Bible Codes Announcement

My other favorite publication, Jewish Action, just released its fall issue. It contains a revisiting of the Codes controversy, in the form of a Sarah Shapiro interview with Harold Gans. (I’ve been trying to lure Sarah to join CC as a regular. She is still welcome, even after taking the wrong side on this issue. We won’t hold it against her – especially since my friend Yaakov Menken is also on the other side!)

The interview attempts to update JA’s coverage, which last visited this issue nine years ago. The introduction implies that there are new developments in the story. The review also refers to “an Orthodox rabbi who is one of [the] critics [who] declined to be interviewed for an article that would lend credence to Torah Codes.”

Both of these are true. The refusenik, c’est moi. Part of the reason for my refusal is that much has happened in the last nine years. We understand the methodology of the experimenters much better. We’ve had an opportunity to subject the phenomenon to other tests, including one agreed upon in advance by both sides. We’ve seen some of the problems generated by people coming to believe that this is really a part of Torah. And most importantly, we’ve had an opportunity to sit at a more than friendly Melave Malka in my home with Prof. Rips and Prof. Haralick and talk openly and respectfully about our differences.

The way Prof. Barry Simon and I see it is that nine years ago we saw the Codes as probably without merit, and possibly dangerous.

Things have changed. Today we regard them as definitely without merit, and certainly dangerous to the Torah community.

The rest is perush, which will be available, BE”H, in the form of a FAQ that we will be releasing, but with the Yomim Tovim upon us, it is not likely to see the light of day till December. (We would have preferred a side-by-side presentation within the pages of JA, but apparently someone was not willing to do this unless the other side saw our presentation in advance. We were not willing to give them that advantage, since we had the last time, and it worked extraordinarily to our disadvantage. No problem. Putting our response on the web instead ain’t chopped liver.)

In the meantime, B”H most of the key players are friendly and civil to most of the opposing key players, which is why we can hazard this posting shortly before the Yemei Hadin. To the best of our knowledge, everyone is in this L’shem Shomayim.

When our FAQ is ready, we will get the word out, BE”H

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59 comments to Bible Codes Announcement

  • Sarah Shapiro

    The critic Professor Maya Bar Hillel, a co-writer with Professor Brendan McKay of the paper to which a link is provided in Comment #50, believes that since there is no possibility that the Torah is Divine, and thus no possibility, obviously, that a Divine G-d encoded anything in it, the challenge is only to discover the “trick” responsible for the illusion.

    In her essay, “Madness in the Method,” she writes:

    “Creative magicians love to amaze and baffle their peers with a new trick they’ve invented, challenging them to figure out the secret of the trick on their own. An important psychological element in this task is strict adherence to what you know with certainty to be impossible. Suppose you see a magician cutting the pretty lady in two, separating her smiling face, upper torso and all, from her twitching toes, long-booted legs and all, and then putting them together again. It is wrong to ask: ‘How can the lady be cut in half and glued back together again?’, because the obvious answer to that question is: She cannot! But you are on your way if you ask: ‘How can one appear to be cutting the lady in half and then putting her together again?'”.

    “The codes research raises the obvious question: ‘How could the names of rabbis and their dates of death have been encoded in a text written millenia before the rabbis were even born?’ For the skeptic, this is the wrong question. Compelling evidence that such a code truly exists is the stuff of The X-Files. A committed skeptic does not ask how the Codes got into the Torah, but rather how did they appear to get there. Interestingly, this should be the question even for those who literally believe that the Torah was dictated by God letter for letter on Mt. Sinai, because there is little disagreement among biblical scholars that the many different texts of the Torah that we have today differ much more from the original text of antiquity than they do from each other — which is by quite a lot. Witztum and Rips ignore the problem of conducting research on an artificial publisher’s version called the Koren edition, which is known to be hundreds if not thousands of letters different than the original of antiquity. Drosnin falsely claims that ‘every Hebrew Bible that now exists is the same letter for letter’, and that the text used for the codes research ‘has not changed in at least a thousand years’ (p. 38). In any case, it had two thousand years to change before this millenium. And it did.”

  • Dovid Shlomo

    To Sarah Shapiro:

    The textual argument (and evidence) brought by Prof Hillel is brought as well by individuals who believe in Torah min HaShamayim and are knowledgeable about the Massorah.

    Simply saying that you don’t like (or trust) one of its messengers will not make this argument go away.

    After many years of following the Torah Codes controversy, I am still waiting to hear a substantive response to the textual problem.

    (I brought it up as well (in comment #44)).

  • Bob Miller

    Regarding Comment by Sarah Shapiro — September 21, 2007 @ 9:59 am

    The fact that some critics of these codes object to religion in general says nothing about the codes themselves.

  • Art Levitt

    As a start to catching up with recent posts, here is my reply to Dovid Shlomo, who asked for my opinion on his posting #44.

    I think that we cannot draw any conclusion from Torah Codes regarding whether we currently have: (1) a letter for letter record of what was originally received by Moses, or (2) less than perfect accuracy.

    The existence of Torah Codes in the text of the Torah that we currently possess is logically consistent with both possibilities.

    The consistency with the first possibility is obvious. So I will explain how the existence of Torah Codes is logically consistent with the second possibility.

    [Notice that I am not even discussing in this post the plausibility of Torah Codes or the merits of the evidence. Instead, the argument is purely logical.]

    The existence of deliberately encoded Torah Codes with details of events of the distant future implies advance knowledge of this future.

    If someone truly had the ability to see these details, this could certainly include details of what will happen in the future with the received text itself.

    Given this advance knowledge, what makes more sense – to insert codes in a text that will eventually change and therefore see the codes be degraded or destroyed (fully or partially, depending of the scale of the changes), or to produce the text in such a way that the encoding will appear in the modified text that will be available in this distant future when the codes are discovered?

    What would YOU prefer is a similar situation? Obviously, the second alternative.

    People often have diffculties when performing logical operations with hypothetical ideas, especially if they consider the contents of those ideas to be highly implausible. In reality, the rules of logic allow such reasoning.

    For example, as is well known from classical logic, the validity of the *implication* A => B does not depend on the validity of A. The *implication* is not valid only if it can be shown that A’s hypothetical validity would invalidate B.

    Therefore the validity of the above reasoning should be acceptable to one who allows or denies the possibility of Torah Codes, as well as to one who has (any) particular opinion about the accuracy of the current text.

    As a result, Torah Codes are logically consistent with either a changed or a constant text, and we can draw no conclusions from their existence as to whether or not we now possess a letter by letter record of the original received Torah.

  • Art Levitt

    Dr. Klafter’s remarks continue to address the key issues. What I have been trying to show (and hope to continue in appropriate forums) is that I agree completely with the essence of the questions, but there are also several very good answers (old and new).

    This posting and my next one give some of those answers.

    Dr. Klafter writes: “You cannot statistically analyze your ‘finds’ after the fact. I will not find such pheonomena to be interesting unless it can be clearly demonstrated that no other Hebrew texts generate similar results.”

    I have two different reactions to this, depending on the situation. Situation 1: Starting codes (first bricks) such as Fig 1 of the Temple codes. My reaction in this situation is that one can do a limited analysis to guage whether the code is noteworthy, and one can even go beyond that in some cases. But extreme care is required, and I certainly understand (and in many cases I would even strongly agree) with Dr. Klafter’s comment when applied to situation 1.

    Situation 2: A code that is an outgrowth of former codes (bricks 2 plus). My reaction in this case is that we are completely out of the class of problems that can be labelled as “after the fact”, so that Dr. Klafter’s comment does not apply. Figs 2-5 of the Temple codes are situation 2. These codes really need to be addressed, in order to have a real picture of what http://www.torahcodes.net is trying to say.

    For now, let’s look at the simpler case, the codes about codes – let’s look at the bottom picture on http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/codes_on_codes.html

    The code on the left is situation 1 and the code on the right is an outgrowth of it, i.e. situation 2. The code on the left is simply “Code of Hashem” in the same column as “signs” (with the same spelling, and perhaps the same meaning, as this word in Isaiah 41:23, 44:7 and 45:11). On its own, the code on the left is actually interesting to me. It is like meeting Katie on the street, as in Dr. Klafter’s former example, but in my version of the analogy there are additional circumstances:

    Bill is carrying his favorite book, called “The Hints of God”. He meets someone new named Katie, who is carrying her favorite book, called “Divine Signs”. Both books are rare editions, out of print, and both books have page 124 highlighted in green and are missing page 125. This is all situation 1, yet most people understand that it is interesting because it contains some very unusual coincidences that do not happen every day.

    Now we move to situation 2. The next day, Jack, a friend of Bill who is reading a book with a slightly different title, “The Secrets of God”, takes a walk and meets someone new named Catherine. When she tells him her name, he says, “this is a funny coincidence” and relates the story of Bill and Katie. Wide-eyed, she pulls out of her book bag a different copy of the same rare book that Katie had, “Divine Signs”. The fact that Katie and Catherine have similar names adds to the incredibe series of coincidences on day 2, but the similar names served only one purpose – to trigger in Jack’s mind the story that Bill told him yesterday – i.e. the impetus to search for further extraordinary details. Situation 2’s main event (revealing the book hidden in Catherine’s book bag) is absolutely “a-priori” (i.e. the event is so surprising because it was suggested by the pre-established events of day 1). One can therefore determine how often a random individual carries a copy of this particular book in order to quantify the probability of day 2’s main event. This kind of quantification is not valid on day 1 for Katie (situation 1) but it is valid on day 2 for Catherine (situation 2).

    Returning to the web page, one might object that the picture on the right uses a different synonym for “code” than the picture on the left. But that is no different than Jack having a different titled book than Bill. They were sufficiently similar to each other so that the natural a-priori question for Catherine is whether she by any wild coincidence was carrying a book called “Divine Signs”. This chain of events is essentially the same as the events leading to discovery of the web page’s code on the right. The natural question for the code on the right, after finding “code of Hashem” in that picture, was whether by some wild coincidence we would see “signs” in the same column.

    Dr. Klafter says:
    “However, I WOULD be interested to see if you can repeatedly demonstrate that such ELS phenomena are restricted to the Torah.”

    What happens when we ask 1,000,000 other people (texts) the same question we had for Catherine (she is the Torah text in our analogy). We find out that only 10 of these people are carrying the same title with them. Again the analogy is very fitting. Whenever we identify a code that fits situation 2 (an outgrowth of a previous, *noteworthy* code) we do in fact carry out a comparison with thousands of other texts in order to determine the probability of that outgrowth code appearing in the Torah.

  • Art Levitt

    Continuing from my previous posting:

    Dr. Klafter wrote: “[The Torah] has now been subject to hudreds of thousands or perhaps millions of searches for hidden codes, whereas no one is devoting equal effort to search for hidden codes in [other texts]”

    This is another very well-taken point, though I believe it is a large over-estimate. (I personally spend a great deal of time developing techniques and ideas, and a small fraction of my time doing actual searches). At any rate, the point is addressed by the idea of restricting our examples to high-relevance topics. I mentioned this in posting 28, in regards to the idea of “hidden failures”, but it relates to the current idea of “effort applied to the Torah” as well.

    By limiting to high-relevance topics, there are a limited number of situation 1’s (initial bricks) that can be set up. For example, the Twin Towers attack (in a recent poll the most striking news event in the lives of a majority of people surveyed), was the first topic for which we identified codes that are built from other codes. That formal study,

    http://www.torahcodes.net/belj.pdf

    was the prototype for the even simpler codes built from codes that we have found recently, in several other high-relevance areas. For the Twin Towers, we accepted only certain “foundational” codes to be used as our starting bricks – such as the two codes containing interesting extensions of a “bin Laden” ELS (forming long phrases). In virtually all cases of codes built from codes, we only deal with very strong and compelling starting bricks.

    Here there is a potential communication problem in this discussion, because the reasons that a code is compelling are sometimes difficult for more experienced code searchers to convey to typical observers. In the analogy of meeting Katie on the street, a person experienced with books knows that the coincidences on pages 124 and 125 are highly unusual and compelling. A person who has only encountered a few books in his life may not have that insight.

    Dr. Klafter suggests a simplification of the original Rabbis experiment (WRR). But in fact all of the research that has followed WRR has been a simplification and/or a reinforcement of WRR. The whole methodology of codes built upon other codes is only one example; Harold Gans’ work was a precursor and partly an inspiration for this methodolgy, as it was an “experiment built upon (the WRR) experiment”.

    Among several other types of experiments not even mentioned yet on this blog, codes that echo Torah verses provide more examples of simplification. A systematic study of verse echoing, by Nachum Bombach, is described here:

    http://www.torahcodes.net/bombach0.htm

    And some newer, also simple, and individually striking, examples of verse echoing are illustrated on these pages: http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/create_world.html, http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/humanity.html, http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/create_light.html (top two figures).

    Regarding Dr. Klafter’s suggestion of comparing the Torah simultaneously to other texts, we have been following this approach from the beginning, to derive our probability measurements: part and parcel of the Torah result is the rank of that result among a competing population – as advocated and advanced for years now by Professor Haralick. This population can consist of real texts when this technique is applicable, and/or randomly permuted texts, and/or randomly shifted locations of the key words’ ELSs, for example. In most cases, especially when we are dealing with individual code tables, these various populations yield results that are highly consistent with each other.

    I increasingly favor these single, strong and visible code tables (as opposed to summations of many milder ELS meetings spread throughout the text). For this kind of single table, it is often possible for an experienced searcher’s intuition (and/or high school mathematics) to approximate and thereby reinforce the above results of computer-driven comparisons. If such simple tables are built from other codes, or if they are built from verses from the Torah, the task of agreeing on key words is also greatly simplified.

  • Eliyahu Rips

    Some recent Torah Codes experiments combine transparent data collection and a clear visual effect. One such experiment was reported in a joint paper with Art Levitt

    E. Rips, and A. Levitt, The Twin Towers Cluster in Torah Codes, 18th International Conference on Pattern Recognition, 2006, vol.3, 408-411, see also
    http://www.torahcodes.net/rips0.htm

    At the location http://www.torahcodes.net/visual_20070926.doc the reader will find a short eplanatory note including a link to a PP presentation that visualizes the Torah Codes effect studied in this paper.

  • Solomon

    I just have two questions for those that are supporters of the bible codes . . .

    1. If the codes are true, then what do you do about the Christian codes that have proofs for Jesus?

    2. How do you explain Dr. Simon finding codes in a hebrew version of War & Peace? Was Tolstoy devinely inspired to write that book?

  • Art Levitt

    This is a reply to Solomon’s two questions from September 27, 2007 – getting to the heart of the matter. He asks about Christian “codes” and War & Peace “codes”. These two questions have the same answer – both are completely insignificant because they do not follow valid protocols. The following analogy is one illustation.

    Two ELSs meeting in a text are like two people crossing paths on a street. Suppose you happen to see your old friend George Aiken on the street, after 20 years. This is interesting, but something similar happens to a great many people sometime in their life. So the odds are insignificant, perhaps 1 in 2 or 3. This is very much the kind of insignificance I just referred to.

    Now let’s change it slightly – but really drastically – by adding a protocol. Your protocol is that you wake up that morning and announce that you think you will run into George Aiken today. Some hours later, it happens. Now the significance is astronomical.

    So everything depends on protocol. In many codes conversations, for example in my exchanges with Dr. Klafter, we are really just discussing protocol (I have more to add to that conversation, which may end up here, or on http://www.torahcodes.net). The Torah Codes protocols are trending toward increasing transparency, allowing simpler verification by any observer.