November 4, 1995 in Features

Research Suggests Genesis’ Message May Go Below Surface Analysis Of Text Reveals Improbable, Hidden Word Patterns

David Briggs Associated Press
 

In a mystifying mathematical and biblical puzzle, researchers have found hidden word patterns in Genesis that suggest the Old Testament book is the work of a divine author.

By treating the text as an unbroken string of letters and selecting sequences of equally spaced letters, three mathematicians discovered 300 hidden pairs of Hebrew words with related meanings in close proximity to one another.

Some of the words involved people who lived and events that occurred long after the Torah was written.

The odds of the words occurring by chance? Less than one in 50 quadrillion, according to an article by Jeffrey Satinover in the October issue of Bible Review.

So far, the research has been published in two scientific journals, and no natural explanation has been found.

In the Bible Review article, Satinover said the implications are for individuals to decide, but the capacity to embed so many meaningfully related, randomly selected word pairs in a text with a coherent surface meaning is beyond the capacity of any human being.

“I guess the bottom line is, if the research holds up and no flaw is found in the methodology, then I think the implication is clear that the authorship of Genesis is not human,” Satinover, a psychiatrist and lecturer on the relation between science and religion, said in an interview.

In their research, Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips and Yoav Rosenberg of the Jerusalem College of Technology and the Hebrew University selected, at random, 300 pairs of Hebrew words with related meanings.

Then, by treating Genesis as a long cryptographic string of letters with no spaces between the words, they searched for the words hidden in the text in what they called equidistant letter sequences, with the same number of letters between each of the letters of the desired word.

By this method, they found words such as “Zedekiah,” a king of Judah during the sixth century B.C., and “Matanya,” Zedekiah’s original name, close to each other in the text.

The Bible Review article says that other word pairs found hidden in the text included “Hanukkah” and “Hasmoneans,” the family name of the leaders of the Jewish forces that captured the Temple from the Assyrians.

The results were first published in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Then in 1994, with the additional finding, in close proximity, of the names and birth or death dates of 66 prominent Jews from the ninth to the 19th centuries A.D., the research was published in the journal, Statistical Science.

Robert Kass, the journal editor at the time, said the publication’s reviewers were suspicious from the start.

“I don’t think anyone ended up believing in it. They still think there’s some kind of flaw, but they don’t know what it is,” said Kass, head of the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

“Something weird seems to be happening. It’s just not clear what that weird thing is.”

Rabbi Daniel Schiff of Temple B’nai Israel in suburban Pittsburgh said he finds the puzzle intriguing but says he is not sure it will persuade anyone of anything.

“It’s an accepted tenet of Judaism that the Torah is divine. Why would one need such a signature to verify it further?” he asks.

“The only proof you need is the revelation at Mount Sinai.”

What, after all, was the purpose of encoding this information into the text? Satinover asks in the Bible Review article.

“Some would say it is the Author’s signature. Is it his way of assuring us that at this particular, late moment - when our scientific, materialistic doubt has reached its apotheosis, when we have been driven to the brink of radical skepticism - that He is precisely who He had said He is in that astonishing, radical core document of the Judeo-Christian tradition?”

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