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For thousands of years, humanity has searched for proof of the existence of God. Some have tried to prove that God exists; others have tried the opposite. Neither group has succeeded. But many Christians and other theists have held fast to the belief that a proof is out there somewhere. They have searched for some fact(s) in the universe that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that God exists.

From medieval times until today, many people have believed that the Bible contains some type of secret, hidden code. The great scientist Sir Isaac Newton was perhaps the most famous of these believers. 

bulletSome believe that the Bible text contains a complex mathematical design that would have been beyond the mental ability of humans to create. It has been variously described as:
bulletA type of watermark that proves God's authorship. 
bulletThe footprint left by the Holy Spirit.
bulletThe fingerprint of God.

Theomatics, described below, is an analysis technique that searches for evidence of such a design.

bulletOthers have believed that the letters in the Bible can be scanned mathematically, in order to extract hidden names, dates and messages. The Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS) analysis method is an example of this approach. ELS is doomed to failure because it depends upon the Bible text having been transmitted down to the present day without error. In fact, there are thousands of differences among the surviving ancient Bible manuscripts, and there is no method by which the original wording can be determined. The addition or subtraction of even a single letter by a copyist two millennia ago will derail an ELS analysis.

"A.B. Leever" who has analyzed Theomatics concluded that if the technique "were valid then it would possible to demonstrate mathematically that God supernaturally intervened in the writing of the Bible. This would be a very important advancement in the field of Christian apologetics, perhaps the most profound discovery of recent times." However, if the technique is worthless, then "there is potential for great damage to the glorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ... and an open door for the enemy to molest the Body of Christ with profound confusion and shame." 11

Opinions differ greatly on the validity and appropriateness of these studies:

bulletMany Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, etc. reject the belief that the authors of the Bible were inspired by God. Most regard the Bible as a collection of historical documents, each intended to promote its authors' own religious and spiritual beliefs. It is useless to hunt for any deeper content. 
bulletMany religious liberals consider these studies to be without validity; they are grounded in wishful thinking.
bulletSome skeptics, who have long searched for a proof of the existence of God, seize upon Bible codes as confirmation that God exists, and wants to communicate to humans.
bulletMany conservative Christians eagerly study them in order to gain greater insights into the meaning of the Bible, which they interpret as God's Word.
bulletSome conservative Christians and Jews avoid numeric studies of the Bible. For example, Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Shalom B'nai Israel Congregation in Chicago is concerned that it could lead to a form of idolatry -- the worship of numbers. 
bulletSome Fundamentalist Christians reject the search for internal codes as being part of the Occult. Some believe that when a person experiments with Bible numerology or decoding, that "doorways" will open into their life. Evil spirits can use these to possess or oppress the individual.

Decades ago, Rabbi Weissmand found some interesting patterns in the Hebrew Pentateuch (a.k.a. the Books of Moses, the Torah, and the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures / Old Testament). These patterns are called "ELS codes" (a.k.a. Torah codes, Skip codes, and Equidistant Letter Sequences).  Some authors capitalized on these findings, and rushed into print a series of best-selling religious books. The most financially successful was probably Michael Drosnin's book "The Bible Code." 1 It once achieved the #3 spot on a New York Times best-seller list. Countless individuals accepted the ELS codes as proof that God was the actual author of the Pentateuch. Many skeptics became believers. But, the euphoria did not last. Further statistical analysis revealed the truth about the Bible codes: that they do not just exist in the Pentateuch; they are everywhere. Codes are found with equal frequency in the Book of Genesis, the Qur'an, Tolstoy's "War and Peace," Melville's "Moby Dick," or in any sufficiently long text. 2,3,4,5 By the time that the ELS codes were exposed as meaningless, the authors of Torah code books had pocketed some rather heavy profits.

Many Christians and Jews continued to have faith in the codes, even a year after scholars debunked the concept. Michael Drosin's book "The Bible Code" was still rated in the top 7,500 titles at Amazon.com. Since that online bookstore lists millions of books in its inventory, it would appear that the book is still among their most popular sellers. 1

Other types of hidden biblical codes are discussed in this essay: the findings of E.W. Bullinger, and the discovery of "Theomatics" by Theomatic Research." 8

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bulletNumerics: The study of numbers.
bulletBible Numerics: The study of numbers in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. Old and New Testaments). 
bulletNumerology: the practice of assigning numerical values to different letters of the alphabet. One system, using the English alphabet for example, is to set A = 1; B = 2...Z = 26, etc. This is then used to compute the hidden numerical values of letters, words, phrases -- even complete thoughts and sentences. Each letter is converted to its corresponding value; the values are then added up. A common method for the Hebrew alphabet assigns values 1 to 9 to the first 9 letters, 10 to 90 for the next 9 letters, and 100 to 400 for the final 4 letters. Greek is often interpreted with the same format. However, it has more characters, so that the final 8 letters are numbered 100 to 800.

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Findings of E.W. Bullinger: 

English theologian Ethelbert W. Bullinger (1837-1913) was a prolific writer. His most popular book is the Companion Bible, a study Bible in the King James Version. 6 He also wrote "Number in Scripture: Its supernatural design and spiritual significance," which was reprinted in 1993. 7 In the latter book, he describes the sources of some of today's frequently used numbers. (e.g. the 12 signs of the zodiac, 360 degrees in a circle.) But his deep study of the text of the Bible revealed to him the spiritual and symbolic meaning associated with various numeric values, as they appear in the scriptures. Some examples are:

bullet3 represents God.
bullet9 represents judgment.
bullet15 refers to acts brought about by God's grace.
bullet40 represents probation, trial and chastisement.
bullet1290 represents desolation.
bullet1335 represents blessing.

He then detected patterns of occurrences of these numbers in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. He concluded that these repetitions could not have come about naturally, inserted by dozens of authors who independently wrote the 66 books of the Bible. He concluded that God must have been responsible for creating the Bible text. He concluded that Bible numerical patterns prove the existence of God.

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Theomatics Research, a Portland, OR-based company states that "the foundational basis for theomatics has been known for thousands of years, ever since the time before Christ. It is commonly referred to by the term 'gematria.' It was in 1975 that this original code in the Bible ~ known for thousands of years but never deciphered ~ began to reveal itself in a major way." 8 Del Washburn believes that he has found a mathematical design within the Bible that proves that God was its ultimate author. God "assigned each letter and in turn each word of the Bible with a number or theomatic value. Everything in the Bible was composed and written mathematically...God the Creator, sometime in eternity past, orchestrated and planned every event mentioned in the Bible ~ right down to the most minute detail...and what every word in the Bible would ultimately be. Each and every word had to be spelled precisely so it would come out to its exact and pre-determined numerical value, and then be placed into the text in a precise location."

Two typical types matches found by Theomatics are:

bulletNumbers that appear in the Bible -- for example
bulletJesus chose 12 disciples, 
bulletHis disciples caught 153 fish, 
bulletAdam became a father at the age of 800, 
bulletNoah's ark was 300 cubits long, 
bulletThe Israelites wept for thirty days after the death of Moses.

These values are each matched with the numerical values for words, groups of words, phrases, or sentences that are located nearby. For example: John 21:11 mentions a catch of 153 fish. Some words and phrases found in close proximity to the number are:

bullet"Fishes" has a Theomatic values of 1,224 which is equal to 153 x 8
bullet"The net" also has a value of 1,224 which is equal to 153 x 8
bullet"Multitude of fishes" has a value of 2,448 which is equal to 153 x 16
bullet"Fishers of men" has a value of 2,142 which is equal to 153 x 14
bulletNames also have a numerical value. Jesus, in Greek, has the value of 888, which is 111 x 2 x 2 x 2. i.e. equal to the prime number 111 times 8. Searches are made in the Greek text for phrases whose Theomatic value is 111, or a multiple of 111. Many are found:
Verse Text Theomatic Value Breakdown
Matthew 1:16 "And Jacob begat Joseph.... called Christ" 7,326 111 X 66
Matthew 1:18 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ ..... Holy Spirit" 5,439 111 x 49
Matthew 1:23 "...and she will bear a son..." 1,221 111 x 11

They selected the term "Theomatics" to describe God's design: "Theo" means God and "matics" from the word mathematics. God's mathematical design is described in three books: "Theomatics" (now out of print), "Theomatics II 9 and "The Original Code in the Bible." 10  

Findings: Theomatic Research asserts that:

bulletIn the case of "Jesus" whose root Theomatic number is 111, if one analyzes the text in the vicinity of Jesus' name looking for phrases, complete ideas or sentences that have the value 111 or a multiple of 111:
bulletThere is a "very short segment or phrase" that matches. 
bulletMatches appear much more frequently than one would expect on the basis of chance.
bulletMatches appear "only on references to do specifically with the birth of Jesus."
bulletThis relationship holds in the case of other names and actual numbers in the biblical text. The examples cited are not specially chosen. Similar matches appear throughout the Bible.

They stress that these observations could not have happened by chance. They state with confidence that: "It is absolutely, completely, and totally impossible to mathematically disprove theomatics. The overall validity of this discovery ~ the fact that God did it ~ is unimpeachable." They feel that they are sitting on an amazing discovery. Unfortunately, "statisticians and theologians in major universities...are generally not interested in having the Bible proven to them." 

Attempts at Falsification: They have tried to disprove the validity of theomatics by scrambling all the values associated with each letter. For example, instead of the first three numbers of the Greek alphabet (alpha, beta, gamma) being assigned the values 1, 2, 3, they might be given the values 6, 5, 3; the last three letters (chi, psi, omega) which normally are given values of 600, 700, 800 might be assigned 100, 300, 600. Then the biblical text was analyzed with their computer program, using these random value allocations. Relatively few matches were found. Repeat runs with other random values assigned to the letters produced similarly dismal results. It appears that only the values traditionally assigned to the letters produce large numbers of matches. It is their belief that these values were picked by God.

Further investigations: Before Theomatics could be accepted as a proven fact, the findings of Theomatics Research would have to be replicated independently by other investigators. This might include an analysis of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, as well as other texts of a similar length. [On 2003-SEP-28, we received an Email from a visitor who vaguely recalls an article in Skeptical Inquirer about a person who ran a theomatic study of the Qu'ran; he found these patterns in that book also, thus proving that God had written it as well.] If matches are found in all texts, as they were with the ELS Bible code, then there would be nothing unique about the Bible from a Theomatic point of view. Attempts at falsification by randomly scrambling the weighting factors for each letter in the Greek and Hebrew alphabet would also be useful. If multiple observers find that:

bulletTheomatic matches occur with great frequency in the Bible, and
bulletMatches occur much less often in similarly-length non-biblical texts, and
bulletAttempts at falsification fail, then

evidence for Theomatics would be greatly strengthened. The possibility that an intelligent mind once inserted very complex codes into the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures would be likely. The next step would be to evaluate the difficulty of actually creating these codes in text. If it is beyond the mental capacity of humans, then one must speculate that a super-human intelligence exists, of some type, somewhere in the universe.

"A.B. Leever" attempted to validate Theomatics, but was unsuccessful. She/he concluded "that his [Del Washburn's] claims are indeed false, and that the supposedly scientific methodology used to validate his claims is invalid. At times, we find his work to be simply absurd." 11

A possible problem: One complexity that has apparently not been evaluated yet is the choice of which Hebrew and Greek texts to use in the studies. There are many versions of both in existence. Each is based on thousands of ancient documents that disagree in thousands of places. No original copy of any book in the Bible has survived. The most ancient surviving copies of the Hebrew Scriptures are currently the Dead Sea Scrolls. But they had been copied by untold generations of scribes for over a millennia. Mistakes have been made; letters have been left out; words have been changed. In the case of the Christian Scriptures, margin notes of some books in the Bible appear to have ended up being incorporated in the text. The error rate of our "standard" Greek and Hebrew texts may throw great suspicion on Theomatics. Much more work remains to be done to confirm its validity.

Another applications for Theomatics: If Theomatics is proven to extract meaningful patterns out of the biblical text, then it might be possible to use it in the reverse direction. Theologians continually argue over which ancient manuscript of a given passage in the Bible reflects the original wording of the author. By testing the passage as it appears in all of the ancient manuscripts, the correct copy -- the one with the greatest number of matches -- might be the correct one.

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletHidden "ELS" codes in the Bible: prophecy or hoax?
bulletWho wrote the 5 books of Moses, the Pentateuch?
bulletWho wrote the book of Genesis?
bulletA description of over a dozen "Christian urban legends"

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  1. Michael Drosnin, "The Bible Code", Simon & Schuster, (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  2. R.S. Hendel, "The Secret Code Hoax", BR, Vol. XIII, No. 4, 1997-AUG, Page 23 - 24.
  3. Shlomo Sternberg, "Snake Oil for Sale", BR, Vol. XIII, No. 4, 1997-AUG, Page 24 - 25.
  4. "Controversial 'Bible Code' debunked by team of scholars," APonline, 1999-SEP-10.
  5. J.W. Moore, "Bible codes, or matrix of deception, Part II," SCP Newsletter, 1998-Winter. Online at http://www.scp-inc.org 
  6. E.W. Bullinger, "Companion Bible," Kregel Publ, (Reprinted 1993) Read reviews or order this book 
  7. E.W. Bullinger, "Number in Scripture: Its supernatural design and spiritual significance," Kregel Publications, Read reviews or order this book 
  8. "Theomatics" has a web site at: http://www.theomatics.com/ 
  9. Del Washburn, "Theomatics II: God's best kept secret revealed," Scarborough House, (1994) Read reviews or order this book 
  10. Del Washburn, "The original code in the Bible: Using science and mathematics to reveal God's fingerprints," Madison Books, (1998). It is intended for the general public. Read reviews or order this book 
  11. "A.B. Leever," "Theomatics, at: http://www.ableever.net/Apologetics/

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Copyright © 2000, 2001, 20003 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
File created: 2000-SEP-25
Latest update: 2004-JUL-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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