1337 E. Shepherd Dr.
Meridian, ID 83642
July 25, 1997
First, thank you for the gift. As you requested, I read both the books you gave me, and I have formulated a response to each book. I will focus most of my response on Grant Jeffrey's book, but I will also devote some time to The Bible Code. After reading both books, I took some time to do a little research (primarily on the Internet) to find out more about the authors and their works. I found book reviews as well as on-going debates between people involved with the books.
Let me say that each book was interesting to read. However, I must continue by saying that each is a very poor piece of scholarship. My critiques will be based upon the books, and not their theological foundations. In addition, I've tried to keep my response short: for more information, there are plenty of interesting articles on the Internet.
Jeffrey's sets out to prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God - in other words, that God himself dictated the precise words in the Bible to those who recorded it. To do this, he has to show that the "Bible" of today comes from the same texts that were laid down thousands of years ago. I have little problem with this assertion, however, contrary to Jeffrey's statement that the Old Testament we have today is the same as ones found 1100 years ago, I have read remarks that state that this is indeed not the case, and that there actually are multiple versions of the Old Testament (in Hebrew).
In order to prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God, Jeffrey decides to present evidence from several areas. I will deal with many of these areas of evidence.
First, he claims that the Bible is historically accurate, and that modern, "liberal", scholars denounce the Bible as merely a work of literature. Jeffrey decides to go through bits and pieces of archaeology to help prove his point. First, it is clear that the Old Testament - especially the first five books, are basically a history of the Jewish people. Therefore, it is only to be expected that many parts of that history coincide with outside sources (such as archaeological findings and secular texts). However, this in no way proves that the Bible is historically accurate in every detail. Jeffrey claims that the Bible is has been accurate in every "testable" instance. However, many events in the Bible are not testable. In addition, if one looks at works of literature - let's take Shakespeare - one finds many passages that relate to actual historical events. For example: the rule of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Macbeth, and so on and so forth. However, one must be careful, because in these texts, not every passage is historically accurate. For example: Hamlet existed, but not during the Reformation (as in Shakespeare) - he lived around the 11th century. In addition, here we have a (pardon the pun) logical leap of faith by Jeffrey: that if the Bible is accurate about historical events, then it must have been inspired by God. Why? because secular historians (Romans, in particular) were quite inaccurate (even fanciful), proving the accuracy on the part of the Hebrews must have been due to divine intervention. Wrong. At this point it is helpful to remember that Hebraic and Hellenic cultures had different views about time. The Greeks (and therefore probably the Romans) had a very cyclic view of history and time: throughout time (which had no beginning or end) events repeated themselves, like the seasons. In the Judeo-Christian world there was a linear view of time: there was a beginning and an end, and hence the individual events taking place between these two endpoints take on greater significance than those in the Greco-Roman world-view. To see this, simply read the first and last books of the Bible. Therefore, historical accuracy also had a different meaning. The point here, however, is simply that Jeffrey's claim that the accuracy of the Bible proves divine intervention is unjustifiable.
Jeffrey also claims that the Bible contains accurate scientific knowledge that could only be gained through divine inspiration. To show this, he gives examples of faulty science in other cultures, and points out passages in the Bible that supposedly display scientific knowledge. As to the first part: it is true that the Egyptians had horrible medical knowledge. In fact, it is interesting from a scientific and historical viewpoint to note that while the ancient Egyptians were very strong in the areas of engineering and astronomy that they relied on magic with regard to their medical knowledge. However, Jeffrey's claim that because the Hebrews possessed great knowledge about sanitation, this knowledge was God-inspired. The logical flaw here is obvious: one could simply argue that although the Hebrews certain knowledge about sanitation, they knew little about engineering and math, and hence the Egyptians - who possessed such knowledge - must be the chosen people of God. With regard to the Hebrew health laws - there is a much more simple explanation than divine intervention: experience and common sense. This is true in almost all cultures: much of a culture's more accurate knowledge regarding herbal cures, etc. was gathered through experience (i.e. - one thing works - use it, something else doesn't - don't use it). Now, modern science is finding "scientific" reasons as to why these remedies work. Finally, the claims that the Bible contains astounding scientific knowledge about astronomy and the water cycle is in some ways absurd. The part about the water cycle could very well have been "reasoned-out". On the other hand, Jeffrey has to resort to a great deal of interpretation in order to find his scientific statements in the Bible. Interpretation is for literature: Jeffrey wants a literal Bible - and yet he resorts to interpretation. In addition, he uses one passage from the Bible to prove two very different scientific claims! (Job 38: 28-31)
Next, Jeffrey gives a "proof" of why evolution must be wrong. I must be honest and say that at this point I did break out laughing at the absurdity of his argument and lack of scientific knowledge. His proof works like this: the 2nd law of Thermodynamics (which he calls the "second law of science" on page 112) states that matter and energy have a tendency to go from a state of greater order to one of less order. That is, over time, things decay (for example). However, evolution requires that a more evolved structure (greater order) comes from a less evolved structure (less order). Hence, evolution contradicts the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. Wrong again. The 2nd law of Thermodynamics only applies to a closed system. That is, a system in which energy is neither put in or taken out. However, the Earth is not a closed system: energy is always being brought in via sunlight and cosmic radiation. Jeffrey's argument here is that if evolution is wrong, the Bible 1) must be right and 2) must be the inspired word of God. Wrong on both counts. The true or false nature of Evolution does not affect the truth of the Bible one way or the other. Take the case that evolution is true - explanations have been given (take the Scopes monkey trial as an example) of how both evolution and the Bible (that is, the book of Genesis) could both be true. In addition, if evolution is false, it in no way implies that the Bible's account of creation is true - that would only be the case if creationism were the logical opposite of evolution, which is not the case. The point is of course in reference to our earlier discussion, in which we dealt with assumptions. Hence, once again Jeffrey has not proven his point.
Another area Jeffrey deals with is Bible prophecy. He deals with 2 types in particular: Bible prophecies which he says are being fulfilled now, and prophecies about the Messiah fulfilled by Jesus. As his greatest example, he takes the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948. He says that he actually figured out from the Old Testament that predicted Israel's reemergence in 1948. Two fallacies here (probably more, but I'll deal with two). First, Jeffrey claims he made the correct mathematical calculations - however, he doesn't say he accounted for changes from the Julian to Gregorian calendar (for example). His math was greatly simplified, and personally, I doubt its accuracy. Second: he claims that the reason Israel wasn't reborn earlier was that the Jews/Hebrews hadn't been righteous enough. And in 1948 they were? Israel was not created as a secular state, per se, but it was created by Zionists, who were overwhelmingly secular. Somehow, there is something wrong with this prophecy.
Grant Jeffrey also claims that the Bible is the inspired word of God because Jesus fits so many of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. Simply put: if Jesus didn't fulfill some of these prophecies, there is no way that he could be accepted as the Messiah. So, it is useless to speak of the "probabilities" that Jeffrey uses. Additionally, Jeffrey does not quote the other Old Testament prophecies relating to the coming of the Messiah. Why not? Do they or do they not support his claim? I cannot tell for certain, but I sincerely doubt it. My reason is simple: the Messiah of the Old Testament - that is, the savior the Jews were looking for - was to be a military leader. Not a spiritual leader. Jesus was the latter. Also, here is a point where it is relevant to talk about Bible accuracy, especially regarding the New Testament. First, most of Jesus' life is not recorded in the Bible. Accurate or not about his years as a teacher, much of his life remains a mystery. Second: unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament texts are contested - not for the accuracy of any one text, but because of the Books - the Gospels - that were left out. Jeffrey 1) ignores this point and 2) claims that the Gospels are accurate because they were written in the 1st century. The proves nothing. Think of all the inaccurate books on the Kennedy assassination and about the Roswell incident - all written within 50 years of the event. Temporal proximity is not evidence for or against anything.
Let us now deal with another type of prophecy - the Torah Codes. With all other parts of the book, it was pretty easy to see the faults in Grant Jeffrey's "scholarship". Here, however, it was a bit more difficult. Why? The use of statistics and probabilities, and the claim of well-documented evidence. However, as in Drosnin's The Bible Code, it turns out that the evidence (not necessarily the formal argument) is what is faulty. Actually, outright lies would be a better term. To clarify: the term ELS refers to Equidistant Letter Sequences. These are found in any text, in any language. If I give you a Stephen King book, you can skip all the letters you want - say, take every 49th letter - and you will find the word Jesus. Actually, you'll find a lot more. You will find your own name (first and last), etc. However, this is completely insignificant. Therefore, finding the word "Torah" spelled out in the first book of Genesis is equally meaningless. Supposedly, certain word combinations occur at a rate or composition that seems unlikely if left to random behavior. And these occur only in the first 5 books of the Old Testament. The conclusion: if they occur in a way that cannot reasonably be due to chance, then they must be there intentionally, and the "intention" must be that of the author. Furthermore, if these "codes" are about things the author of the text could not have known (such as the future), one has to opt for supernatural intervention. This is all logical. The problem: practically nothing in Jeffrey's books can be called a code. He claims that they are, but he followed none of the rigor involved in the original research by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg. He has only found ELS's. And they have no statistical significance. In addition, even the original work by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg has been called into question. Several mathematicians have used their model, and been unable to reproduce the results. Also, others have stated that their model is faulty. Jeffrey claims that no one has refuted the Codes - however, the publishers of the original article published it as entertainment, as a peculiarity and diversion, and hence no one bothered. I will speak more about these "codes" when discussing Drosnin's book. In any case, if there were hidden codes in the Bible that predicted the future, then one would have to accept some sort of supernatural intervention. However, no such evidence exists, contrary to what Jeffrey and Drosnin would have us believe.
Before I finish commenting on The Signature of God, let me address two more areas Jeffrey used as "evidence" for the God-inspired nature of the Bible. First, he claims that through Jesus, the apostles were changed (from simple fishermen, for example, to literate men of faith). Hence, we have supernatural intervention. Again, faulty reasoning. By analogy, every fanatic on earth, and all those who followed Jim Jones, David Koresh, and other cult leaders, would have experienced divine inspiration. And, what about those people who go through a traumatic event, forget their past lives, and end up half-way across the country starting over (for example, the ex-reporter from Portland (I think) who was recently found in Alaska)? Finally, Jeffrey claims that because the Bible has influenced so many people over the years that it must be the direct, inspired word of God. Ridiculous reasoning. Mein Kampf has inspired many since it first publication. Loot at the Book of Mormon. Or the Koran. These aren't just "best-sellers" - these books are long-time favorites. Religious belief should not just be a popularity contest, which is what Jeffrey turns it into.
Finally, before moving on to The Bible Code, I would like to point out some more general errors in Jeffrey's work. As I pointed out before, he bases he arguments on false assumptions. An example: that the opposite of evolution is creation. One of my favorite errors: how would God reveal himself to the world? Would he simply communicate with everyone, or would he give his Word to a chosen few, who would then spread it? On page 8, Jeffrey claims: "Obviously, the second option is the most practical." Why? God is the Almighty - that is, omnipotent. Hence, practicality has absolutely nothing to do with it. In fact, the first option is guaranteed to "get the job done". Jeffrey's argument is simply wishful thinking on the part of someone trying to get his point across. Also, I mentioned above how Jeffrey wants to "have his cake and eat it, too." He wants a literal Bible - one that isn't treated as a work of literature, or in need of interpretation - but at the same time he wants the freedom to interpret. Also, in terms of his scholarship, there are numerous faults. First, there is his inability to understand basic scientific principles (either that, or he is intentionally misleading his readership). His math is faulty, and as stated by numerous critics, his "probabilities" are outright lies. He has manufactured numbers to fit his desires. Take the section dealing with Jesus fulfilling Old Testament prophecies. Can you find the logic in the numbers he comes up with. Again, with regard to the Codes, he has clearly manufactured results. Even if he hadn't just created results, his math would still be faulty. Jeffrey has no understanding of probabalistic mathematics. The way he "multiplies" two probabitities together to get the compound probability is valid only when the events are independent. However, when the events are dependent, this is not the case, and Jeffrey never makes certain that his events are independent. In fact, some may be dependent. There is a note of hypocrisy on page 219. He claims that: "Another important point to note is that these Hebrew codes do not contain any hidden theological or doctrinal messages." I will agree with that result, pointing out, however, that Jeffrey's apparent goal is to use these "Codes" as a theological weapon.
In terms of style and rhetoric, I find that Jeffrey is adept at using numerous logical fallacies (some pointed about above) and it is precisely this that turns me off to his prose. I also object to another of his logical fallacies. He constantly claims that the Bible is the inpired Word of God because there are statements in the Bible making this claim. This type of self-reference basically results in circular logic. Jeffrey constantly refers to "any fair-minded reader", and yet he has forged evidence. In addition, his definition of "fair-minded" is already limited to Christians (and Jews, I would venture). This is supported by radio statements made by Jeffrey, as well as statements by him on the Internet. In addition, he doesn't limit his argument to the evidence at hand: instead, he ridicules those who disagree with him and dismiss them. That is, according to Jeffrey, those who don't agree with him are 1) close-minded (not fair-minded) and 2) fools or 3) dishonest. (see page 16) In such a situation, it is difficult to take this man seriously.
In any case, the point I wanted to make regarding The Signature of God is that Jeffrey is attempting to prove that the Bible is the inspired word of God. However, none of his evidence leads to this conclusion. The reasons for his failure are 1) he makes logical leaps that do not support his argument; 2) he makes up and distorts evidence; and 3) his argument is directed only at those who might agree with him from the beginning. In contrast, The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin attempts to hit a much larger reader base. However, he, too, manipulates evidence and relies on logical fallacies and rhetorical smoke screens to make his point.
Let me outline a few of the problems relating to Drosnin's books All the "Bible Codes" Drosnin found are quite common - the aren't anything special. That includes those about the Holocaust, Hitler, and Rabin. In addition, Drosnin's translations and interpretations are more than suspect. One authority stated that the literal translation regarding the Rabin passage would read "slayer who must be slain." Not "assassin that will assassinate." Drosnin skipped letters, and read things any way he wanted to get the desired result. In addition, when his predictions didn't come true, he suddenly came upon the word "delayed." Hence, his assertions cannot be proven or disproved, because anytime one tries to disprove him by stating "ah, but this didn't occur," Drosnin finds the word "delayed." Nothing Drosnin found, by the way, was done in a rigorous fashion. No analysis to say "yes, it is improbable that this would occur as an ELS, and hence it was probably placed here by design." Something that is important to me, and which sheds a lot of light on the subject is the nature of the Hebrew language. Written Hebrew (modern and ancient) doesn't contain vowels. That is, when you read it, you have to place the vowels between the consonants. Thus, any set of letters strung together can produce a great variety of words, which is not necessarily true in English. Many of the words found by Drosnin (and Jeffrey) consist of very commonly used letters, and the words themselves are quite short in Hebrew. It is interesting to note that Prof. Rip, who appears in Drosnin's book, denies much of his supposed work with Drosnin, and furthermore denounces Drosnin's results as bogus (from a statement by Rip, published on the Internet). I have decided to include two reviews of The Bible Code along with this letter, since I figured that would be better than just quoting their results.
Rather than dwell further on either of these books, I thought I would provide a useful comparison between Drosnin's book and the book Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock (like Drosnin, also an ex-reporter). In Hancock's book, the lost continent of Atlantis is actually Antarctica, and its civilization was destroyed by a geologic catastrophe thousands of years ago, when Antarctica/Atlantis was situated much further north (in the temperate zone). As their civilization declined, the Atlanteans roamed the world, passing on bits and pieces of their vast knowledge: the pyramids of Egypt and the Aztecs; the creation myths of many cultures, etc. Supposedly we have just now unearthed this information - just in time, since in 2112 there will be another catastrophe that destroys the world as we know it. Sound familiar - Drosnin makes many of the same predictions regarding great destruction, etc. in the coming years. And again, nothing is set in stone - if we work hard and are righteous (in one way or another), we can divert the coming disaster (and hence, we can't disprove Hancock's or Drosnin's claims). Hancock also backs up his tale with lots of "scientific" evidence, and like Jeffrey, instead of proving the validity of his evidence, he attacks those who would disagree with him as too "traditional" and close-minded. I mention Hancock's book for several reasons. First, it bears a great resemblance to Drosnin's work. Secondly, I read it about a year ago and found it fascinating - although I was skeptical about Hancock's claims. A friend read it and found it "frightening." Then I did some research on it, and discovered the errors made by Hancock - some perhaps innocent, some blatant and seemingly made simply so he could sell more books (as it seems to be with The Bible Code). Finally, I ended up writing a paper for a geology class based upon it, in which I tackled the geologic "theory" Hancock had used to support his claims.
At last, I have come to the conclusion of my rambling letter. One final comment regarding Grant Jeffrey's book: in the long run I hope it is forgotten. It adds nothing to religion at all. In fact, it is perhaps a negative influence. If faith could be proven scientifically, it wouldn't be faith, now would it? Jeffrey claims that he is defending the Bible. Others would (and do) argue that the path Jeffrey paves is misleading: people shouldn't look for validation of their faith in material objects or events. In any case, thanks again for the gift.
PS - One more thing regarding Jeffrey's book. Jeffrey talks about the books of Revelations, etc., which was composed by John. Slight problem: there are several Johns in the Bible, and scholars believe that this John is actually different from the others. He most likely traveled in Turkey during the first century or later and had no actual connection with Jesus. It seems that John may have actually just copied material from Daniel - with slight alterations. Also it is in John's work that we get the number 666. Jeffrey talks about Hebrew as a language in which letters also stand for numbers. It is also the case in ancient Greek, and there is evidence that leads us to suspect that when using the number 666, John was referring to the emperor Nero (whose name corresponds with these numbers). Finally, regarding biblical accuracy, Jeffrey completely ignores the New Testament and the figures of the New Testament (including Jesus) in their political roles. For example: being crucified was not the punishment for heresy (as many people think) - it was the Roman punishment for political crimes.
PPS - with regard to the appendices, I have included them "as is," and have not edited them for content, grammar, or spelling. The only alterations I have made were to remove advertisements and graphics-markers that were useless.
AN IMPARTIAL OPINION ON THE "TORAH CODES" Bruce David Wilner I recently read Michael Drosnin's new book, The Bible Code (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997). Being entranced by the concept but simultaneously disappointed at the author's casual style and handy buzzword-mongering, I hunted down and digested all the related resources on the Internet, including the original paper by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg that forms an appendix to Drosnin's book, a testimonial by an NSA cryptographer, and an analysis by a noted scholar of statistical pattern recognition. (Late news flash: an interesting refutation of the Bible codes phenomenon has recently been posted.) Here are some of the problems I have with Drosnin's claims: * A friend of mine who is quite fluent in Hebrew was unable to interpret many of the passages in the way that the book indicates without, shall we say, a generous dose of poetic license. It is also disturbing that some of the passages must be read forward, others backward, while one (Drosnin, p. 96) evidently reads boustrophedonically! In fact, some of the passages that Drosnin refers to in his appendix do not match the versions in any of my several Bible translations. * Hebrew is so prone to wordplay that it's utterly ridiculous. Because of the triconsonantal rule, many words are extremely short, so a given snippet of text, with spaces between the words removed, could be interpreted in innumerable ways. Some languages are even more prone to wordplay, others less so. I would be willing to bet that any text in Mandarin Chinese, if dictated, contains a complete recipe for duck à l'orange. That's because Mandarin words are one syllable in length and homophony is rampant. At the other end of the spectrum, I doubt that any technical text in German, regardless of its length, would be found to contain as little as the names of the three sons of Noah. * First we are told that the miraculous findings are limited to the Pentateuch, which was supposedly dictated to Moses on Mount Sinai. Next, the author is hunting for pieces of the Bible code in prophetic and apocalyptic works, e.g., Isaiah and Daniel. This troubles me because it implies that, as early as 500 BC, people could have discovered the Bible code and then said, "Hey, let's put some of this neat stuff into the Prophets and the Writings." We know that Isaiah had at least three authors and Daniel must have had umpteen (indeed, bits and pieces of Daniel are Apocryphal), but even for such collaborative efforts, the implication borders on the ridiculous. * Drosnin makes frequent statements that the computer science (in the Witztum - Rips - Rosenberg report) is solid and the math is flawless, or passed rigorous peer review, or some such thing. Such claims are meaningless, especially when stipulated by a non-scientist who has never written, let alone published, a technical paper. There is no substantive computer science in finding strings of equidistant letters and organizing letters into a matrix based upon the string locations; fewer than one hundred lines of BASIC code, a 1960s technology, could accomplish that. Stating that the math is flawless is misleading; there isn't much math in the original paper, except the calculation of the odds of this or that, based upon an experiment which, according to Haralick's refutation, is rigged. I cite Haralick not because he's skeptical, but because he's a renowned authority on pattern recognition. Calculating the probabilities of finding patterns in a data set is precisely his cup of tea. * Drosnin states that the code cannot be used to tell the future, but that one can readily fit past events to the code, presumably by being a little loosey-goosey with the language. I am reminded of the Centuries of Nostradamus; they are so vague that they fit anything in retrospect. (I wonder if Nostradamus's quatrains derive from reading the Torah backward and looking for patterns!) * Drosnin should be careful to explain that the asterisks and hyphens represent deletions of the letters lamedh and heh, respectively, in the Lord's names so that those who are not Orthodox Jews won't suspect that they're looking at anachronistic punctuation (absent from the Hebrew original and Septuagint) or versification (not added until the sixteenth century). Now, here are some of my opinions on the "erudite" commentaries found on the Internet: * Harold Gans claims that he verified the mathematics. I do not question innocent assertions that the probability of finding such-and-such in a text is such-and-such. However, these assertions do not equate to the assertion that a supernatural being deliberately encoded information about our future in an ancient text. * Some Web sites claim that the Hebrew name of Jesus (Yeshu) appears frequently in the Bible code, while other Web sites counter that these are pseudo-scientific claims promulgated by "Jesus freaks" who would distort the truth. Admittedly, the word Yeshu includes yod and vav, the two most common letters in Hebrew, so finding that pattern might not be significant. How about looking for something more unique, though, like Yeshu ha-Notzri, or Yeshu ben-Yosef, or Yeshu Meshiach ben-El? Has anyone tried this? In the interests of scientific purity, these strings should also be sought. Try harder, gentlemen. After all, the coming of the Messiah is foretold in the Old Testament. It is stated in Matthew that Jesus came not to abolish, but to fulfill. It is stated in Acts that the kashrut is obsolete. It is stated in Galatians that the entire Mosaic code is obsolete (although Paul's explanation entails a logical error, viz., the assumption that the inverse of a proposition has the same truth value as the original proposition). Are these statements also predicted by the Bible code? Indeed, is the error in Paul's logic predicted by the Bible code? What are we hiding, gentlemen? (In case the reader is wondering, I am Jewish, but I examine all viewpoints in the interest of fairness.) I am not a skeptic for skepticism's sake. The claims are utterly fantastic, and it would thrill me if they were true. But it's going to take a bit more than a handful of buzzwords, some probabilistic calculations of an extremely narrowly defined experiment, and a lay author's glib statements that the computer science and the mathematics are flawless to convince me. For those who might be wondering, I am an electrical engineer and computer scientist with a significant background in pattern recognition. I am also a highly competent mathematician, linguist, and Scripturist. The reason that the authors are able to shepherd such fantastic claims past the general public is that the average reader does not combine expertise in all of these fields (nor, in fact, does the average "expert" critic). I, however, do. I have invited Dr. Eliyahu Rips, via e-mail, to send me a copy of the on-line Hebrew text that he analyzed, and to answer my challenge that (a) the linguistic analysis is very loose, and (b) his choice of what to look for, and what not to look for, in the Bible code is influenced by something more personal and ethnocentric than scientific purism (viz., it avoids any search for Messianic references). I eagerly await his response.
Deciphered 'Bible Code' reveals a religious mockery June 11, 1997 Review by David Crumm "Journalist" Michael Drosnin should be ashamed of himself. So should Simon & Schuster, Newsweek magazine and all the other media entities that are helping Drosnin promote his book-shaped bottle of snake oil, "The Bible Code." Drosnin's premise is this: The ancient Hebrew text of the first five books of the Bible contains an extremely complex code that conceals predictions of modern events. It's an idea almost guaranteed to sell books in an era when millions of baby boomers are taking a fresh look at the Bible, and nearly everyone is intrigued by the looming year 2000. There's no question that Drosnin is a showman. He unveils his idea like Houdini producing a grand stage illusion. The book's opening paragraph is calculated for explosive impact. "On Sept. 1, 1994, I flew to Israel and met in Jerusalem with a close friend of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the poet Chaim Guri. I gave him a letter which he immediately gave to the Prime Minister." This urgent letter predicted Rabin's assassination, based on the code uncovered by Drosnin and Israeli mathematician Eliyahu Rips. Of course, Rabin did not take the letter seriously. Then, on Nov. 4, 1995, he was shot to death. I'm right, Drosnin declares. "Suddenly, brutally, I had absolute proof that the Bible code was real." The balance of the book is filled with dozens of large charts showing thousands of Hebrew letters connected in crossword-puzzle fashion, accompanied by Drosnin's dramatic explanations of the charts. One section predicted the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Drosnin claims. Another group of letters predicted the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City -- and even named Timothy McVeigh as the bomber. Wow! If only it were true! The problem is his claim that this code is well-documented fact. The code itself is called a "skip code," a computerized reorganization of every letter in the Hebrew text. On the first pass through the text, the computer skips every second letter and then considers whether the letters that are left behind form any new words. Then, the computer goes through the text again -- this time, skipping every second and third letters -- once again looking for new words. The long process continues until the computer is skipping thousands of letters in its reassembly of the text. Naturally, a reorganization of the letters on this vast scale produces a handful of new words. On top of that, the ancient text contains neither punctuation nor vowels, so the forming of these Hebrew words -- and their translation into modern English -- allows Drosnin enormous latitude to weave his dramatic stories. For instance, he interprets several groups of letters as spelling out "Watergate" and "Who is he? President, but he is kicked out." This is conclusive proof, he claims, that the Bible predicted President Nixon's demise. In fact, it is not surprising to find the term "Watergate," because it appears in the plain text of the Bible as well. But it is difficult to accept Drosnin's translation of several Hebrew letters as "president," since the word and the concept are foreign to the Hebrew Bible. This sleight of hand doesn't seem to bother Drosnin, despite the fact that he was formerly a reporter for the Washington Post. Once he gets rolling, he turns every trick he can manage to shore up his theory. If such a code does exist, then who created it? Drosnin never fully answers. He claims that God might have done it, but then, as if to beef up his own objectivity, Drosnin insists that he is not a believer himself. Perhaps, he argues, it might have been an alien civilization who visited Earth and left behind the encoded text -- sort of like Gideons from outer space. He even invokes Arthur C. Clarke's "2001" and suggests the Bible might have been dropped off by the mysterious black monolith from the distant reaches of the cosmos. What really makes Drosnin's book seem absurd to a regular reader of the Bible is the fact that the plain text of the Bible is full of crystal clear predictions. It doesn't take a computer to understand these messages. Among other things, the Bible predicts that violence begets violence, that helping poor people will help us all, and that families will be stronger if children will honor their parents. Perhaps most importantly in this case, the Bible also says that, though it is good to be innocent as a dove, it's also important to be sly as a fox, especially when someone comes hawking snake oil. Free Press religion writer David Crumm is on leave from work, but not from his senses. _________________________________________________________________ 'The Bible Code' 1star By Michael Drosnin Simon & Schuster, 265 pages, $25 _________________________________________________________________ [ISMAP]-navigation bar All content © copyright 1997 Detroit Free Press and may not be republished without permission.
Thank you very much for providing me with Daniel Mechanic's refutation of the "Yeshua Codes" by Pastor Rambsel and Grant Jeffrey. The source of this letter may come as a surprise to you. I am a Christian minister from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada of which Grant Jeffrey is a member. While Grant Jeffrey and I may share the same beliefs, his work has provided me with a great deal of distress. His work ranges from being stylistically sloppy to making serious mistakes, often getting his facts wrong, fudging numbers and twisting what the scriptures say. Many leaders in our denomination do not agree with his approach but many others promote his material (which I am trying to correct) and too many people are swallowing it up. The methodology Jeffrey uses in the entire book (not just the "Yeshua" codes chapter), gives us as Pentecostals a bad name. That is why I am writing to thank you for providing me with this resource. Rest assured, not all Pentecostals or Evangelicals uncritically buy into Jeffrey's assertions. Quite the opposite is true of me. Thanks for your help. It was literally a Godsend. Rev. Mike Somerville Edmonton, Alberta, Canada