By: Rabbi Daniel Mechanic1 (In consultation with Doron Witztum2 and Harold Gans3)
DANIEL MECHANIC is a senior international Codes lecturer and researcher for the Aish Hatorah/Discovery Seminar. He would like to thank Dr. Jeffrey Satinover – a world-renowned author on Codes- for his helpful comments.
DORON WITZTUM is the pre-eminent Codes researcher and author in the world. He has dedicated his professional efforts to the development of advanced techniques for detecting and testing equidistant-interval encryptions in texts. His findings on this subject have been published in Statistical Science – a peer-refereed mathematical journal.
HAROLD GANS was a senior cryptologic mathematician for the United States’ National Security Agency until his retirement after 28 years of service. The agency maintains the world’s most advanced methods, experts and facilities for the detection and decryption of encoded material. He is the author of over 180 technical papers on these subjects and is a world-class expert in evaluating Codes. Presently, he is a mathematical consultant and international lecturer on Codes.
A recent book aimed primarily at proselytizing Jews to Christianity claims that hidden messages – “codes” – have been found in the Bible proving that Jesus is the Messiah. The book, by Yacov Rambsel, a Hebrew Christian pastor, is entitled Yeshua (second edition). It consists of a list of instances where the four-letter Hebrew word “Yeshua” – Jesus – and short phrases including it, may be “extracted” from the original Hebrew text of the Bible by seeking places where the letters forming the word are found with an equal number of skipped letters between them. Although we are restricting most of our comments here to Pastor Rambsel’s book, it should be noted that there are other Christian books, articles, videos, internet postings, etc. that repeat Pastor Rambsel’s findings or that discuss “codes” found using a similar methodology. Grant Jeffrey’s book The Signature of God is one example that has achieved a wide readership. These books reveal, unfortunately, a complete misunderstanding of the “codes methodology,” how it works, and what can and cannot be asserted concerning them. Pastor Rambsel and Grant Jeffrey are neither scientists, nor are they mathematicians or statisticians, and are simply disregarding the fundamental requirement for rigorous “validating methods” in domains such as these. Recently, a number of books authored by Jews have been published that make similar errors (CompuTorah, Fascinating Torah Prophesies, etc.). The following comments apply, therefore, to all of these works. It should be clear, however, that we are not debating the relative merits of Jewish and Christian theologies in this paper. We are simply focusing on those misuses and misrepresentations of the Codes that are aimed at proselytizing Jews to some form of Christianity.
In order to determine whether or not Rambsel’s findings are valid, we must clearly state what is meant by “Codes.” There are two types of word patterns that are formed through sequences of letters equidistantly spaced in a document: 1) Accidentally occurring word patterns 2) Encoded word patterns deliberately inserted into a document, i.e. “Codes.”
The first type – words accidentally formed through equidistant letter skip intervals – can obviously be extracted out of the letters found in every document written throughout the history of the world: The Bible, Shakespeare, any newspaper, the instructions on any medicine bottle, this article, etc. Their “existence” is purely coincidental and, therefore, a cryptologist4 would never refer to them as “Codes.” For example, in the sentence written above, the phrase “the history of the world” appears. Starting with the “T” in the word “the,” count every seven letters until you have spelled “toe” (the history of the world). Did we deliberately arrange the letters and words of that sentence in a way that would generate the encoding of the word “toe“? Obviously not. We never try to encode words in the letters we write to friends and family, yet every one of them can yield hundreds of such extractions. They are all there by accident. Their “existence” is unintentional. In fact, it can be demonstrated that they are statistically and mathematically meaningless.
The second type – encoded words deliberately inserted into a document – is categorically different. These types of word patterns are Codes that were purposely placed in a document by the document’s author. They are not random, coincidentally constructed words extracted from a text. In fact, there are Codes whose intentional placement in a document can be statistically and mathematically verified.
A unique type of Codes has been found in the Torah (Five Books of Moses). Its uniqueness lies in the fact that: 1) it can be statistically verified that these Codes were deliberately placed in the Torah by its author; 2) the information that was encoded could not have been known to mankind at the time it was encoded. The “Torah Codes” claim is as follows:
Names of famous Rabbis, together with their birth dates and death dates, were deliberately encoded in the Torah by its author thousands of years before these Rabbis ever lived. This claim has been statistically verified, (i.e., the probability that this phenomenon is due to chance is exceedingly small).
All of the other hundreds, thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of encoded words that exist in every document in the world are a coincidence (until proven otherwise). If it cannot be proven that a particular “code” was deliberately placed in a document, and a statistical evaluation shows it to be meaningless, their “existence” cannot – and should not – be used as proof of anything.
Furthermore, encoded words are ordered patterns that can be tested mathematically. The philosophical, religious or spiritual implications of a document with deliberately encoded words that relate to future events in history are a different issue altogether. The first and foremost issue that must be addressed when dealing with this phenomenon is whether or not it can be shown that the encoded words were deliberately inserted into a document. If a sequence of letters extracted from a text cannot be shown to be a genuine code (i.e., deliberate placement), and a mathematical evaluation of the extraction proves them to be statistically meaningless, then they, of course, cannot be honestly used as proof or confirmation of anything.
It is true that the Hebrew word “Yeshua” (Jesus) can be extracted from numerous passages in the Hebrew Bible. Pastor Rambsel writes in his book how “Yeshua” can be extracted from passages in Isaiah, Daniel and Psalms. On pages 50 and 65 of Yeshua, we are shown how in the Book of Genesis, “Yeshua” can be found in passages that he insists refer to the Messiah. He then concludes that the author of the Torah deliberately encoded “Yeshua” at these locations in order to reveal to us that Jesus is the Messiah.
Following are only a few examples of the many fundamental errors in Pastor Rambsel’s methodology and logic:
- Statistically, one would expect to find an appearance of “Yeshua” anywhere you decide to look, in almost any document in the world. When you have a large text (the Torah, for example, has 304,805 Hebrew letters) and you search for “Yeshua” at equidistant letter intervals, you expect to find it thousands of times. Moreover, the accidental appearance of “Yeshua” will happen much more than most Hebrew words because two of the Hebrew letters in “Yeshua,” “Yud” and “vav,” are the most common letters in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, the mathematical expectation is that “Yeshua” will appear accidentally in the Torah over 300,000 times (302,800.50 to be exact). Let’s focus on only one book of the Torah – the Book of Genesis. It contains 78,064 letters of which 9,035 are the Hebrew letter “Yud ” – the first letter of “Yeshua.” If we start at any of the 9,035 “Yud’s” and simplify our search by limiting the skip distances to up to only 1000 spaces between the letters, we will have 1000 different strings of letters from every different starting point (except a few at the very end of the text). So you have 9035 starting points, and from every starting point you can make 1000 different searches for the word “Yeshua.” That’s 1000 x 9035 chances, or 9,035,000 chances for the word “Yeshua” to appear in the text. Making an unintentional appearance of “Yeshua” even more likely to occur is the fact that the search for “Yeshua” is conducted both forward and backward through the text. This doubles the already huge possibility of the word appearing accidentally to over 18 million such chances in the Book of Genesis alone, when limiting our search to skip distances of up to only 1000 letters. Thus, one would clearly expect to find “Yeshua” accidentally encoded thousands of times in Genesis. In fact, the mathematical expectation is that “Yeshua” will be found in Genesis alone over 21,000 times (21,058.53 to be exact). Therefore, the appearance of “Yeshua” somewhere in the Torah would not – and could not – prove anything.
2) We indeed searched the Torah for the word “Yeshua.” Simplifying our search by limiting the skip distances to up to only 850 letters still yielded the word “Yeshua” over 10,000 times. (In reality, one can search for “Yeshua” at skip distances of up to approximately 100,000 letters). We also searched the Torah for the three- letter Hebrew word “Yeshu ” – the traditional Jewish spelling of Jesus. With skip distances again limited to only 850 letters, the search resulted not in thousands, but tens of thousands of occurrences. Therefore, claiming you have proof that Jesus is the Messiah because you found “Yeshua” encoded somewhere in the Torah is absurd. Its evidential significance is the same as finding an arrangement of words formed by the letters in a bowl of alphabet cereal or soup.
3) Control tests are the most effective way of validating or refuting a codes claim. The control test, in our case, would mean that we search for Rambsel’s “codes” in a different Hebrew text with the same number of letters as the Torah. It could be a Hebrew translation of any novel, or the Torah itself with all of its letters randomly arranged in many different ways. Obviously, it is impossible for these “texts” to contain deliberately inserted codes. If we would find Rambsel’s “codes” in these texts, then we would know that the “Yeshua codes” Rambsel found in the Torah are mere coincidences. We searched for “Yeshua” in a small portion of the Hebrew translation of War and Peace. Since it is a translation, all of its letters and words are, of course, not the original ones used by the author. Therefore, the translated text cannot possibly contain deliberate encodings of the word “Yeshua.” Yet, after again limiting our search to skip distances of up to only 850 letters, “Yeshua” appeared in War and Peace 2,055(6) times.
This control test illustrates that there is no evidential value at all to the finding of “Yeshua” in the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, it is precisely control tests such as these (among many other types of measures) that were used to validate the legitimate Torah Codes. This was accomplished by demonstrating that, unlike all of Rambsel’s “Yeshua codes,” the legitimate Torah Codes (i.e., “Famous Rabbis“) do not appear anywhere else except in the Torah7.
4) Rambsel claims that extracting “Yeshua” from “messianic” passages provides evidence that Yeshua is the Messiah. However, we extracted “Yeshua” from hundreds of passages that have no connection to the concept of Messiah. This clearly demonstrates to the thoughtful reader how futile it is to attach meaning or evidential value to an appearance of “Yeshua” (or to any single word or phrase) in any text, especially when these words can, and do appear everywhere.
In fact, any suggestion that a particular “code” is genuine because of the specific passage it was found in is wholly subjective in nature. Therefore, it cannot, by definition, be used as evidence in the objective validation process necessary to determine whether an equidistant letter sequence is a genuine Code.
5) On page 130, Rambsel discusses a passage in Daniel (chapter 9, verses 25-27), in which he found the word “Yeshua” appearing at intervals of 26, a significant number in Kabbalistic thought. More remarkable, he claims, is the fact that the word “Messiah” appears explicitly in the verse itself. This additional “proof” that Yeshua is the Messiah is quickly dismantled when one considers the fact that encoded in the very same text are ten other Hebrew names starting with a “Yud” and a “Shin” – the first two Hebrew letters of the word “Yeshua” (e.g., Yishai8, Yeshaya, Yashuv, Yishvi etc.). This clearly illustrates how it is either the commonality of these letters that is causing all of these names, including “Yeshua,” to be accidentally “encoded” or there are other potential Messiahs that, until now, we were unaware of. Were we to take Rambsel’s methodology seriously, more perplexing would be the fact that we found the name of the Communist leader “Lenin” encoded at the equally significant Kabbalistic skip distance of 49 – in this same “messianic” text in Daniel9.
Rambsel writes how, in Chapter 41 of Psalms, “Yeshua” appears in a “messianic” passage. Again, we found many other Hebrew names starting with a “Yud” and a “Shin” in this same passage. Furthermore, “Lenin“10 is also encoded in this same text at a skip distance of the Kabbalistic number 26 – the same number Rambsel found so significant when it revealed the word “Yeshua” in Daniel. In spite of these “codes“, we are certain that no one would conclude that Lenin is the Messiah.
Continued in Part 2 here.