Are Bible Codes Real?

Don't buy snake oil.

Some people believe that the Bible doesn’t just contain God’s message to mankind, they also believe that it contains hidden messages for us to ferret out. One method of ferreting is known as ELS, or Equidistant Letter Sequencing. To find the hidden messages you must take a block of text from the Bible, and reformat it. This means that you must lay out the words in a chunk, like 20 words to a line. Then, you pick a variable…say, 5. Starting at the first word, or the fifth, you jump to every fifth letter and write them down. Sometimes a word will be created by this jumping around.

If 5 doesn’t work, try another variable…say, seven. If no messages are found, you might try a sequence of variables. Three, six and two might work. Start at word one, jump to the fourth, jump to the tenth, jump to the twelfth. See? Child’s play. Of course, sometimes even that doesn’t uncover a hidden message…but don’t worry! There’s a solution. Try going diagonally, either up or down. It makes no difference.

If you don’t find any messages in this manner, you might have to reorder the block of text. Instead of the 20 words per line, go to seventeen…or thirty-one. Whatever it takes to find that hidden message, right? If it’s from God we must find it.

The Bible Code is based on Equidistant Letter Sequencing. Michael Drosnin wrote the book using research done by Eliyahu Rips (a mathematician from Hebrew University) and Doron Witztum (a physicist from the Jerusalem College of Technology). The two of them (along with their friend Yoav Rosenberg) published their research in Statistical Science in 1994, but the the editors made it clear they did not endorse their work. Even Rips and Witztum are critical of the way Drosnin used their research.

Here’s the problem with the Bible codes: you can make it say anything you want. That’s not a message from God…that’s manipulation, pure and simple. Drosnin told Oprah Winfrey “I am entirely secular. I don’t believe in God”…doesn’t THAT tell you anything? When you apply the coding system, you can program a computer to search for patterns by (for example) every fourth letter. The trouble with such a system is that Hebrew HAS NO VOWELS! You can insert your own ideas into the pattern any time you want…”God’s message” isn’t clear at all. For example, Drosnin claimed that the code predicted Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Problem? “Rabin” transliterated in Hebrew is RBN. That could be “Robin” or “Rubin” or “Rabean” or “Roubion” or any other combination of such letters. It’s certainly no more clear than the ravings of Nostradamus, which no self-respecting scholar would ever consider divinely inspired.

Another problem with the code? Hebrew reads right to left…but you can use the code left to right, top to bottom, or even diagonally. That’s a stupid way to claim inspiration from God! Everyone who’s ever solved a word search knows inherently that a diagonal line in a block of letters is completely dependent on where you break the lines in the paragraph. I could take this editorial and break it up into 20 different configurations and find codes within it by applying that methodology. Does that mean that my writing is inspired by God? Certainly not. Anyone can find a “message from God” by taking a language without vowels and reconfiguring the text and searching with a computer for patterns…and then translating those messages by inserting vowels wherever it seems appropriate.

God’s real message, on the other hand, is clear. You don’t need a computer to find it. You don’t need to apply some esoteric system of revelation to understand it. You simply need to read the Bible, and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God has never worked the way that Drosnin claims…hidden, secret, and undisclosed. God has always been up front about what He wants us to know. If God’s real message were a hidden secret, then God would be cruel indeed. Think of all those people who had to do without God’s “true revelation” that’s only recently been revealed! No, the Bible Code isn’t real. Instead, God has made His message plain…it’s all there for ANYONE to find it. After all, God said “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” …not ‘with your personal computer’.