From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: The Bible Code
19 Aug 2001
Dear Professor Carroll,
Allow me to use this opportunity to congratulate and thank you for the excellent resource that I found in the SkepDic. However, the actual motive behind this letter lies in some thoughts I deem myself to have to share about the method behind the so called "Bible Code". Forgive me for my possible arrogance; but I have not found the same ideas mentioned in SkepDic article on the matter (or elsewhere), and I couldn't know whether they were not previously known to you and merely omitted for some considerations. Still I think they are worth voicing, so here they are. If you find them to be useful, I'd be delighted. If you do not, I beg your pardon for taking up your time beforehand.
Leaving aside the validity of the actual method the authors of "the Code" are using to select their patterns, I couldn't help commenting on the method they are using to *read* them. And that is extremely questionable (IMHO) and might account for the reason why the Hebrew translation of "War and Peace" did not yield the same results as the book of Genesis (assuming that it really did not).
I am not a native Hebrew speaker, but I have lived in Israel for seven years, and have sufficient command of the language (sufficient for academic studies, at least, having passed the Technion tests for the foreign students successfully), so I hope I am qualified to say that modern-use Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew do not share the same orthography. In Hebrew, vowels have grammatical meaning, and change with grammatical role of the word according to fixed patterns, while the actual radical is formed solely by the unchanging consonants. The standard Hebrew radical consists of three consonants (some modern words may have four, but I am not aware of any four-letter radicals that originate in ancient times). The old writing system was lacking any vowels whatsoever, relying on the grammatical knowledge of the reader. Later on the system had been enhanced with vowel modifiers that are written under the alphabetical consonants, in form of sets of dots and dashes. E.g. the word 'sefer' "book" and the word 'sofer' "author" would be written the same 'SFR' in the old method, and the addition of the vowel marks would eliminate the ambiguity. The Torah is written this latter way, using vowel marks under the text; its lines consist purely of consonants. The modern-use writing system, however, is applying a different system of hints, in which the vowel marks are used only in ambiguous cases, and the letters "yod" [j] and "waw" [w] are used to designate the [i] and [o] or [u], respectively. The [a] and [e] are still omitted. Thus, the "book" will still remain 'SFR' while "author" becomes "SWFR" ("SOFR") which is enough to avoid the ambiguity. In cases where "yod" and "waw" must be read as consonants, they are simply doubled.
What does this have to do to Bible Code? Two things.
First, the translation of "War and Peace" was most likely done in the modern orthography, which means that its symbol composition is not similar to that of the Bible because of a much larger occurrence of "yod"s and "waw"s, at the very least.
Second (and much more scandalous) is the fact that even a casual glance at the "Code" reveals: the authors prefer to use the modern orthography (not yet invented in Biblical time, suffice to say) interchageably with the old one, and prefer to totally ignore the vowel marks in the Biblical text unless the pattern is an actually occurring word. I have not conducted an extensive study, but here's a random "prediction" claim, taken just because it was the first I stumbled upon that contained the Hebrew text with vowel marks, found at http://asalizaki.freeservers.com/kursk.htm. The words that were allegedly found by the authors are "sunk", "Kursk" and "of his sepulchre". The latter I would rather translate as "his tomb", and it is clearly a regular word in a line of the Torah text, in proper grammatical position, preceded with a preposition of genitive case; the whole phrase it is taken out of reads "the man knows of his tomb". This is the only word whose vowels are all right. The rest are read not by the rule, but as the authors desire. What they interpret as "Kursk", read with the vowel marks, becomes phonetically impossible "keurisk", so they prefer to omit the vowel marks and read the "KWRSK" pattern by the rules of modern grammar as "kursk", not as equally plausible "korsak", "kursek" etc. (With the word they read as "sunk" I unfortunately am not familiar.)
Another reading at http://asalizaki.freeservers.com/taiwan.htm does not have vowel marks, but it does contain the word "Taiwan" - in modern orthography with double "yod"s and "waw"s ("TYYWWAN") except that the ending "nun" is in improper form that cannot stand at the end of a Hebrew word. The use of "aleph" before "nun" is also quite questionable. In the same reading we find a word "number" taken out of the line just like "of his tomb" was in the previous example. Why didn't they pick other words with matching meanings from the relatively long excerpt is quite a mystery, but they did interpret one of the patterns as numbers, getting a date. (Any pattern of Hebrew letters can be read as a number.) The "Taipei" claim in reality is "TYYPH", which at best would be read "taipe" by modern rules. Unfortunately, tere are no vowel mrks in the table, so we cannot see what the patterns would read properly.
Yet another vowel-marked sample at http://asalizaki.freeservers.com/aids.htm shows more of the beautifully elective reading. What they read "badamot" ("in the bloods") with proper vowels becomes an impossible "badamiwt". Other patterns exhibit no possible phonetical reading at all for lack of vowels! Especially nice is the one they read as "subsistence", which has one vowel per four consonants.
In conclusion, whatever the method they are using to pick the
patterns, their Code appears to be wonderfully "flexible" in terms of proper
writing. Either it was encoded by someone illiterate, or whoever does the
reading is not very picky. As long as the pattern fits the fact, it will go
in. If it does not, they would throw out the vowels and try to reinterpret
the reading of the consonant radical. If it still does not, they try
variants written in modern orthography, or even ignore the obvious misplaced
letters (like that outrageous "nun" in mid-word form at the end of a word).
In short, whoever interprets the code seems to do so much twisting to make
it fit, that it does not matter much what method of pattern generations they
may use initially; not even mentioning that their statistical analysis is
much devaluated, because they are not only picking only a few patterns from
relatively long excerpts, but they also tend to throw out half the letters
in the text before they start. The "mathematical and scientific" method
turns out to rely on an astonishing amount of personal interpretation, alas.
TRNSTWLL? ("How much can be read in a long text by throwing out all the vowels and picking a few patterns at will?" Or is it "..BReaD..NyLoN..TaX..TiBeT..BaTHeR/RoWiNG..TaLL/LiTe..
SPoCK/KiNG..PoTTeR/TR aNSiT WaLL"... and I haven't even tried reading it backwards or dropping every second letter! The miraculous occurrence of "Potter" in such proximity to "Row[l]ing" is a stunning prediction of Harry Potter's success, isn't it? And if we read every third letter, we find "lives" intersecting with "Spock", clearly predicting the slogan used by "Star Trek" fans. Sapienti sat.)
I sincerely hope that this little piece of rather trivial observation may be of some help in debunking the "reading" of absent meanings. I wouldn't even bother you with something this trivial, unless I weren't aware that knowledge of Hebrew ancient and modern does not seem to be widespread among the pursuers of arithmancy.
With best regards, Eugene Arenhaus
24 Mar 1998
Not really claiming any religious affiliation, I hope you understand,
I was extremely surprised to find the existence of 'codes' in the Torah.
I have found patterns numeric and alphabetic in nature. Now granting that
the Torah text has some 305,000 + letters with the patterning and coding
I have located (some 50 plus in just one scripture of 42 letters) it is
enough to bring one to wonder, what is going on? I am not an anti-Semite
and do not believe it is a Jewish conspiracy... I have been in possession
of a resource since 1990 that has of recent come to light and explanation
that lead me to a single scripture, Genesis 5:2. From there I have started
a study of theoretical physics, astrophysics, calculus, quantum theory,
Torah and various creation myths... I am presently of the
mind that there is a 'source' that has been in contact with many cultures
for many many many years of human existence. I do not wish to convert or
try to convince any one of anything... but I do know without the shadow
of a doubt, humanity is on the verge of either waking to our place in the
Universe or allowing crude thinking religionists and absolute axe-grinding
atheists from taking us all off the face of the earth. There has to be
a mid point struck. And opening up all facets to inspection by clear thinking
non-prejudicial minds is a must.
reply: May the Source be with you and all your brethren who believe
that contact has been made and we are being watched over by benign beings
from another world. Whether they be angels or aliens, I do not know, but
if they come to you in your dreams, let us know and we'll sharpen our axes.
03 Apr 1998
Nice job trying to disprove the Bible code, close but no cigar. I don't quite understand why you used the King James Bible to find Bill Gates. I believe I recall you saying that you removed all of the vowels since the Hebrew language doesn't contain vowels. How did you find the name "Bill Gates" without vowels, must've really came up Bll Gts. This was not even half way clever. Was this an attempt at humor? If so then ha, ha, ha. So funny that I almost forgot to laugh.
How about something clever on my part, maybe even mystifying. I am psychic and I'm going to tell you about yourself even though I've never met you or read anything about you related to my psychic reading on you.
1.) You are a liberal.
2.) You are a socialist at heart, maybe in reality too.
3.) You believe that the government is the savior of the us all.
4.) You are a big believer in the United Nations system of governing the world.
5.) You have fewer than three children.
6.) You believe that Gorby tore down the wall because he's a great guy.
7.) You believe Ronald Reagan was probably the worst leader the US has ever had.
8.) You believe that a hole in the ozone is a serious threat to life on earth.
9.) You are an atheist.
10.) You recycle and are very concerned about the environment.
11.) You drive a BMW or a Mercedes.
These came through pretty clear but psychics, such as myself, are usually not 100% accurate. Let me know how accurate I've been.
reply: Hey Ron,
Your psychic powers must be waning. I assume that is what you used, since you obviously didn't read my entry on The Bible Code. Not only don't I try to disprove The Bible Code by using versions of the Bible, I don't use any version to do anything, much less find Bill Gates' name therein. Your recall must have taken you to some past or future life, for in this life I never removed any vowels from any book, though I may have noted somewhere that ancient Hebrew lacks vowels. I can see that it does not take much to make you laugh, since you can entertain yourself with your hallucinations.
I'm not psychic and I've never met you either, but let me tell you about yourself.
1) You are conservative.
2) You are a capitalist.
3) You distrust the government.
4) You distrust the United Nations.
5) You have three or more children.
6) You believe that it was Ronald Reagan's tough policies which brought down the Berlin wall.
7) You believe Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest leaders the U.S. ever had.
8) You don't believe there is hole in the ozone that is a serious threat to life on earth.
9) You are a theist and do not believe in evolution.
10) You don't recycle and think the environment cleans up after us while we sleep.
11) You drive a Ford.
These came through pretty clearly. I only hope I am wrong about number 5.
p.s. Your psychic reading of me got four out of eleven right. A blind
monkey could have done better. How did I do in my psychic reading of you?
28 Nov 1997
Thanks for your thoughts, though I humbly disagree with your conclusions. Your arguments that the codes are a fraud hinge on three general premises:
First, that Drosnin focuses on the predictive nature of the codes. Second, that the "codes" are created by theologians in need of new income sources. Last, that Dr. Rips denies the work product of Drosnin.
reply: First, I neither claim nor argue that the codes are a fraud. I imply that it is foolish to think that the Omnipotent One would conceal non-spiritual messages for cryptologists to decipher. I nowhere deny that names of people and places can be found using statistical formulae. I argue that Drosin is deliberately misleading in his presentation of the work of Rips, et. al. I can add here that Drosin is wrong in his claim that this process only works for the Hebrew version of the Bible. Others have applied it to Moby Dick and War and Peace with similar useless results. (The author's second point refers to an attempt at humor that has been edited out.)
All three arguments are invalid. In brief, Drosnin, who remains a Secular Jew, claims that "the only thing I can state with certainty is that there is a code". He at times stretches beyond this position, but never departs from its truth. Even if Drosnin were to mistakenly claim that the codes are predictive, his position would not negate the code's existence (the message exists even if the messenger is a lunatic).
reply: If he claims that he can state "with certainty" that there is a code, then he overstates his case. The presence of a code would imply purposive behavior on the part of the author. Since we can retrodict any number of names and places in just about any book we choose using statistical formulae and spending enough time to search for something "meaningful", we would have to assume that just about every author wrote in code. This position is absurd.
In this vein you raise the issue that Rips states that no messages can be extracted from the code, and that this position is shared by all serious code scientists. Again, regardless if the codes are not predictive, they exist. Many theologians who are familiar with the codes do not reach to conclusions about the goals or predictive nature of the codes. Their existence is enough to be of importance.
I caution you to not ignore Drosnin's position that the text of the Old Testament, in Hebrew, is the only text in which these historical and biblical phrases are found in a statistically significant pattern.
reply: I nowhere say that no messages can be extracted from applying the method of Rips et. al. to the Bible. We can't know a priori whether there are other books which show statistically significant results using ELS analysis. So far, the only evidence is for Genesis, not the complete Torah.
I am unaware of anyone who has offered any evidence (though many have tried) showing any other works to have a scintilla of similar statistical correlation with letter sequencing to names, places, dates, events, and historical figures, both of the time of the old/new testament and today
Rips himself, who you use in your argument, states that in his opinion that "even today the codes could not have been created by man & machine." By agreeing that the codes exist, whether for G-d's purpose or by some totally bizarre random cosmic event, you will be taking a huge step. As there is no scientifically proven (nothing beyond the hypothetical) contrary position, it's a step you should take.
Bradley A. Barros
reply: I see no reason to take any steps. The code doesn't work for all Hebrew versions of Genesis. I think there is still some more math to be done.