The BCD Summary of Opinions |
about Bible Codes
Updated February 2005
Making sense of the welter of opinions about Bible codes is no easy task, particularly for those who have only a brief acquaintance with the still emerging controversy. To help in getting one’s arms around the current state of things, the BCD editors have prepared this summary.
First, there are four major camps into which nearly all Bible code researchers fall:
• Activist (codes are real and reliable)Second, code researchers tend to approach the topic from three different religious viewpoints:
• Advocate (codes satisfying key criteria are real and reliable)
• Moderate (the phenomenon is real but codes are inherently unreliable)
• Code Skeptic (no codes are real)
• Agnostic, Atheist, non-Christian, non-JewishWe have noticed that these two variables seem to largely define the opinions of different researchers. In fact, if we prepare a table with these two variables, we find that all well-known researchers seem to fall into one of these boxes. We have also observed that researchers in the same box tend to have similar views, though there are clearly some exceptions.
• Orthodox Jew
Spectrum of Opinions on Bible Codes
In the above table, we have listed researchers alphabetically within each box, so as to avoid having to somehow rank them by some judgmental criterion. We apologize to any other researchers who may not be listed above. The credentials of code researchers vary widely. Our main criterion for inclusion has been their relative level of visibility, rather than any assessment of the substance or consistency of their viewpoints. We have limited the number of researchers within any box to a maximum of seven. We hope to update and revise the above compilation in the future as the controversy continues to unfold.
Brief additional information on each researcher follows. Researchers are listed alphabetically by last name within each category.
Michael Drosnin, author of The Bible Code and The Bible Code II.
Kevin Acres, pioneering Australian code researcher and developer of the search software Codefinder.
Roy Reinhold, veteran code researcher and marketer of Codefinder.
Moshe Aharon Shak, author of Bible Code Breakthrough.
Yochanan Spielberg, president of TorahSoft search Israeli software manufacturer.
David Bauscher, pastor and code researcher.
Bible Code Digest, published monthly since Nov. 1999, including the book Breakthrough. Directed by R. Edwin Sherman, F.C.A.S. (Fellow, Casualty Actuarial Society), M.A.A.A. (Member, American Academy of Actuaries). Edited by Dave Swaney.
Harold Gans, retired senior cryptologic mathematician, National Security Agency.
Robert Haralick, Ph.D. , Professor of Computer Science at City University of New York, and author of "Testing the Torah Code Hypothesis: The Torah Code Effect is Real" and "Torah Codes: Redundant Encoding."
Nathan Jacobi, Ph.D. , retired physicist, and Hebrew expert working with Bible Code Digest.
Grant Jeffrey, author of The Signature of God, The Handwriting of God and The Mysterious Bible Codes.
Moshe Katz, Ph.D. , author of CompuTorah.
Chuck Missler, author of Cosmic Codes.
Yacov Rambsel, author of His Name is Jesus, Yeshua and The Genesis Factor.
Eliyahu Rips, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics at Hebrew University and co-author of "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis," Statistical Science, 1994.
Barry Roffman, author of Ark Code.
Jeffrey Satinover, author of Cracking the Bible Code.
Doron Witztum, co-author of "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis," Statistical Science, 1994.
Hank Hanegraaff, President of Christian Research Institute and author of several books.
Michael Heiser, author of The Bible Code Myth.
Randall Ingermanson, Ph.D. , author of Who Wrote the Bible Code?
Brendan McKay, Ph.D. , professor of Computer Science at Australian National University.
Barry Simon, Ph.D. , chairman of the math department, Cal Tech.
David Thomas, author of several articles in the Skeptical Inquirer on Bible codes.
John Weldon, Ph.D. , author of Decoding the Bible Code.
Links to the websites of many of the above researchers are included in the Links section of the BCD website.
The camp of opinion on codes to which each researcher belongs naturally drives their views on the possible usage of codes and their ostensible purpose. In Table II we define this.
The Reliability and Purpose(s) of Bible Codes
Curiously, we had to significantly change the text for the Christian and Orthodox Jewish Advocates from its original content (“Codes reliably provide predictions of the future and other hidden information”) when several advocates disavowed that view.
Another key distinctive among well-known researchers is their view on the extent of encoding within the Bible. Differences exist as to whether the encoding is present in the Torah only or in the entire Tanakh and whether the encoding covers all human history or only selective events, whether they be past, present and future. These distinctives are presented in Table III.
Extent of Encoding in the Bible
Differences among researchers in what they regard as the predominant form of encoding also fall into predictable categories, as Table IV illustrates.
Predominant Form of Encoding
The difference between the degree of development of matrices between Christian and Orthodox Jewish advocates is primarily due to the more advanced knowledge of Hebrew of the latter. It is unfortunate that many of the most trivial examples of matrices may be found in the books of the most well-known researcher, Michael Drosnin.
Possible additional forms of encoding also fall into naturally distinct categories, as Table V shows.
Additional Forms of Encoding
Among Christian moderates, only Bauscher and BCD have presented examples of mosaics. One should not conclude from this summary that the views of any one researcher are shared by other researchers in the same box.
Another major distinctive among researchers is what they consider to be a valid measure of the improbability of chance occurrence of purportedly encoded phenomena. This is presented in Table VI.
Valid Measures of Improbability of Purported Encoding
Among Christian moderates, only BCD has a stated opinion on valid measures of improbability. For Shak, it is necessary to find at least two lengthy ELSs with large R-values that consist of good Hebrew.
This is the first edition of this BCD summary of the spectrum of opinions about Bible codes. We welcome comments from researchers and general readers of this summary regarded suggested corrections, additions or improvements.
Responses to Draft Summary
When we circulated a draft of the Summary above to those researchers we could reach by e-mail, we received a surprisingly energetic response from many of them. Some of those responding objected to our classifications either in general, or of their viewpoints specifically.
We have tried to be as accommodating as possible to those who wished to be reclassified in the tables above, but it is clear that trying to please everyone is the ultimate exercise in futility. Nobody likes to be "pigeonholed," and it is not our intention to do so. We set out to provide a snapshot of opinions in mid-2004, 10 years after the landmark publication of the Witztum-Rips-Rosenberg paper, "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis" in the journal Statistical Science.
Moshe Shak, for instance, felt that the faith of researchers should not be a component of the Summary, wondering, "Why mix up religion into it?" An orthodox Jew. In my view codes are truth. Truth is universal and has nothing to do with religion - other than that all religions preach truth.
He also asked why we did not begin the classifications by defining codes, presumably so that there would be a better understanding of where researchers stand on the subject.
"We all know what terms or ELSs are. There are plenty of terms finds. Many terms that people find are mere nonsense. However, those beginners, or those that do not know much, are talking about codes when all they have are meaningless terms . . . If you define codes as the finds we commonly see in books and websites, then I agree with the moderate side."
Author Grant Jeffrey, whose 1996 book The Signature of God (Word) was the first in print mentioning Bible codes, requested that his name be moved from the Advocate category to the Moderate area. He pointed out that codes are just one of the many significant areas of research that he follows, and summarized his current views of Bible codes this way: "I conclude that their sole purpose is to provide powerful new evidence that the Scriptures could never have been written by human authors unless they were supernaturally inspired by God. In the end, I believe the sole purpose of the Bible code phenomenon is to provide additional new evidence to our scientifically-educated generation to add to all other apologetic evidences."
Researcher Roy Reinhold was clearly upset with the original Summary, and mistakenly accuses us of not using matrices. "Your categorization is self serving and largely incorrect. It is self-serving, because you fail to make the distinction that BCD doesn't do Bible codes matrices and therefore has problems in discernment. It is the thematic nature and corroboration of close terms in a matrix that give meaning and understanding, while stand-alone terms such as you do will ALWAYS suffer from lack of enough information. Your stand-alone terms are without structure and corroboration. This closed matrix versus open matrix difference is a huge difference between us, and not these other puffed up categories." Our response was that we definitely do use matrices (we also call them clusters) to evaluate the significance of codes, and agree with Reinhold that they are invaluable in determining the worth of ELSs. What distinguishes our research method from his and others is our initial approach to searching for codes, which is based on looking for single terms located in significant passages of the Tanakh and then attempting to extend them into longer ELSs.
We have not published some of the many "stand alone" terms that he mentions because we have no cluster with which to connect them yet. Nearly all of the very long terms we have published are connected to at least one cluster, and one of our longest is connected to no less than five clusters. His matrix-first approach, on the other hand, is based on looking for multiple related terms with software that produces a matrix result.
On the subject of whether codes can be used to predict the future, Reinhold said, "Yes, I believe the code is predictive. However, to say it is accurately predictive all the time based on our developing capabilities is a huge overstatement."
He also remarked on the concept of the Bible codes containing the details of world history. "Personally, I believe the evidence clearly shows codes in the Torah and Tanach. That doesn't mean I believe all history is there. I only know what I have developed in the codes, which is far too small a sample to make sweeping generalizations about everything and every person being in the codes."
Dave Bauscher objected strenuously to being termed a code advocate and stressed that he was currently working only with mosaics. "I believe the long code snooping method is fraught with far too much subjectivity and an a posteriori methodology to lend itself to valid statistical analysis," he said. "That doesn't mean I don't believe long codes exist; I believe some do exist but that they are extremely difficult to analyze reliably."
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