Question: I read something recently that intrigued me, the claim that there is a secret message encoded in the Torah at certain letter sequences, which was impossible to discover until computers were developed to their present capabilities. Are you familiar with this theory, and if so, what do you think of it?
Response: The methods with which I am somewhat familiar involve the Masoretic Hebrew text, which forms the basis of the King James Bible. No other text provides the amazing results. One method involves changing the spacing between the Hebrew letters. An example is the recent discovery by Orthodox rabbis that by merely changing the spacing between the letters (leaving the letters in same order) in the last phrase in Genesis:15:17, “a burning lamp passed between those pieces” becomes “decreed God into Rabin evil fire fire.” This is not only remarkable but awesome for the following reasons: 1) Genesis:15:7-21 records the covenant God made with Abram giving the promised land to him and to his seed and specifically identifying its boundaries; 2) Rabin had repeatedly defied this covenant, stating that he would not abide by its “geography” but would continue to barter that land for “peace”; 3) this passage was being read in synagogues around the world on the very day that Rabin was shot twice by an assassin.
Of course, it could be argued that the above is pure coincidence, and there is no way to prove otherwise. Each person must come to his own conclusions. There is another discovery, however, which cannot possibly be dismissed as coincidence. It involves computer searches for words at certain letter intervals that must, of course, fit a consistent pattern. The original work was done by mathematical statisticians Doron Witztim, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg of the Jerusalem College of Technology and the Hebrew University, and was first published in the eminent Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. The original study involved 300 pairs of related words such as “rain” and “umbrella,” “hammer” and “anvil,” etc. Every pair was found in close proximity a number of times. Inasmuch as these were randomly chosen pairs, the study concluded that no matter what other pairs were chosen, they, too, would be found. This was incredible and mathematically could not happen by chance, nor could any human agency, even with the help of computers, devise a text in which the letters form words and sentences with normal meaning and contain these hidden sequences.
Continuing their research, Witztim, et al. took the names of the 34 most prominent Jewish men from the ninth to nineteenth centuries and discovered that these names were in the Masoretic Text as well, in close proximity to the date of each one’s birth or death. Of course, there is no possible way that any human author writing the Torah in about 1600 B.C. could have known such data, let alone have encoded it. The researchers added the names of the 32 next most prominent Jewish leaders and again the computer found them, together with their dates of birth and/or death. The results were published in the Statistical Science journal, whose editor wrote, “Our referees were baffled: their prior beliefs made them think the Book of Genesis could not possibly contain meaningful references to modern day individuals, yet when the authors carried out additional analyses and checks the effect persisted. The paper is thus offered to Statistical Science readers as a challenging puzzle.” Puzzle indeed to atheists!
Additional mathematical scholars and scientists from Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins and the Hebrew University have verified the above results after much careful checking. Of course, there are many critics who refuse to accept the study as proof of divine authorship; but no one has been able to find a flaw in the work. As a further test, for example, other Hebrew texts such as that of Tolstoy’s War and Peace were tested and no such patterns could be uncovered. Even other versions of the Bible produced no results, only the Masoretic Hebrew Text.
I have not attended any of the seminars being given or studied the original research papers. My knowledge has come only from the articles written about this work; nor do I have the technical expertise to give an unqualified opinion. I have a mere bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA, and studied cryptography only as a hobby while in the military and university. Based upon that limited knowledge and experience, I see no alternative but to believe God encoded the Torah with these and many other sequences involving modern persons and events. Their discovery in our computerized age (impossible prior to this time) would seem to offer irrefutable evidence of God’s existence and His authorship of the Bible. There seems no other rational explanation.