Scientists claim the Bible is written in code that predicts future events

The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.

  • Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
  • The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
  • Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.

Searching for patterns is how we make sense of the world. We look for meaning in the often-overwhelming chaos by making connections between symbols and events. Some times these are meaningful discoveries, resulting in good science and breakthrough insights. Other times, these patterns may lead nowhere but still help us focus energies on what's important.

One intriguing source of patterns that has emerged thanks to our development of computers is the Bible. Among humanity's oldest and arguably most influential pieces of writing, the Bible has been studied and analyzed phrase by phrase by countless scholars and devotees. But what computers have allowed us to do, thanks to the work of Israeli mathematicians, is to see that the ancient text may be not only an intricately-weaved collection of spiritual stories and teachings but a code that speaks to the inner workings of history.

"The Bible Code," a 1997's book by the reporter Michael Drosnin popularized the idea. His book claimed to use the earliest parts of the Bible to predict the assassination of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Gulf war, and comet collisions. It also seemed to have information about the Holocaust, various other assassinations like those of JFK and his brother Robert. It similarly suggested a nuclear war was looming – a theme the author explored in subsequent books of the "Bible Code" series.

The inspiration for Drosnin's book came from the 1994 paper "Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis," published in the journal Statistical Science by mathematicians Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg. They presented statistical evidence that information about the lives of famous rabbis was encoded in the Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis, hundreds of years before those rabbis lived.

Dr. Eliyahu Rips is one of the world's leading experts on group theory and is the scientist who got most closely associated with the "Bible Code" hypothesis, even though the software used to implement the word search was designed by both Rips and Witztum.

Credit: Sahkisahki

Dr. Eliyahu Rips. 2017.

Rips later distanced himself from Drosnin's book. In a 1997 statement on the matter, he pointed out that he didn't make or support some of the specific predictions Drosnin claimed. Nonetheless, Rips wrote quite clearly that "the only conclusion that can be drawn from the scientific research regarding the Torah codes is that they exist and that they are not a mere coincidence."

The method used by the scientists to arrive at their conclusions is the Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS). To get a word with some meaning, this method calls you to pick a starting point in a text and a skip number. And then, start selecting letters while skipping the same number of spaces every time (pretty much in any direction). If you're lucky, a sensible word will be spelled out. This method works well if letters are arranged in an array, like this one –

Bible Code/Drosnin

The Bible Code made a recent re-appearance in the public consciousness thanks to the work of author and fourth-generation antiques expert Timothy Smith. His 2017 book "The Chamberlain Key" describes how following 25 years of research, he unlocked a "God code" in the Bible. He calls his book "the Da Vinci Code on steroids, but it's true."

Smith's decoding work is based on his own ancient copy of the Bible titled "The Leningrad Codex" - it's the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Old Testament. Smith used a computer-driven application of the ELS method, as well as code-breaking techniques and his intimate knowledge of ancient and aboriginal ceremonial devices like scepters, crowns and thrones to arrive at his reading of the Bible.

Smith is a devout Christian and his conclusions revolve around Christian motifs. In particular, he claims to have found detailed informations about Jesus's birth, crucifixion and resurrection within a passage in Genesis.

The book has received a special on the History channel and a documentary series is being made about the travels leading to Smith's discoveries.

David McKillop, the executive producer for Jupiter Entertainment, which is creating the TV series, said that "Tim's quest is the ultimate treasure hunt for one of history's greatest mysteries, and his map is an ancient text that could possibly be talking to us."

Here's the History Channel's teaser for Smith's TV special

If you think there can't possibly be any pattern in the Bible and other long texts may produce similar results - there are studies for you too. The Australian computer scientist Brendan McKay famously came up with a table of assassination predictions in "Moby Dick".

While the Bible or "Torah Codes" can be criticized, there is scholarly evidence that ancient writers of the Bible, like Matthew, "consciously used numerical patterns or codes in their compositions," as writes Dr. Randall Buth, the director of the Biblical Language Center and a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Another factor we should keep in mind that our understanding of how time and history work very much depends on our frame of reference. If time flows differently, for example as proposed by the Block Universe Theory, all bets would be off and a book could theoretically contain the code of history both of the past and the future.

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

Surprising Science
  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.