Secrets of the Bible Code Invented
by Brendan McKay
In 1998, Grizzly Adams Productions released a 90-minute special
Secrets of the Bible
Code Revealed. It included some material from sceptics
(including this writer) as well as pro-codes material.
This document is a brief review.
We are all familiar with television specials that take the
apparent form of "documentaries" on such subjects as astral
projection, aliens live amongst us, the planets affect our
love lives, and Marilyn Monroe was killed by the Knights Templar.
programs have a fine professional gloss and look to an ignorant
and uncritical viewer just like the result of careful investigative
work by qualified people, but just as invariably are nothing of
the kind. Secrets of the Bible Code Revealed is a fine example
of this genre.
The program had an extreme bias towards the pro-codes viewpoint,
and a secondary bias in the American Christian Right direction.
It was based largely on books by Michael Drosnin and
Grant Jeffrey, neither of whom have any relevant qualifications,
and both of whom are notorious for wild inaccuracy. Even though
there were some sceptics shown on the program, they received a
very small amount of time and were allowed to show very little of
the large amount of evidence that they have. Moreover, each small
snippet from a sceptic (usually one or two sentences without any
detail) was inevitably followed by a much longer "refutation"
from some codes "expert". We were even shown "refutations" of
arguments which the sceptics had not been allowed to mention!
By contrast, codes proponents were allowed to make whatever wild
assertions (and, in some cases, blatant lies) they liked without
any challenge from either the presenter or the sceptics.
Put simply, the sceptics were set up as strawmen (and women)
purely for the purpose of affecting a sham of balance. The
technique is a standard item in the propagandist's toolkit:
show a quick clip of the sceptic making some negative statements
then give an "expert" ample time to refute them. The audience is
given the impression that the sceptic took his/her best shot and
was defeated, and has no way to know that the sceptic has ample
proof which the "refutation" didn't actually address.
Here we will list just a few of the very many distortions
that appeared on the program. We will not attempt to present
the case against the codes here, except in passing, but merely to
demonstrate the appalling propagandistic nature of the program.
- The program presents the standard myth about Harold Gans,
that he ran his own experiment to try to disprove the codes.
However, by his own admission, Gans became a believer in the
codes, and even worked as a codes lecturer for Aish HaTorah,
long before he ran any programs.
- Author Chuck Missler is quoted as saying that archaeology
supports the tradition that Hebrew was originally written
without words separated. In fact, the archaelogical evidence
indicates exactly the opposite. See
Naveh, Israel Exploration Journal 23 (1973) 206-208.
In any case, the issue is entirely irrelevant.
- One of the worse (and completely deliberate) biases shown
by the program was to repeatedly show Bible word clusters but not
once show the
similar word clusters that appear in all
even in English. They had lots of such clusters on film, but
probably decided that viewers would have difficulty seeing
the difference between the Bible clusters and the non-Bible
clusters. This fear was justified, because there isn't any
difference. Instead, without showing a single example, they
produced Gans calling the non-Bible clusters "counterfeit" and
Drosnin calling them "fake". Neither gentleman was asked to
justify his claim. More humourously, the program forgot to tell
us that Gans also regards Drosnin's word clusters as worthless!
- Continuing on the latter theme, another blatant distortion
perpetrated by the program was the failure to mention that
their "experts" are at loggerheads with each other.
This is especially true of Gans, who is totally opposed to
Drosnin, Jeffrey, and Rambsel. It is impossible to believe
that Gans failed to tell them, but even though the narrator
mentioned that "some experts" don't agree with Drosnin, Jeffrey
and Rambsel, they failed to tell us that their very own Harold
Gans was one of them. Nor did they mention that both Rips and
Witztum have also publically denounced Drosnin's book.
- The program repeatedly referred the claims back to the
"scientific evidence" published in the paper of Witztum, Rips
and Rosenberg. The deep knowledge the producers had of these
gentlemen was well illustrated when they showed us a picture
of Rabbi Moshe Zeldman and told us it was Yoav Rosenberg!
All the while the program went on endlessly about the support
the codes had from the scientific community but only managed
to find two working scientists in apparent support. One was
the computer scientist at the Jerusalem College of Technology,
and the other was Professor Robert Aumann. The latter in fact
never tires of telling everyone that he is undecided.
- The very long treatment of Weissmandel's "Torah" example
omitted all the unpleasant facts. Such as that the skips are
not all the same. Such as that the codes in Numbers
and Deuteronomy are not placed like those in Genesis
and Exodus. Perhaps they thought the viewers would object to
being told that a perfect God could make codes that are only
approximately perfect. As for Michelson's "1 in 3 million"
probability, it was nothing but an embarrassing error.
- In the description of the great rabbis experiment, the
presenter said "All 34 names were there, encoded into the text
along with their date of birth or death". Probably this
was copied from Jeffrey's book (a good example of it's
trustworthiness). Every insider (including Gans) could have told
them that this claim is false. Many of the names don't appear
at all, let alone close to the date, and of those that do occur
all but a few appear closer to incorrect dates than to the
correct dates. This is a simple fact that can be confirmed by
anyone with the right computer program.
- Another likely example of blind trust in Jeffrey was the
"statement of five prominent scientists" supposedly issued after the
publication of the Statistical Science paper. There was no such
statement. The origin of this story was a preface of guarded
support that appeared in a 1989 book of Witztum, five years earlier,
signed by four (not five) mathematicians. In the
meantime, two of the four have retracted even that weak support.
(The other two are not making statements of any sort.) One of
those who has retracted was included in those Drosnin claimed
support from, but (as Drosnin well knows) he adamantly denies ever
telling Drosnin that "the codes are real".
- The standard quotation from Robert Kass was trotted out in
order to trick the viewers into believing that Statistical
Science (of which Kass was editor) gave its stamp of approval to
the paper. I don't believe the producers are unaware that Kass
and publically denounced that interpretation, but why spoil
a good story with the facts?
- Gans was given the task of mentioning the
statement made by 45 (now 53) mathematicians and statisticians
about the codes.
He described the statement as one of "not believing" in the codes.
This is a serious distortion, as the statement does not express
belief or disbelief in the codes. Rather, these experts stated
that they had examined the evidence and were unconvinced, moreover
that much of the evidence is faulty, in their opinion.
This is an entirely different thing.
Then Gans went on to claim that science is never done "by petition".
While it is true that public statements like this are rare, science
always proceeds by consensus. The life's work of a scientist
consists of production and presentation of evidence in an effort to
convince other scientists. Look in any scientific journal.
- Gans was given almost as much time to discuss his "cities"
experiment as the sceptics were given altogether. Somehow
though, despite all this time, Gans failed to mention that all
he did was to run the computer programs. The data (which is the
important thing) was fed to him by a friend of Doron Witztum.
So much for its independence. Not only that, but there is no
paper trail of how the exceedingly complicated rules that define
the data were developed, or how they were applied. If the data
exactly as it appears in the encyclopedias that Gans names,
the experiment totally fails. To make the experiment succeed,
one must manipulate it. As always.
- Another peculiar aspect of Gans' description of his cities
experiment was his failure to mention that he has
temporarily retracted it, or that
an Israeli committee is engaged in trying to run it again
because of grave doubts that it was run properly.
(Here and elsewhere, we are assuming that the program gave a fair
report of Gans' testimony. As we shall see below, this assumption
is on very shaky ground.)
- On the matter of Drosnin's "prediction" of the comet collision
with Jupiter, made two months in advance, surely the producers
know that the date of the collision was publically announced by
astronomers even earlier? Why didn't they ask Drosnin why he
calls this a "prediction"? By the way, Drosnin
got the date wrong after all that,
apparently through ignorance of the Jewish calendar.
Since the producers have studied my web site they know these
facts, but that didn't stop them allowing Drosnin to spout his
rubbish unchallenged. (An amusing aside: Witztum claims that
Drosnin spelt the name of the comet incorrectly.)
- The program uncritically repeated Drosnin's claim that Isaac
Newton believed in a secret code in the Bible. However, the
quoted source (Newton's biography by John Maynard Keynes) reveals
nothing of the sort. Newton in his youth was obsessed with magic,
and spent a great amount of his time studying the occult, especially
alchemy. He also wrote on religious matters including Biblical
prophesy, but there is nothing in Keynes' biography about a code
in the Bible or anything even close to it. Several books about
Newton's religious writings that we consulted also contained no such
claims. It seems this whole story is a Drosnin fantasy, lapped up
without checking by the producers of this TV show.
- Drosnin referred several times to "the software developed by
Dr. Rips". The actual author of the software Drosnin used,
Yochanan Spielberg, is in the process of suing Drosnin for a very
large amount of money. Spielberg charges that Drosnin promised to
credit Spielberg's program in his book, and that Drosnin's failure
to do so cost him considerable lost income.
- A clear and accurate statement by a Bible Studies Professor was
shown, to the effect that the original text of the Bible is not known.
As "refutation" of this well-established fact, two people were
produced. The first was a computer scientist who quoted from the
Talmud (but not from the part that explicitly says that the exact
text of the Torah is unknown).
The second was a famous scholar, Prof. Mordechai Breuer, who was
egregiously misquoted. Everything he said on the program
was in reference to the transmission of the Masoretic text over the
past 1000 years or so, and nothing to do with
earlier times. Contacted in Israel on Dec 9, Prof. Breuer expressed
anger at the way his testimony was misused. He said that he had
made it absolutely clear to the interviewers that he was only
referring to the recent history of the text.
As with all scientific experts on the Bible text that we have asked,
Prof. Breuer believes that the Bible codes are "complete nonsense".
See the articles of Professors Cohen and
for the consensus view, to which Prof. Breuer generally subscribes.
This episode is a serious indictment of the TV program. As we noted
above, the program style was to follow each sceptical statement by an
expert "refutation". In this case they couldn't find an expert who
disagreed with the sceptic, so they pretended Breuer was one.
- Not to be outdone, Gans named the Septuagint as evidence that the
Torah has been in its "present form" for over 2000 years. He might
have mentioned that the differences between the Septuagint and the
Masoretic text are much greater than any ELS codes could possibly
- A lot of time was given to Roy Reinhold, who is also named
as a "technical advisor" in the program credits. Roy fancies
himself as a codes expert. He has a
web site showing some
pretty word clusters. We will mention two.
One cluster involves Rabbi Teomim, who appeared in the great
rabbis experiment of Witztum et al. (Including him at all was a
violation of the rules, but that's another story.)
Roy's first attempt showed Rav Teomim's
death date as "DY Iyyar", which Roy claimed to mean 14th Iyyar. However,
14 is written YD, not DY. Apparently Roy got the date from a book
with a typo in it: Satinover's book has "14th Iyyar" in English, but
(consistently with the great rabbis experiment) "4th Iyyar" in Hebrew.
When informed of these problems, Roy replaced the matrix by a much
better matrix using "4th Iyyar".
This just demonstrates yet again that one can make a matrix for just
about anything, even wrong data, but that's not the really funny part.
Here's the punchline: Rav Teomim actually died on the 10th of Iyyar.
The other word cluster of Roy we will mention is his Nairobi
bombing cluster. Roy is fond of claiming that nobody can match
his Tanach clusters in other texts, but when we look at the
cluster we see that it is enormously big, 7790 letters.
Suppose we take the
Lady Diana cluster in Moby Dick and
expand it to be the same size as Roy's Nairobi cluster. Here
is a partial list of the words we can find. The superscripts
indicate the number of times each word is encoded (if more than one).
All of that was found without any adjustment of the picture
except to make it the same size as Roy's picture. There is
probably more, as the computer found 6934 English words or names
of four or more letters encoded in the picture and we did not
have the patience to look at all of them.
Also note that we don't have the flexibility of spelling that
Hebrew has (well exercised by all codes proponents including Roy).
This is worth a factor of about 50% in the number of words that
can be found in a picture. Even without taking that into account,
the Moby Dick picture is more successful than the Bible picture.
- Lady Diana (as a single ELS).
- Diana6, Henri5,
- Dodi62, Fayed,
fiance, lover, Saudi3
- royalty, royal2,
- Paris2, August,
- road93, skid14,
death12, to die9,
hearse, grave, photo
- Hotel11, Ritz3
- Will20, Henry3
- secret, codes, encode
- Another aspect of Roy's pictures that the TV program failed to
tell us is that he completely ignores the rules made by Witztum
and Rips about
Without these rules, Witztum's
"scientific evidence" disappears, but with them Roy's word
clusters disappear. Which are the real "codes"?
Finding good word clusters that use minimum
skip is significantly harder, but the best that have ever been
found are in War and Peace.
- Yaacov Rambsel is famous for the creativity of his
Hebrew translations. A good example is HXRK AWT ShLB, shown on
the program. Several Israelis I showed this phrase to described
it as gibberish. A professional translator prodded into
trying to translate it anyway suggested "Does it require a formative
letter?", "Does it require a sign of being joined?" and
"It requires a sign of irresponsibility", amongst other possibilities.
Rambsel's translation is "the lattice work of equidistance letter
sequence", a true linguistic masterpiece. Incidentally, Gans
could have torn Rambsel's work (and Jeffrey's) to pieces if he
had been given the chance. I'm sure he is very happy to have
been co-opted for the Christian cause.
- Let us return to the testimony of Harold Gans. In reference
to the many scientific experiments that failed to find any codes,
he said the experiments used "data which is extremely questionable;
data that was left out because of the fact that it was questionable".
That is a blatant lie, and Gans knows it. As always, nobody asked
him to justify his claim. In fact, most of the independent
experiments used data on topics that nobody else admits having done
experiments on, so how could the data have been rejected already?
- Last place is reserved for the "experiment" that Gans claimed
to provide the best scientific evidence so far. This is the
"ten sons of Haman" example of Alex Rotenberg. Gans' description
of it was (to be generous) thoroughly misleading. If the data is
analysed by the method always used before, it fails completely.
So, the "a priori" experiment, the only valid experiment, fails.
However, rather than accepting the result, they went on
a fishing expedition for a different analysis method. This violates
all the rules for correct experiments. The best they could find only
gave a mediocre result (Gans says 1 in 400) for the data he mentioned
on the program. The "incredibly small probability" that Gans proudly
touted cannot be obtained using the data he mentioned. It requires
stacking the cards by adding additional arbitrary data that he
did not mention. In other words, this example that Gans claims
to have no "wiggle room" is a perfect example of how wiggle room
can be used to cook an experiment.
A second, somewhat shorter, video Bible Code: The Future and
Beyond has been produced by the same company. In a sense it is
better, in that the pretense of objectivity has been cast aside and
the "Christian" objectives largely behind the scenes in the first
video are openly expressed. The message of this video is that the
codes prove Jesus to be the Messiah, nothing less.
Having now run out of nice things to say about it, we can note that
quite a few of the scenes were simply copied from the first video.
Yoav Rosenberg still wears the face of Moshe Zeldman.
The small amount of new material is, if such is possible, even more
ridiculous. An irrelevant, apocryphal, story about Einstein
replaces the previous nonsense about Newton, and some new word arrays
are produced (though still without informing the viewers that similar
arrays have been found in secular texts).
I have to say, though, that my favorite scene was the one that showed
a photo of codes expert Professor Maya Bar-Hillel, who was alleged to
have the following statement at a public seminar:
"Regardless of the evidence, the codes phenomenon obviously cannot be
valid because that would mean that God wrote the Torah." Although the
producers of this video did not invent this particular lie, the fact
that they uncritically accepted that a senior scientist would make such
an inane statement, in public besides, attests to their profound ignorance.
A brief phone call to Professor Bar-Hillel would have uncovered the fact
that not only does the "quote" contradict her opinion, but that there
is a recording of the afore-mentioned lecture in which,
surprise, surprise, she does not make the alleged statement.
These programs are excellent material for the study of human
gullibility. They are also a nice example of religious propaganda.
Otherwise, they are completely worthless.
None of this will be suprising to anyone who knows the
background of producers Charles Sellier and David Balsiger
as dedicated enemies of science. It
that the "Bible Code"
is not the first hoax these guys have taken under their wings.
More background on these two can be found with the aid of any of
the standard Internet search engines.
Brendan McKay, 1998-1999.