There seems to be no end to the clamouring for “hidden evidence” of the varacity of the Bible. So-called Bible Codes are one manifestation of the human interest in the “hidden” and “secret.” There is an endless supply of modern-day, self-proclaimed prophets who claim to have unlocked secrets in the Bible with the application of mathematical and statistical analysis of Scripture text. All you have to do is buy their books, and suddenly, God’s secrets are yours.
The real question for a Christian believer is whether or not there is any Scriptural support for hidden messages in the Bible that can only be discovered with computers, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First let’s examine what these Bible codes are, how subjective they are, and whether or not they actually produce accurate predictions of future events.
Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS). This is a fancy term for finding words by picking an arbitrary starting letter, counting ahead by an arbitrary number, and repeating the process until you’ve found some words. All sorts of “hidden messages” can be found with this method, because the person designing the code system is free to align the letters in any manner they wish (why a 20 column grid instead of a 21 column grid?) and skip ahead any count of letters they like (why three and not four letters?). The proofs for the validity of an ELS system can be persuasive if you don’t bear these facts in mind: the system can be continually tweaked until the desired outcome is achieved.
The hidden picture codes. One type of “code system” is the “picture Bible code,” where one is supposed to be able to see prophetic images by “connecting the dots” between Hebrew letters to form pictures. The obvious problem with this system is that it is visually subjective. Our brains are designed to find shapes in what we see. Cloud-watching is all about imagining form where none exists. People claimed to be able to recognize faces in the smoke of the World Trade Center fire and collapse. Mary-worship is replete with people finding forms in tortillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, and dirt. Further, as with ELS, who says how the words are to be organized? Why 10 columns of letters and not 11? And why connect in a circular pattern to form a head instead of a polygonal pattern? Unless, of course, you are just seeking for what you’ve already decided must be there: a head.
Problems with any Bible code system:
Which text? Ah, one of my favorite questions to ask someone who knows “the original language text” of the Bible. Which one? Do you start with the Ben Chayyim Hebrew text or the Ben Asher Hebrew text of the Old Testament? Do you use the King James Version in English, or find some other translation that gets you the results you’re looking for? If you’re working in Greek, which of the many different Greek texts do you use to base your work on? Whichever one you can find a code in, of course!
Subjectivity: As we saw with the picture code method, there is a high level of subjectivity involved in interpreting Bible codes. There is no getting around the fact that “finding” a Bible code message involves completely arbitrary choices.
Prophetic error: Do these Bible codes even yield actionable information? Not really. The “prophesies” found within these Bible codes are either conveniently already fulfilled, or when the “code prophet” actually does go out on a limb and make a prediction of significance, they are found wrong. For example, Tom Mack, a Bible “coder,” predicted that Al Gore would be installed as president of the United States. When that didn’t happen, Mack revised his prophetic algorithm to prove that the Bible actually predicted Bush’s presidency. There are numerous examples of Bible code proponents getting it wrong on prophecy, and I don’t see any need to line them all up now.
By the way, how many incorrect predictions can a prophet make? Biblical answer: none.
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
The Bible has a “one strike and your out” policy for prophets. If this rule is applied to Bible coders, they should all be ignored.
But what about the Scripture itself?
Here we come to the real bottom line for Bible believers. Does Scripture allow for the teaching that there are all sorts of encrypted messages in the Bible that can be revealed to us with computers and mathematical equations?
Hidden sequences are inconsistent with Biblical principles of God’s word.
Deuteronomy 30:11-12 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Isaiah 45:19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
God’s word is meant for us to live on. How can we do that if it is only in secret codes that we can obtain the full revelation of God?
Matthew 4:4 Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
An examination of Scripture itself — not hidden strings of letters derived from it — shows us that there is no need to seek answers with fancy algorithms, picture codes, or ELSes. There are certainly as yet not understood aspects of God’s mind as revealed in the Bible, but understanding of these truths will come from study and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
I’ve often received requests from users and prospective users of my Bible study software to add “code tools,” but I’ve never been interested in doing so. Finding secret messages should be left to characters like Ralphie Parker with his Secret Decoder Ring in A Christmas Story, or Nicholas Cage with his special Ben Franklin glasses in National Treasure. Students of the Bible must instead focus on studying the actual text of Scripture with the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit, instead of using Scripture as a basis for a word find puzzle.