What happens when we discover that God's power reaches beyond our human comfort zone?
In 1994, a group of Jewish scientists at Hebrew University discovered that the Bible contains information of such mathematical design and precision that even well-known Christian leaders are finding it hard to accept. The phenomenon, generally referred to as the "Bible codes" or "Torah codes" has fanned flames throughout Israel and the world. It has generated renewed interest in the Old Testament by a Jewish nation largely agnostic and apathetic about its faith. The codes are condemned by some, seen as curiosities by others, and hailed by still others as the most recent proof of the authenticity of Scripture.
Who is right?
While many aspects of these codes are still unclear, it seems that everyone is right to some degree. Highly detailed tests offer scientific evidence these codes exist. They prove that God is the author of the Bible, and that Jesus is the Messiah. But we must be very cautious about how we interpret what they represent.
The amazing Hebrew language
As we explored earlier, the Hebrew language is a remarkably sophisticated language. The characteristics of Hebrew are the same ones scientists working with the SETI program in their search for an extraterrestrial message have identified as representing the language of a highly advanced civilization. The compact nature of the language provides extremely efficient bandwidth. Most Hebrew words are only two to four letters in length. Naturally, this provides fertile ground for critics who claim that these codes are merely the result of short words with letters appearing frequently throughout the text.
A brief history of code search
The study of coded Hebrew letters goes back as far as recorded Jewish history. The specific study of Hebrew numbers is called "Gematria," a branch of Kabbalism. All kinds of numerical values were derived from Hebrew letters, since each Hebrew character represents a number as well as a letter. Kabbalism is not the same as Numerology, an occult practice. Numerology places supernatural significance on specific numbers and tries to predict the future. The Jewish studies of Kabbalism and Gematria are not the same thing as Numerology, but they are not based on scripture itself and as a result must be treated very carefully to avoid falling into sinful practices and beliefs.
Rabbi Moses ben Nachmanides (also known as Ramban) in the thirteenth century claimed that encoded within the first part of the Torah was a specific description of the lunar cycle, calculated to 29.53059 days in length. This was a significant level of accuracy. NASA has since calculated it at 29.530588 days. As Ramban did not document how he made his calculations, some now claim he used other information to arrive at his conclusion.
Nachmanides claimed that the Torah was written like a cylindrical Helix, containing vast amounts of historical data in a huge spiral. He specifically pointed to the amazing repetitive nature of the date Ninth of Av as an example. This date has enormous relevance to the Jewish world because so many horrifying tradgedies took place along the corridors of time on that specific date.
During the fourteenth century, Rabbi Rabbenu Bachya identified patterns of letters and numbers encoded within the Torah. He explained: "If the eyes of your heart will be illuminated, you will find [the starting date of the world] encoded in the text , such that between each of its numbers lies [the 42-letter name of God]. The wise will understand that this is not by chance, but a clear sign involving the very birth of the world."
Shortly before WW2, Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl, a brilliant young mathematician, explored these issues while hiding from the Nazis in a bunker. He discovered that the word Torah was encoded in each of the books of the Torah, at 49 and 50-letter intervals. Beginning with the Hebrew letter tav (also the first letter of Genesis), counting forward 49 letters you come to the second letter of the word Torah. Counting another 49 letters brings you to the third letter of the word Torah, and so on. Same phenomenon found in Exodus, then in reverse in Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Leviticus, you find not "Torah," but "YHWH" (the Hebrew name of God) at seven-letter intervals. So, on each side of the name of God are the words Torah coded in a direction facing towards God's name. The Torah always points to Yahweh.
Enter the power of computers
In 1988, a group of scientists studying Weissmandl's notes decided to use the power of the computer to see if there was any merit in these findings. Since computers could calculate and discover equidistant letter spacing millions of times faster than humans could, they began to make astonishing discoveries which remained largely unheard of until 1994.
In August, 1994 these incredible findings were documented in a respected scientific journal called Statistical Science. Before publication, the results were studied against random results for two full years. Results were confirmed by opposing scholars who did not want to believe that the Bible could contain such mathematically intricate data. It remains controversial to this day.