exodus, a passage starting with "he ambushed he pounced terror" contains 'day 19', 'on the 9th hour', 'in the morning', 'his name is Timothy' (שמוטימותי) and 'McVeigh' (מקוויי) all appear.

'Prime Minister Netanyahu' (רהמנתניהו) is intersected by "death, July, to Amman," and nearby is "his soul was cut off" and "murdered." The word "delayed" appears three times, twice near Netanyahu's name and again by "murdered." Netanyahu's July 25, 1996 trip to Amman was delayed by ten days.

'Aum Shinrikyo' appears near 'subway', 'plague', and two occurrences of 'gas'. 'Tokyo will be evacuated', 'Tokyo, Japan', '5756' (1996), the Biblical word for 'plague', and 'flying weapon' also appear, supposedly a prediction of what would have happened if the cult hadn't been put to a stop (documents in the cult's headquarters mention a massive attack on Tokyo involving helicopters spraying ebola).

'Shoemaker-Levy' (שומכרלוי) appears twice, once in Genesis and again in Isaiah. In both places' 'Jupiter' crosses the name of the comet, and in Isaiah, '8th Av' (July 16 in 1994) is nearby.

'Clinton' (קליטונ) touches 'president'.

'Goldstein' (גלדשטינ) and 'Hebron' (חברונ) appear near "man from the house of Israel who will slaughter."

'Captivity of Toledano' (שבייתטולידנו) appears near "Lod," "he will die," and "don't shed blood." After Toledano's body was found following his kidnapping in Lod, one of the kidnappers recalled that he told the others, "don't shed blood."

The only time 'communism' appears, it is near 'fall of', 'Russian', and 'in China next'.

In Genesis, near where God tells Abraham "Look now toward Heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them" (Genesis 15:5), appear 'man on the moon', 'spaceship', 'Apollo 11' and even the date the landing occurred (July 20, 1969). The phrase 'done by mankind, done by man' crosses 'moon', reflecting Armstrong's famous first words on the moon.

Near 'Watergate' (ווטרגית) is 'who is he president but was kicked out'.

'Economic collapse', 'depression', 'stocks' and '5690' (1929) appear together.

The Hebrew year corresponding to 1906 appears twice, once with 'S. F. Calif' and again with "fire, earthquake." 'S. F. Calif' appears again, with "fire, earthquake" and the year 1989. 'L. A. Calif' (לאקליפ) appears with 'great earthquake' and the years '5754' (1994) [and '5770' (2010)], and elsewhere with "fire earthquake 5770." 'Great earthquake' appears near three other parts of the world (along with '5760' and '5766'): 'China' (סינ), along with '5736' (1976); 'Japan', specifically 'Okushiri July will be shaken', and 'Kobe, Japan' (קובהיפנ) with '5755' (1995) and 'the big one'.

War and revolution:

'America', 'revolution' and '5536' (1776) appear together.

'Napoleon', 'France', 'Waterloo' and 'Elba' appear together.

'Russia', 'revolution' and '5678' (1918) appear together.

In Genesis 14, 'missile', 'war', 'enemy', and 'Saddam' (סדמ) all appear near 'Hussein (picked a day)' and 'fire on 3rd Shevat', which in 1991 was January 18. In another place in Genesis, 'Hussein', (חסינ) 'Scuds' and 'Russian missile' appear together.

The verse reading "all his people to war" (near the mention of Rabin's assassination) begins with "from 5th Adar." In 1996, the 5th of Adar was February 25; that day a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem, the first of three bombings over nine days, killing more than 61. 'Autobus', 'bombing' and 'Jerusalem' appear together. 'Jaffa Road' and 'Adar 5756' (February–March 1996) appear near 'terror'. In another location, 'autobus' is near passages reading "fire great noise they awoke early and they will ride and there will be terror," and "dead bodies." The name of one of the bombed places, 'Dizengoff', appears near 'Tel Aviv' and 'terrorist'. Another 'Tel Aviv' appears near 'terrorist bombing'. Intersecting '5756' is 'Hamas bomb'.

The Holocaust/World War II:

'Hitler' (היטלר), 'evil man', 'Nazi and enemy' and 'slaughter' appear together. 'Eichmann', 'ovens' and 'extermination' appear together. 'In Auschwitz' appears near a Bible passage saying "the end of all flesh" and "the earth is filled with violence" (Genesis 6:13). 'Zyklon B' appears near 'Eichmann' in another place.

'A. Hitler', 'holocaust', the names of the major countries involved in WWII (Germany, England, France, Russia, Japan, and the United States) appear near the verse "this world devastated world war."

'Roosevelt' (רוזוולט), 'Churchill', 'Stalin' and 'Hitler' appear together. Near 'Roosevelt' is the verse "president...he gave the order to strike on the day of the great defeat." "Destruction of the fortress" is crossed with 'Pearl Harbor', called the location of "the fleet," near 'world war', 'Hiroshima' (with a skip sequence of 1945) and the date corresponding to December 7th, 1945. Where the Bible declares "and it repented the Lord that He had made man upon the earth and it grieved Him at His heart" appears 'Hiroshima to end shooting whole world'. 'Atomic holocaust' appears by "5705" (1945) and 'Japan' (ייפננ).

In the text of the mezuzah, the phrase 'in 5700, the cremator came' appears. 5700 is the Hebrew year from 19391940. The mezuzah is three passages of the Old Testament which God instructed should be placed on every household and every person, memorized and taught to all children, and recited twice a night so it is never forgotten.

Great writers, musicians, artists, inventors and scientists:

'Homer' and 'Greek poet' appear together. 'Shakespeare' (שקספיר), 'Macbeth' (מקבת), 'Hamlet' (המלט) and 'presented on stage' appear together.

'Beethoven' and 'Johann Bach' appear near 'German composers'. 'Mozart' appears near 'composer' and 'music'.

'Rembrandt', 'Dutch' and 'painter' appear together. 'Picasso' is near 'the artist'.

'Wright brothers' (אחימריט) and 'airplane' appear together. 'Edison' (אדיסונ) appears near 'electricity' and 'lightbulb'. 'Marconi' appears near 'radio'.

'Newton' (ניוטונ) appears near 'gravity' and even 'Bible code', his obsession. The one time 'Einstein' (איינשטיינ) appears, it is near 'science', 'theory of relativity' and 'add a fifth part', and is intersected by passages reading "he overturned present reality," "a new and excellent understanding," and "they prophesied a brainy person."

Atomic holocaust/WWIII-related events seemingly foretold (or just mentioned) in The Bible Code:

"In the end oy days" and 'end of days' both appear next to 'Arafat' (ערפאת).

'Prime Minister Netanyahu' (רהמנתניהו) appears near 'elected', two instances of 'murdered', and the verses "surely he will be killed" and "his soul will be cut off in a battle." Near three instances of Netanyahu's name is the verse "for the great horror" (a phrase reserved for referring to events so "awful" they have no equivalent beyond the scope of the Bible), and one of those pairs appears near 'atomic holocaust'. 'The next war' appears near 'Itzhak' and the passages "it will be after the death [of] prime minister" and "another will die, Av, prime minister."

In Genesis, 'holocaust of Israel' appears, starting in a verse in which Jacob tells his sons about the end of days. '5756' (1995–1996) intersects 'holocaust of Israel'. In another place, 'holocaust of Israel' appears near '29 Elul', along with 'atomic weapon'.

'Atomic holocaust' appears once, near the years 1945, 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2006, 'atomic holocaust', three occurrences of 'Libya' (לוב), and the passage "all his people to war," which is also written near the prediction of Itzhak Rabin's assassination. 'World war' also appear near dates: 2000 (twice) and 2006, along with a warning: "it will bombard your country, terror, devastation, it is being launched." 'Terrorism' appears near 'world war', and below the word "third" is 'war to the knife'. 'Atomic holocaust' and 'world war' both appear in the text of the mezuzah. The only name of a city that appears near 'atomic holocaust' or 'world war' is 'Jerusalem', and it appears in God's threat to punish Israel: "I, the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me" (Exodus 20:5). "Your city will be destroyed by an act of terrorism" runs across 'atomic holocaust'. "Jerusalem" also crosses 'atomic weapon' in another place, immediately followed by the words "scroll" and "he opened it." 'Ariel' (אריאל), an ancient name for Jerusalem, appears between 'world war' and the verse "9th Av is the day of the third." The 9th of Av is a significant date: Jerusalem was destroyed that day in 586 BCE (by Babylon), and again in 70 CE (by Rome).

'Libyan artillery' appears near '5756' (1996) and 'Qaddafi' (Libya's leader), near the passage "The Lord shall bring down a nation against thee from afar, which will swoop down like a vulture" (Deuteronomy 28:49, thanks Lometa!).

'Atomic artilleryman' intersects the passage "under the slopes of the Pisgah," a mountain range in Jordan. Near the first mention of the Pisgah is a verse reading "weapon here, in this place, camouflaged." Directly above the intersection is the passage "in order that you prolong thy days on Earth." The phrase "in order that you prolong" (למענתאריכ) can also be read as "address date." Given that the letters spelling the year 5756 (התשגו) can also be read as "will you change it," it seems to imply that an attack can be prevented.

The first mention of the "end of days" appears near '5756'. The second mention appears where Moses tells the Israelites "all the things that will come upon thee at the end of day." The third is near Moses' warning that "evil will befall you in the end of days." The fourth is near 'world war', 'atomic holocaust' and Balaam's statement about "what this people shall do to thy people in the end of days." The fifth is also near '5756', which is the only date that appears near two occurrences of "end of days." 'Plague', 'peace' and 'save' appear next to two verses discussing "the end of days."

The years 5760 (2000), 5766 (2006), and 5873 (2113) appear often near verses mentioning earthquakes ("for everyone the great terror fire earthquake," "great earthquake") and the names of the United States, China and Japan. Japan appears near a whole mess of trouble: 'economic collapse' with "fire, earthquake struck Japan"; 'year of the plague' with "Israel and Japan" (ישראלניפנ).

'Swift-Tuttle', a (very) large comet that could strike Earth in 2126, appears near '5753' (1992, the year it was noticed that it could collide with Earth) and 'comet' (ככבשביט). Elsewhere, the date 'eve of new year' (of 5753, that is September 27, 1992) is immediately followed by 'Swift' (סוויפט). In another place, 'Swift' is encoded near '5886' (2126) and "in the seventh month, it came." 'Comet' also appears with '5770' (2010), with "days of horror" running through the date and "darkness" and "gloom" running through 'comet'. 'Comet' crosses '5766' (2006) elsewhere, and where they cross is the ominous message "year predicted for the world." 'Comet' appears near "it will be crumbled/I will tear it to pieces, 5772" (2012) and "earth annihilated" in another place.


Interesting to note is one way time is described in the Bible. In the original Hebrew of the Tanakh, the past is described with verbs in the future tense, and the future is described with the past tense. Scholars do not agree on the reason behind this, but Drosnin notes a meeting with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a well-known Hebrew scholar, who pointed him to a verse in Isaiah (maybe 46:10?) that said one needs to look at the past to see the future. He specifically mentions 41:23, "Tell us the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may stare in astonishment and be dismayed as we behold [the miracle] together!" The phrase "tell us the things that are to come hereafter" can also be translated as both "they told the future backwards" or even "tell the letters in reverse," and directly below it, written backwards, the code reads '5756' (1996) and 'they changed the time'. And perhaps most tellingly is the message spelled plainly between the encoded 'atomic holocaust' and "in the end of days": "code will save."

Hang on a minute:

Arguments countering the methods and results of the book point out the vast database of letters and sequences available in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, as well as noting flaws in the math used to calculate the chances of many of the words appearing together. Bible scholars have pointed out that the version of the Bible used to find the code is most likely not the original text. For more on the arguments against the code, see:

  • Scientific Refutation of the Bible Code (and some good links):
    http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/torah.html
  • Statistics scholars renew debate over "Bible code":
    http://www.themodernreligion.com/comparative/christ/bible_code.htm
  • Hidden Messages and The Bible Code:
    http://www.csicop.org/si/9711/bible-code.html
  • The Bible "Codes": A Textual Perspective:
    http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~jtigay/codetext.html
  • There's even a book criticizing the code, called Cracking the Bible Code:
    http://www.quantgen.com/

* These days, Rosh Hashanah (the Hebrew new year's day, 1st of Tishrei) falls in September, so Hebrew years go from September of one year to September of the next. I have "translated" the Hebrew years as the "next" year, so I refer to 5757 as just 1997.

References:
1: The overwhelming majority of the info is from Michael Drosnin's The Bible Code (Touchstone, New York, NY: 1997).
2: Torat Hemed, Yeshiva Mt. Kisko: 1958.
3: Babylon.com
Uncredited quotations in single quotes are found encoded in the Bible, and are therefore all found in The Bible Code. Quotations in double quotes are direct passages from the Bible.

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE RABBIS EXPERIMENT...

The case for the Bible Code has been misrepresented from its very beginnings, in the famous "Rabbis Experiment" conducted by the research team of Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg (to be referred to as "WRR" for the remainder of this writeup), who published their results in an article titled "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis" in Statistical Science in 1994. This article became the foundation and inspiration for Michael Drosnin's research into what he calls the Bible Code.

Every believer in the Bible Code likes to flaunt the fact that the original article describing the Rabbis Experiment was published in a professional journal after peer review, as if that proved the truth of the whole story beyond any reasonable doubt. What these proselytizers never mention is that the authors' original work actually failed its peer review when it was submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the USA, a much more prestigious journal. After the authors ignored several requests from Academy members for more thorough statistical controls - the "review" part of peer review - the Academy rejected the paper. A revised and even more selective version of it was then published in Statistical Science. What kind of peer review it underwent there is unknown.

In the Rabbis Experiment, the researchers searched the Book of Genesis for ELS word pairs - specifically, the names and apellations, and birth OR death dates, of 34 famous rabbis (with the dates written in letters, following standard Hebrew convention). Unlike Michael Drosnin, who developed their surprising findings into an even more sensational book, they did not claim that similar sequences could not be found in any other book. Indeed, it should be immediately obvious that any sufficiently large set of letters or numbers would contain as many Equidistant Letter Sequences, even in word pairs, as one could wish for. What the researchers did claim was that there was an abnormally large number of these pairs in unusually close proximity in the text of Genesis. They determined that the "significance level" of these pairs' proximity was 1 in 60,000.

While they were preparing their findings for publication, WRR received a request for additional statistical tests from Persi Diaconis, then Professor of Statistics at Harvard University (remember the peer review?). Diaconis requested that they use a "randomly chosen cyclic shift" to alter the dates accompanying the rabbis' names, and check the resulting distances between names and dates against the researchers' original findings. He also requested that another test be performed, this time matching different people with their birth or death dates, as a statistical significance test (similar to a control group).

Although another colleague requested the same sort of shifted permutation test, the WRR researchers only performed one permutation test, shifting the dates searched for by +1 instead of altering them at random. They completely ignored the request for a "control group" significance test. It was then that their paper was rejected by 'Proceedings', and subsequently revised and published in Statistical Science.


METHODOLOGY FLAWS IN THE RABBIS EXPERIMENT:

In 1999, the work of the WRR team was rather thoroughly disproven by another team of researchers, Brendan McKay, Dror Bar-Natan, Maya Bar-Hillel, and Gil Kalai (henceforth "MBBK"), in an article which was also published in Statistical Science. Presumably, this debunking went through the exact same peer review that made the original Rabbis Experiment bulletproof - with the major difference that this team's finding were nowhere near as sensational, and much more parsimonious.

While I can't claim to understand all of the statistical methods involved in the rebuttal, what I do understand of it seems fairly clearly to show that the findings of the WRR team were greatly exaggerated through flawed (or intentionally skewed) methodology, a significant level of data corruption in the text of the Bible, and an eagerness to find a particular result. I will attempt to explain a few of the key points below.

The first major point of contention is that WRR's findings are significantly sensitive to a very small part of the data. As MBBK put it in their rebuttal, "If the 4 rabbis (out of 32) are removed, the overall 'significance level' jumps from 1 in 60,000 to an uninteresting 1 in 30. Historically speaking, these rabbis are not particularly important compared to the others."

Even worse, a few of the particular appellations (out of 102 that WRR searched for) are hugely influential, with one appellation contributing a factor of 10 to the result all by itself. Again, the appellations in this small group are no more important historically than any of the others.

This demonstrates that the results of the searches are extremely sensitive to seemingly minor elements of the experiment's design. With this in mind, certain aspects of that design deserve to be looked at very closely. The WBBK team then examined the dating system used by WRR, and it turns out that out of 8 possible formats for the dates searched for, WRR chose to use the three that were far more favourable for their test than the other 5. Had they consistently used the date formats traditional in Judaic studies, or the format used by their main source for data on the rabbis they chose, they would have found a "significantly lower" significance level.

Similar selection was used for the list of appellations searched for, with even stronger results. The list of traditional appellations for famous rabbis is quite extensive and follows no particular rules. Rabbis known by one name under a certain tradition are known by several others in different contexts. For example, "Rambam" is the most common Hebrew name - an acronym really - for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known in English as Maimonides. One rabbi on the list, the Maharit, has 17 different appellations. Of course, WRR did not use all the possible appellations. They selected roughly half of the possibilities, and when questioned about the methods of selection, were unable to supply any consistent reasoning.


CONCERNING "THE ORIGINAL HEBREW" OF THE MASORETIC TEXT:

The other major fault in WRR's and Drosnin's claims is that the text that they used in their searches is definitely not the original text of the Bible. Although much has been made of the "fact" that the amazing predictive ELSes can be found only in the original Hebrew text, the fact is that the original Hebrew text has been lost for thousands of years. Generation after generation of hand copying have caused numerous mutations to creep into the text. With the addition of a letter here, the deletion of a letter there, and occasional substitution of letters (Hebrew is resistant to this, but it does happen on occasion), the text changes gradually, eventually obliterating any secret code that might conceivably have been built into the original text. Thus the Koren Bible that WRR, Gans and Drosnin all used for their research is not the same as any of the numerous Genesis fragments found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls, nor is it an exact copy of the Yemenite version or the Leningrad Codex (which is generally considered to be the oldest extant copy of the complete Bible).

When MBBK attempted to duplicate the original Rabbis Experiment using these other texts, the results were far less dramatic. In fact, it turns out that the Koren Bible that WRR used gives the best results possible for their experiment. And, although Drosnin and other Bible Code supporters claim that the Koren is as close to the original text as possible, this is somewhat less than a half-truth. The Koren Bible uses the Masoretic Text that is the standard, most widely accepted version of the Bible. However, every Jewish scholar knows that the Masoretic Text is not, letter for letter, the original text of the Bible. The Talmud contains numerous quotations from Biblical passages that are considerably different from the MT. These differences include everything from the addition and deletion of matres lectionis, to the possible deletion or insertion of whole phrases (in some versions, Genesis 1:7-8 contains the phrase "and God saw that it was good". In others, God just goes about his business).

A word about matres lectrionis: this refers to letters that are not phonetically required. Although Hebrew is considered a phonetic language, this is not 100% true. For example, the word Torah is generally written Tav-Vav-Resh-Hay, where the Vav produces an O sound. This is a mater lectionis, an early form of Hebrew vowel whose use has continued to this day. However, it has not always been used. Some instances of "Torah" in the Bible contain a Vav, some don't, and some did in early versions of the text and don't anymore. This is one of the most common routes for mutation in the text of the Bible.

Even worse, one passage in the Babylonian Talmud tells us that the "first scribes" found the middle letter of the Torah in Leviticus 11:42. The Koren and other Masoretic Text Bibles' middle letter is 4830 letters earlier, in Leviticus 8:28. So, either the first scribes and the authors of the Babylonian Talmud - whose interpretations are the very foundation of Jewish theology and practice - were completely mistaken about the length of the Torah, or major alterations were made to the Torah sometime before the compilation of the Masoretic Text.

What all of these mutations add up to is a text that is, although widely accepted, significantly different from the original text of the Bible. It may be close enough for government work. But close isn't nearly close enough when one is making as sensational a claim as Drosnin makes. Either the predictions are encoded into the exact, original text, or they are complete nonsense. To claim that the future mutations in the text were accounted for when designing the Code makes a mockery of the whole concept and violates parsimony.


CONCERNING THE LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS, OR HOW TO SELECT FOR SUCCESS:

It has been said that million to one odds happen eight times a day in New York City. This is something to keep in mind when looking at the coincidences found in the Bible Code. If you have a large enough set of numbers, you're almost surely going to find a large number of striking combinations. The secret is to pick the right words to search for, and disregard all findings that don't suit your purpose. (Start by ignoring all the incidences of "God is dead" and "there is no God", obviously.)

It may be that this sort of selection process enhanced the results of the original Rabbis Experiment. MBBK certainly seemed to think so. It cannot be denied that this is how Michael Drosnin wrote most of his book, combing the Bible for meaningful crossword puzzles and ignoring the ones that didn't work out to anything that he liked.

In fact, there are quite a few ELSes in the Bible that conflict with Drosnin's picture of an omniscient Creator. Using the same ELS technique to look for phrases of his own choosing, Dr. James D. Price has found several statements of heretical nature, including hundreds of incidences of "God is dead" and "Jehovah is dead" - strange statements for the author of the Bible, whoever he was, to intentionally encode in his text. Price also found multiple instances of "There is no God", "There is no Jehovah", "Jehovah is a liar", and other phrases that God would probably not appreciate.


"DICK WRITER PREDICTED DI'S DEATH!!!"

Finally, let's look at Michael Drosnin's claim that only the Torah - not the whole Bible, nor any other book - contains the interesting "crossword puzzles" that predict various events. It should be noted that WRR's claims were not nearly as sensational. They did say that there were more meaningful ELSes in the Bible than in any other book they had searched.

But such pedestrian claims would never have satisfied Michael Drosnin. He wasn't looking for a mere article on interesting statistical anomalies. He wanted a bestseller, and by God (or His ghost writers) he was going to have one. In the first Bible Code book Drosnin announced, "Consistently, the Bible Code brings together interlocking words that reveal related information. With Bill Clinton, President. With the Moon landing, spaceship and Apollo 11. With Hitler, Nazi. With Kennedy, Dallas. In experiment after experiment, the crossword puzzles were found only in the Bible. Not in War and Peace, not in any other book, and not in 10 million computer-generated test cases."

In an interview for Newsweek, printed in the June 9, 1997 issue, he went on to say, "when my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them." These words would come back to haunt him in the end, because the same ELS technique that he used has since revealed all sorts of messages in all sorts of books. For starters, Moby-Dick.

It turns out that Moby-Dick contains quite a few "astonishing" retrodictions just like Drosnin's. People whose assassinations Herman Melville predicted include: Indira Gandhi, Rene Moawad, Leon Trotsky, Martin Luther King, Austrian Chancellor Engelbert, Robert F. Kennedy (with the name Sirhan Sirhan and mention of sharpshooting), and John F. Kennedy. Even the accidental death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was foreseen by the whalewise and presumably omniscient Melville.

(Note that English is actually a much harder language to do this in than Hebrew, because of the vowels. Hebrew script normally uses only consonants, which can mean different things depending on the inflections used. For example, "wrote", "writing", "reporter", and the imperative "write!" are all written the same in Hebrew - Caph-Tav-Vav (without matres lectionis, of course). In an English text, we might find an ELS like "The writing will die on October 31," which would have to be discarded as obvious nonsense. The same ELS in Hebrew could be conveniently interpreted as "the reporter will die on October 31." This is no reflection on Drosnin's work, but it does perhaps demonstrate that Moby-Dick is an even more powerful prophetic work than the Bible.)


SOURCES AND INCRIMINATIONS

  • The MBBK analysis and refutation of the Rabbis Experiment can be found at
    http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/StatSci/
    At 45 pages, it's a rather hefty article, but well worth reading. My little excerpt of their findings is only the tip of the iceberg. For me, the points that I mentioned pretty much wrapped up the case against the Rabbis Experiment, and hence the Bible Code. But if you want more, there's plenty more.
  • Further refutations of Michael Drosnin's Snake Oil Code can be found all over the Web. There is actually a large group of people who continue to search for ELSes that will disprove Drosnin's ideas or make him look like an idiot. Personally, I find most of this ongoing research as silly as the Bible Code itself.
  • Million to one coincidences can be found eight times a day in New York City.

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