The Torah Code
Most people have at least heard the term Bible Code even if they are unaware of its meaning. Tabloid papers are notorious for undermining any credibility earned by scholars in this arena, but not all of their assumptions are fabricated. Incredibly, they are the only ones regularly covering the ongoing developments. This is frustrating considering they do fabricate most of their facts and there is no way for the laymen to know the difference.
Michael Drosnin wrote a book a few years back outlining the tentative belief that there is a code within the Hebrew text known as the Torah. This won enormous attention from media, zealots, and skeptics alike. Drosnin and countless experts, including a former code breaker, agreed that there is more in the Torah than meets the eye.
The Torah Code, as it is often referred, seems to be isolated to the original Hebrew texts known as the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch is believed to have been written by Moses (though this is debated among theologians) and represents the Jewish Bible or Torah. The Pentateuch also makes up the first five books of the Christian Holy Bible. These books include: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Sir Isaac Newton
The code may have been discovered and rediscovered numerous times throughout history. It would be inane to assume none before us was clever enough to discover such a thing. The first modern record we have of Bible Code research was done by Sir Isaac Newton.
Many laymen are astounded that Newton, a renowned scientist, spent the better part of his life consumed by the decoding of the Bible. It was, at least to him, the most important work he would ever do, and yet the truth eluded him time and time again. The mathematical principals were not beyond him, but the complexity and volume of the work proved impossible to decipher.
It would not be until the age of computers that Isaac Newton’s dream would be pursued. The basis for both Newton’s work and modern Torah Code research is ELS or equidistant letter sequences. Newton first discovered the phenomenon in Genesis and followed the pattern through Leviticus. The word he discovered was the title of the book itself, TORAH. As you could verify yourself (if you read Hebrew), the letters spelling TORAH occur every fiftieth letter beginning in Genesis. The word is repeated in this steady 50 skip ELS pattern through the middle of Leviticus where it seemed to stop. It wasn’t long before Newton’s astounding mind realized the pattern reversed at this point. At the point he left off in Leviticus TORAH is spelled in reverse through Deuteronomy. In conclusion, TORAH is spelled out every 50th letter whether you start at the beginning of the Torah or the end.
Many speculations have been made about this initial ELS discovery. Some say the two TORAH sequence (forward and backward) point to a key scripture in the middle of Leviticus. Others believe it is a sort of watermark, authenticating the Pentateuch as the only true Holy books.
So was Moses a cryptologist? It is not likely, but for argument’s sake we assume he was capable of coding the bible with this TORAH watermark. There is no reason a man could not do this. It would not be simple though. Careful planning would have to go into each and every verse in order to keep the obvious text from becoming nonsensical at the expense of preserving the hidden text. But still, it is not impossible. Moses, assuming he was of average intelligence and possessed writing skills, could certainly have pulled this off during his 40 years wandering the desert.
The Matrix Builders
Today, unlike the time of Newton we have tools and resources that make it possible to search the texts of the Torah at lightning fast speeds, calculating and recalculating ELS codes and various skip rates at will. Scholarly research, which prompted Drosnin’s book, has turned up astounding coincidences within the codes, but authenticating them is somewhat daunting.
Each matrix is formed around an initial key term. Then, in crossword fashion other terms are sought which are relevant and statistically improbable. The more related terms, the more likely we have a legitimate code. Probabilities, or the statistical likelihood of relevant keyword combinations, are debated widely and controls are not always reliable.
The Code: Fact or Fiction
Despite the exhilaration of finding your family and significant dates within the Holy Book, recent studies may indicate pure coincidence. Like the Drosnin examples and those recorded by the Rabbi Experiment, studies intended to debunk are questioned statistically and ridiculed for lack of scientific controls. Regardless, there are indications and examples that make even the ardent believers scratch their heads in wonder.
One method used to debunk or affirm the credibility of a given code is the use of a non-coded reference material. Because of the size of the biblical texts, scholars have often chosen War and Peace (transliterated to Hebrew) as a control. If a given pattern is found in both the coded text (the Torah) as well as the non-coded text, then you know the code is bunk. However, Torah Code supporters claim there has never been an intelligible/relevant sequence of code discovered within non-coded texts. This is untrue according to Brendan McKay.
Michael Drosnin said, “When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby-Dick, I’ll believe them.” McKay accepted his challenge and conducted a study of Moby-Dick which yielded disquieting results. McKay discovered matrixes within Moby-Dick very much like those in the Torah. He found the assignations of Indira Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Yitzhak Rabin. Like early Torah Code studies, he also built a matrix related to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Awe Factor
Hobbyists and scholars alike own software capable of searching the Hebrew texts of the Torah. One cannot help but gasp when a matrix code is discovered which possess all the names of their family in close proximity and with relevant dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths. Search War & Peace and you are unlikely to find your own name let alone the names of all your family in a pattern around you.
Doron Witztum claims the probability of such findings is 1 in 5.3 million. Some cryptologists seem to agree. Why then the controversy over dissemination of Torah Code theory and ELS? Could be as simple as the Atheists against the Believers? Earlier we talked about the likelihood that Moses was able, if willing, to perpetrate the 50 skip ELS coding that spells TORAH forward and backward within the Pentateuch. This possibility defies logic when we look at the more complicated codes and their relevance to modern people and events unknowned to Moses. It is still very possible that Moses transcribed the texts, but the author, if Drosnin’s results are accurate, was certainly of superhuman intelligence. Either that, or it is all pure chance and coincidence as the statisticians assert.
What do the Codes mean?
This is one of the deepest arguments among Torah Code researchers. If the keywords of each matrix are not a mere a coincidence, then what exactly do they mean? Often matrixes portray ambiguous and arbitrary facts or statements, making discernment almost impossible. Skeptics hold that this is simply because the codes are a fraud and the matrixes pure happenstance. Bible code Digest cites these excuses for the lack of ELS discernability:
a) Codes only express a viewpoint, which could be that of God, terrorists, or any person, notable or otherwise.
b) Spaces selected between words may differ from those originally intended.
c) Interpretations of Hebrew experts may differ.
d) Copying errors in manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible can create unintended ELSs and eliminate intended ELSs. However, the possibility that the most recent copying errors corrected earlier ones, should not be ruled out.
e) Some intended encoded words may now be extinct (i.e., not part of the vocabulary of either Biblical or contemporary Hebrew).
f) Any individual word or phrase in an ELS may be coincidental, in part or in whole, or its translation may differ from its original content and/or meaning.
g) A long ELS could represent a conversation where the viewpoint shifts.
The Battle Continues
Since the age of Darwin, science has tried to choke the life out of superstition and all tenets based purely on religious tradition. Likewise, the faithful have yearned to demonstrate once and for all that science can prove God’s existence. For every statistical formula that proves the code, there is a formula to disprove the code. In the beginning, we thought Newton’s dream would be realized by this technological age, but the computer age seems to have only confounded the theory of ELS codes within the Torah. Now even the believers are unsure about the future of the Torah Code. As the statisticians overwhelm them with conflicting data, they wade slowly through treacherous tides of statistics and probability. The scientific community will not likely yield in their pursuit to disprove the code and therefore there may always be doubt surrounding this phenomenon.