The Bible Code: A Biography

What is the Bible Code? How are individual codes found?

Believers in the Bible Code say the code is a text revealing past, present, and future events that have been hidden in the bible. Individual codes, then, are individual words or prophecies.

Each "code" is actually an equidistant letter sequence (ELS) hidden in the text. As the name implies, an equidistant letter sequence is a string of letters spread out so that the letters occur at regular intervals. An ELS doesn't necessarily have to be an actual word. However, the only ELSs of interest contain words because most people are not interested in occurrences of non-sense strings of letters.

Activity 1

So let's look at some examples of ELSs. Consider the following text string below. Spaces and punctuation marks have been removed since they are ignored in ELSs.


In the above string the sequence SUATU occurs as an ELS.

What about EINE?

A Brief History of the Bible Code

Though the Bible Code only recently entered modern popular culture, the concept was born hundreds of years ago. In fact, the first known ELS was discovered in the Torah by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher in the 13th century! Wikipedia Sir Isaac Newton, too, was a believer in the Bible Code, and studied them in the 17th century.

These are the only notable progressions made in this field until the 1950s when Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl of Slovakia found many examples, which were published by his students after his death.

Activity 2

If you are wondering why progress with finding ELS's in the Torah was so slow, you should consider the task at hand. These men were searching for any possible words with any possible skip distance. Try doing this with the string from Activity 1.

Pick out every other letter in the sequence; any words in this new string? Now take out every 3rd letter. Any words? What about when you take out every 4th letter?

I bet this game is getting old very quickly. Now imagine doing that with the entire Book of Genesis...

Fortunately for the Bible Code explorers, the age of computers brought renewed energy to their search. In the 1980s, the Bible Code was brought to the attention of Dr. Eliyahu Rips, who used computing power to find countless ELSs. Rips went on to publish a paper in a mathematical journal about the statistical significance of the Bible codes that he found.

Soon, journalist Michael Drosnin got wind of this code and its sensational predictions, and wrote the New York Times Bestselling book The Bible Code in 1997. This book spurred a huge controversy.

Supporters of the Bible code created websites, started blogging communities, and even wrote "do-it-yourself" code-finding software to keep up with the latest prophecies being uncovered.

The critics, of course, have also been very active. They have been hard at work publishing their own books and websites refuting Drosnin's claims. But who is right?

As of yet, no group has clearly defeated and quieted their opponent. Whose side should we take? To get to the bottom of this phenomenon, we should take a look at its most reputable defense: the paper published by Dr. Rips and his colleagues.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0546622. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.