Do bible code predictions have any credibility?
While this is an old issue in most Christian circles, some people are just now learning about “the bible code.”
History Channel creations such as Bible Code: Predicting Armageddon (2003) and Bible Code II: Apocalypse and Beyond (2004) as well as references to the bible codes in numerous other television series help foster the impression that existence of a “bible code” is established fact.
It’s been more than two decades since the so-called “bible codes” were first introduced in the public forum, and the sensational claims of some of its proponents can at best be described as statistically insignificant.
Yet, The History Channel continues to run its “documentaries” on the bible code, which in turn, prompts people to personally investigate the codes only to find dead ends, disappointment, or hours of wasted time.
So why should we care?
Well, if some people are promoting the bible code and bible code predictions as proof of God’s divine authorship of the Bible, then non-believers who investigate the claim could potentially be turned away from Christianity when they discover the facts about the bible code.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s some background on the bible code phenomenon…
The Bible Code
In 1994, Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg published the paper, “Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis”, in the scientific journal Statistical Science.
In their paper, the authors set out to prove that the names of famous rabbis could be found with the Book of Genesis in close proximity to the dates of their births and deaths in such a way that chance alone could not explain.
The process relied upon “Equidistant Letter Sequencing (ELS),” whereby researchers take a single letter, skip ahead a certain number of spaces to a second letter, and then repeat the process using the same numeric interval.
For instance, let’s say you have the following line of text:
A Q J W D E B L S J N U I O S T R
By itself, this line of letters looks like gibberish, but if you bold every third letter, you get this:
A Q J W D E B L S J N U I O S T R
Looking at every third letter, spells out “Jesus.”
Now, while a line of text from the Book of Genesis is not gibberish, code researchers place lines of its text into randomly chosen “matrices” creating an almost inconceivable number of possible random lines of text to choose from.
Two years after the publication of “Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis,” journalist Michael Drosnin injected “the bible code” into pop culture with the publication of his book The Bible Code (1997).
In his book, Drosnin claimed not only the existence of hundreds of messages encoded in the Torah, but also the existence of what he believed were bible code predictions.
For example, Drosnin claimed to have found a bible code prediction of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination prior to the event’s actual occurrence. He even claims to have warned Israeli leaders of what “the bible code” foreshadowed in the imminent future.
But is any of this true?
Does the Book of Genesis, or any book in the Bible, really contain coded messages or predictions from God?
Bible Code Hoax?
While it’s probably not accurate to label the bible code as a complete hoax, it is accurate to say the claims of its significance have been highly exaggerated.
We have no reason to believe the result of Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg’s paper was premeditated and intentionally misleading. But it is likely that they wanted to believe in the code’s existence in order to prove the Bible’s divine authorship to an unbelieving world.
As a result, a more thorough and rigorous examination of the code’s statistical significance did not take place until later.
This is certainly understandable.
When the bible code and bible code predictions first came to light, many Christians and Jews jumped on the bandwagon, viewing the existence of “secret codes” as irrefutable evidence of a higher intelligence who intricately crafted every letter of the Bible.
I’ll admit that when I first heard of the bible codes, I was excited. Like everyone else, I wanted further “evidence” and “proof” which would illustrate to an unbelieving world that the Bible was the undisputed Word of God.
Unfortunately, a thorough examination of the bible code and bible code predictions just does not hold up to scrutiny.
Well, in the years since the initial publication of the bible code phenomenon, the public at large has had ample opportunity to test the bible code, recreate the initial experiments, and test alternative texts.
In 1999, this led to the publication of a peer-reviewed criticism in the same journal Statistical Science. Among some of the notable conclusions of the authors:
- A similar experiment conducted with the text of Tolstoy’s War and Peace achieved similarly statistically significant results.
- Alternative selection of rabbinical names and dates conducted by an independent expert failed to achieve the original statistically significant results.
- The text of Genesis used by the authors in the original experiment is substantially different from the original.
These are just a few of the criticisms leveled at the bible code and its proponents.
For instance, while some amazing and relevant ELS word patterns appear throughout the Torah (such as the repetition of the name “Yeshua”), other words and phrases crop up as well – including outright lies such as “Jehovah is a liar,” “There is no God,” and “Satan is Jehovah.”
If we attribute great significance to ELS codes in the Bible which assert Jesus is the Messiah, then how can we then ignore similar codes which blatantly depict false statements which contradict the Bible?
More importantly, if God is truly behind “the bible code,” we should be able to pull up unfulfilled bible code prophecies and await their fulfillment.
As the Lord says:
“‘Present the case for your idols,’ says the Lord. ‘Let them show what they can do,’ says the King of Israel. ‘Let them try to tell us what happened long ago so that we may consider the evidence. Or let them tell us what the future holds, so we can know what’s going to happen. Yes, tell us what will occur in the days ahead. Then we will know you are gods.’” Isaiah 41:21-23 (NLT)
Is the bible code really from God, or is it a modern day idol?
If it is from God, the Lord says to prove it by telling us “what will occur in the days ahead.”
The Predictive Power of the Bible Code
If ELS codes are the handiwork of God, where are the bible code predictions?
In The Bible Code (1997), Michael Drosnin cites several “messages” extracted from ELS codes in the Torah which he states portend future events.
Here’s one example:
On page 179 of his book, Drosnin states the bible code “also seems to state that the Apocalypse starts now, that within a decade, we may face the real Armageddon, a nuclear World War.” He later associates the words “atomic holocaust” with the years 2000 and 2006.
In another part of his book, Drosnin associates the Jewish year 5757 (which ended in October 1997) with a “holocaust.”
In his follow up book The Bible Code II (2002), Drosnin ends the introduction with this:
“This book begins a search for the key that may unlock the code completely, reveal our forgotten past, and our entire future. And now the search has become urgent. Because the bible code warns that we may have only three years to survive.”
Notice that he writes “may have only three years to survive.”
Proponents of the bible code tend to ignore its false predictions by stating such things are “possible futures,” rather than failed prophecies that never came to pass.
If this is the case, then it essentially confirms what we already know to be true – that “the bible codes” are a series of random man-created messages, some true and some untrue.
If a proponent makes 100 bible code predictions and, by chance, one comes true – then they’ll hold up that one example as “proof” of the bible code’s legitimacy, like Drosnin did with his Yitzhak Rabin assassination prediction. In the meantime, they’ll conveniently ignore the 99 additional failed predictions.
Even one false prediction out of one hundred is evidence that God isn’t behind the predictions to begin with.
As the Lord states:
“You may wonder, ‘How will we know whether the prophecy is from the Lord or not?’ If the prophet predicts something in the Lord’s name and it does not happen, the Lord did not give the message. That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared.” Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (NLT)
The Bottom Line
In the end, we need to ask the question…
Why do we need bible code predictions?
Is it to prove divine authorship of the bible?
Jesus Christ, fulfilled bible prophecy, the holy spirit, and mountains of additional evidence already attest to the divine authority of the bible.
We don’t need the bible code to verify the Bible as God’s Word.
Do we need bible code predictions in order to know what’s going to happen in the future?
The bible already tells us in plain language what’s going to happen in the future.
In fact, if you just read the plain text of the Bible, you don’t need elaborate software programs or computer scientists to “decode” bible prophecy. It’s right there in plain daylight for anyone who wants to read it.
This is the truly remarkable design of God’s Word – not hidden codes.
God Himself insists His Word is not beyond our understanding:
“This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.” Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (NLT)
Bible Code Predictions That Have Come True
That said, here are just a few examples of “bible code predictions” that have come true, and not one of them requires special software or a masters degree in mathematics in order to decipher.
In fact, they aren’t “bible codes” at all. They’re just the plain text of scripture:
Bible Prophecy: The Messiah will be born of a virgin.
Old Testament Prophecy:
“All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’” Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)
New Testament Fulfillment:
“But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiance, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21 (NLT)
Bible Prophecy: The Messiah will bring light to Galilee.
Old Testament Prophecy:
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will soon be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiless, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light – a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.” Isaiah 9:1-2 (NLT)
New Testament Fulfillment:
“When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. But instead of going to Nazareth, he went to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.” Matthew 4:12-16 (NLT)
Bible Prophecy: The Messiah will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
Old Testament Prophecy:
“And I said to them, ‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.’ So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.” Zechariah 11:12 (NLT)
New Testament Fulfillment:
“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.” Matthew 26:14-15 (NLT)
Bible Prophecy: The 30 pieces of silver will be thrown in the potter’s field.
Old Testament Prophecy: “And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potters’ – this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potters in the Temple of the Lord.” Zechariah 11:13 (NLT)
New Testament Fulfillment: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and other leaders. ‘I have sinned,’ he declared, ‘for I have betrayed an innocent man.’ ‘What do we care?’ they retorted. ‘That’s your problem.’ Then Judas threw the money onto the floor of the Temple and went out and hanged himself. The leading priests picked up the money. ‘We can’t put it in the Temple treasury,’ they said, ‘since it’s against the law to accept money paid for murder.’ After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood.” Matthew 27:3-8 (NLT)
All of these prophecies were known by the Jewish scholars of His day, yet most failed to recognize Christ’s coming.
This is why Jesus accused them of failing to recognize the “signs of the times”:
“One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus’ claims by asking him to show them a miraculous sign from heaven. He replied, ‘You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious signs of the times!’” Matthew 16:1-3 (NLT)
Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees, our generation ignores the obvious signs of the times while demanding a miraculous sign in order to believe God’s Word.
In the eyes of the world, an imbedded code unable to be deciphered until the age of computers and then only understood by mathematicians and cryptographers who can “verify” and “authenticate” said code is a “miraculous sign” – something the world can finally believe in.
But would the world really believe, even in the presence of a miraculous sign?
The Bible itself, as it’s written in plain language anyone can read and understand, already constitutes a miraculous sign!
We don’t need hidden codes to verify the authenticity of God’s Word.
Instead of wasting precious hours, days, or years of life scouring through “bible codes,” why not spend that time actually reading the Bible itself?
In it, you’ll find that God reveals a number of things, such as…
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’ And again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.’” 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 (NLT)
Witnessing to Others
One of the reasons some people are quick to buy into the bible code is because of its perceived power as a tool for witnessing to others.
But we don’t need the bible code to witness to others. Given the past scrutiny and the immense evidence of the bible code’s illegitimacy, it’s doubtful it would have any impact anyway.
Just because the perceived wise men of this world take a position which aligns with ours (such as “the Bible is divinely authored”), it doesn’t mean we should endorse the same methods they use to draw a conclusion. For those who are labeled “wise” by this world are often foolish in the eyes of God:
“I expose the false prophets as liars and make fools of fortune-tellers. I cause the wise to give bad advice, thus proving them to be fools.” Isaiah 44:25 (NLT)
Using the bible code to witness to non-believers is potentially disastrous. If they associate true believers in Christ with believers in the bible code, and then find out the bible code is false, then they might summarily assume that a belief in Jesus Christ is also false.
This is the ultimate danger in following any teaching which strays from the plain truth of the Bible.
Because of this, the bible code harbors some potentially negative consequences, especially when touted as “real” on networks like The History Channel, which most people perceive as a trusted arbiter of “fact.”
So what about those who already believe?
If a real bible code does exist, can it help them?
Probably not. After all, believers already believe.
Our faith is strengthened by the Holy Spirit and mountains of additional evidence. So why do believers need a “bible code”?
In light of this evidence, it’s difficult to see what good the bible code and bible code predictions can do in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ or strengthening the faith of current believers.
One of the best tools for witnessing to others and strengthening the faith of believers is bible prophecy itself.
Take the following example:
“Therefore, give the exiles this message from the Sovereign Lord: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you were scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.” Ezekiel 11:16-17 (NLT)
God’s promise to gather His people back into the nation of Israel – a clearly fulfilled prophecy in our day and age – dwarfs any perceived claims of so-called bible code predictions.
We should look to the bible for guidance, not mankind’s rearrangement of it into “codes.”
As Paul says:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
Rely on the Bible as it is, and you won’t be disappointed.