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Hidden Bible codes:

About Hebrew writing. Are the Bible codes real?

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This topic continues from the previous essay

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Concerning the nature of Hebrew writing:

Ancient Hebrew writing usually consists of consonants only; vowels are rarely used. The language consists only of nouns, verbs and small, one letter participles. The verbs were originally derived from nouns. Thus, almost every word in Hebrew can be interpreted as either a noun or a verb, depending on the surrounding context or as indicated by any prefixes, suffixes or modifiers used. This means that innumerable passages can be read in different ways. While the ancient Hebrew written language is very efficient, it leads to massive amounts of misunderstanding.

The original Hebrew word roots consisted of three consonants. According to one commentator: "...to make a sentence may require only SIX letters, for example: 'He ate bread' would be 'A-K-L L-H-M'. Which, by the way, can be read as 'food-bread' because the word for 'food' and 'to eat' are the same root." Since many words are only three letters long it makes it relatively easy to find hidden words using an ELS analysis technique. There would be far more word matches in an ancient Hebrew text than in an English text with the same number of pages. Also, since words were usually written without vowels, and nouns and verbs were often identical, an interpretation of any nearby letter combinations could take many forms.

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Are the Codes Real? What do They Mean?

We will somewhat arbitrarily divide theologians, Bible students, pastors etc. into two groups: "code believers" and "skeptics":

bulletSome Jewish and Christian code believers feel that encoding of the names of famous Jews (closely paired with their dates of birth or death) into the Book of Genesis proves that God wrote the book and dictated it to Moses. Jews and Christians had believed this on faith for many centuries. Now they have proof that Genesis could not have had a human author. There are at least two reasons that have been given for this conclusion:

bullet Some commentators have suggested that the task of arranging the letters in the Book of Genesis to contain an ELS code for cities, dates, and people, is so difficult, that it would have needed a digital computer to do the job. Since programmable computers were not invented until the 1940's CE., the codes could not have been set up by ancient humans. This is an incorrect assumption.  A human could have picked a number, say 41, and a message. Then, it would only have been necessary to make every 41st character in the text equal to the next letter in the message. The chances would be that it would not initially match. But by using synonyms and adjusting punctuation, and other methods to alter the text over the preceding 41 characters, a match could be made. In the above text, the author's first name "Bruce" has been encoded manually with an ELS code using a separation of 41 characters; it took only a few minutes to set up. [Although "Bruce" appears properly in the original FrontPage editor, it may be distorted on your screen. Browsers do not treat text in the same way; they insert line breaks and delete spaces in different places.]

bullet Genesis is believed by many conservative Christians to have been written by Moses circa 1450 BCE. Liberals believe that the final version of Genesis was not edited until many centuries later. Either way, it would be a miracle if it included the encoding of dozens of men's names, birth dates, death dates and cities of birth and death. None of these data were known until many centuries later. If the ELS codes are valid, then Genesis was written by a mind with the ability to foretell the future with precise accuracy. This is beyond human ability; God is the only possible author.
bullet Some conservative Christians and Jews reject the ELS analysis of the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Shalom B'nai Israel Congregation in Chicago is concerned that this type of study could lead to a worship of numbers. Others might point to Deuteronomy 18:10-11 which prohibits the use of various methods to predict the future. They specifically ban qosem q'samim, a Hebrew phrase which means to foretell the future by using lots or a similar system. Also m'onen is prohibited; it means to predict the future by interpreting signs in nature. Many religious conservatives consider ELS studies to be a form of the occult. Some Fundamentalists and other Evangelicals believe that the many occultic activities are forms of Satanism, and can open "doorways" to demonic possession to persons who practice the occult.

bullet Some skeptics, both Jewish and Christian, have no theological concerns about the use of the ELS techniques or forms of numerology with the goal of predicting the future. But they question the interpretation given to the findings. They might point to lack of statistical data associated with the ELS phrases discovered by Michael Drosnin, and tentatively conclude that all of his findings might be due to pure chance. That is, if Drosnin were to repeat his scans using 78,064 characters from the Hebrew translation of "War and Peace" then he would probably find similar, remarkable messages apparently encoded in Tolstoy's writings. This has since been confirmed with War and Peace, Moby Dick, and other long texts; they all contain hidden "messages."

bulletOther skeptics might concentrate on the precise version of the book of Genesis or of the Hebrew Pentateuch that is being used in the ELS studies. There appear to be "at least 10,000 versions" that have existed. 1 If there were once a "true" original copy of the Pentateuch dictated letter-by-letter by God to Moses, then it is very probable that none of the versions available today are perfect replicas of that original. There are a number of reasons for this:

bullet Copying Errors: The Dead Sea Scrolls contain segments of all 5 books of the Pentateuch. Comparing the scrolls with versions dated many centuries later shows that a few errors had crept in over the few hundred year period. By extrapolation, the total number of errors from the "original" text to modern versions would be much greater.

bulletSpelling Formats: Hebrew spelling practices are not totally rigid. Although most ancient Hebrew is spelled with consonants only, vowels are occasionally used. Some manuscripts might have a vowel inserted in a word in one sentence, and show the same word without the vowel in the next sentence.

Ronald S. Hendel states: "Every known ancient Hebrew manuscript of the Bible...has a different number of letters." 2 These differences do not change the meaning of the books significantly; but such errors are devastating to an ELS analysis. If one were to assume that:

bulletThere were only 100 copying and format differences between the original text and the modern version of the Pentateuch which resulted in the dropping of a letter, adding of a letter, changing a word to another word of another length, dropping a word, adding a word, etc.

bulletThese differences were more or less evenly distributed throughout the Pentateuch.

bulletThat God had encoded messages in the original text.

then a pass of the ELS computer program that started at some point in the Pentateuch would stumble after it had gone only about 1% further into the text. For example, if the pass began with the first character of Genesis 1:1 then it would stumble at about Genesis 3, when the "fall" of humanity is discussed. All analysis after that point would be meaningless, because the ELS would initially be out of synchronization by one or more characters. It is conceivable that a second, compensating error might be encountered later in the text which would bring the computer back into proper synchronization. But it is more likely that the next error would force the scan even further away from where it should be. It would seem that when the ELS method is used on modern versions of the Bible, it is incapable of detecting any significant percentage of encoded messages inserted by the author into the original text.


bulletOther skeptics might concentrate on the origins of the Book of Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch. Many accept the JEDP theory: that most of the Pentateuch was written by four authors or groups of authors: "J" (who used Jehovah as the name for God). "E" (who used Elohim); "D", the author of the book of Deuteronomy and "P" who wrote the "priestly" sections which deal with ritual, liturgy and the dates and genealogical passages. To this was added additional material obtained from other Mid-Eastern sources. The two creation stories in the Book of Genesis is one example. The interleaving of two flood stories into the Noachian flood account is another. The 5 books were assembled circa 950 BCE by "J", 750 BCE for "E" and 539 BCE for the P source. However, these were the dates that final "editing" occurred; the authors sometimes used much older material, from both Hebrew and Pagan sources. A large number of individuals each contributed their part to various portions of the Pentateuch. It seems unlikely that some sort of overall coordination occurred during this process to insert ELS codes precisely in place.

bulletDrosnin may by now have recognized that he has perpetrated a hoax on the public. He stated to a reporter "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in 'Moby Dick', I will believe them." 3 Shlomo Sternberg took him up on his offer. He arranged to have Moby Dick analyzed. 4 They found "13 'predicted' assassinations of public figures, several of them prime ministers or presidents or their equivalents." One "predicted" the death of President Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua, which happened on 1956-SEP-21. Five closely spaced segments said: "PRES" "SOMOZA" "DIES" "HEWASSHOT" "GUN." Two intersecting sequences were found stating "IGANDHI" "THEBLOODYDEED", thus "predicting" the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which happened on 1984-OCT-31. Sternberg concludes: "...the ELS method can produce any desired 'hidden message' in any sufficiently long text."

bulletA subscriber from an Internet discussion group searched for the phrase "Yeshua Moshiach Sheker" which means "Jesus is the False Messiah". She/he found more than three occurrences. 5

bulletReferences 6 and 7 contain indexes of WWW sites which contain discussions on hidden codes in the Torah, Greek New Testament, Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, War and Peace, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. They show that mysterious Bible-type codes appear in all large books and texts which are sufficiently long.

bullet

In spite of Drosnin's initial book 8 having been exposed as meaningless, he wrote a second book on the same theme. 9 which starts with the 9/11 terrorist attack and counts down to the War of Armageddon, and TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it). People appear to be catching on. Although Drosnin's first book received a rating of 3 out of 5 on the Amazon.com web site, his second book has a rating of 2.5 out of 5. Mark Perakh's review of the second book is particularly biting:

"The new book by Drosnin is what could be expected if you knew his previous despicable output. I was especially amused by the appendix to Drosnin's new opus wherein he painted a picture which is blatantly untrue, being a fantastic concoction about noble and highly qualified code defenders fighting against a few malicious attackers of low intelligence who, in Drosnin's learned opinion, either do not understand the codes (while he does) or intentionally try to discredit a high quality research allegedly proving the reality of the code. In fact the opposite is true. Contrary to Drosnin's assertion, the overwhelming majority of experts in mathematical statistics decisively rejected the claims by the code proponents. As to Drosnin's own contribution to the code lore, even professor Rips himself, to whom Drosnin refers with admiration and who (actually together with Witztum, whose name Drosnin does not seem to deem worth mentioning) is the originator of the code affair, has expressed his disapproval of Drosnin's attempts to predict the future by means of the alleged code sequences. In an interview to Newsweek a few years ago Drosnin claimed that he would admit his error if somebody found the "prediction" of a prime minister assassination "encoded" in a non-biblical text. A number of such "codes" was demonstrated. McKay found a whole bunch of them in Moby Dick. I found a set of "codes" spelling "Amir Will Kill Prime MInister Hero Rabin" in a Hebrew book by an Israeli writer Dahn Ben Amotz, published in 1979, this "code" being much better than Drosnin's acclaimed "prediction" of Rabin's assassination in the Bible. Drosnin never acknowledged this finding although it has been widely known and invoked multiple responses. That much about Drosnin's integrity. ...Overall, his new book is a piece of arrogant nonsense which of course will find thousands of gullible readers on whose ignorance and eagerness to believe in miracles [a] journalist of Drosnin's type can always rely so he can laugh all the way to the bank."


bullet

In reference 11, Brendan McKay took up Michael Drosnin's comment: "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them." 10 McKAy writes:

"Note that English with the vowels included is far less flexible than Hebrew when it comes to making letters into words." However, he scanned the book and found references to the assassinations of two prime minister: Indira Gandhi and Yitzhak Rabin. He continued and found codes for President Rene Moawad, Leon Trotsky, Reverend Martin Luther King, Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, President J.F. Kennedy, President Abraham Lincoln, and assassin Sirhan Sirhan.

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A potentially convincing test for the lack of validity of Bible codes:

A visitor to our web site suggested a method to test whether Bible codes found by the ELS system are valid. The method involves randomizing every letter in the Pentateuch. This would result in pure gibberish. Then run the same computer program, looking for hidden messages amid this random collection of letters. If they are found, then we can conclude that the analysis method is worthless, and no Bible codes exist. To our knowledge, this test has not been previously suggested or conducted.

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References used:

  1. D.H. Akenson, "The biblical X-files", The Globe and Mail Newspaper, 1997-AUG-2.
  2. R.S. Hendel, "The Secret Code Hoax", BR, Vol. XIII, No. 4, 1997-AUG, Page 23 - 24.
  3. Interview, Newsweek, 1997-JUN-9
  4. Shlomo Sternberg, "Snake Oil for Sale", BR, Vol. XIII, No. 4, 1997-AUG, Page 24 - 25.
  5. A subscriber from an Internet discussion group reported findings at: http://www.best.com This is no longer online.
  6. Mathematical Miracles in the Qur'an or the Bible? is an impressive list of many Internet resources on secret codes, both in the Qur'an and the Bible. See: http://www.math.gatech.edu/
  7. In Search of Mathematical Miracles contains links to various sites that discuss codes in the Torah, Greek New Testament and Qur'an. See: http://cs.anu.edu.au/
  8. Michael Drosnin , "The Bible Code," Touchstone Books, (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  9. Michael Drosnin , "Bible Code II: The Coundown," Viking Press, (2002). Read reviews or order this book
  10. Newsweek, 1997-JUN-9.
  11. Bendan McKay, "Assassinations Foretold in Moby Dick!," (1997) at: http://cs.anu.edu.au/

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Copyright ©1998 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-SEP-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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