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Decoding Bible's 'cryptogram'

Writer: Ron Csillag, National Post | 31 March 2003 |

Will Saddam Hussein be overthrown? Where is Osama bin Laden hiding?

For answers, see the Good Book

Author Michael Drosnin believes the Bible, which includes the story of Moses, holds prophetic codes.

Among the hundreds of meetings and briefings that took place in the Pentagons bowels in the months leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, one earned the fleeting disdain of The New York Times, whose columnist, Bill Keller, sniffed that "several man-hours of valuable intelligence-crunching time" had been "consumed [by a writer] who claims -- I am not making this up -- that messages encoded in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament provide clues to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

"Maybe were all a little too desperate these days for a simple formula to explain how our safe world came unhinged," Keller said.

The gathering, which reportedly took place Feb. 21, was said to have been convened by Paul Wolfowitz, the hawkish U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence, and attended by 10 top military intelligence officials, including Vice Admiral Lowell "Jake" Jacoby, director of the massive Defense Intelligence Agency, and Wolfowitz's deputy, Linton Wells, who is in charge of the Pentagon's nerve centre, known as 3CI (Command, Control, Communications).

On the eve of war, the military brass listened intently for a full hour as Michael Drosnin expounded on his two brisk-selling volumes on the Bible code.

Drosnin argues the Hebrew Torah -- the first five books of the Old Testament -- were intentionally encrypted, by a higher power, with prophetic warnings that have accurately predicted the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Kennedy assassinations, the moon landing, Watergate, and 9/11 -- and foretell the fall of Saddam Hussein and the precise location of bin Laden.

The Americans "took it very seriously," Drosnin says. "They're practical people and I wanted to give them something of practical use."

As a result of the meeting, Drosnin says U.S. and Israeli intelligence forces are hot on bin Laden's trail in that very place the Bible mentions, "right as we speak." Of course, he would not divulge where that place is.

As for Saddam Hussein, the Bible's embedded code ponders, "Who is destroyed?" and then, in the same matrix, answers, "Hussein," with the following number crossing his name: 5763, the Jewish year that corresponds to 2003. "That foretells the outcome of this conflict," Drosnin says confidently. "It might be obvious now, but it wasn't when I told them."

It could be that the U.S. defence establishment is grasping at straws, or that more and more people in Washington are motivated by a White House that frequently invokes God and religious imagery. Drosnin discounts the religious angle.

"This is not based on faith. This is based on experience. The code keeps coming true."

Drosnin is a secular Jew, a former police reporter for the Washington Post and former writer for The Wall Street Journal. To be sure, his books, The Bible Code (1997) and last year's sequel, Bible Code II: The Countdown have been used by various fundamentalists, prophets of doom and supermarket tabloids as sure signs the Good Book knows all and that the end is nigh. Detractors point out the code violates the Bible's own ban on soothsaying.

Drosnin himself says he did not fully believe the code's power until Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in November, 1995. Having learned Hebrew and the computer program that searches for hidden words, he found "Yitzhak Rabin" intersected with the letters that formed "assassin that will assassinate." Drosnin says he warned the doomed leader in a letter in September, 1994, that the Bible predicted he would be assassinated during that Jewish calendar year.

After the killing, the word "Amir" was found as part of the same grid (Rabin's killer was Yigal Amir.) Drosnin remembers his reaction: "Oh my God. It's real."

The idea of a secret text embedded in the Bible is hardly new. In the 12th century, European rabbis wrote about discovering meaningful words hidden in the Hebrew text of the Torah. Isaac Newton, the scientist who discovered gravity, obsessively searched the Bible for the "cryptogram set by the Almighty," in the words of John Maynard Keynes in a biographical sketch of Newton. But lacking a computer, Newton could only speculate. He did, however, set a date for Armageddon, based on his research: 2060.

Sixty years ago in Prague, Rabbi Michael Ber Weissmandl expanded the search. But the true breakthrough came in the early 1990s by a team of Israeli mathematicians led by Eliyahu Rips, an expert in group theory, a field that underlies quantum physics.

Using a computer, Rips converted the Bible into a string of 304,805 Hebrew letters, minus spaces, and looked for names of great Jewish sages in close proximity to their birth and death dates. He was astonished to find many matches, and calculated the probability of finding his results by random at one in 10 million. His paper, entitled Equidistant Letter Sequencing in the Book of Genesis, was published in the journal Statistical Science in 1994. The math in the thrice-refereed work was pronounced ironclad. The coup-de-grace, as it were, came when Harold Gans the United States top cryptologist at the U.S. Defence Department set out to disprove Rips work and ended up corroborating it.

Thus was born the primary tool of code research -- ELS, or equidistant letter sequencing.

What does a typical ELS look like?

The folks at helpfully offer the following:

Suppose we start with the sentence, "All of our avenues are wide." To locate an ELS, we eliminate the spaces and look for words that could be formed from letters that are equally spaced within the string of letters that form the sentence.

So, if we start with the second letter (L) and then skip three letters to pick up the next letter of the code (O), and so forth, we find the word LOVE within the string: a L l o f O u r a V e n u E s a r e w i d e.

To Drosnin and the like-minded, the Hebrew Bible is a giant crossword puzzle that criss-crosses the entire text with a complex network of hidden phrases and words -- a computer program that could not have been written by humans.

He took the ELS concept a step further, using it to claim the Bible leads to secular prophecies. On Sept. 11, 2001, for example, his computer allegedly found "twin," "towers," "airplane" and "it knocked down" hidden in the Bible, and "sin, crime of bin Laden" intersected with "city and tower."

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