The Buzz on Bible Codes
A steady stream of best-selling books have raised a question: could there be hidden prophecies in the Bible, found out by methods used to decode spy messages? What are 'bible codes'?
The writers of the Bible are known to have used two types of word or letter patterns. They used poetic parallelisms (where the words in each line of the doublet mean roughly the same thing but slightly different). They also used alphabetic acrostics, which start each section with the next letter of the alphabet. With these, the pattern is deliberate and made to be noticed; its meaning is hardly hidden. Such patterns are part of the art of writing, no less than rhyme or meter.
At Qumran, in Jesus' day, and for the century around the Second Temple's fall, the fringier parts of the Jewish religious world were deep into a search for hidden meaning. They sought methods which could tell them what could not be figured out by a common everyday good reader, things that God was said to have wanted only the chosen few to know. To break the 'code', they used methods such as letter counts, numerology, reverse spelling, and symbolic equivalence. Gnostics then took up their trail. Later, many Jewish Kabbalists also continued this quest, some of them adding methods not unlike those of the dying pagan underground of Europe. Most recently, some Fundamentalist Christians have used hidden-message methods to find the signs of the end times.
Today's seekers of hidden knowledge have powerful new tools. They call on the modern sorcery of the silicon wizard, the computer, to discover intricate patterns they never would have thought of on our own. They use :
- Letter counts;
- Equidistant letter sequences and patterns (like, say, every 50th letter, or the first letter of each word);
- Word patterns (like, every seventh word, or the second word in each poetic line).
- Keyword acrostics, where the key words in each passage could be examined for patterns, or coherence outside of their source.
From these methods, they claim to discover assassinations, wars, the rise of the Third Reich, the US presidential candidates, and the date of the final Armageddon.
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Technical Problems with Letter Sequences
It's futile to try to find coherent true prophecies in the Bible by way of word or letter skip-patterns.
- You have to agree on an exact text. The Bible Code theorists usually choose the standard Masoretic Text (MT), and don't correct it even for the few clearest examples of scribal error such as at 1 Samuel 5:6, 11:1, 14:23.
- Even if we agree to use the MT, there are a small number of variations in it, which do not affect word meaning but do affect letter count formulas.
- Then, there is the question of vowels. The MT's written letters are consonants, and vowels are shown by points placed next to the consonants. Certain long vowels are usually indicated by using written consonants (the equivalents of our y and w). Yet there are places where these same long vowels are indicated only by vowel points, not letters, and thus they are not in the text.
- Then there's the related question of the Kethib and Qere, where the different vowel pointings of the consonants indicate slightly different meanings. This could affect the results of word pattern tests.
Word pattern and equidistant letter sequence tests can create results in any literature in any language. Such tests have been done on Melville, Tolstoy and Shakespeare, all having some sort of results. It would likely even produce some sort of results when done to Spirithome.com. (C'mon. I dare you !) So of course some patterns would show up in the Hebrew Scriptures. If you want to find something bad enough, you'll find a way to find it.
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The Bible Speaks
--- Without A Cloak
The Bible itself has some choice words to say about this whole family of methods, in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 :
"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or uses divination, or practices augury, or interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a spell-caster, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For the LORD detests whoever does such things, and those who do such detestable things the LORD your God will drive out before you."
Divination is trying to find out something by using divine power. Augury (prediction) either calls on the power of other gods, or calls on Yahweh to act like the other gods. Bible code theories use word or letter patterns which, when pieced together, point to an event or person who is many years, even millenia, into the future, supposedly because God put it there. But any such method of finding supposed 'divine secrets' is little different than looking into a crystal ball or consulting a seer. That's the stuff of other peoples' worship of other gods, not this people's worship of the true God. God finds such things "detestable", and forbids the covenant people to do it. Why would the one true God stoop to acting like the non-gods that we've fashioned for ourselves? And where do we get the nerve to ask for that? Yet that is what bible code theories do. Why do they distrust the Bible and its God so much that they think God's hiding something in it? And what do they think they gain by knowing it, even if it was true?
The key thing to remember is that the Bible is here for a reason. It's there to tell you God's story and teach you God's will. It's made to reveal, not conceal. Even the parables, which intentionally aren't meant for those who won't bother to think about it, require only the most basic of instruction, and Jesus gives us even that. Jesus sent the Spirit to show us where what's openly found in the Bible is to lead us in life. God wants you to know all the stuff that matters, and puts it out there where you can find it without becoming an encryption expert. The Bible has no code; it has a story to tell and a truth to spread.
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If you really love nerdy statistical stuff, you'll love *Who Wrote the Bible Code* by Randall Ingermanson (Water Brook, 1999). His answer: No one, because there isn't one.
- Find out more about studying the Bible in a straightforward way.
- Or, download the PDF booklet of all the Spirithome pages on the Bible, including all of the word definitions found here on Spirithome.com.
- Meanwhile, enjoy this from the Babylon Bee, satirizing the half-baked code theories.
An aside, to the few who wonder why so many were talking about the end times that would start in 2011 or 2012: radio preacher Harold Camping of Family Radio once again predicted the dates of the end of the world - this time, it began May 21 2011 with a snatching of the few faithful, and finishes on a date in October with the Earth killed by cataclysms. He claimed that the evidence is encoded into the Bible books, and that God has shown him what this bible code for end-times passages means. But that is not how God has worked, to date, and this is not how God wants the Bible, or the end-times, to be used.