On September 8, 2004, at 6 PM Central Standard Time the HISTORY Channel broadcast a documentary entitled "The Bible Code: Predicting Armegeddon." This was followed up on October 2, 2004, at 6 PM with "The Bible Code II: Apocalypse and Beyond." These shows were produced for the HISTORY Channel. The Torah scholars and Bible Code researchers included Mordecai Gafni of Oxford, Robert M. Haralick of the City University of New York, Professor Barry Simon of the California Institute of Technology, Art Levitt a "computer analyst," Roy A. Reinhold a "Bible Code Researcher," Harold Gams a former cryptologist for the United States Department of Defense, and other Code researchers Moshe Shak, Professor Eliyahu Rips, and retired United States Coast Guard Lieutenant Barry Roffman.
Having read a book on the subject several years ago, and then having studied Biblical Hebrew myself in the course of seminary work, my understanding of the Bible Code is as follows:
1. By counting the number of spaces between Hebrew letters, new messages can appear. The rule is that in unveiling any particular message, the word must consist of equidistant spaces. Other words as written in the Hebrew text can then be considered meaningful to the hidden message. What one pulls from the Hebrew text, therefore, is a "matrix," much like a word-find puzzle for children. Words can appear horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Words that are arranged close together are construed to be significant.
So, let us suppose that from the text of Genesis 3 a matrix can be pulled which has the following equidistant coding providing the word "Lockerbie" and, in a diagonal direction in the corner of the matrix, the word "PANAM," then it would be fair for the words in verse 3 as written to be construed to have meaning in this matrix, the words being "you shall die." (This is a thoroughly hypothetical example.)
2. As you can see, that these matrices refer to events in recent and ancient history can be quite compelling. The "Bible Code" is said to have predicted the assassinations of American President John F. Kennedy and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, the harnessing of electricity by Thomas Edison for the light bulb, the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11, and the holocaust by the Nazis and Hitler.
In 1994 the research into the Bible Code was published in scientific journals. Controversy soon followed. It did not take long, however, for the hype to work its way into Bible-believing Christian congregations. This fit neatly with the assumptions of many Bible-believing evangelicals that, 1. the Bible is the "word of God" and these codes give proof to an intelligent design and authorship at a deeper level than the sum of its human writers, and 2. that the chosenness of the Jews continues to be validated by God because, as the Christian Apostle Paul stated, "they have been entrusted with the very words (some translations read "oracles") of God." (Romans 3:2).
The Scofield and Darby brand of end-time thinking called "pre-millenialism" has been a potent force in American evangelical Christianity. The validity of the Bible Code fits neatly into this religious system.
Books from Jewish and Christian authors have been published on the Bible Code. An excellent movie and sure to be a cult classic was filmed from the Jewish perspective, called "Pi." This maddening eighty-minute black-and-white dramaticization of the pain of migraine head-aches is filled with intellectual curiosity and fraught with suspense: A genius mathematician is pursued by ultra-orthodox Jews and world-wide conglomerations to bring his key to unlocking the "name of God." I own this movie, one of the best ever made.
A movie called "The Omega Code" was released in 1999 and featured in its premise that the Code in the Hebrew Bible was genuine and identified events described in the Christian New Testament Book of Revelation. This movie, which begins with an orthodox rabbi discovering the secret just before his murder by an unscrupulous peon of a World Government conspiracy, was sponsored in part by Hal Lindsey of Christian End-times fame and author of "The Late Great Planet Earth." This movie is campy and laughably awful.
Is there anything to "The Bible Code?" The History Channel's documentary gave a few withering minutes to skeptics. One, from the institute that published the findings, declared that "no professional statistician believes in the Bible Code." Another such professional statistician, Professor Brendan McKay of Australian National University, was able to use Melville's novel MOBY DICK to find references to several world leaders using the rules devised by Bible Code enthusiasts.
In the next couple articles I will explain why the Bible Code is more hype than fact. I had once been carried away by the hype, but a visit to my church by a guest-speaker from "Jews for Jesus" and a study of the Hebrew language on my own, quickly persuaded me that "The Bible Code" is not a genuine phenomenon.