Who Wrote the Bible Code?: A Physicist Probes the Current Controversy

Who Wrote the Bible Code?: A Physicist Probes the Current Controversy

by Randall Ingermanson

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What is the truth about the Bible code? How can you decide what to believe? Why does it matter? Around the world, men and women are captivated by a theory so incredible that, if proven true, it would forever revolutionize mankind’s view of Scripture. Some experts have claimed the Bible contains a code that accurately predicts today’s events. …  See more details below


What is the truth about the Bible code? How can you decide what to believe? Why does it matter? Around the world, men and women are captivated by a theory so incredible that, if proven true, it would forever revolutionize mankind’s view of Scripture. Some experts have claimed the Bible contains a code that accurately predicts today’s events. Others renounce the Bible code theory as unfounded.

Using a new statistical test that promises to provide an authoritative, credible answer to the Bible code debate, computational physicist Dr. Randall Ingermanson leads you on an easily understandable, meticulously planned investigation of the evidence at hand–addressing the most urgent questions surrounding the Bible code controversy and carefully examining how recent findings could affect your faith.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1997, Michael Drosnin's The Bible Code captured popular imagination by maintaining that the secrets of the future are encoded in the Bible's words. While many embraced Drosnin's ideas, others remained skeptical that the Bible could be used in such a way. Computational physicist Ingermanson designed a series of statistical computer tests to discover whether there really is a Bible code, and, if there is, who wrote it. He asserts that the answers to such questions are important, for many people are using the supposed code as an evangelistic tool to prove God's existence or as a "high-tech Ouija board, finding predictions of imminent disaster." Ingermanson opens his book with a judicious survey of what others have said about Drosnin's discovery. He notes that Drosnin's book produced many critics who challenged him on his method and adds that other writers on the Bible code, such as Jeffrey Satinover (Cracking the Bible Code), are far from convinced that the proof of such a code is watertight. Next, Ingermanson introduces a series of entropy tests, equidistant letter sequencing tests, trigram tests and chi-square analyses to test the theories of Drosnin and his believers--and concludes that the Bible code does not exist. He argues that proponents of the code have reported only sensational information and have ignored the larger picture. Ingermanson contends that his testing left no room for such error and calls into question the methods and the results of those who agree with Drosnin. Ingermanson's book will likely not be the final word on the Bible code, but it will certainly generate a great deal of interest in circles where these matters are discussed. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Reading Between
the Lines

Reading between the lines can get you in trouble.

    I discovered this when my wife, Eunice, confronted me about a nude model named Denice.

    "I found this note on your desk," Eunice said. "Who's Denice? Where did you meet this nude model?"

    Mystified, I grabbed the sheet of paper and stared at it. My own hand scribbling — no doubt about it.

    I should mention that I'm a computational physicist, and I've spent the last year writing a large software system to analyze networks of interacting devices.

    I jabbed my finger at one of the words. "That letter is a v, not an n," I said. "The word is `Device,' not `Denice.'"

    Eunice's mouth twitched, a sure sign that she was trying not to smile. "Okay ... maybe. But what about the nude model?"

    "This word is `node,' not `nude,'" I said. "These notes are all about networks — devices, nodes, models. Besides, Denise is spelled with an s, not a c."

    At that point Eunice broke out laughing and quit teasing me about my bad handwriting.

    Which brings me to the topic of this book.

    In the last few years, a number of good souls have concluded that God writes between the lines — that He has hidden a "Bible code" in the text of the Hebrew Bible for us to find.

    At first glance this seems an absurd notion. Why would God do such a thing? What's thepoint?

    A second glance only compounds the absurdities. The methods used by some of these folks look naive in the extreme. Patterns? What patterns? You can see any pattern or message you want if you look long enough. For example, "nude model Denice." Unlike my wife, though, these people aren't kidding.

    But several prominent mathematicians have taken a third glance and decided that the matter isn't so simple. True, some of the "evidence" for the Bible code looks so flimsy that it's hardly worth taking time to demolish. And yet ...

    And yet scientists have claimed, after obtaining startling results from a set of computer experiments, that there can be no natural explanation for them. Could God be behind this?

    It's an excellent question, and it will occupy us for the rest of these pages.

Is the: Bible Code Authentic?

My purpose in Who Wrote the Bible Code? is to answer two questions: Does the Bible really hide some intentionally encoded patterns? And, if so, who wrote them? At present, people have suggested three possible answers to these questions:

    1. The Bible code is without validity or substance, and at worst it is a hoax; therefore nobody wrote it.

    2. God wrote the Bible code.

    3. Space aliens wrote the Bible code.

    Does it really matter? you may be asking. Isn't this just goofiness?

    Yes, it really matters, despite the fact that some of the Bible-code people have gotten rather carried away. It truly matters for two reasons:

    1. The Bible code is being touted in some quarters as a "proof of God's existence" —the ultimate evangelistic tool.

    2. Others are using the Bible code as a high-tech Ouija board, finding predictions of imminent disaster or apocalypse.

    Both approaches are wrongheaded and dangerous, I believe.

    Let's take the prediction aspect first. Everyone agrees that if the Bible code is real, then it must have been put there by superhuman intelligence. This implies that the message of the Bible should be taken seriously. But the Bible expressly forbids divination (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10,14)! On the other hand, if the Bible code is not real or authentic, then its predictions are worthless. In either case, using the Bible code for fortunetelling doesn't make sense!

    One misguided Bible-coder found this out the hard way when he predicted the Rapture on May 31, 1998. His apology after that date was admirable for its honesty but painful to read. I can't believe that God approves of this kind of prophetic high jinks.

    But what about the evangelists using the Bible code to bring people to God? What's wrong with that?

    What's wrong is that the evidence for the Bible code is weaker than these people claim. Much weaker.

    Suppose the Bible code is a hoax. Then people are being deceived into believing in God. That's wrong! If you think that the end justifies the means, please think again. Eventually the hoax will be exposed. Then what will happen to all those converts?

    On the other hand, suppose the Bible code is real. Suppose a pattern underlies the text of the Bible. Suppose we can find this pattern and prove that it was put there intentionally. Suppose this pattern encodes knowledge far beyond the abilities of any ancient peoples. Proof of the pattern would be the most remarkable discovery in a century of remarkable discoveries. If the proof is there, let's find it! But we need strong proof, not the flimsy evidence we've seen so far.

    We're cheating ourselves if we accept the half-convincing evidence that's been given to date. We're allowing the whole issue to be muddied with a number of naive and weird ideas, giving God and the Bible a bad name.

    Understand that I'm not afraid of weird ideas. I'm a physicist. We're the people who believe that space and time are curved, that everything from electrons to eggplants to elephants is fuzzy probability waves, that the theory of the universe may be best expressed by one-dimensional superstrings that live in ten dimensions and curl up into four. We physicists unlocked the secrets of semiconductors and superconductors, of black holes and wormholes, of lasers and masers and quasars.

    The universe is a weird place and we might as well get used to it.

    But the ultimate test of any theory is the experimental evidence. Physicists don't buy into strange theories simply for the sake of weirdness. We buy into them only when we can find indisputable evidence that they're correct.

    So what about the Bible code? Weird but unproved, right?

    Yes, so far. I believe that we can settle the authenticity question using a completely new test that I've developed. Actually it's not one test, but four. They're simple but subtle. Simple enough that I can explain them to my nonmathematical friends in an evening or so. Subtle enough that it'll take a book this size to work out all the details.

    Once we've decided whether the Bible code is real or not, we can more easily answer the question of authorship. I'll present answers to both questions in this book.

    That's a fairly tall order for one thin book. Here's what we have to do to succeed:

• We need to understand what people have already said about the Bible code.

• We need to develop an arsenal of objective tests to determine the Bible codes authenticity.

• We need to write some software to do the hard work of running those tests.

• We need to apply the tests to the Bible, using the software.

• Based on the test results, we need to evaluate whether the Bible code is real, then decide how to respond to what we discover.

    We're going to do all five of these in this book. I hope you like a good mystery, because that's what we have here. If you're the type who reads the last page of mysteries first to see whodunit, then I'll tell you right now that the answer is in chapter 13 of this book. But you wouldn't peek, would you? The fun is in figuring out the puzzle.

    I invite you to play the role of Dr. Watson in this mystery. There is an answer, and we're going to find it. I guarantee the search will be more rewarding than trying to figure out the identity of "nude model Denice."

What Tools Do We Need?

You may be wondering what skills we'll need to solve this mystery. Do we need to know Hebrew? Do we need a Ph.D. in rocket surgery? Do we need a year's time on a Cray supercomputer?

    No, no, and no.

    I do happen to read Hebrew, but on this project we're going to make the computer do all the reading. I also have a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley, but we won't need any mind-bending mathematics for this puzzle. Nor will a Cray supercomputer be necessary — the calculations will run on a home computer in a few hours. I'm posting my software for free on the Internet so you can check the results for yourself. If you have Java on your computer, you can run this software. (See "A Final Note" at the back of this book for the details.)

    A few comments on our methods are in order.

    First, we're going to run a careful, sober experiment here. The Bible code has been wildly sensationalized. Many people have formed an opinion based more on emotion than evidence. This seems to be as true of the skeptics as of the believers.

    Second, I want to clarify that I don't have a strong emotional investment in either side of the argument. I'm interested in finding out the truth, and I'm sure you are too. (By the way, most of this book — including the parts describing the tests we must develop to determine the Bible code's authenticity — was written before the tests were actually run.) If we find that the Bible code is real, then that will be extraordinary, exciting news. If we discover that it's not real, then it'll be a great relief to settle the issue once and for all, so we can get on with our lives. Either way, truth will win. Isn't that the important thing?

Our Plan

Here's the plan for our investigation.

    In the next three chapters we're going to do our homework on the Bible code. We need to find out what's been done already so we don't waste time following paths that have already been walked. We also need to critically evaluate what others have said. Do these people make sense? Or are there holes in their logic or approach? Are they blowing smoke?

    Once we understand the Bible code, we'll need to think a bit about the relationship between language and math. It turns out that languages have mathematical properties that we can measure. Most people already have some intuition about these, but we'll define them precisely. If you have a technical background, you'll probably want to see the equations. I'm going to hide those in Appendices A through D (which are located on my Web site—see "A Final Note" at the back of this book). The math isn't really very hard, but neither is it necessary in order to understand the principles. If you don't care for math, don't read the appendices.

    With this background in linguistic measurements, we'll be ready to devise a set of four different tests for the Bible code. Any one of these tests would be enough, but it will be reassuring to find that all four give the same results. We'll spend several chapters developing our tests and checking that they work on "control texts" — nonbiblical texts that certainly don't carry any secret coded messages from God. We'll first apply our methods to a sequence of fifty thousand random numbers, then to Dr. Seuss's children's book The Cat in the Hat, then to an English translation of Genesis, and finally to a Hebrew translation of Tolstoy's epic novel War and Peace. Only this last text is written in Hebrew, but that won't cause us any problems. Our methods will work with any language that uses a phonetic alphabet.

    Once we have an arsenal of tests, we can work on the Bible code. It'll take only two chapters to solve the main mystery. After that, we'll wrap up all the loose ends.

    Are you ready? Let's get started.

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