Are there hidden messages in the Bible? For years, theologians and mathematicians have debated the subject. The 1997 book, The Bible Code, written by Michael Drosnin, a secular Jew, popularized the idea of hidden messages in the Torah. As Newsweek reported in June 1997, the "controversial new book claims that buried within the Bible is a secret guide to all that was, is and shall be." Other books expounding the wonders of Bible codes soon followed, including The Mysterious Bible Codes and Yeshua, which were written by Christian prophecy authors. But others, both secular and Christian, said that the Bible codes are not valid.

After several months of study, I found this to be one of the most absorbing, difficult and perplexing subjects I have encountered in my entire ministry.

What are the Bible Codes?  Deciphering Bible codes involves identifying the arrangement of certain letter sequences in the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Torah. Using equidistant letter sequences (ELS), also known as skip sequences or codes, the Hebrew letters are counted at given intervals, e.g., every 10th letter or every 25th letter. Specific letter combinations, or perturbated letter sequences, are also sometimes used. The words that are spelled out are combined with their proximity to and/or overlap with other words in order to "decode" hidden messages revealing people, places, events, dates and circumstancespast, present and future.

The basis for the Bible codes involves Old Testament inspiration as viewed by the Jews, who believe that they have the exact wordingdown to the letterof everything that Moses was given by God. According to the Jews, God dictated this to Moses in one long sequence of exactly 304,805 letters without spaces between the letters. God then directed Moses regarding where to place the spaces. Some also believe that the Torah is one long name of God.

The text used for the Hebrew Bible is the Masoretic Text, which is believed to be the exact text dictated to Moses. The Masoretic Text is the result of the work of generations of scribes, known as Masoretes, who meticulously copied the original text between the 6th and 11th centuries A.D. The oldest copies date from the 9th century. 

Tremendous accuracy was demanded in copying the Torah scrolls. In CompuTorah, Dr. Moshe Katz, a religious Jew, describes the attention to detail that was required. "The scribe may not deviate one iota from the text. He must not only write clearly, but must be incredibly precise in the shape of the letters, their size and decoration, spaces between the letters, words and paragraphs, and more. If the Scribe errs in any one of these requirements, the scroll is deemed unfit for public worship."

A rabbi is quoted as telling a scribe, "Be careful in your work my son, for your work is the work of Heaven. Omit or add a single letter and you can destroy the whole world." If the Masoretic Text is ever proven to be off by even one letter from the original, the entire Bible code system fails!

Jewish Texts and Authorities  A clearer understanding of various Jewish texts will give better insight into why some Jews believe there is more to the Bible than what is written. Other than the Torah, these are not inspired as previously outlined or as we would understand the meaning.

*      The Torah contains the first five books of our Old Testament Bible. We call them the Pentateuch. Jewish commentary or explanation of Scripture is contained in the Midrash.

*      The Talmud is the compilation of Jewish oral law and touches on every part of daily life. Two versions of the Talmud, a Babylonian and a Palestinian, date from the 5th & 6th centuries A.D. The Talmud is divided into two parts: the Mishna (codified collection of oral law and legal interpretation) and the Gemara (commentary on the Mishna in Aramaic). The Gemara also has two sections. The Halakah is the commentary on the legal sections (e.g., kosher requirements). The Haggadah (or Aggada) contains non-legal rabbinical lore.

What the rabbis have said over the centuries has become as important as, if not more important than, the plain, straightforward Hebrew scriptures. This is where one can get into trouble.

*      Kabbala is a mystical, extra-biblical method of interpreting the relationship between God and man. The Kabbalah, popularized by a 13th century Jewish writing called the Zohar, teaches that God's presence is an ongoing surge of light communicated to the world through a series of emanations. By studying these, one can progress closer to their source. Many secret organizations and mystery religions of the past that were given over to all manner of sex cultism grew partly out of this. Kabbalah is in current revival and is quite popular among younger Jews and Hollywood celebrities . Evidently, secular Jews are so spiritually hungry that they are plunging headlong into this movement.

*       The Gamatria is a method of interpretation that assigns numerological values to words. Some Christians have even done this to a degree, with chaotic results. In the early 1990s, a well-known Christian Bible teacher and radio broadcaster used a numerological view of Scripture to come up with three layers of prophetic interpretation. Using this, he predicted that Christ would return in 1994. His prediction was obviously incorrect!

Interpreting the Torah Katz states that some people believe the entire history of the world is contained in the Torah and that there is no subject not hinted at in its pages. One Jewish scholar has said, "The Torah contains hidden references to every single person bornand it is the duty of each person to live up to his fate as hinted at in the Torah."

According to Katz, "Jewish tradition has always regarded the Torah as a divine creation, a sanctified document whose every letter contains a world of hidden meaning." Bible codes arise out of this somewhat mystical interpretation of the Torah. In CompuTorah, Katz outlines four levels of interpretation.

The literal meaning of the Torah is called Pshat. Other layers of meaning, however, "transcend this literal meaning." Under this are "additional layers, hidden secrets and lofty ideas in every word." Beneath the literal level are Remez (the allegorical illustration of Scripture), Drash (the halachic and haggidic exegesis) and Sod (the hidden or secret aspect of the Torah). These other levels are apparently revealed to only a very few scholars. The problem with digging into these other levels is that one is apt to contradict what the first level plainly says. Every cult and false religious system has grown out of extra-biblical revelation.

History of the Bible Codes  In his 1291 commentary on Genesis, Rabbeinu Bayha said that he had found God's name using a 42-letter skip sequence. In the 16th century, Rabbi Moshe Kordaviro also said that there was some sort of skipping letter code in the Torah. At that time, counting letters manually could take an entire lifetime just to come up with a few meaningful things.

There is some feeling that Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity in about 1700, was also into this in some way. He is quoted as having said, "The essence of Bible equals the prophecy of human beings."

Interest in Bible codes dwindled until some time before World War II, when Rabbi Chaim Michael Dov Weissmandel renewed interest in Jewish skip coding. His findings were reported by his students in a book, which was what inspired Katz to examine the codes.

By the 1950s, advances in technology made it possible to examine the Torah using the computer. In 1988, Israeli mathematicians Drs. Eliyahu Rips, Yacov Rosenberg and Doron Witzum ran an ELS computer program to see whether this worked out. The names and birth or death dates of 34 historic rabbis and teachers in Judaism, born long after the Torah was written, were found. Their findings appeared in a 1994 article in the Statistical Science journal. Michael Drosnin, an atheist Jew, was fascinated with this and wrote about his own findings in The Bible Code.

In the Bible codes, Michael Drosnin and others claim to have found references to Shakespeare, Newton, Thomas Edison, Einstein, the Wright brothers, the financial crash of 1929, Hitler and the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the moon landing, Richard Nixon and Watergate, the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election, specific terrorist acts and many other people and events things. According to them, all these appear against incredible odds.

Some have also calculated predictions of nuclear war in 2000 or 2006, a Los Angeles earthquake in 2010, war in Israel after the death of Rabin, Netanyahu's possible death, and the end of days. Again, all these appear against incredible odds!

There is only partial agreement among the experts as to whether these messages are valid. Some have discounted Bible codes for forecasting. Eliyahu Rips, who has written a refutation of the codes, said, "The only conclusion that can be drawn from the scientific research regarding the Torah Codes is that they exist and they are not a mere coincidence.It is scientifically impossible to make any predictions with codes."

Valid Conclusions  There are a few valid conclusions that can be drawn regarding Bible codes. 1) The codes are probably unique. There is some intelligent pattern there that is not found in other lengthy writings. And why not? The author is uniqueit is God!  2) The Torah is the work of one author. Bible critics claim that books of the Bible were written by several authors and then pieced together. Katz, the author of CompuTorah, says that the Bible codes prove there is only one author.  3) The Torah's author is not human. Even though Drosnin does not believe in God, he admits that "no human could have encoded the Bible in this way."

Significant Problems  Despite any validity there may be to Bible codes, there are problems with the method and the messages.

*       Accidental skip sequence codes are nearly unlimited. In any written work, one can find hidden words that appear by coincidence and are not intentionally inserted. Some code words in the same message are read forwards and others are read backwards. Due to the types of letters in the Torah and the similarity of their sequence in relation to common letters, if enough different skip sequences (ELS) are used, anyone can get anything out of the Torah that they want to. Even Drosnin has admitted that "you have to know what you are looking for to find anything at all."

*        Interpretations are subjective. The Hebrew text has vowels that are unclear. When using the text without spaces between the letters, some letter sequences are open to different word options. As an example, "nwhr" can be interpreted either as "now here" or "nowhere." The meaning of messages can also be subjective. For example, the codes "reveal" the name Timothy McVeigh along with the date and time of the Oklahoma City bombing. Did the code really predict his actions or does it mean that he was simply thinking about it or that someone should have stopped him?

*       Contradictions are extreme. The code contains Los Angeles, California, earthquake and 2010. But if a different program is run, the code says there will never be another earthquake in California! Some Bible code proponents claim that the name of Jesus (Yeshua) can be found hundreds of times throughout the Torah, thus revealing to Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. But others refute that. Using the same methodology, they claim to have found other "messiahs," including Mohammed, Krishna and David Koresh, in the same passages where they found Yeshua.

The Biblical Precedent  Consider these passages related to the authority of the plain and simple written Word of God.

In the Old Testament, anything that even vaguely resembled the mystical or occult is denounced. For example, Baalism (I Kings 16:33),  astrology (Isaiah 47:12-14; Jeremiah 10:1 & 2) and wizardry, mediums, etc. (Deut. 18:10-12).

Israel's king was to have a copy of the Law beside him and to read it every day (Duet. 17:18-20). There is no evidence whatsoever that any king was to dig down to any other level of the law. In reading and understanding the plain text, he would thereby be obedient and prolong his days upon the earth.

In Isaiah 8:20, God's people were exhorted not to consult mediums and wizards, rather, "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." "To the law and the testimony" speaks of the written Word of God. Joshua was told by God that if he would give heed "to all the law," then he would prosper and have "good success." (Joshua 1:7, 8) All one needs is the written Word!

In New Testament times, a school of thought called gnosticism taught that there were different levels of God. One could only know God through a successive series of emanations, and salvation could only be imparted to those who were specially initiated. The Bible never teaches that we must peel down several more layers or search for hidden codes to really know God and truth. The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2:8-10, "In him [Christ] dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him" That is why we exegete what has been written and do not look for what is hidden.

John 1:18 says, "the only begotten Sonhad declared him [God]." The literal translation of "declared" is "exegete," which is defined as "to unfold in teaching, 'to declare' by making known." (Vine's Expository Dictionary). Jesus Christ exegeted God. Over and over in his epistles26 times, in factJohn writes, "that you might know." In Christ, we know all we need to know.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that that we are to "Study to show thyself approved unto Godrightly dividing the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15) "Rightly dividing" means accurate teaching of Scripture.

Paul also exhorted Timothy, "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith" (I Timothy 1:4) Fable is from the Greek word "muthos," from which we get myth or mystery. Its literal meaning is to be secretive or close-mouthed. Genealogies refers to the Jews' penchant for tracing their families back to the patriarchs and to a leaning toward the gnostics' belief that the gods had given birth, either literally or mystically, to a whole extra body of knowledge. Paul says that we are to do away with these since they only lead to more questions. (See also I Tim. 4:7, II Tim. 4:4, Titus 1:14 and 3:9 and II Peter 1:16.)

Jews then and now have rejected Christ as personal Savior and the total revelation of God, and they have no other way than to go into mysticism. This was widespread in Jesus' day, and we are seeing a replay of this even among secular Jews, many of whom are seeking spiritual truth by digging down to other "layers" of the Bible.

II Tim. 3:7 speaks of those who will be "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." There are certain people who want to learn, but they never get anywhere. They never mature because they have made a god out of curious exploration rather than spiritual maturation. They appreciate the Word, but never apply it.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16) Scripture refers to the written Word, not anything mystical or hidden. Today an entire culture is looking for something else there, but opinions and speculations are not the Word of God.

In II Cor. 3:14-16, Paul describes how the Jews had a veil upon their heart when Moses was read, and the veil was removed only when they turned to Christ. If Jewish people today cannot understand what is plainly written apart from faith in Christ, they will never come to God's divine truth by delving into other "layers" or interpretations of the Word of God.

"Mysteries" in Scripture are previously hidden truths that are now revealed. In the New Testament, a mystery is not something that is secret and continually unknown, but rather now fully known. All mysteries are revealed in the New Testament. Paul distinctly addresses several: the mystery of the Church (Ephesians 3:9), the rapture (I Cor. 15:51), the incarnation (I Tim. 3:16), Antichrist (II Thess. 2:7). John wrote of Babylon (Rev. 17:5).

We do not have sufficient space to examine every New Testament passage. However, additional verses that should be considered include:

*       Matt. 11:25  "revealed [hidden things] to babes"

*        Matt. 13:35  "that it might be fulfilledI [Jesus] will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." Through Jesus, the "secret" things were revealed.

*        Luke 16:29  "They have Moses and the prophetshear them."

*        Rom. 16:25, 26  "the mystery, which was kept secret since the world beganis made manifest, and by the scripturesmade known to all nations"

*        I Cor. 1:22  " the Jews require a sign"

*        I Cor. 2:9-12  "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spiritthat we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."

*        II Tim. 4:2  "Preach the word"

Observations and Concerns In light of all of this, there are some significant issues related to the Bible codes of which all Christians should be aware.

*        The computer can bring astounding change. With computers, what would have taken a lifetime to accomplish can now be done in a matter of seconds. We live in a time when the whole attitude of society toward something can change in a matter of days, weeks or, at the most, years. There is nothing wrong with the computer, but it can be used by both godless and godly people to head right into confusion.

*        The computer can become a substitute for God. Drosnin believes that the sealed book opened in the end of days spoken of in Daniel and Revelation is the Bible code, which can only be opened with computers. "The code suggests that even the writing of the laws on the two stone tablets may have been computer-generated," Drosnin says. "What Moses actually received on Mt. Sinai was an interactive data base, which until now we could not fully access. The Bible that 'God' dictated to Moses was really a computer program." Drosnin believes that the code had a time lock on it that could not be revealed until the invention of the computer. In other words, God has been hiding something from us that can only be revealed now with computer programs.

*        Using the codes in witnessing to Jews is risky. When you begin using other "levels" of the Bible to prove Christ as the Messiah, you open the door for any number of discrepancies. If we use the codes to prove that the Bible talks about Jesus, others will point out that it also refers to Mohammed. Since Islamic people believe in the Old Testament to a great degree, some have appealed to the Bible codes as proof that Mohammed is the prophet of God. Using the Bible codes as a witness to Jewish people is a mistake.

*        The codes can distract from the real message of Scripture. "Instead of relying on prophets who see visions and interpret dreams," Drosnin says, "we can now access by computer an ancient code hidden in the Bible." Drosnin claims that the Bible code can be used to prevent the Apocalypse and that it "may be the information we need to prevent the predicted disaster." Biblical end-time events are God-ordained and unavoidable, but Drosnin believes that if we are smart enough to get the codes out, we can warn everyone and prevent them. The codes may give people a false sense of who is in ultimate control and divert them from the need for personal salvation.

Christians must not be distracted by mysticism and speculation. Why look for hidden meanings when so many are ignorant of the revealed truth? The plain text gives us Christ and completion in Him. A preacher once told me, "Salvation is simple. Sin is complicated."

*        Wild speculation and magic is preparation for Antichrist. II Thess. 2:9 talks about Antichrist coming with "power, signs and lying wonders." Through misuse of the Bible codes, he can present lying wonders. Using the Bible to decode hidden messages is the perfect set-up for a secular culturemisguided Christians among themto become involved in magic and mystery. This may be the explanation for the Jews' acceptance of Antichrist (see John 5:39-47).

II Peter 1:3 declares that God "hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." We do not need to look for anything further since God has already given us all we need. When you attempt to unlock an already open door, you end up re-locking it.

In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am (authority) the way (liberty), the truth (morality), and the life (reality); no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Christ called Himself "the Alpha and Omega"the A and Z (Rev. 1:8). And we are " complete in him" (Col. 2:10).

Knowing Christ is knowing God the Father. If you have never trusted Christ as Savior, all the mystical exploration you may do will only further confuse you. Receive Him in simple faith. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." (I John 5:13)

Sources:

The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin

CompuTorah by Dr. Moshe Katz

The Signature of God and Mysterious Bible Codes by Grant Jeffrey

"Jesus Codes: Uses and Abuses,"  Internet article by R. Daniel Mechanic with Doron Witzum and Harold Gans

"Cracking The Bible Code," Internet article by D. Trull

Various newspaper and magazine articles

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The Bible Codes
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