“The Bible Code” by Michael Drosnin (Simon & Schuster, $25)
Four years before Michael Drosnin heard of the phenomenon he would describe in “The Bible Code,” four mathematicians wrote that an experiment on it produced results sufficiently interesting “to encourage further study.” Something of the kind could be said about Drosnin’s book - not that there aren’t some serious questions to be asked.
“There is no way to ignore the clear fact,” the journalist/author writes, “that a computerized code in the Bible, confirmed by some of the most famous mathematicians in the world, a code that accurately predicted the Gulf War, the collision of a comet with Jupiter, and the assassination of (Yitzhak) Rabin, also seems to state that the Apocalypse starts now, that within a decade we may face the real Armageddon, a nuclear World War.”
Drosnin’s work is based on that of Israeli mathematician Eliyahu Rips, who in August 1994 reported using a computer program to find the names of Jewish sages encoded in Genesis in ways that defied statistical odds.
Using Rips’ methods, which produce blocks of Hebrew text resembling word-search puzzles, Drosnin says he found “hundreds of other world-shaking events … everything from World War II to Watergate, from the Holocaust to Hiroshima” in various biblical passages.
“The Bible Code” is intriguing; the names, events and dates that Drosnin reports finding, and the odds he cites against their occurring accidentally, are startling. But there are several matters that need clarification.
Given that the Hebrew text was originally written only with consonants, how can the decoders be certain they are filling in the right vowels without a literary context to help them?
How extensive is Drosnin’s knowledge of the language? What are his interpreters’ qualifications?
How can ordinary readers check Drosnin’s accuracy in translation when he seldom cites the actual words he sees in the text?
Are terms such as “missile, communism, electricity, marksman” and “computer” to be understood as modern Hebrew words or their ancient Hebrew equivalents?
“The Bible Code” puts forth some provocative possibilities. But in a world that has trouble enough dealing with the plain sense of scripture, the possibility of a mad rush to decipher encrypted prophecies is a mixed blessing at best.
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