Decoding the “Bible Code” -- By: J. Paul Tanner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 157:626 (Apr 2000)
Article: Decoding the “Bible Code”
Author: J. Paul Tanner


Decoding the “Bible Code”

J. Paul Tannera

In 1997 Michael Drosnin’s book, The Bible Code, captured the attention of both the secular and the religious world with its astounding claims of having discovered hidden messages in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.1 Drosnin’s book captivated many readers with the alleged “Bible code” and became a bestseller. Scores of books, articles, and websites are now available for the curious. The “code” finds adherents in Jewish and Christian circles and among those who make no claim to belief in God.

The lure of the code is its claim to provide “secret messages” in the Old Testament that predict events. Hitler and the Holocaust, the assassinations of John Kennedy and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Gulf War, and man’s landing on the moon are all supposedly predicted in secret codes in the Hebrew Old Testament. The question naturally arises as to whether this technique is valid and whether Christians should place any confidence in it. Many already have, and therefore a careful evaluation is in order.

This article presents a brief introduction to the rise of the Bible code, explains how it works, provides examples of the method, and offers an evaluation. This writer is convinced that the method (despite its attraction to even very learned individuals) does not hold up when carefully examined, is inherently flawed, and must be exposed as a hoax being propagated on the unsuspecting.

Background

The Bible code has its roots in Jewish mysticism and a belief that the letters in the Hebrew text can be counted and “rearranged” so as to spell out additional words beyond those that appear in the surface text.2 Medieval rabbis often made claims that special words

could be found in the Hebrew text by counting out letters that occurred at equal intervals. For instance, the Hebrew word for “Torah” (תוֹרה), a word often used to refer to the first five books of the Old Testament, can be found in the first few verses of Genesis—right at the very beginning of the Torah! Disregarding any vowel points that might be involved, one could start with the ת at the end of the first word (בראשׁית, “in the beginning”), count fifty letters over, and the next letter is וֹ. Counting fifty letters more, ר is the letter, and then counting fifty more is ה

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