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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: False Views of Scripture

Don Stewart :: Is There a Secret Code in Scripture That Proves Its Divine Authority? (The Bible Code)

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Question 9

Is There a Secret Code in Scripture That Proves Its Divine Authority? (The Bible Code)

There is a view of the divine inspiration of the Scripture that has gathered much attention in recent years; namely there is a code encrypted in the Hebrew Old Testament which proves it was written by a non-human, or supernatural, source. This idea has come to be known as the “Bible code.” While some people refer to the discovery of a “secret code” in Scripture, a code, by definition, is something hidden or secretive. Therefore, it is better to refer to it merely as a “code,” rather than a “secret code.”

Having said this, we can summarize the claims surrounding the Bible code in the following manner:

Claim: a Code Has Been Placed in the Original Hebrew Text of the Old Testament

It has been alleged that a code has been found in the Bible that is unique to it alone. This code is contained in the original Hebrew text of the entire Old Testament; though some Bible code advocates believe the code is only found in the Torah; the first five books of the Old Testament.

It has been claimed that the code that is contained in the biblical text has predicted many historical events. This includes the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust. It has been alleged that the code proves the supernatural character of the Bible because of the many encrypted messages found within its pages.

There are also testimonies of experts, who were skeptical of the idea of codes in Scripture, who have changed their mind because of the mathematical evidence. This shows that a fair examination of the facts will reveal the amazing truth concerning the Bible code; it is there and it is real.

How the Bible Code Works

The Bible itself contains straightforward predictions about what will happen in the future. For example, a passage such as Micah 5:2 says the coming Messiah, or Deliverer, will be born in the city of Bethlehem. Since the text clearly specifies that He must come from this city, and this city alone, the prediction can be checked out. Therefore, biblical predictions, such as this one, can be investigated to discover whether they are true or false.

The Bible code does not work this way. It can only be fully appreciated by the use of extensive searches of a computer because the text of Scripture is seen as one giant crossword puzzle. The way in which it works can be simply described as follows:

The Hebrew text of Scripture is made into one long sequence of letters with no spaces between the words. The first step in finding a code is to choose a known word in Hebrew; such as the word Yeshua, or Jesus. The computer is then asked to search the Hebrew text for all examples of this particular word at an equally spaced interval. This is also known as ELS (equidistant letter sequences). The intervals can be set at any length. It may be at every two letters, five letters, every one hundred letters or every one thousand letters. It does not matter as long as the letters that make up the word Yeshua are found at the same interval in the Hebrew text.

Once the search has been made, the computer then lists all the places where this particular word is found at the specified set interval in the text; for example, at every thousandth letter. It does not matter whether this word is spelled forwards or backwards, as long as the same letters which make up the word Yeshua show up at the same skip levels throughout the Hebrew Old Testament.

Once this is accomplished, the various places where this particular word is found at this interval are searched for related words that may contain some secret message. The discovery of related words, in the vicinity of the word initially requested, leads the searcher to find messages about this particular word which is hidden in the text. It is claimed that there are meaningfully paired names, dates and events which have been systematically hidden in a text. These messages can be found by reading the text forwards or reading backwards. On some occasions, the text is read as a boustrephedon. This is an ancient writing method in which the lines of a particular text alternate in reading from left to right and then right to left.

After performing this task, some Christians have claimed to have found hidden messages about Jesus in the Hebrew Old Testament. They say they have found key words and phrases in the proximity of the various places where Yeshua shows up at the same skip level.

It has also been claimed that there are any number of words which can yield the same incredible results; whether it refers to people such as Adolph Hitler or Osama Bin Laden or historical events such as the Holocaust or September 11th. There are messages in the text that provide detailed information about the people and events. Because of the specific nature of the messages, it is assumed that they must have been placed there by a supernatural entity; whether it is God or some other being.

This Is Not the Same Practice as Gematria: the Mystical Use of Numbers

The theory of a code embedded in the Old Testament text is not exactly the same thing as the ancient practice of Gematria, or the mystical use of numbers. Those who practice Gematria assign a numeric value to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Once this is done, certain numeric combinations are searched for. Then the searcher tries to find significance in these numbers. It is purely a mathematical exercise; it does not look for messages hidden in the text in the same way as is practiced in the search for a Bible code.

While the practice of searching for a Bible code and the use of Gematria are not exactly the same; they are similar. Indeed, both assume there is some type of supernatural or non-random structure to the original text of the Hebrew Bible.

Alleged Biblical Evidence for a Code

There are some people who have claimed to find biblical references to this sort of practice. The following passages have been used by some who are practitioners of the Bible code:

  1. Isaiah Refers to a Sealed Document

    In the Book of Isaiah, we read the following about the existence of a sealed document. The passage says:

    The vision of all this has become for you like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to those who can read, with the command, “Read this,” they say, “We cannot, for it is sealed.” (Isaiah 29:11 NRSV)

    Some people have assumed that is a reference to the secret methodology necessary to unravel the Bible code. The people in Isaiah’s day could not understand the code because they did not have the proper tools to do so. The document that is referred to, the text of Scripture, is sealed until the time it can be unsealed. We are now living at that time.

  2. The Prediction Made to Daniel

    This brings us to a passage in the Book of Daniel. It says the book must be sealed until the time of the end. At that time, knowledge will increase so that the sealed book can be understood. Daniel was told the following:

    But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end. Many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase. (Daniel 12:1-4 NLT)

    This prediction in the Book of Daniel is said to foretell the discovery of the Bible code that will unlock these secret messages which are contained in the sealed book. The unlocking of the code will be at the time of the end. Consequently, with the advent of computers and their ability to do these extensive searches, this prophecy is now fulfilled in our day.

  3. The Name of the Lord Hidden in Esther

    In the past, an encrypted message was supposedly found hidden in the Book of Esther. Esther, along with the Song of Solomon, are the only books in the Old Testament where the personal name of God, Yahweh or Jehovah, is not mentioned.

    However, it was discovered that the first letter of four successive words in Esther 5:4 contain the consonants that make up the divine name; YHWH or Yahweh. Therefore, God placed His name in the text, but in a secretive manner. This is seen as evidence that God has placed other hidden messages in the text.

  4. The Texts Were Originally Written Without Spaces Between Words

    It is also claimed that the original texts of Scripture were written in continuous writing without any spaces between the words. This fact is another piece of evidence that the text was meant to be read as one long continuous set of letters.

  5. Jesus’ Statement That No Letter Would Pass Away

    There is also the statement of Jesus that not even the smallest letter, or the stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is fulfilled. He said:

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. (Matthew 5:17-18 NET)

    This is used to argue for the perfect state of the Hebrew text of Scripture. With this perfect text, one can now go about examining it for the code which was embedded in it.

  6. The People Were to Calculate the Number of the Beast

    In the Book of Revelation, the readers were told to calculate the number of the beast. John wrote:

    This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is man’s number, and his number is 666. (Revelation 13:18 NET)

    This is evidence, from the Scripture, that God wants His people to find information in the text of Scripture which is not found on the surface. This, it is claimed, is further support for the idea of a code.

    This briefly sums up the case made for the Bible code. Certainly, Christians want to know if God has embedded a code in His Word which gives further testimony to its divine inspiration. Therefore, any claims which are made about the Bible are to be taken seriously.

Response to the Idea of a Bible Code

Is there a code in Scripture that has miraculously predicted future events? Are there secret messages which supernaturally prove such things as Jesus is the promised Messiah? Is this something that Christians should get excited about? What does the evidence say?

While some well-meaning Christians have embraced the idea of a Bible code, there are a number of major problems with this practice that make the idea of finding a code in the Hebrew Old Testament something that is not even theoretically possible. The following observations need to be made about this subject:

  1. The Idea of Finding a Code in Scripture Is Not Something New

    To begin with, the idea that some code is contained in the Hebrew Scripture is not something that is new to our day and age. This type of practice dates back at least one thousand years. Furthermore, it did not begin with Christian interpreters of Scripture, but rather with certain mystical Jews who desired to find secret messages in Old Testament Scripture. They were known as the cabbalists.

    The cabala, composed in the Middle Ages, is a collection of the writings of certain mystical Rabbis. The cabalists believed that every letter, word, number and accent of the Hebrew Scripture was part of a code. They assumed the Hebrew text could be counted and rearranged to spell out words that were not found in the text as it is normally read. Indeed, these rabbis often claimed that special words could be found in the Hebrew text by the counting of letters that could be found at equal intervals. This code, which they believed was put there by God, contained some profound, but hidden, meaning. The meaning of these mysterious codes could not be discovered by the general public, rather it could only be discovered by those with special knowledge; those who knew the secret. This practice had clear connections to the occult.

    Therefore, the idea of a code in the Bible is not some new idea or new discovery that has been made in modern times. While the use of computers would certainly make the quest for finding such a code infinitely easier, the fact is that this type of practice is ancient and it is occultic.

    This refutes those who say that the modern day discovery of the Bible code fulfills the words of Daniel the prophet; that knowledge would increase at the time of the end so that these codes could be discovered with the advent of super-computers. Attempting to find some code in the Scripture has been practiced for a long time.

    So, let us always remember that the idea of looking for hidden message in Scripture did not originate from Bible-believers who were trying to know more about Jesus, it originated from medieval mystical Jews who had rejected the plain teachings of Scripture; that the Messiah must have already come. Rejecting this truth of God’s Word, they were looking for something to substitute for it. They thought they discovered it in the so-called codes embedded in Scripture. In other words, they substituted the plain truth of God for these hidden messages.

  2. The Modern Practice of Finding a Code Is Not Limited to Bible-Believing Christians

    While a number of Christians have claimed to have found coded messages in the Old Testament that show that Jesus is the promised Messiah, this modern practice of finding hidden theological messages is not something that is limited to believers in Jesus. We must stress this fact; it is not a “Christian” practice. In fact, one of the problems which arises is that these messages which are supposedly found in the Bible do not always agree in their content. We can illustrate this problem as follows:

  3. Some Atheists Believe the Messages May Be from Alien Beings: Not God

    There are practitioners of the Bible code who have no belief in God whatsoever. Indeed, some of the main proponents are atheists. They attribute the code, not to God, but to possibly some beings from another planet! What makes matters worse is that some of these people argue that the plain text of the Bible is really irrelevant. It has only been given so that humans will discover the code that lies beneath the text of Scripture. Thus, the Bible code, instead of proving God?s existence, or causing people to draw closer to God, actually does just the opposite! It points people away from the God of the Bible to some “unknown intelligence.”

  4. Religious Jews Find Messages That Reject Jesus

    There are others who do believe the Old Testament was divinely inspired by the one true God and that the code was placed there by God. However, these people discover conflicting messages in Scripture. For example, some Christians have claimed to have found the phrase “Jesus is the Messiah” and “Jesus is my name” in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah; a chapter which speaks prophetically of the coming Messiah. This discovery is used as an argument that God has specifically placed a code in the context of this important passage.

    However, other code enthusiasts have countered this claim by finding messages in the same passage that say “Muhammad is my name,” or “Buddha is my name.” Therefore, they contend, the passage does not show Jesus is the Messiah in a coded message.

    In addition, certain messages have also been found that specifically discredit Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. Such messages as, “Jesus is a false messiah,” “Jesus is a false prophet” and “Jesus is a liar” have been claimed to have been discovered embedded in the text of the Old Testament.

    What are Christians who believe in a supernatural code to do with these findings? On what basis are people expected to accept one set of messages, the Christian messages, but reject another set, the non-Christian messages? Especially since these non-Christian messages are discovered by using essentially the same method.

    The reason this type of thing continually occurs is due to the unique nature of the Hebrew language. The Hebrew language is prone to wordplay. Most of the words are made up of only three consonants. Many words in Hebrew can be read as either nouns or verbs. Because of this factor, passages can be read in a number of different ways. Thus, any given small part of text, without the spaces between the words, could be interpreted in countless ways. Therefore, the question arises, “Once an encoded message has been found, how does one go about interpreting its meaning since the same letters can be made into a number of different words?”

    This is why some people have found anti-Christian messages embedded in the text of Scripture. As we have noted, messages such as, “Jesus is not the Messiah” and “God is the devil” have been found using the same system employed by those who claim God has placed His own hidden messages there. Again, this is not surprising when we understand that there are literally millions of possible combinations one could make when adding various vowels with the consonants.

    Thus, one could get a number of different messages using the same letters; it all depends on which words you wish to make from the letters. Therefore, the possible combinations in which one can use are seemingly endless.

  5. Muslims Find Supernatural Patterns in the Koran

    The discovery of a supernatural design within a “holy” Book is not limited to Christians and Jews. Some Muslim scholars claim to have found definite numeric patterns in their holy book; the Quran. They see the repetition of these patterns as proof that it is a God-given book.

    For example, the number nineteen is found in the Quran in numerous ways. This discovery, it is claimed, is a sign of the divine authorship of the Book. We will briefly illustrate their claims.

    Except for the ninth sura, all of the chapters, or suras, of the Quran start with the following sentence:

    In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful...

    In Arabic, this line consists of nineteen letters. The first word in the sentence, translated as “name,” occurs nineteen times in the Quran. The next word Allah, the Islamic name for God, occurs 2,698 times in the Quran. This number is divisible by nineteen (19 x 142 = 2,698). The following Arabic word translated as “Most Gracious” occurs fifty-seven times in the Quran. This number is also divisible by nineteen. And finally, the last word in this opening line, the title “Most Merciful,” is found 114 times; also divisible by nineteen.

    Thus, this opening line, which is found in almost all of the suras of the Quran, contains words having nineteen letters. Each of the individual words in the sentence, when their total usage in the Quran is added up, is also divisible by nineteen.

    There are many other examples where Islamic scholars find the number nineteen appearing in the Quran. It has been argued that this numeric pattern cannot be a result of coincidence or human effort; it had to have been placed there by Allah himself to prove the divine inspiration of the Quran.

    Consequently, if Christians are going to use a code embedded in the text of the Old Testament as evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, then how do they answer the Muslim claim? Why should Muslims, or anyone else for that matter, believe the codes found in Scripture are superior to the numerical patterns found in the Quran?

  6. The Mathematical Odds of Finding Letter Combinations Are Not as Amazing as Claimed

    One of the arguments advanced in favor of the Bible code idea is that the letter combinations that are discovered show that this could not have happened by mere chance. Mathematical odds of finding certain combinations of letters are often said to be a million to one, ten million to one, or in some cases, over a billion to one! Such staggering numbers give the impression that this could not be the result of random chance.

    However, an overwhelming number of professional mathematicians and statisticians who have examined this issue have rejected the statistical claims made by advocates of the Bible code.

    For one thing, there are hundreds of thousands of separate letters in the Hebrew Old Testament. For every single letter in the text, one could count either forward or backwards at every possible interval desired; every fifth letter, every tenth letter, etc. Doing that for every letter in the Old Testament would produce millions of possible letter formations. It is also necessary to remember that these letter combinations that are being searched for can be spelled either forwards or backwards! Given that many possibilities, random chance alone would yield certain letter combinations on numerous occasions.

    Consequently, the methods that are used are so flexible that a person can basically obtain any result they wish, as well as explain away any results which do not seem promising. In other words, one can find what they want and ignore as much as they wish. Therefore, the amazing results which are supposedly found can be attributed to either coincidence or clever manipulation on behalf of those looking for these codes. Nothing miraculous is involved.

  7. Coded Messages Are Found in Other Literary Works

    This brings us to our next point. The so-called miraculous discovery of words and phrases that are supposed to be unique to the Hebrew Bible have actually been found in other literary works; especially those written in Hebrew. Thus, the same method used to find coded messages in the Hebrew Bible can be utilized in other written works with the same “amazing” result. Indeed, some have claimed to have found hidden messages in the King James Bible!

    For example, it has been noted that in the forty-sixth psalm in the King James translation of the Bible, the forty-sixth word from the beginning is “shake.” Further investigation shows that the 46th word from the end of this psalm is “spear.” William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and was 46 years old in 1610 when this psalm was translated. Is this a sign of the divine inspiration of the King James Version?

    However, discoveries such as this should not astonish anyone. When we consider that there are literally millions of possible combinations of letter sequences in the Bible, whether it is in Hebrew or English, we would expect random chance to yield certain unique results from time to time. There is, of course, also the possibility that the King James translators deliberately planted these words in this one psalm as a tribute to Shakespeare.

  8. There Is No Recognized Order to Place the Old Testament Books

    There is also the issue of the order in which we place the different books that make up the Hebrew Old Testament. We must remember that these books were written on individual scrolls. It was only after the first century A.D. that they were bound together in book form. There is nothing sacred about the order in which we now find the books. Indeed, the printed Hebrew texts in the standard editions have a different order of books than we find in the English Bible.

    While the books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and the books of history, Joshua through Kings, are usually in the same order, there is no standard order for the books after these. Therefore, a choice has to be made concerning what order these books are placed.

    To further complicate things, among the Dead Sea Scrolls, a scroll of forty-one psalms was found in Cave 11. However, their order is vastly different from the psalms found in the Masoretic, or traditional Hebrew text.

    Now, if we are going to discover a code which is made up of the entire Hebrew text in one continuous line from beginning to end, we must make a decision as to which order we are going to place the different writings. Traditionally, the Hebrew Old Testament is made up of twenty-four separate books or scrolls. What is the order in which we place these books? Obviously, if there is some code that can only be found when the entire text is put together, there must be only one way in which this will work? The fact that there is no set order of the books seems to further complicate the problem.

  9. It Is Not Certain Whether or Not There Were Spaces Between the Words When Originally Written

    The earliest biblical texts were most-likely written in either Proto-Canaanite or paleo-Hebrew lettering. Later on in history, the manuscripts were written in what is known as the Aramaic or square script. The change from the paleo-Hebrew to the square script took place between the fifth and third centuries before Christ. The manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, composed from the first century B.C to the first century A.D., were written in the Aramaic or square script.

    While it is often claimed that the original texts of Scripture contained no spaces between the words, we do not know this for certain. The earliest proto-Canaanite or paleo Hebrew inscriptions do not ordinarily have divisions between the words.

    The oldest known text of the Hebrew Scripture is the benediction of Aaron (Numbers 6:24-26) inscribed on a silver amulet. Discovered in 1979 in Jerusalem, it dates from the 7th century B.C. In this text, there are no spaces between the words. However, there is an inscription in paleo-Hebrew which is found in Hezekiah’s tunnel in the city of Jerusalem. It can be dated around the year 700 B.C. The inscription does contain dots between the words indicating word division. While it is not a scroll, it does show that spaces between the words were recognized at this time. The manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls had spaces between the words setting them apart from one another. Consequently, we cannot be certain whether the original Hebrew contained spaces between the words.

    Thus, it is wrong to claim that the Hebrew Scripture was originally composed as one large text with no spaces between the words so that it could be read as one long coded message.

  10. There Have Been No Accurate Predictions of the Future

    Those who claim there is a Bible code admit they cannot use it to predict the future because they do not know what to look for without already knowing the future. Everything in these codes explains events “after the fact.” They admit there is not one example of someone finding a code in Scripture that describes an event that is yet to take place. All that the Bible code does is tell us about things that have already happened.

    Therefore, it may be asked, “What good are these codes if they only explain events after the fact?” What meaning or importance do they have if they only tell us what we already know? Why would the original encoder put these messages in the text if they could only be discovered after the event occurred? It seems to defeat the purpose for any code.

    Explaining the exact meaning of predictions, after the fact, is worthless since we already know the outcome. The famous story of Croesus, King of Lydia, and the oracle at Delphi is an illustration of how meaningless a prediction can be if it is only explained after the events occur. The story says that Croesus asked the oracle what would happen if his army attacked the Persians. The oracle told Croesus the following: “If Croesus crosses the Halys, he will overthrow a great empire.” Croesus then sent out his troops against the Persians and was soundly defeated. When he went back to the oracle to complain that the prediction did not come true, the oracle told him that the prediction was accurate. His going to battle with the Persians did overthrow a great empire; his! The oracle said it was not its fault that Croesus did not ask whose empire would be destroyed if he went off to battle.

    This same type of meaningless prediction is what we find in the Bible code; we are only looking in the code for what we know has already occurred. Since the truth of what is predicted can only be known after the fact, the so-called prediction is really worthless.

  11. There Is the Possibility of Deliberate Fulfillments of Alleged Predictions

    There is something else that must be considered. If someone thinks they have found some event in the code that is yet to happen, they may take it upon themselves to personally fulfill the prophecy. This could have catastrophic consequences. What if, for instance, someone believes they discover some prediction of a horrific terrorist event that has yet to occur? In the wrong hands, a person could see themselves as the divine instrument to fulfill this prediction. The implications are frightening.

  12. Why Is There No Code in the Greek New Testament?

    There is something else that must be addressed. If the entire Bible is divinely inspired of God, then why don’t we find any code in the New Testament text? All agree there is no supernatural code contained in the Greek text behind the New Testament. Why? Why does just the Old Testament have this code? Why would God embed a code in only part of Holy Scripture and not in all of it?

    For the Christian, we must assume if God has given a code in the Old Testament, there must be at least the possibility that the New Testament also contains hidden codes. This being the case, one would have to ask and answer the same questions of the New Testament that have been asked of the Old Testament. Since the originals no longer exist, which Greek text do we use to look for the codes? Is it the latest printed text? Is it the text that generally has the most manuscripts; the Majority text? Or should we use the text which was behind the King James translation; the Textus Receptus? Who determines which text to use?

    Having said that, we want to emphasize that the New Testament text is entirely trustworthy; the message comes through loud and clear. Yet, there is enough variation to render the idea of an absolutely perfect text as to be something which is not achievable.

  13. The Codes Mean God Has Given Further Divine Revelation

    If God has purposefully placed coded messages in the original text of Scripture, then it logically follows that there is more divine revelation for humanity than what we read in the pages of Scripture. To assert this, however, is to claim that the plain teaching of the Bible is no longer the final authority. Instead, believers have to study these codes in an attempt to find the limitless messages contained therein.

    Now this contradicts what Jude said; the faith has been once and for all delivered. He wrote:

    Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3 NET)

    God has once and for all delivered His truth to the human race; nothing else is necessary. Peter wrote about God’s “sure” Word. He said:

    We have the prophetic Word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:19-21 NASB)

    It is God’s sure Word which we should trust; not some hidden message in a code.

    The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the necessity of the trumpet making a clear sound to go to battle. He wrote:

    If, for example, the trumpet makes an unclear sound, who will get ready for battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8 NET)

    If there is such a thing as the Bible code, then we still have to find the trumpet!

  14. The Bible Code Has No Biblical Basis

    There is more. It must be emphasized that there is no biblical basis whatsoever for any type of Bible code. While the writers of Scripture give a number of reasons as to why Jesus is the Messiah, they never once remotely refer to some sort of code that is found in the Old Testament. Why not, if there was such overwhelming evidence for this code? While we find the New Testament quoting or alluding to the Old Testament on hundreds of occasions, we never find them referring to some type of code. Therefore, nothing written in Scripture validates the idea of an embedded code in the text.

    Furthermore, the passage in Isaiah, which is used by some to claim biblical support for this secret methodology, is used out of context. Isaiah is speaking of God’s judgment that would fall on Judah and Jerusalem because they had disobeyed the Lord. Their spiritual blindness kept them from understanding God’s written Word. To those Jews, the written Word of God was like a sealed book. Thus, this passage refers to the lack of ability for these people to understand what the Lord had revealed in Scripture; it has no reference to some secret code.

  15. The Bible Actually Condemns This Type of Mystical or Secretive Behavior

    Not only is there no biblical basis for finding any type of secret message in Scripture, this type of practice is soundly condemned. Moses wrote about those who engage in a similar practice; fortune-telling. He said:

    For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NLT)

    The practice of finding a code in Scripture is similar to fortune-telling; something which the Lord condemns.

    Isaiah the prophet wrote about God’s displeasure of doing things hidden, or in secret. The Bible says:

    For the LORD is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. “I am the LORD,” he says, “and there is no other. I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner so no one can understand what I mean. And I did not tell the people of Israel to ask me for something I did not plan to give. I, the LORD, speak only what is true and right.” (Isaiah 45:18-19 NLT)

    It is clear that God does not speak secretly, or in riddles. His message is to be openly proclaimed to all; there is nothing secret about it. Because the Bible condemns this type of secret behavior, it should not be something that those who believe in Jesus should practice.

    Indeed, Jesus said that His teaching was done publicly for all to hear. At His trial before the religious rulers, we read the following:

    The high priest questioned Jesus about his followers and his teaching. But Jesus told him, “I have spoken freely in front of everyone. And I have always taught in our meeting places and in the temple, where all of our people come together. I have not said anything in secret.” (John 18:19-20 CEV)

    Jesus taught in such a way so that everyone who wanted to understand could understand; He was not trying to hide the truth. However, if one accepts the idea of a Bible code, it would seem to set the plain meaning of the text against the hidden meaning. Why would God hide important truths or information in this hidden way when His usual method has been to reveal His intentions and plans in ordinary human language? Why would He turn the Hebrew Bible into some kind of crystal ball?

    God’s message is simple and straightforward; understandable by everyone. In fact, Jesus said that the message of Scripture was actually hidden from the wise!

    At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” (Matthew 11:25 NRSV)

    Thus, the practice of wise and intelligent people looking for some hidden code which has been hidden from the masses is just the opposite of what Jesus said has occurred.

    In addition, the passage in the Book of Revelation, where people are to calculate the number of the beast, is not a commandment to search for truth which is secretly hidden in the text. To the contrary, the writer John tells us the number of the beast and informs his readers to work from this known fact to calculate the identity of the beast. It has nothing to do with looking for coded messages. It is concerned with interpreting that which is plainly revealed in the text.

  16. Why Would God Practice the Thing He Condemns?

    There is something else that needs to be considered. If God forbids such types of hidden and secretive practices, and Jesus, God the Son, emphasized that He taught openly and not in secret, then why would God either allow, or design, such a thing that He condemns? A Bible code is totally foreign to everything that He has revealed about Himself. It is contrary to His character and the manner in which He has made Himself known to humanity from the very beginning. His Word has always been clear and specific; nobody doubted that He had spoken or what His words meant. Why, then, would He construct this elaborate code in His written Word which is so different from the way He has consistently revealed Himself? It does not make sense that He would do this.

    In fact, His previous manner of revealing Himself to the human race tells us just the opposite. The idea of a code in the Bible is something that we should not expect from Him. We should expect Him to do what He has always done; tell us His truth in a clear, straightforward manner.

    Thus, Scripture says absolutely nothing of a need for a Bible code, nor does it even remotely suggest the sacred writings should be interpreted by counting letters or the number of letters between words. There is nothing in the Bible that encourages anyone to rearrange the letters of the text to find messages or to defend the faith. Humanity does not need Bible codes and neither should we attempt to understand the Bible by this complicated method. The Scriptures are sufficient in and of themselves. The plain text should be read and studied. This is what the Bible commands us to do.

    In addition, the search for codes in the Bible removes the authority from the Scripture and gives it to the specialist searching for these hidden messages. It seems that we have to continually wait until these code advocates come up with the latest message from their complicated investigations. Therefore, instead of getting excited about the Bible and its message, people are getting excited about these hidden messages waiting to be discovered by complex mathematical procedures. Therefore, faith in the Bible does not become faith in God’s message, but rather it is faith in some type of mystical crossword puzzle or crystal ball.

    Thus, the Bible code fad becomes a new type of Gnosticism; an ancient heresy that looked for secret teachings which only a few could understand. The great masses of people have to listen to these specialists who can unveil the hidden truths of Scripture. This is certainly not the way it is supposed to be.

  17. The Fatal Flaw: There Is No Certainty with the Hebrew Text to Establish Any Code

    While people can debate the issues which we just mentioned; the mathematical odds of finding certain Christian or non-Christian messages in the Old Testament or whether or not there are similar patterns in other works, there is one issue that is not up for debate; the imperfect state of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. It is at this point that the idea of a Bible code is demolished.

    For the Bible code to work, each of the hundreds of thousands of letters in the Hebrew text must be placed in their correct sequence. Why is this so important? It is because the discovery of these encoded messages is determined by mathematically precise skips of letters. According to Bible code enthusiasts, it is the precision in which these words are spaced apart from one another which makes the Bible code so amazing. Time and time again we are told that this precision could not be a result of chance. Therefore, the Hebrew text of the Old Testament cannot contain any type of variation whatsoever.

    Consequently, if the precise wording of the original text of the Old Testament cannot be discovered, then the hope of finding encoded messages by such a method is not possible. Thus, for the Bible code to work, the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text, or some other Hebrew text, must be the original text, letter-for-letter that was given by God. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as a Bible code waiting to be discovered.

    This brings up the fatal flaw with the Bible code theory; it is the lack of a perfect text for the Old Testament. The Hebrew text of the Old Testament is in marvelous shape and the message of God comes through loud and clear. No one who has honestly looked at the evidence can claim the text has been transmitted in a haphazard manner. The scribes who copied the text did it with the utmost care and diligence because they believed they were copying God’s Word. We can have supreme confidence that we are reading the same message that God originally gave to humanity.

    However, when we take the time to understand something of the task of reconstructing the Hebrew Old Testament, we will find that it is impossible to recover the original text letter-for-letter. This can be clearly demonstrated. Because it is not possible to recover the original text, it is not possible to discover a Bible code that gives trustworthy messages. If this is the case, then one may ask, why would God embed a code in the text of Scripture that would not be possible for anyone to find? The obvious answer is, “He wouldn’t.”

    There are a number of important things that we should understand about the nature of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and what occurred during the history of its transmission. Consequently, we will go into some detail in documenting the present state of the Hebrew text. Once we appreciate what occurred, we will see that finding a Bible code from the Old Testament text is not even theoretically possible. The evidence for this is as follows:

The Existing Hebrew Manuscripts Are Not Letter-for-Letter the Same

The originals, or the autographs, of each of the books contained in the Hebrew Scriptures have long since vanished. Therefore, the Hebrew text of the Old Testament must be reconstructed from handwritten copies, or manuscripts, which have survived during the copying process. Over the centuries, there have been literally thousands of Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament which have been examined by scholars. Upon examination, it has been discovered that these handwritten copies have not read letter-for-letter the same. In fact, no two manuscripts examined have ever been exactly alike. Thus, every known ancient Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament has a different number of letters.

The Masoretic Text Has Variations in It

Today, the standard Hebrew text of Scripture is called the Masoretic Text (it is often abbreviated MT and is sometimes spelled Massoretic). This is named after a group of scribes, known as the Masoretes, who worked from the fifth to the tenth century A.D. They preserved the Hebrew text during this period as well as adding vowel points and punctuation marks.

While the various manuscripts which were copied by the Masoretes read essentially the same, there are variations within these Masoretic texts. In the 18th century, two scholars, Kennicott and de Rossi, did an extensive examination of the Hebrew manuscripts and printed editions which were available to them. Kennicott examined 615 Hebrew manuscripts and 52 printed editions while de Rossi examined 731 manuscripts and 300 printed editions. These scholars documented that the various printed editions and Masoretic manuscripts reveal there are hundreds of places, if not thousands of places, where the text read differently. While the differences are minor, there are differences.

The Samaritan Pentateuch Differs from the Masoretic Text

There is also the issue of the Samaritan Pentateuch; an ancient independent text of the Books of Moses. It was written and transmitted by the Samaritians seemingly without any contact with the scribes who copied the Hebrew text. Therefore, it is an independent witness to the writings of Moses.

The Samaritan Pentateuch contains the first five books of Scripture written in paleo-Hebrew script rather than the Aramaic block script that is found in the Masoretic manuscripts. The text of the Samaritan Pentateuch is in substantial agreement with traditional Masoretic text. It is a valuable witness to the basic purity of the Hebrew text as we have it preserved to us in the Masoretic tradition.

While the Samaritan Pentateuch gives testimony to the substantial accuracy of the traditional text, there are some differences between them. What is important for our consideration is that there are about 1,900 places in which the Samaritan Pentateuch agrees with the Greek translation, the Septuagint, against the traditional Masoretic text. In other words, two ancient versions agree with each other against the Hebrew text in 1,900 instances. Now it must be emphasized that a large proportion of these differences are quite insignificant as affecting the meaning of a passage. Many of them are spelling and grammatical differences. Only a few of these variations are really important.

While this does not necessarily mean that the original text is to be found in the Samaritan Pentateuch in some of these places rather than in the traditional text, these differences are worth considering if one wishes to determine the original reading. Therefore, each of these readings has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Whatever conclusion is made will obviously affect the number of letters which are contained in the text.

The Isaiah Scroll from Qumran Differs from the Masoretic Text

The evidence from the manuscripts found at Qumran, or the Dead Sea Scrolls, present further problems. The Isaiah Scroll which was found in Cave 1 has two different types of text. There are almost 1,400 differences from it and the traditional Masoretic text. Decisions must be made as to which reading is original in each instance. While the differences are minor, they do exist.

What Text Is Going to Be Used to Find a Code?

These issues, of course, bring up a crucial question for those who attempt to find a code in the original text of the Old Testament. If one is going to attempt to find a code embedded in the text, then which manuscript or manuscripts does one choose to use as the standard? Who is it that is going to make this choice and why should anyone listen to this person? This is the first problem that must be faced.

The Printed Texts Are Not Based upon Any Single Manuscript

Another point that needs to be emphasized is that the words found in the various printed editions of the Hebrew Scripture differ slightly from one another. The first complete Hebrew Old Testament was printed in 1488. Printed editions of the Hebrew Old Testament have been an ongoing venture ever since. An authorized edition of the Hebrew Scripture was printed in the sixteenth century.

Today, the standard printed edition of the Hebrew text which is used by scholars is BHS; Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Completed in 1977, it is based upon one manuscript; the Leningrad Codex. This is an ancient Hebrew manuscript which was completed around A.D. 1000. While the Leningrad Codex is one of the best, if not the best single Hebrew manuscript available, it is generally acknowledged among Hebrew scholars that the text represented by this one manuscript needs to be corrected on occasion. This is done by comparing it to other ancient Hebrew manuscripts, early translations of the Hebrew text and the biblical manuscripts which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Presently, the Hebrew University Bible Project is working on a new standard text for the Old Testament Scripture. They are using a different manuscript, the Aleppo Codex, as the basis for their project. The Aleppo Codex is slightly older than the Leningrad Codex and some Hebrew students believe it is a better manuscript which more faithfully represents the original. While the Leningrad and Aleppo manuscripts are similar, there are differences between them. Hence, the final printed text from the Hebrew University Project will differ from the standard BHS text in some respects.

Since no two Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament are exactly alike, those who put together any printed text must choose which manuscript, or manuscripts, that they believe best represents the original at any given place. The text commonly used by those who have argued for the Bible code is known as the Koren edition of the Hebrew text. It was put together in Jerusalem in the 1960’s and is based upon the authorized edition of the Hebrew Scripture which was compiled in the sixteenth century. This edition was not made from any one particular manuscript, but was put together by comparing the best Hebrew manuscripts available at that time. However, this edition does not read the same as any one Hebrew manuscript that we now possess.

For example, the Leningrad Codex has forty-five more letters in the Books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, than does the Koren edition of the same books. While the vast majority of these differences are spelling variations that do not affect the sense or meaning of the text, it does affect the total number of letters.

So, we are again faced with a choice. Which of these printed editions are we going to use as our standard? Is it the first printed Hebrew Bible? What about the authorized edition made in the 16th century? Or perhaps we should use the BHS text? Or shall we wait until the Hebrew University Bible Project is complete and use its printed text? Since the work of recovering the Hebrew text is an ongoing process, there will never be one final standard text. In fact, by definition, there cannot be.

Some Words Seemed to Have Been Dropped Out of the Traditional Hebrew Text During the Copying Process

There are further problems. It seems that there are places in the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Masoretic text, where some words have dropped out during the history of its transmission. Five examples will be given.

  • Genesis 1:9

    In Genesis 1:9, most English translations follow the standard Masoretic text and translate the verse based upon it. The New International Version is an example of this. It reads as follows:

    And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear” And it was so. (Genesis 1:9 NIV)

    However, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, has a number of extra words in this verse. It was obviously based on some Hebrew text that is no longer available. The New American Bible, a Roman Catholic translation, following the Septuagint, translates these extra words as follows:

    Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.” And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. (Genesis 1:9 New American Bible)

    While the reading found in the Septuagint is not in the standard Hebrew text, the final two words of the addition to the verse have shown up in one of the manuscripts which were found at Qumran; the Dead Sea Scrolls. If the text of the Septuagint does accurately represent the original Hebrew, then there should be thirty-five extra letters in the Book of Genesis which are not presently in the text.

    Should these extra thirty-five letters be considered the original text, or should they be viewed as words which were later added? While these words do not affect the meaning of Genesis, they certainly do affect any so-called code that may be hidden in Scripture.

  • Genesis 4:8

    Another possible example of missing words is found in Genesis 4:8. The traditional text, as translated in the King James Version, reads as follows:

    And Cain talked with Abel his brother. (Genesis 4:8 KJV)

    The Hebrew text literally reads, “And Cain said to Abel.” However, there is no record of what Cain said to Abel in the traditional text. Something seems to be missing. Other versions, such as the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Syriac Peshitta include what Cain said to Abel. They all have the sentence, “Let us go out to the field.” This sentence is found in translations such as the New English Translation. It reads:

    Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” (Genesis 4:8 NET)

    Most other English translations believe these words were part of the original text and record what Cain said to Abel. However, other English translations, apart from the King James Version, follow the traditional text and do not have the words, “Let us go into the field.” This includes the New King James Version, the American Standard Version of 1901 and the New American Standard Bible. Now, the question arises, “Do we put these words in the Hebrew text or not?” If we add these words, then we have about fifteen extra letters in the text. This would have enormous implications if it is necessary to count every letter for the code to be discovered. Do we count these letters or do we not?

  • Psalm 145

    A third example is Psalm 145. It seems that in the history of the copying of the text, an entire line of the original Hebrew has dropped out of the traditional text. This Psalm is an alphabetic acrostic. This means that the beginning line starts with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the second line starts with the second. This goes all the way through to the end of the Hebrew alphabet. Yet, instead of twenty-two lines, which represent the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, there are only twenty-one. There is no line that begins with the Hebrew letter nun. It seems to have dropped out at some point when the text was copied and recopied. However, in the Hebrew text of this psalm, as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a line beginning with the letter nun. It reads, “The Lord is faithful in all His words.”

    English translations are divided as to whether these words belong in the text. For example, the Revised English Bible omits these words. It reads:

    Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures to all generations. (Psalm 145:13 REB)

    However, other English translations add these words to verse thirteen of Psalm 145. The New Revised Standard Version says:

    Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. (Psalm 145:13 NRSV)

    So we are again faced with the question, “Do we make these words part of our text in which we are going to discover the code?” Whichever way we choose, the number of letters in the text will be different and this difference is fatal to finding any code.

  • 1 Samuel 10:27

    In First Samuel 10:27, the Masoretic text may be missing a number of words. The translation of the traditional text is as follows:

    But some troublemakers said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent. (1 Samuel 10:27 NIV)

    However, the writings of first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, as well as a manuscript of First Samuel from the Dead Sea Scrolls, have a longer reading here. This longer reading is adopted by the New Revised Standard Version. It reads as follows:

    But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” They despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace. Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But there were seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh-gilead. (1 Samuel 10:27 NRSV)

    Obviously, this reading adds numerous letters to the Old Testament text. Again, a choice has to be made whether or not to adopt it as original.

  • 1 Samuel 14:41

    We will give one more example. In First Samuel 14:41, the traditional text again seems to have had some words accidentally drop out of the text. These additional words are found in the Septuagint translation and the Syriac Peshitta. The differences between the two can be seen in the translations of the New International Version and the New English Translation. The NIV, which uses the shorter traditional text, reads:

    Then Saul prayed to the LORD, the God of Israel, “Give me the right answer.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared. (1 Samuel 14:41 NIV)

    The New English Translation, using the longer text, translates the verse as follows:

    Then Saul said, “O Lord God of Israel! If this sin has been committed by me or by my son Jonathan, then, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim. But if this sin has been committed by your people Israel, give Thummim.” Then Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, while the army was exonerated. (1 Samuel 14:41 NET)

    When we compare these two translations, there is quite a difference in the number of words. Again, the decision has to be made whether or not to place these words in the text. Any decision will either increase or decrease the number of letters that supposedly make up part of this Bible code.

    As these five examples well illustrate, there is no certainty as to how the original text read in these cases. Arguments can be given for the omission or addition of these extra words in each of these verses. English versions are divided as to whether to adopt the longer reading or the shorter reading in each of these instances. Nobody can be absolutely certain how any of these passages originally read. Consequently, nobody can be certain about how many letters the Hebrew text of the Old Testament originally contained.

Some of Moses’ Writings May Have Been Brought up-to-Date by Later Writers

There is also the issue of later additions to the Torah. It is possible that some later authors or editors brought the writings of Moses up-to-date. We will mention four examples of this possibly happening. They include the following:

  1. The Description of Moses’ Character May Have Been Added Later

    Many scholars believe the following statement about Moses was written after his time:

    (Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on earth.) (Numbers 12:3 God’s Word)

    It has been argued that Moses would not describe himself in this manner. Therefore, this verse was an insertion by a later editor. If this passage was not originally from Moses, then it cannot be used to discover some code in the text.

  2. An Area Was Called Dan Before Dan Came into Existence

    The writer of Genesis records the account of Abraham and his men pursuing those who had taken his relative, Lot. The text says that they went as far as the area of Dan in their pursuit. The Bible says:

    When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (Genesis 14:14 NIV)

    The use of “Dan” in this verse is seen by many as an updating of an ancient place name. We read in the Book of Judges that the original name of this city was Laish or Leshem:

    They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel-- though the city used to be called Laish. (Judges 18:29 NIV)

    At the time the event in Genesis 14 occurred, there was no tribe of Dan. Indeed, Dan had not even been born. The birth of Dan is recorded later in Genesis:

    Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; yes, He has heard me and given me a son,” and she named him Dan. (Genesis 30:6 HCSB)

    We are also told that the tribe of Dan did not settle in that geographical area until after Israel entered into the Promised Land. This was after the death of Moses. The city of Dan received its name when the Danites conquered that particular area. We read in Joshua:

    When the territory of the Danites was lost to them, the Danites went up and fought against Leshem, and after capturing it and putting it to the sword, they took possession of it and settled in it, calling Leshem, Dan, after their ancestor Dan. This is the inheritance of the tribe of Dan, according to their families -- these towns with their villages. (Joshua 19:47-48 NRSV)

    The term, “Dan” was commonly used later in Israel’s history to refer to the northernmost part of the Promised Land. Since that area was not named Dan until long after the death of Moses, it would not have been possible for the place to have been called Dan during the time of Abraham—some four hundred years before Moses. Therefore, Moses would not have been able to call this particular geographical place, “Dan” as it was later called by Israel.

    Consequently, it is argued that a later writer of Scripture brought this ancient place name up-to-date so his readers would understand where this episode took place.

    There are some scholars who argue that Dan was the ancient name of the place where these events occurred in the time of Abraham. They contend it was not the same place that later received the name Dan. Therefore, we have an ancient area named Dan that existed before the time of Moses and a later area called Dan that was named after the ancestor of the tribe. They were not the same place.

  3. The Death and Burial of Moses Is Recorded in the Books of Moses

    There is another case of a portion of Genesis to Deuteronomy that does not seem to be the work of Moses. If the Book of Deuteronomy was actually written by Moses, then why does it include the account of his death and burial?

    So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. (Deuteronomy 34:5-6 NASB)

    How could Moses record his own death and burial? There are two possible answers to this often-made assertion. First, we do not have to assume that Moses wrote the last chapter of Deuteronomy. His writing ended in the previous chapter. Someone, likely Joshua, added the last chapter to close out the career of Moses.

    Others argue that Moses did write this chapter. Knowing that he was about to die, he wrote this chapter prophetically of his impending death.

  4. There Is Mention of Kings in Israel

    The Book of Genesis contains a list of Edomite kings that ruled before there was any king in Israel. It says the following:

    These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites. (Genesis 36:31 NRSV)

    Genesis 36 then goes on to list a number of different kings of Edom. To many, this seems like something that was written after the time of Moses. There were no kings in Israel until the time of Saul—hundreds of years after the death of Moses. Why name these kings of Edom that existed hundreds of years before there were kings in Israel? The simplest answer seems to be that this list was not written by Moses, but rather inserted into the text long after his death.

    These are four out of a number of examples where it seems that Moses did not write the text that is traditionally credited to him. Again, we are faced with a decision. Do we include these passages to discover some code, or do we ignore them? Bible scholars differ as to whether Moses actually wrote these passages or whether they were inserted by a later prophet. Whichever way one chooses will make a difference as to the total number of letters which are found in the text.

Consonants Were Continuously Added to the Text to Represent Vowels

There is something else even more devastating to the Bible code idea; the continuous adding of consonants in the text to represent vowels and vowel sounds. Hebrew has no vowel characters in its alphabet. Thus, when the books of the Old Testament were written, the text consisted of only consonants; no vowel characters were used or even indicated.

However, as the Hebrew language developed, a system known as matres lectionis (mother of readings) was devised where certain letters were used to represent long vowels. These letters were eventually written in the text and placed at the end of certain words to represent long vowels. About the time of King David in the ninth century B.C, all final vowels were indicated by one of three Hebrew consonants he, waw or yod. These letters, which represented long vowels, would aid in the understanding of the grammatical function of the words as well as help the reader pronounce the words correctly. In fact, no one would know how to pronounce the Hebrew words unless these vowel marks were added.

Generally speaking, at this time, there were no consonants used to indicate vowels in the middle of words; they were only placed at the end of words. However, there were exceptions to this rule. As time went by, these middle consonants, or medial consonants, which were inserted to represent vowels, began to be used more often in the spelling of words.

Thus, the use of these consonants as markers for vowels was introduced gradually in Hebrew spelling. In fact, the Hebrew Bible is actually inconsistent in its use of such vowel markers. This becomes clear when the various Hebrew manuscripts are examined; the way in which certain words are spelled vary between the manuscripts.

It is important to emphasize that these added consonants did not affect the meaning of the word or how it sounded. Rather they helped clarify which form of the word the author intended as well as its pronunciation. Words that incorporated these letters became known as plene or “full” writing while the absence of these consonants functioning as vowels was called “defective” writing.

As the language continued to develop, more and more of these vowel letters were added to the text by the copyists. Therefore, we find the Hebrew manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls using even more words with the full writing.

It seems that the text became somewhat standardized around A.D. 100. This standardized text became the authoritative Hebrew text. Consequently, no further additions of these consonants, or mothers of readings, were to be used to represent vowels.

However, this practice of adding consonants to represent vowels was not a complete system. There were a number of words where these consonants were not added. Instead of completing this system, another system was eventually developed to help with the proper pronunciation of the words; vowel points which were placed under the consonants.

Now, this continuous insertion of consonants into the text of the Old Testament to represent vowels causes obvious problems for finding any Bible code. More vowel letters means more letters in the text. Thus, the text we have today is not the same text, letter-for-letter, that the Old Testament writers originally wrote. This is especially true with the earliest writings. Therefore, any code from the present Hebrew Scriptures is not based upon the original form of the text because we do not have the original form.

Consequently, these spelling variations create an insurmountable problem for those who advocate a Bible code. The evidence is beyond dispute; the spelling of numerous words is different in the traditional Masoretic text than the original spelling that was in the autograph. However, if one counts these letters that were later introduced into the text in an attempt to find hidden messages in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the results will obviously be different from what would be achieved if the original form of text without those letters was used.

How then, can these later manuscripts, which have implemented the “full” spelling of the words, which, of course, require the use of more letters than the original text, be used to discover the Bible code? Obviously, they cannot.

So, what are we to make of all of this? Are we to assume that the added letters were divinely inspired, or supervised by some supernatural being, or beings, so that a code could be found? Or is the code only in the text as it was originally given by this non-human source? If so, then how can we determine what letters were added later and exactly where they were added to the text? The point is: we cannot do this; it is not possible. Therefore, even if some code had been originally embedded in Scripture, it would not be possible to find it.

This fact brings up an obvious question, “Why would God embed a code in the text of the Old Testament when He knew that it was impossible to discover?”

The Text May Have Been Purposely Altered in a Few Places

There are further problems in the search for a perfect text. Jewish tradition tells us that in a small number of instances the ancient scribes actually acknowledged changing the sacred text. They claimed to have done this because of their extreme reverence for the Lord.

The scribes probably did not deliberately make such changes very often. In fact, there are only a small handful of places where this is actually alleged to have occurred. But what is important in our discussion is that certain of these changes affect the total number of letters in a verse. For example, one of the passages that these scribes claimed to have changed was 1 Samuel 3:13.

According to ancient testimony, the passage originally said that the sons of Eli cursed God. However, the scribes did not wish to record a curse made upon God without recording God immediately judging them for doing such a thing. Therefore, in this passage, they changed the text from saying Eli’s sons “cursed or blasphemed God” to “they brought a curse upon themselves” or “they made themselves contemptible.” The Masoretic, or standard Hebrew text, reflects the change, and is the basis for some English translations. For example, the New International Version reads:

For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. (1 Samuel 3:13 NIV)

However, the text of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, along with some Latin manuscripts, reads that the sons cursed or blasphemed God. The New Revised Standard Version, like most English translations, accepts this reading as correct. It translates the passage as follows:

For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. (1 Samuel 3:13 NRSV)

If the ancient scribes did change the text in this instance, this would involve dropping two letters from what was originally written. That means that two letters that are absent from the Masoretic text at this point are original to the verse and any searching for words at an equal distance would be off by two letters.

What Is Written in the Text Is Not Always What Is Read

In a number of places in the Hebrew Scripture, there are words written in the text that the Masoretes inherited which they did not believe were part of the original. The tradition of the Masoretic copyists had been not to change the text in these instances, but only to read it as if it were changed. A notation was made so that the reader does not read the written text, but rather reads what is in the margin.

This is the same process which takes place when someone reads aloud from a book which contains spelling errors; the spelling errors are ignored and the word, or words, are pronounced correctly. In other words, the reader is not always expected to read exactly what is written in the text.

Thus, we find many places in the Masoretic text where one thing appears in the text, but something different appears in the margin. The Hebrew terms are Kethib, “what is written,” and Qere, “what is read.” Depending upon the particular Hebrew manuscript, these passages can be as few as 850 or as many as almost 1,500.

Now, in some of these cases, the number of Hebrew consonants would not be affected so that it would not affect any search for a code. However, in many other cases, the number of consonants in the text is changed. There are either more letters in the printed text or more letters in the text in the margin which is supposed to be read. This, of course, brings up another problem for the Bible code advocates. In such cases, are the Bible code advocates going to count the letters which are actually written in the text, or the letters to be read which are found in the margin? Obviously, any decision which a person makes will affect the number of letters involved, as well as any alleged code contained in the text.

To make matters worse, not every Hebrew scholar agrees with the decisions of the Masoretes. On a number of occasions, they believe what was written in the text is the original and that the Masoretes wrongly placed something in the margin which was to be read instead of what was written. Again, this will make a difference on the number of letters which are to be counted.

There Are Suspended Letters in the Massoretic Manuscripts

In four places in the Old Testament, Judges 18:30, Psalm 80:14, and Job 38:13,15, the Masoretes indicate that they added one letter to the consonantal Hebrew text. These letters are suspended higher than normal in order to set them off from the text as it had come down to them.

For example, in Judges 18:30, there is a question as to whether the text should be read as “Moses” or “Manasseh.” The New English Translation, as is true with most English translations, reads the text as Moses. It says:

The Danites worshiped the carved image. Jonathan, descendant of Gershom, son of Moses, and his descendants served as priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the exile (Judges 18:30 NET).

However, the New American Standard Bible reads “Manasseh” instead of Moses:

The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land (Judges 18:30 NASB).

The King James Version and the New King James Version also read “Manasseh.”

The text that had come down to the Masoretes read “Moses.” However, because they did not want a descendant of Moses to be one who was an idolater, the Masoretes preferred to read “Manasseh” in this passage. However, Manasseh, the evil king, was not born until hundreds of years after these events took place.

What do Bible code advocates do in such cases? Do they follow the Masoretes and add the extra letter? Or do they delete these letters in order to restore the earlier text? Whichever choice is made will affect the number of letters in the text. This holds true in each of these four cases.

There Were Readings Questioned by the Masoretic Scribes

While the Masoretic text is the standard text of the Hebrew Old Testament, at times, the scribes who copied the manuscripts seemed to be uncertain about some of the readings. There are fifteen places in the Masoretic or standard text where they have indicated their uncertainty about various words. Consequently, the parts of the verse which are in doubt are marked with dots or diamonds placed over the letters. These points are calling attention to their concern about how the text originally read.

Ten of these are found in the Books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy. They are Genesis 16:5; 18:9; 19:33; 33:4; 37:12; Numbers 3:39; 9:10; 21:30; 29:15; and Deuteronomy 29:28. There are five other examples elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, 2 Samuel 19:20; Isaiah 44:9; Ezekiel 41:20, 46:22; Psalm 27:13.

For example, in Numbers 3:39, each of the letters for the words “and Aaron” have a dot above them. This indicates that the copyists had some doubt about whether these words belonged in the text. The deletion of the words “and Aaron” is supported by two ancient versions: the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Syriac Peshitta. English translations are divided as to whether these words belong.

The New English Translation, along with most other English translations, has the words in the text. It reads:

All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered by the word of the Lord, by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000. (Numbers 3:39 NET)

However, the Revised English Bible omits the words “and Aaron.” It reads as follows:

The number of Levites recorded by Moses on the list of the families at the command of the Lord was twenty-two thousand males aged one month or more. (Numbers 3:39 REB)

The New Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible, two Roman Catholic translations, also omit the words “and Aaron” from their translations. The question arises as to which is correct. Whatever decision is made will affect the number of letters in the text.

Certain Written Parts Were Not to Be Read

In a number of places, there are words present in the Hebrew text that the Masoretes received from earlier times which they did not believe were part of the original text. They noted this by leaving the words without vowel points in the Hebrew text. This way the reader understands that the word, or words, are to be ignored.

For example, in Jeremiah 51:3, the verb “he drew” is written twice in the Masoretic text. Instead of deleting one of the words, both words are written in the text, but only one has the vowel points. This informs the reader that the words are only to be read once.

In another example, in Ezekiel 48:16, the number five is written twice. The second occurrence of this word is not pointed in the standard or Masoretic text. There is the marginal instruction that the word is not to be read even though it is written in the text.

This omission of the number five in this verse agrees with the ancient versions; they list only occurrences of the numeral.

Other instances where we find this occurring are in Ruth 3:12; 2 Samuel 13:33, 15:21; 2nd Kings 5:18 and Jeremiah 32:11.

What do those who look for a Bible code do in these instances? In some cases, there is an obvious mistake in the written text. Do they ignore these extra words, which certainly were not in the original autograph, or do they count them?

Some Things Are to Be Read Which Are Not Written

There were ten places in the Masoretic text where the scribes believed that something should be read which was not written in the text; they believed certain words were missing from the text. To remedy this situation, they would place the vowels in the text without the correct consonants above them.

In these places, the consonants which are to be read with the vowels are placed in the margin. The instances in which this occurs are found in the Masoretic text at Judges 20:13; 2 Samuel 8:3, 16:23, 18:20; 2 Kings 19:31, 37; Jeremiah 31:38 and 50:29.

For example, in 2 Samuel 8:3, the word “Euphrates” is added to the end of the verse. While the Masoretic text does not have the name “Euphrates” in the text, the scribes believed that it should be there. Interestingly, the ancient versions, the Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta and Latin Vulgate did include the word. Most English translations follow these versions and translate the verse with the word “Euphrates” included. For example, the Revised English Bible says:

David also defeated Hadadezer, the Rehobite, king of Zobah, who was on his way to restore his monument of victory by the river Euphrates. (2 Samuel 8:3 REB)

However, other English versions do not have the word “Euphrates” as part of the verse. The New American Standard Bible reads:

Then David defeated Hadadezer, the son of Rehob king of Zobah, as he went to restore his rule at the River. (2 Samuel 8:3 NASB)

The American Standard Version of 1901 also omits the word Euphrates in this verse.

In these instances, those who attempt to find a Bible code are working with a text that has fewer letters than the original if the Masoretes were correct in adding the word.

The Book of Jeremiah May Have Been Sent Out in Two Editions

Finally, there is the problem with the text of the Book of Jeremiah. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the text is about one eighth shorter than the traditional Hebrew text.

In addition, it follows a different order after Jeremiah 25:13. One possible explanation for this is that the prophet Jeremiah sent out his work in two separate editions. Indeed, we are told that the evil King Jehoiakim burned the original scroll which Jeremiah had written. The Lord then told Jeremiah to write another scroll:

The Lord spoke to Jeremiah after Jehoiakim had burned the scroll containing what Jeremiah had spoken and Baruch had written down. He said, “Get another scroll and write on it everything that was written on the original scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned.” (Jeremiah 36:27-28 NET)

It is possible that the difference in size between the shorter and longer version reflects the differences in the two editions which Jeremiah composed.

Whatever the case may be, this poses another problem for those seeking a code in Scripture. Which version of Jeremiah do they use? Obviously, with the one eighth difference in size between the two versions, the counting of the letters will be affected in a significant way. In which of these two versions of the book of Jeremiah are we to look for the code?

Conclusion on the State of the Text

From our brief examination of the state of the Hebrew text, we can conclude that the level of stability that is absolutely required for the Bible code theory to work is just not there. The truth of the matter is that there is no single manuscript or printed edition of the Hebrew Bible that has been so perfectly transmitted as to have no need for some modification through the science of textual criticism.

Indeed, there is no standard or perfect text to be found in any of the existing manuscripts, nor can any standard text be found in the various printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. To this day, there are still some portions where the text is uncertain; we are not positive how the verse originally read.

This is fatal to finding any code in Scripture. When there is uncertainty on the exact number of letters to be used, and the exact sequence of these letters, there is no possible way to have a supernatural code. The code depends upon all the letters being there as originally written; they are not. Consequently, we have no Bible code. End of story.

However, we again want to emphasize that even with these variations, the message of Scripture comes through loud and clear. The text has been transmitted in a remarkably accurate manner. Hence, there is every reason to trust what it says.

We Should Not Look for a Code to Understand Scripture

All of these factors show that the practice of trying to find some secret code in Scripture is a worthless task. Paul warned the believers in his day about being tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine:

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14 NRSV)

Those Christians who look for some code in Scripture should heed his warning. Instead of trying to find some secret message in Scripture, people should concentrate on studying what is plainly revealed in the text. We should obey the following command which Paul wrote to Timothy:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB)

This is where our energies should be directed; being diligent at accurately handling the Word of Truth.

Summary - Question 9
Is There a Secret Code in Scripture That Proves Its Divine Authority? (The Bible Code)

There are people, both Christians and non-Christians, who claim to find codes embedded in the Hebrew text of Scripture that contain secret messages. While some people limit the Bible code to the Torah; the first five books of the Old Testament, many adherents of this practice view the entire Old Testament as one long code. These encoded words are found at even spaced intervals in the text of the Hebrew Bible. It is only through the use of complex computer programs that these codes can be fully appreciated.

Someone, or something, supposedly put these codes in the text which give encoded messages that predicted many major historical events ahead of time. It is claimed that some non-human personage is behind the writings of Scripture.

Some Christians use the code to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Certain Jews use the same code to prove the existence of the God of the Old Testament, but to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. There are atheists who use the code that argue that some other force is at work.

It is contended that the mathematical odds clearly show that these codes could not be chance or random. Therefore, from some source, a supernatural code was placed into the Old Testament.

At times, people have claimed to find biblical support for the idea of a code. A prophecy in the Book of Daniel is sometimes cited as predicting that knowledge will eventually come to unlock the Bible code. However, this knowledge will only come in the “last days.” Isaiah is also cited as speaking of hidden knowledge which needs a key to interpret it. Jesus’ statement that nothing is to pass away from the law is used to indicate that a perfect text has been transmitted.

While a number of people, including Christians, have been convinced that such a thing as the “Bible code” exists, there are major problems with approaching the Scripture in this manner. As the evidence is examined, we find no mathematical, theological or linguistic reasons to believe that such a code exists.

To begin with, this is not really a modern practice; it has been going on for at least one thousand years. It is not something that has only been practiced in our day and age. What is new is the ability to do extensive searches by means of computer programs.

In addition, it is not limited to Bible-believing Christians. Jews, atheists and agnostics all claim to have been practitioners of the code. Indeed, the practice of finding coded messages in the Old Testament began with Jewish mystics in the Middle Ages. They rejected the plain teaching of Scripture and instead attempted to find secret messages which lie underneath the written text. Therefore, this entire exercise of finding codes actually began as something which was non-Christian and even anti-Christian.

Also, the odds of finding certain combinations of letters in a text as large as the Old Testament are not that amazing. Since the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is basically made up of consonants, with the vowels needed to be added, many different words can be created using these same consonants.

While the text has been transmitted in an extremely accurate manner, no two manuscripts agree letter-for-letter. This would make the idea of finding a code, even if there were such a thing, something which is not possible.

There is also the problem of the order in which the various books should be placed. Since there is no such thing as an inspired order, someone has to decide which book follows another. Yet, if there is a code which depends upon the correct letters being placed into one long sequence, this seems to be an insurmountable problem.

In addition, the mathematical odds which supposedly show the code is superhuman in nature are not that outstanding. The Hebrew language, unlike English, does not, for the most part, contain vowels. Because one has to supply the vowels, it is possible to create a seemingly endless number of possible words. The rules are adjusted so often that the end result is basically meaningless.

Moreover, everyone agrees that there is no code in the Greek New Testament. Why not, if it is God’s Word? Why would God place a supernatural code in only part of His holy Word?

Also, we find no such things as a Bible code in the Bible itself. In fact, the Scripture condemns such secretive practices. Since God has consistently revealed Himself openly and clearly to humanity from the very beginning, we should not expect Him to hide His message in a code where only a few could discover it. Such a practice is contrary to what we know about God and the way in which He has revealed Himself to us.

The major problem is that there is no agreed upon version of the Masoretic or traditional text in which to base any calculations. Those who accept that the Old Testament contains a “Bible code” mistakenly assume there is uniformity among the existing Old Testament manuscripts. There is not. In fact, there is enough variation in the manuscripts and printed text to render any results as impossible.

Indeed, there are several places in the Old Testament where a line may have dropped out of the traditional text. However, there is uncertainty as to whether or not this is so. This leads to further uncertainty about the exact number of letters in the text.

There is also the possibility that later editors may have added to what Moses originally wrote. If this is true, then we have more words in the first five books of the Bible than what was first written. This, of course, would make it impossible to have a mathematically exact code.

Furthermore, certain letters were added later to the text to be used as vowels. These letters were not in the original text. We have no idea how many letters were added, when they were added or where they were added. This makes it impossible to reconstruct the original text letter-for-letter.

There is also the problem with two versions of the text of Jeremiah. The text found in the Septuagint is one eighth smaller in size than the traditional Hebrew text. Which version should be used to find the code?

These facts make the discovery of any alleged code something which is an impossible task. Thus, while the Hebrew text of the Old Testament has been transmitted in an amazingly accurate manner, it is not possible to reconstruct it to the degree that is necessary to discover a code. Consequently, Christians can better spend their time studying the obvious teachings of Scripture, rather than attempting to find some code that God may have hidden in the text.

What Is the Mythological View of the Bible’s Authority? ← Prior Section
What Conclusions Can We Make about the Bible’s Divine Inspiration and Authority? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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