Question: Is there legitimacy to the Bible Code (equidistant letter sequencing)?


Answer: No


There are those who argue that the Bible (specifically the Pentateuch) contains a hidden coding system which refers to "significant" persons, events, dates, and places in our time and other times.  Their system is to take the consonants of the Hebrew Massoretic text of a thousand years ago, remove all spaces, and look for patterns where letters occur at equal intervals (e.g. every 50 letters).  Upon finding an item of significance (e.g. "President Kennedy") the surrounding text is examined to see if there are other relevant words (e.g. "Dallas" according to a different, yet regular pattern).  Thus once the text is arranged properly it is merely a matter of doing something akin to a word search puzzle.  They claim that this code was put in place by the encoder, probably someone like Moses.


The fact that they claim to proceed from the Hebrew makes an examination of his claims beyond the ability of most Christians.  Nevertheless, their approach can be refuted by information which is not hidden.


Hebrew is a Semitic (Ancient Near Eastern) language whose alphabet is derived from the Phonecians.  Evidence from inscriptions and other ancient Hebrew texts indicates that Hebrew was written without vowels, and it separated its words with dots.  The shape of the letters of the original Hebrew script (Paleohebrew) was replaced by differently shaped letters (Aramaic script) which represented the same consonants, and spaces as word separators, sometime after the sixth century BC.  From about the sixth century BC and on, scribes added many consonants which represent vowels to the Hebrew text.  (See Cross and Freedman, Early Hebrew Orthography) These pronunciation aids, not always consistently applied, did not change the meaning of the text.  Further, texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls (2,000 years old) indicate that some filler words (e.g. and, in, the) have been added to or removed from our text, without significantly altering the meaning.  Approximately 1,000 years ago some Jewish scribes added a system of dots representing vowels to the Old Testament to aid in pronunciation (a.k.a. the Massoretic Text).  One additional point: when the Old Testament cites numbers it spells them out; the use of Hebrew characters to represent numbers (e.g. aleph to equal "1") is from the intertestamental period, well after the Old Testament was finished.


Against this background, consider the fact that their system uses this thousand year old Hebrew text, not something older and closer to the original spelling.  Consider the following methodological problems:


The Law of Moses was written many centuries prior to the consonantal spelling changes which occurred.  The addition of consonants representing vowels, which was inconsistently applied by scribes, makes the discovery of a regular pattern dating to the time of Moses impossible.  Add the complication of the "filler words" (see above) and the likelihood of approaching the original spelling of the books of Moses is less than these folks finding my name contained therein.


For their system to work, the "encoder" (Moses) would have had to anticipate the following:


a).     All spelling (orthographic) changes throughout the centuries;

b).     The use of Hebrew letters for numbers;

c).     An authoritative Massoretic Text; and

d).     The removal of spaces (originally dots) by someone trying to crack the code.


The fact that they focus on issues which have tickled the ears of the masses (e.g. the Oklahoma City bombing, Kennedy's assassination, Los Angeles and earthquakes, and Rabin's assassination) should in and of itself be a warning sign.  As one internet critique suggested, maybe they can tell us something about Elvis that we don't know!


Theologically speaking, God gave us the Bible because He wished to REVEAL His character and His purposes.  This was ultimately fleshed out by becoming a human being--Jesus Christ--who publicly taught, was publicly crucified for our sins, whose resurrection was witnessed, whose ascension to heaven was witnessed, and whose return will involve being seen by "every eye".


William P. Griffin, Ph.D.