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Jewish Videos --> Bible Codes


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An early seeker of hidden messages in the Bible was Isaac Newton, who believed that the Bible "is a cryptogram set by the Almighty - a riddle of the Godhead of past and future events divinely fore-ordained. This prophecy is called the Revelation, with respect to the Scripture of Truth, which Daniel was commanded to shut up and seal, till the time of the end. Until that time comes, the Lamb is opening the seals."

But as far as is known, the 13th-century Spanish Rabbi Bachya ben Asher was the first to describe an ELS in the Bible. His 4-letter example related to the traditional zero-point of the Jewish calendar. Over the following centuries there are some hints that the ELS technique was known, but few definite examples have been found from before the middle of the 20th century. At this point many examples were found by the Slovakian Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl and published by his students after his death in 1957. Nevertheless, the practice remained known only to a few until the early 1980s, when some discoveries of an Israeli school teacher Avraham Oren came to the attention of the mathematician Eliyahu Rips at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rips then took up the study together with his religious studies partners Doron Witztum and Alexander Rotenberg, and several others.

Rips and Witztum invented the ELS letter array and used a computer to find many examples. About 1985, they decided to carry out a formal test and the "Great rabbis experiment" was born. This experiment tested the hypothesis that ELSs for the names of famous rabbis could be found closer to ELSs of their dates of birth and death than chance alone could explain. The definition of "close" was complex but, roughly, two ELSs are close if they can be displayed together in a small rectangle. The experiment succeeded in finding sequences which fit these definitions, and they were interpreted as indicating the phenomenon was real.

The great rabbis experiment went through several iterations but was eventually published (1994) in the peer-reviewed journal Statistical Science. Although neither the Editor nor the referees were convinced by it, they also could not find much formally wrong with it, so the paper was published as a "challenging puzzle." Statistical Science, it should be noted, does not publish original research, but concentrates on surveys, interviews and interesting statistical puzzles.

Witztum and Rips also performed other experiments, most of them successful, though none were published in journals. Another experiment, in which the names of the famous rabbis were matched against the places of their births and deaths (rather than the dates), was conducted by Harold Gans, an employee of the United States National Security Agency . Again, the results were interpreted as being meaningful and thus suggestive of a more than chance result. These Bible codes became known to the public primarily due to the American journalist Michael Drosnin, whose book The Bible Code (Simon and Schuster, 1997) was a best-seller in many countries.

In 2002, Drosnin published a second book on the same subject, called The Bible Code II. The Jewish outreach group Aish-HaTorah employs the Bible Codes in their Discovery Seminars to persuade secular Jews of the divinity of the Bible and to encourage them to trust in its traditional Orthodox teachings.