A review of Phil Stanton's book
The Bible Code: Fact or Fake?
written by Roy A. Reinhold

Recommendation: a rip-off book written with 2 ideas and probably written in 2 weeks. avoid.

This book by pastor Phil Stanton gets the award for publishing a book with the least amount of truth, or value to the reader. The following review/critique will reveal why the book is a rip-off.

The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin came out in April/May 1997, and was an immediate bestseller. That timeframe is important to note, since The Bible Code: Fact or Fake? also came out in 1997, and was written solely to respond to the book, The Bible Code. Given the time frame involved, Phil Stanton must have dumped this out of a word processor in less than 30 days. Therefore, besides being a book with little redeeming value and an erroneous message, it was a bandwagon book, written solely to cash in. Yes, that's right, Crossway Books and the author Phil Stanton published this book in a few weeks, in order to make money. A truthful message and studious approach to the question of the Bible code wasn't even considered necessary. Only getting the book out the door very quickly in order to cash in for easy profits. If the book had any redeeming value, I would not make the claim.

In his book, The Bible Code: Fact or Fake?, Phil Stanton makes two main arguments against the Bible code.

(1) That The Bible Code book by Drosnin was written by a person who doesn't believe in God (true, he is an agnostic, Jewish, newspaper writer). That Michael Drosnin attributes authorship of the Bible code to aliens (true, and a notion that is ludicrous to all Bible code researchers). That the Bible code as portrayed by Michael Drosnin is really what codes researchers believe (untrue, his work is trivial with only a few terms in each matrix).

(2) That Moses wrote the Torah complete with vowelization marks (nikud), and codes researchers left out the vowels in the Hebrew; therefore, the Bible code cannot be true. (pastor Phil Stanton is so far from the truth here that it is funny, I will show considerable proof for his error).

I will concede to pastor Stanton the odd beliefs held by Michael Drosnin, the author of The Bible Code. Mr. Drosnin has been roundly criticized by everyone under the sun for his beliefs that aliens wrote the Bible. No Bible code researcher I know shares Mr. Drosnin's beliefs (or lack of beliefs). These points attacking Michael Drosnin are the only valid arguments in the book, The Bible Code: Fact or Fake?

As anyone can see when looking at the Hebrew code matrixes on this site, we believe and show that the Bible code is far beyond what Michael Drosnin showed in his book, The Bible Code. The Bible code is large clusters of related terms at ELS (equidistant letter spacing). It is not 4-8 terms in a matrix as Mr. Drosnin showed in his book. However, there is no reason for everyone to attack an easy target like Mr. Drosnin. I think he should be commended for making the Bible code research area public knowledge. It's easy to pick on a person who believes aliens wrote the Bible, but is that really necessary?

Pastor Phil Stanton claims that Moses wrote the Torah complete with vowelization marks (nikud). We have absolute proof that the nikud system was created by the masoretes in Tiberias from the 5th to 11th centuries AD, when the system was added to the Hebrew Bible texts. We even have the names of the people who did it. Therefore, the vowelization marks in the Hebrew Bible were added over 2000 years after Moses received the Torah and wrote it down.

Before I go into the proof, a picture here is well worthwhile to show people what the vowelization marks look like. In the graphic below, we have Deuteronomy 6:4, in Hebrew with vowelization marks on top, in English in the center, and in Hebrew without vowelization marks on the bottom. The vowelization marks are the dots and marks around the letters that tells the reader how to pronounce each word.

Phil Stanton supports his claim that Moses wrote the Torah with vowelization marks, based on a book written in the late 1700's by John Gill. That was before all the amazing archaelogical discoveries in the last 200 years. We have the Dead Sea Scrolls with nearly a complete book of Isaiah. Do we see any vowelization marks in any of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts? No.

We have the Ezekiel tablets carved in stone, which may be the originals carved by the prophet Ezekiel around 550 BC. Do we see any vowelization marks? No.

We have discoveries of ancient Hebrew writings in stone at Mt. Sinai. Do we see any vowelization marks in these original Hebrew inscriptions which may have been carved at the actual Exodus? No.

We have the pillar erected by king Solomon around 1000 BC, that marked the spot where the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. It has Hebrew inscriptions telling us that Solomon had these pillars erected on both sides of the Red Sea (the one on the Saudi Arabian side still had readable inscriptions, the one on the Sinai Peninsula side was worn smooth). Do we see any vowelization marks for the Hebrew inscriptions? No.

Remember, this is Phil Stanton's sole argument that the Bible code is a fake, because he says that the vowelization marks have been removed from the text in order to do Bible code searches. Every ancient manuscript and carved Hebrew inscription before the masoretes, had no vowelization marks. Therefore, we know from the evidence, that before the 600-800 AD timeframe, there was no fully developed nikud system. We know that Phil Stanton made up this argument and it is erroneous, therefore his whole book has no value.

Who were the masoretes? The word means "traditionalists", and although there was development of a vowelization marking system in both Babylon and Palestine, the masoretes' system in Tiberias won out, and their system is shown in every Hebrew Bible today. They added the vowelization marks to the Tanakh ~7-800 AD.

The Babylonian Talmud (oral law discussions) was completed at the end of the 5th century AD. You would think that this set of books would have shown vowelization marks and discussed them, but NO, there is no mention of vowel and accentuation marks in the Babylonian Talmud. How about the Jerusalem Talmud finished at the beginning of the 5th century AD, are the vowelization marks mentioned there? No.

How about a witness from the christian world on the issue? Jerome wrote at the end of the 4th century and beginning of the 5th century AD, and states explicitly in his commentary on the Bible, "the Jews did not have signs to note the vowels and accentuation marks". Need more proof?

What pastor Stanton may not have known is that there were in ancient times, diacritical marks used in the margins or at the bottom of the page in the Hebrew texts. These were not vowel marks, but guidelines for reading the books of the Bible musically called accents. Not vowelization marks which are called graphemes, but musical guidelines. The psalms were sung and reading the Torah, prophets, or writings was not done straightforwardly, but in a musical way, with each book having slightly different musical methods.

What were the earliest texts with vowelization marks? Those would be scrolls found in the Cairo Genizah. Scholars have found texts with the full Tiberian vowelization system in the period from the 7th to 8th century AD. What are the names of the traditionalists (masoretes) who invented and applied the vowelization system? Pastor Stanton ought to know that there are lists of names of the masoretes. Asher the Great and his descendants for 5 generations, Aaron ben-Asher, Moses ben-Asher, Moses b. David ben-Naphtali, etc.

You may wonder why they invented the nikud vowelization system for the Hebrew Bible? Remember, that the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD and enslaved many people. Later in 135 AD after the Bar-Kokhba rebellion, most of the people in Israel were enslaved, or deported from the land in the diaspora. You had Jewish people driven out to the nations of the world, and in all these countries, they were adopting the language of the country they were residing in. The traditionalists in Tiberias along with leaders in Babylon developed the system as a means to pass on the knowledge of reading the scriptures to future generations for whom Hebrew was a second or third language, if they knew it at all. It was a means of ensuring survival of Judaism.

The book by Phil Stanton, The Bible Code: Fact or Fake?, is itself a fake. It's main argument is a false premise and false assertion. The vowelization system in Hebrew came into existence over 2000 years after Moses received the Torah, and the evidence is not insignificant. So what are we left with as truth in pastor Stanton's book? Merely his attacks on Michael Drosnin.

In my mind, this book is stealing from the unsuspecting public. It is breaking the commandment, "you shall not steal." Why is it stealing? Because most people are unwilling to dig out the truth that pastor Phil Stanton has sold them snake oil like the peddlers of the late 1800's. Phil Stanton and Crossway Books stole their money paid for a useless book, solely so that they could cash in on the popularity of The Bible Code book.

The Bible code is not a fake as pastor Stanton claims, rather, the evidence is clear that he is a fake. I am fully convinced of the truth of the Bible code based on my own research efforts doing code matrixes. There is much more in the Bible code than people have seen publicly to date. However, I am also cognizant that skepticism is OK until you personally have seen enough evidence to convince you.

Warning: there are snake oil salesmen like pastor Phil Stanton who sell a false bill of goods. One example is the well-known Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong. His liberal writings sowed bad seed for the last generation. Bishop Spong retired just recently, and was interviewed after his retirement. His words now are, "I am an atheist, I cannot believe in a God who would allow His own son to die....." In the Christian world we have false teachers masquerading as leaders of the faithful. Phil Stanton may be a sincere believer, but now you and I both know that his thinking in relation to the book, The Bible Code: Fact or Fake? was, "show me the money."

I am not attacking pastor Stanton's Christian beliefs or ability as a pastor. However, since his book attacking the Bible code is sold in bookstores all over the US, 10's or 100's of thousands of people have been misled by his false assertions and poor scholarship related to the Bible code. These people need to be shown that they bought a false bill of goods in the book, The Bible Code: Fact or Fake?

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Addendum: Where did the error come from, that Phil Stanton and his source John Gill, cite? (that vowelization marks were given to Moses at Mt. Sinai)

This error was propagated by a narrow sect called the Karaites. Judah b. Elijah Hadassi's book, Eshkol ha-Kofer in 1149 AD states the Karaite's odd belief.

"And the Torah scrolls should be pointed with vowels and accents.....for without vowels and accents God did not give them....for the writing of our God was 'graven upon the tablets' (Ex 32:16) so was their writing full with vowel and accent signs and not lacking in vowel and accent signs"

The Karaites odd beliefs were denunciated and proven to be false by later rabbinic experts in the Middle Ages, who proved to them that the masoretes in Tiberias invented and applied the vowelization system to the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. After that, the Karaite views died out completely. However, various unknowing researchers like John Gill in the late 1700's and now pastor Phil Stanton resurrected the odd and erroneous beliefs of the Karaites, polished them up as if they were true, and have served them to a modern unsuspecting audience.

It would be like a future writer resurrecting the odd beliefs of David Koresh of Branch Davidian fame, as representative of all Christians in the 1990's. David Koresh was expelled from Israel in 1987 for going around Jerusalem claiming that he was Elijah the prophet, one of the two witnesses for a coming apocalypse. That's a matter of written records. Later in Waco, Texas, David Koresh and his followers were tragically murdered by US government thugs. Now what if a future writer resurrected David Koresh's claim that he was Elijah, or that his teaching on the 7 Seals of Revelation were correct? We have an aberrant person like David Koresh being made legitimate by unknowing future scholars.

My point is that Judah b. Elijah Hadassi and the Karaites in the Middle Ages were an aberrant group in Judaism, that existed for a short time until they were proven wrong in their beliefs. Is it not so hard to believe that there could be a occasional aberrant belief in Judaism? It happens among Christians too. Thinking people ought to be able to separate out legitimate beliefs from aberrations.