East Meets West: The Uncanny Parallels in the Lives of Buddha and Jesus
Elgin Marbles Debate
Excavation Opportunities 1985
Excavation Opportunities 1986
Excavation Opportunities 1989
Excavation Opportunities 1995
Frank Moore Cross—An Interview
Has Richard Friedman Really Discovered a Long-Hidden Book in the Bible?
In Private Hands
Israel Comes to Canaan
Jerusalem Explores and Preserves Its Past
Jerusalem’s Underground Water Systems
Jonah and the Whale
Megiddo Stables or Storehouses?
Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling
New Directions In Dead Sea Scroll Research
One if by Sea…Two if by Land: How Did the Philistines Get to Canaan?
Pilate in the Dock
Point/Counterpoint: Pros and Cons of the Contemporary English Version
Portraits In Heroism
Redating the Exodus—The Debate Goes On
Rewriting Jerusalem History
Riches at Ein Yael
Scholars Disagree: Can You Name the Panel with the Israelites?
Sea Peoples Saga
Should the Bible Be Taught in Public Schools?
Special Bible Section
Spotlight on Sepphoris
Temple Scroll Revisited
The Age of BAR
The Amman Citadel: An Archaeological Biography
The Babylonian Gap Revisited
The Bible Code: Cracked and Crumbling
the Brother of Jesus
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The God-Fearers: Did They Exist?
The Jacob Cycle in Genesis
The Minoans of Crete: Europe’s Oldest Civilization
The Most Original Bible Text: How to Get There
The Pools of Sepphoris: Ritual Baths or Bathtubs?
The Search for History in the Bible
What Was Qumran?
Where Was Jesus Born?
Where Was the Temple?
Who Invented the Alphabet
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid The Bible Code (Simon & Schuster, 1997), by former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter Michael Drosnin, with its Nostradamus-like warnings about earthquakes in Los Angeles and nuclear annihilation—all embedded within the Hebrew text of the Bible through a secret code.
Drosnin’s claims are an extension of the work of two Israelis, mathematician Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum. As previously described in these pages (see Jeffrey B. Satinover, “Divine Authorship?”BR 11:05), Rips and Witztum published a paper in the journal Statistical Science about a computer program they created to search for words hidden in the traditional Hebrew text of Genesis. They were looking to see what would happen if they treated the text as a string of letters with no breaks between words: Would they find the names of famous medieval rabbis spelled out by letters an equal number of letters apart? Not only did they find such names, Rips and Witztum reported, but they also found the rabbis’ death dates (indicated by letters in Hebrew) near where the names appear.a The authors claimed that the number of matches found was much greater than what could be expected by chance alone.
Drosnin takes the work of Rips and Witztum to a new level, expanding his search to the entire Five Books of Moses. More importantly, he is not content to look for historical names or events but is looking instead for predictions of future events. One of his biggest claims—featured on the cover of his book—is that the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin can be found embedded in Deuteronomy.
Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, did not send advance copies to reviewers, no doubt to prevent any negative publicity from building up before publication. Taking advantage of the public’s enormous interest in the Bible, its respect for the awesome capabilities of computers, and its yearning to glimpse the future, The Bible Code has jumped onto best-seller lists and has been the subject of articles in major newspapers and magazines. Predictably, Drosnin has made the rounds of the TV talk shows.
Is there anything to it? We asked two specialists, Ronald Hendel and Shlomo Sternberg, to evaluate the book’s claims from the viewpoint of a biblical text scholar and that of a mathematician and Talmudist.
Hendel is well known to BR readers, serving as our Hebrew Bible book review editor and as a columnist. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and now teaches at Southern Methodist University. He is currently working on the new Anchor Bible commentary on Genesis.
An Orthodox rabbi who has taught Talmud and rabbinical law for 45 years, Sternberg is also an academic mathematician. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the author of 14 books, including Group Theory and Physics (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994) and Heter Tarmat (Hamachon leMoreshet Yisrael, 1986; in Hebrew). Sternberg holds the George Putnam Chair in Pure and Applied Mathematics at Harvard University.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid The Bible Code (Simon & Schuster, 1997), by former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter Michael Drosnin, with its Nostradamus-like warnings about earthquakes in Los Angeles and nuclear annihilation—all embedded within the Hebrew text of the Bible through a secret code. Drosnin’s claims are an extension of the work of two Israelis, mathematician Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum. As previously described in these pages (see Jeffrey B. Satinover, “Divine Authorship?” BR 11:05), Rips and Witztum published a paper in the journal Statistical Science about a computer program they created to search for words […]
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