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We are nothing short of superstitious if we think that God
buried the truth in codes in sacred scripture!
- Site author

Faith in Codes
Many profess faith in "codes" hidden in Hebrew Bible

Belief In hidden messages grows with computer analyses linking passages In the ancient Scriptures to modern people and events

LA Times‑Washington Post Service

 A Prague rabbi, who escaped a Nazi death train, claimed to have discovered coded messages in the Hebrew Bible shortly after World War II.

He declared, among other things, that the word "Torah" was spelled in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy,–you just had to take the first letter of each book and skip ahead 50 letters at a time.

Then, in 1986, two Israeli scientists, out of curiosity, started running the Hebrew letters of Genesis through a computer and reported that all sorts of historical names and events were encoded in the texts–most notably names of three dozen famous rabbis.

Others with computers then found word combinations linked to 20th century wars and assassinations, including clusters such as "Hitler," "Auschwitz" and "Holocaust."

Soon, Orthodox Jewish groups were touting the "Torah codes" as evidence of God's hand on all of human history.

Christians got into the act, too, claiming to have discovered coded phrases about Jesus in the Old Testament, citing them as confirmation that he was, indeed, the awaited messiah.

These days, the codes are a certifiable phenomenon and a religious controversy.

Some 30 Internet sites are devoted to them, seminars feature Hollywood celebrities, and at least three books decipher the supposed hidden messages.

The latest, "The Bible Code" by Michael Drosnin, was just released with a publicity blitz suggesting that familiar Bible narratives, written 25 centuries ago, contained predictions of the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin–prompting complaints that this was taking the codes too far into the realm of sensationalism.

But movie rights have already been sold. And the codes have clearly become part of public consciousness–Jay Leno has satirized them in his monologues.

To the unconvinced, the drive to find hidden codes in Scriptures is a meaningless "word-search puzzle" or, worse, "magic in the guise of science."

The critics see the burgeoning fascination as only the latest effort to replace faith with scientific certainty, resembling attempts to authenticate Bible stories through expeditions to find the remains of Noah's Ark or to prove with carbon-dating tests that the Shroud of Turin bears the image of the crucified Jesus.

Critics lament that the codes debate diverts attention from core questions of faith.

'Codes' appeal mushrooms

"What does this have to do with values and one's direction in life"? said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of the Hillel student center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

But the "codes" have undeniable appeal to legions of devotees.

Over the last decade, 60,000 people around the world have been exposed to the messages during $25 daylong seminars run by Aish HaTorah, an Israeli-based organization that seeks to bring secular Jews back into the fold

Kirk Douglas hosted one seminar last year in Los Angeles.  Actor Jason Alexander, the nebbishy George on TV's "Seinfeld," hosted another in February at UCLA, attracting a sellout crowd of 430.

The notion of scientists scrutinizing the Bible is not new.

Isaac Newton, the l7th century physicist, was convinced the Old Testament contained a "cryptogram set by the Almighty," a biographer wrote, and that he might find, hidden riddles of "past and future events divinely foreordained."

During the current frenzy of code-breaking, Jewish practitioners have focused on the first five biblical books, known as the Torah.

Their method resembles what was done by cryptanalysts on both sides in the Cold War. They tried to read each other's secret communications by submitting intercepted messages to computer analysis, hoping that meaningful words and phrases would emerge.

   First, all the letters of a text–304,805 in the case of the Torah–are combined in a single chain.  Then the code-breakers look for messages by linking letters at regular intervals, taking every 10th one for instance, or every 142nd–sometimes reading forward, sometimes backward.

Such computer searches lead both Jewish and Christian code proponents to maintain that the Hebrew spellings of Hitler, Auschwitz and Holocaust could be found grouped at 22 or 13-letter intervals in Deuteronomy 10:17‑22.

Claims such as that might have remained a backwater curiosity, except for one elaborate test, printed in a scientific publication.

In August 1994, the journal Statistical Science published a paper describing research on the Book of Genesis led by physicist Doron Witztum of the Jerusalem College of Technology and mathematician Eliyahu Rips of Hebrew University  The two men had been running computer tests on the sacred texts since 1986.

Outside evaluators baffled

The editor at the time, Robert Kass, chairman of the statistics department at Carnegie-Mellon Uni­versity, wrote that the paper was offered "as a challenging puzzle" to readers of the quarterly published in Hayward, Calif.

Outside evaluators were "baffled," he reported: "Their prior beliefs made them think the Book of Genesis could not possibly contain meaningful references to modern-day individuals, yet when the authors carried out additional analyses and checks, the effect persisted."

The Israeli scientists originally sent the journal the results of an experiment that pulled out from Genesis the names and birth or death dates of 34 eminent Jewish rabbis who lived between the 9th and 18th centuries.

"Simply put, the results were stunning," said Rabbi Daniel Mechanic, who heads the U.S. headquarters of Aish HaTorah's Discov­ery Seminar in Brooklyn, N.Y., the group that touts the validity of the codes at seminars.

But the peer review committee for Statistical Science was not satisfied, Kass said. The panel asked that the authors attempt to find the names and birth or death dates of 32 addi­tional rabbis drawn, like the first group, from the Encyclopedia of Great Men in Israel.

The authors reported finding them, too, and said the, odds were 62,500 to 1 against that happening by chance. As a control, a Hebrew translation of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" was tested for similar data.

The result? No bonanza of rabbis' names in the secular novel.

Harold Gans, a seminar teacher with Aish HaTorah who recently retired as a mathematician with the U.S.  Department of Defense, said he has taken the experiment, another step by finding the locations of the births and deaths of the 32 rabbis encoded in Genesis.

Also found in a section in Genesis, Mechanic said, were words and phrases linked to the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat: "Sadat," "parade" "the president will be shot," the name of assassin Chaled Islambooli and 5742, the Hebrew year corresponding to 1981.

The code project received wider exposure in October 1995; in the magazine Bible Review.

Then came the counterattack by no shortage of skeptics.

Letters to the magazine questioned how many failures occurred while looking for word pairs and how many contradictory or religiously offensive pairs went unmentioned, such as "water" and "dry," or "Yahweh," one of the biblical names of God, and "liar."

In addition, because Hebrew is written with consonants only, critics said many words contained only a few letters–"Torah," in Hebrew, has only three–greatly increasing the odds that some words could be found in profusion.

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