Finally - A
of the Hebrew Bible
and textual criticism has addressed the myth of
a secret code in the Hebrew text of the Torah.
Bible Code Myth by Michael Heiser gives an excellent introduction to the
history of the Hebrew Bible and how we received it. Heiser explodes the myth
that our text differs by only a few letters from the original autographs. Yet he
does so without demolishing belief in the inspiration or authority of the Bible.
It is hard to see how very much encoded material could have survived the
hundreds of letter-variations in the original text. If I ever teach a class on
the Bible code, The Bible Code Myth will be required reading."
-- Randall Ingermanson, author of Who Wrote the Bible Code?
Dr. Ingermanson is a computational physicist (Ph.D.). His book is a mathematical and statistical critique of the Bible code, and can be purchased HERE; Dr. Ingermanson's website is www.rsingermanson.com
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The Myth Explained
Although sympathetic to the Torah as being part of God's Word to humankind, the author knows from firsthand work with the Hebrew text that the every- letter sequence required for the Bible code to be real is a demonstrable myth.
The Myth Exposed
The Textual Evidence
The historical transmission of the Hebrew text of the Torah, scribal mistakes in manuscripts, and the actual commentary on the manuscript transmission process by the scribes themselves ALL unequivocally testify that the preservation of the every-letter sequence of Hebrew letters is uncertain.
One Bible code supporter, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, psychiatrist and author of Cracking the Bible Code, has claimed that if 77 letters were lost from the text sequence upon which the Bible code is based, the code would statistically collapse. The Bible Code Myth DOUBLES this number through actual examples from manuscript disagreements and notes of the scribes themselves - all exclusively drawn from the Torah. You don't need to know how to read Hebrew either - just how to count!
Examples of the Torah's Textual Uncertainty from The Bible Code Myth
Another problem for the Bible code are the Dead Sea Scrolls. These texts, which are our closest textual witnesses to the actual composition of the Hebrew Old Testament, have a markedly different way of spelling. In just a few verses there might therefore be dozens of letter differences. The significance of this is illustrated in two ways. First, we have no way of knowing WHICH text to use for a coded letter string. Bible code proponents like Grant Jeffrey can't seem to grasp this fact. Jeffrey claims to have found dozens of coded names associated with Jesus in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the Old Testament prophecy of a suffering Messiah. While Mike Heiser agrees that Jesus is the Messiah, he rejects the idea that this information was hidden in a code in these verses. In just these fifteen verses, there are 115 letter differences between the text Jeffrey uses and the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll - the text closest to Isaiah's own time. Want proof?
The Faulty Logic
Incredibly, when faced with the above evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible code proponents would have those who believe in the codes simply respond by saying we should just go with the later BHS text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 1977) as the text God wanted us to have – and so use it authoritatively for Bible code research. This is not only illogical but also reflects an ignorance of the history of BHS. It demands that the Christian community of faith embrace a text about which several noteworthy comments can be made:
early church predominantly used the LXX (Septuagint - a Greek translation of
a different text type), not the MT (Masoretic
Text; upon which BHS is based), which was reworked and textually
conformed to create a text that disagreed with the LXX used by Christians.
Jewish Masoretes (scribes) "standardized" in 100 A.D. so as to
assist the rabbinical scholars in debating against the LXX, the Bible
of the Christians.
letter sequence of BHS was produced by removing consonants
from the Dead Sea Isaiah scroll and replacing them with point-markings.
If one wanted to detect a code placed within the Hebrew letters by
God, wouldn't one want to use the text closest to the
time of prophetic inspiration, rather than a later text?
In short, shouldn't Bible code researchers argue the opposite
way and go with the Dead Sea material?
one argues as Jeffrey does that we should just "go with BHS /
MT" we are still left with the problem of
manuscript disagreements between BHS and other MT manuscripts
- no two manuscripts within one scribal tradition agree all the time.
If Bible code researchers reject the DSS to produce their sequences, then they willingly choose to use a text reworked by later Jewish scholars. Are we to believe that the very Jewish scholars who revised the spelling of the DSS material, and who rejected the messianic claims of Jesus, then cryptically inserted hints to Jesus's messiah-ship? If one in turn argues that God did this unbeknownst to the unbelieving Masoretes, we are back to the earlier problems this book has repeatedly demonstrated – how do we know which string is divine? We also are confronted with a new question: If God used these unbelievers to hide His code, why didn't He do that with the earlier DSS texts so close to the prophets themselves?
The Flawed, Unscientific Methodology
"Scientific" is the Method By Which Hits are Detected?
Bible code researchers repeatedly refuse (as correct scientific method would require) to put forth which names and which spellings would constitute hits before checking the letter sequence. In other words, they refuse to first form a hypothesis for subsequent testing. The method of Bible code researchers is to look for meaningful words and phrases in an ELS sample, and afterward determine how such hits fit together. The results are therefore spectacularly un-miraculous. This is precisely one of the problems that led mathematicians almost universally to declare the original Witzum-Ripps experiment invalid (upon which Drosnin's book, The Bible Code, was based; see the Appendix).
To Illustrate, if you flip a coin 1,000 times and record the sequence, the odds that you would get that particular sequence are 10300 to 1 - but this is no miracle - someone was just flipping a coin and writing the results down. Hence the astronomical numbers thrown about as "science" by Bible code researchers mean little. However, if you had predicted beforehand that the 1,000 coin flips would result in that particular sequence, that would be far beyond chance, and miraculous. But this is exactly what Bible code researchers do not do. Bible code practitioners do not tell us beforehand what they expect to find – which names, which places, etc. They just start looking for letter combinations after they've told the computer to set up a search string. What is needed is the old scientific method:
START WITH A HYPOTHESIS – the specific names and their exact
spellings in a specific language or stage of the language (see my
critique below), then . . .
Eliminate the textual letter differences by choosing the most ancient, reliable
text through textual criticism, then . . .
Conduct your search / ELS sequencing.
The Author's Credentials
Heiser is currently writing his Ph.D. dissertation in the field of Hebrew Bible
and Ancient Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds an M.A. in Ancient History from an ivy-league
institution, the University of Pennsylvania (major fields, Ancient Israel and
Egyptology), and a second M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Hebrew
Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages). He
also attended Dallas Theological Seminary.
Mike is the recipient of several academic awards and scholarships, and
has written articles accepted in several scholarly journals.
Abbreviated academic resume
ORDER The Bible Code Myth
To order all or selected chapters of The Bible Code Myth, click HERE.
Mike's bookstore also contains a valuable list of titles dealing with textual criticism and the history of the Bible for further research.
Mike's other books can also be ordered at the bookstore. Click HERE to go to Mike's homepage for more information about his other titles.
To Email Mike, Click HERE
Due to the volume of email, Mike cannot possibly answer all your emails. He WILL, however, read them. If your email concerns a specific text-critical issue in an Old Testament passage, Mike cannot conduct text-critical studies over email. He recommends the following commentary series for text-critical research (these series are incomplete, and so a volume on the specific book of the Old Testament may not yet be in print):
The Word Biblical
The International Critical Commentary
The Hermeneia commentary series
Table of Contents: The Bible Code Myth
Chapter 1 -
- What is the Bible Code and How Does it Work?
- Who are the Critics of the Bible Code and What Have they Said?
- Who Believes in the Bible Code?
- Essential Terminology for Understanding The Fundamental Flaw in the Bible Code
Part Two: The Bible Code Dead on Arrival: Textual Transmission of the Torah and Scribal Practices
Chapter 2 - A Short History of the Torah Text
- Beginnings – The Initial Composition of the Torah (time unknown to, at the latest, 300 B.C.)
- Early Transmission of the Square-Lettered Consonantal Text of the Torah (300 B.C. to around 100 A.D.)
- Transmission of the "Standardized" Text by the Masoretes (100 A.D. to around 1100 A.D.)
- Transmission up to the present day (1100 A.D. up to now)
Chapter 3 - To Err is Human: The Imperfection of Manuscript Transmission
- Manuscript Errors in MT Due to
Accidental Scribal Mistakes
- Manuscript Errors in MT Due to Deliberate Scribal Changes
- Manuscript Uncertainty in MT Due to Text-Family Disagreement
- Manuscript Uncertainty in MT Noted by the Scribes
Part Three: The “Code” in the “Accepted” Hebrew Text: The Self-Authenticating Methodology of Bible Code Practitioners
Chapter Four: The Flawed Methodology Used To "Prove" the Bible Code
- Use Dyslexic Translation Technique – but Only When Necessary
- Don't Pay Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain
- The Limits of the Limitless Knowledge of the Torah
- Immaculate Detection? Manufactured "Jesus Codes"
- Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Doing Bad Science in the Name of "Jesus Codes"
- An Incoherent Cloudburst: The "Amazing" 22 Letter Bible Code Hit
Bible Code Criticisms from Mathematicians