Drosnin, Michael. The Bible Code. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

A question I get a lot is "Is the Bible Code for real?" Well, that depends on what you mean by "real." It's a real book, and from what I understand it's made the author some real money. But whether there is actually a hidden code in the text of the Hebrew Bible that predicts events hundreds or thousands of years in advance is another matter.

When I first heard about this "Bible code" the immediate question that came to mind was "which Bible?" There are at least 3 possible ones:

  1. The "Masoretic Text." This is the Hebrew text that is most commonly associated with the "Old Testament." It is preserved in some 300 manuscripts, none earlier than the 9th century C.E.
  2. The Septuagint (LXX). This is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures made between the fourth and second centuries B.C.E. It is a major witness to the history of the Hebrew text, and the manuscripts of it that we have are centuries older than those of the Masoretic text. In many places, most notably the books of Samuel, it seems to have done a much better job of preserving the original material.
  3. The Samaritan Pentateuch. As its name implies, this version includes only the 5 books of Moses. It includes numerous expansions, rearrangements and other departures from the Masoretic and LXX text forms.

So, which Bible does the code reside in? Drosnin has it all figured out:

The Old Testament has been a settled text for at least a thousand years. The Torah has not changed in that time, and no scholar would question that. There is a complete version from 1008 AD (the Leningrad Codex), and every Hebrew Bible that now exists is the same letter for letter. (p. 38)
Well, that settles it, right? Wrong! For one thing, the last sentence is wrong. There are various Hebrew Bibles in print around the world, and the editions do in fact vary in their texts from each other. The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), published by the Bible Societies, uses the Leningrad Codex (L) as its base, but some other editions, notably more recent ones from Israel, use different manuscripts. And even BHS does not depend blindly on L, but includes profuse footnotes indicating variant readings from other manuscripts, versions and passages, and also indicates places where L is flatly in error.

Even the Masoretes, those scholars who produced L and its cousins, knew there were problems with the text. They frequently put a mark over a word and in the margin made a note saying "read this [rather than what is actually in the text]" and put a different word under their notation. This system is known as kethiv (Hebrew for "written") qere (Hebrew for "read"). So even the scribe who produced L knew the text before him wasn't perfect.

Even worse, Drosnin's thousand years really isn't all that much. What matters is not the last thousand years, but the thousand or so years before that. This is when changes, corruptions etc. happened. Even more crucial is the period before that, the 1500 years or so during which the Bible was actually written. Drosnin is reduced to claiming that the Leningrad Codex is essentially a perfect replica of the text as it came from the hands of Moses, David, Isaiah and all the rest. As we have seen, even the man who created this codex didn't believe that.

According to the book, this code predicts major events such as the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and comet SL9's collision with Jupiter. But is a comet impacting Jupiter really a "major event?" If not for the telescope, we wouldn't even have known about it, and aside from arousing everyone's curiosity - including mine, I confess I watched it in fascination through my own telescope - it had no effect at all on life on Earth. Yet, Drosnin found it several times. Or did he?

On page 36 we see the phrase "will pound Jupiter." However, this code is supposed to be based on letter spacings, yet this phrase has an unexplained gap of 8 letters in it when the spacing is supposed to be 3 letters. Even more puzzling, "Jupiter" has an unexplained hyphen in it. Why?

A close look at the Hebrew grid on this page reveals hyphens all over the place. We are never told why they are there or what they are supposed to indicate. But it's a safe bet that they weren't in the original Hebrew text, and it's an even safer bet that the Hebrew word for "Jupiter" didn't have one in it.

On the other hand, the next page (p. 37) has "Jupiter" without a hyphen. The problem: it's a completely different word than the one on the previous page!

This sort of thing seems to happen a lot. On p. 88 "end of days" is mymytyrx), but on p. 89 this same epxression is nymyhcq (for the transliteration scheme used, see the link to the CCAT standard on my main page). Even if you don't read Hebrew, you can see how different they are. The second one actually looks like Aramaic, not Hebrew, a fact that Drosnin doesn't mention. If it isn't Aramaic, then it's a misspelling.

Page 160 shows the word "delayed" 3 times. Trouble is, the one off to the left is spelled differently. On p. 81, "surely he will die" is misspelled. On p. 157 we have the name "Ammon" with an unexplained extra letter (aleph) in it, which is to say it's also misspelled. Is God a bad speller?

Drosnin would say no, because he doesn't believe this code comes from an all-knowing God who can see the future and put it in this code. A careful reading of pp. 96-97 reveals where he thinks it came from: he can't believe in a God capable of doing this, but apparently he has no problem at all believing the Bible Code came from extraterrestrial aliens who could somehow see Earth's future. He finds his evidence for this in another hidden code, this one indicating that the tablets at Sinai were created by a computer (p. 96). He also says, quite bluntly, that this alien computer dictated the entire Bible to Moses at Sinai (p. 95). I had no idea that Moses wrote the entire Bible.

At times during a reading of this book, the phrase "fast and loose" comes to mind. For example, through most of the book he finds names of Hebrew months coded. Yet, when we get to Prime Minister Netanyahu making a trip to Jordan, suddenly we find the English word "July." On p. 33, discussing Watergate, we supposedly have the phrase "Who is he?" But the Hebrew says "What is he?" "President" on p. 32 is preceded by the conjunction "and" in order to make it overlap with the word "Clinton," a fact that is never mentioned. On p. 58, we see another unexplained gap in a phrase. None of these anomalies are mentioned at all, and this hidden code is presented as if it's as precise as the motions of the planets themselves.

So, is it for real? I don't intend to sit here and question the sincerity of Drosnin or any of the researchers he worked with. I do question their judgment. There are too many oddities here: hyphens, gaps, misspellings, divergent words - Drosnin says again and again that the math is irrefutable. But it seems to require more than a little manipulation to make it so. Speaking as a Christian, the idea that space aliens gave the Bible with this code buried in it, waiting for us to discover the computer - and even worse, space aliens who could somehow see Earth's future - is frankly repugnant. I can only speak for myself, but I have a lifetime of work to do just to obey the plain words of the Scriptures. I have to conclude that the Bible Code is the product of some overactive and misguided imaginations, nothing more.

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