Who Wrote The Bible Code? by Dr. Randall Ingermanson
book review by Roy A. Reinhold

Recommendation: Well written and critical of the Bible code, conclusion is false

Published in 1999, Dr. Ingermanson's book attempts the Herculean task of statistically disproving the Bible code using a number of statistical tests. Who Wrote The Bible Code (1999, WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc.) is widely available in Christian bookstores, online purveyors of books (like Amazon.com) and from Dr. Ingermanson's website at: http://www.rsingermanson.com ($11.95 retail, paper covers, 180 pages).

At the end of chapter 14 (page 137) Dr. Ingermanson authoritatively states:

"Since chapter 1, I've been promising to answer the question that forms the title of this book: Who wrote the Bible code?
By now you already know my answer.
Nobody wrote the Bible code. There is no Bible code."

I like Dr. Ingermanson's book, and recommend it as one of the best efforts to disprove the Bible code to date. He writes in a lively manner with a certain flair and a sense of storytelling, rather than dryly telling the process; weaving in personal anecdotes and helpful analogies. Buy the book and learn how one can create a strawman and kill it. I think anyone involved in the Bible code discussion, either for or against it, will benefit from his book. He gets at the gut issues of the Bible code and aptly analyzes them.

After reading his book, I sense that Randall is an honorable man; a pedigreed theoretical physicist with impressive credentials. Therefore, I don't lightly take on the task of telling you that his data is correct, his tests are done perfectly, but he hasn't disproven the Bible code. Why? because he disproves something that no one claims to be true. In a nutshell, that is the philosophical method of creating a straw man argument, and then killing it.

and then.... 

In challenging the results of Dr. Ingermanson's book, I don't want to engage in any sort of character assassination or slights. In fact, I like what he did prove in his book, namely, that there are no expected occurrences of ELSs on a macro level different from those expected a priori. Those of us who have been researching the Bible code for a while have known that. When some have said they found more of a certain term than expected, that has always seemed to me to be specious, given that there is a probability for finding more of a term in certain areas and less in others.

Having laid the groundwork for a challenge to Dr. Ingermanson's conclusions (but not his data or his tests), just what is the Bible code? First a few more of "what it is not." The Bible code is not word-pairs. The Bible code is not simplistic matrices of 4-6 terms as in Michael Drosnin's book, The Bible Code (although he has taken more heat than need be). The Bible code is not numerology.

The Bible code is an ordered design at the micro level, with clustering of large numbers of related words and phrases on the same topic. The Bible code contains matrices on the lives of individual people (and maybe everyone). The Bible code contains matrices on material things, and others on events. Finally, the Bible code has matrices on God and His nature. Yes, the Bible code also has matrices on future events (although I would warn you against frivolously doing small matrices on the future).

On a recent prime time TV show I took the challenge of doing a matrix on the future, on the "Bible Code: The Future & Beyond" show on the PAX Network (periodically repeated, check your local listings). In that show, I made a public announcement that Ness Energy International would strike oil at the SW corner of the Dead Sea, and it would be a gusher. Ness Energy is currently setting up their rig onsite in December 1999 and will commence drilling (in Dec 99 or Jan 2000). By mid-year or fall of the year 2000,
if they commence drilling, you will know whether that public pronouncement I concluded from the Bible code is correct. I publicly made this announcement, obtained from a comprehensive Bible code matrix, in order to prove to the naysayers, that the Bible code is true and that code matrices can be done on future events. However, even I don't lightly approach doing matrices on the future. Later in 2000, you will know whether the prediction of an oil strike at the southwest corner of the Dead Sea is true or not.

April 2001 update, Ness Energy is drilling at the previously drilled well, where they broke off a drill bit at ~5000 feet and then abandoned the effort, because of low oil prices in 1985. They haven't begun drilling at the site at the SW corner of the Dead Sea, although they still have the right to do it. Their plans are to drill at the SW corner of the Dead Sea when they finish the well they are currently drilling. When they do start on the SW corner of the Dead Sea site, it will take about 5-6 months to reach the desired depth of ~21,000 feet.

The dates predicted above were in hindsight, events related to the whole process in Israel and specific events, but in hindsight were not the actual commencement date for the drilling. I believe the Bible code matrix shows them striking oil at the SW corner of the Dead Sea, but in hindsight, I assigned dates found to the wrong event in the matrix. That doesn't negate the Bible code, but shows that my capability to do future dates needs more work, and the matrix needs to be developed far more indepth than first imagined. The prediction for a large oil strike at the SW corner of the Dead Sea still stands. However, I have never suggested that anyone should buy Ness Energy stock and have always tried to persuade people not to invest for a variety of reasons.

That is a prediction and not a postdiction as Dr. Ingermanson states is necessary to prove something scientifically. He states that if the Bible code is true, then predictions rather than after the fact findings should be possible if it is true. As a prediction, it is not a scientific test per se, but summarizes the crucial and core question, "if the Bible code is true, then shouldn't matrices on the future should be there, be true, and testable?" We will all see the truth in the near future. If it happens as predicted, then everyone will know that the Bible code is true. After all, no one has discovered oil in Israel previously. So this is not like drilling another oil well in a known oilfield.

Some people wrongly surmise that using the Bible code for future events is divination or fortune-telling, but you cannot have it both ways. If a challenger says that prediction rather than postdiction is scientifically necessary to prove a theory, then the Bible code does require predictive capability to be scientifically proven. On the theological side of the argument, a Bible code matrix on the future is no more divination than is writing a book or teaching on Bible prophecy. After all, from our point of view, both were created by God and given to us to use (not misuse).

Part of the design aspect of the Bible code is shown in an article elsewhere on this site in an article titled, The Multi-Dimensional Design Aspects of the Bible Code. In that article, I show from research that there is a designed optimal matrix display. There is repeatability of this design aspect of the Bible code, and that is characteristic of good science. If it is not repeatable, then it probably isn't true.

Dr. Ingermanson does an excellent job in his book, showing the shortcomings of claims by Yaacov Rambsel and Grant Jeffrey. They both claimed far too much based on minimal evidence. However, he also fairly points out the positive parts of their work.

Who Wrote The Bible Code? applies the following four excellent statistical tests to attempt to disprove the Bible code from a macro test perspective.

1. measure the digram entropy
2. measure the trigram entropy
3. do a chi-squared test of digram probabilities
4. do a chi-squared test of trigram probabilities

To summarize it in very easy to understand tables of data, Dr. Ingermanson then calculated the z-scores for all 4 tests. This gives a single number that is easy for anyone to understand.

You may say, but Roy, if you agree with Dr. Ingermanson's data and his tests, then what is the problem? The problem is that his tests did not measure the matrix design, but only looked at texts from a macro test level. Yes, I am saying that words appear in the Torah and Tanach at close to expected occurrences plus or minus 3 or so standard deviations, which is what Dr. Ingermanson's tests show. However, I am also saying that they are placed in such a way at the matrix level to provide incredible design results (in the Torah and Tanach). Dr. Ingermanson did not make mistakes in his data or tests, his tests were not appropriate to measure the design of the Bible code. That's why I said he created a straw man argument and then killed it. An electronically randomized text or another Hebrew text (like War & Peace) would be expected to have similar expected and actual occurrences of individual terms plus or minus 3 or so standard deviations. However, I go on to say that War & Peace or randomized texts do not show the large-scale clustering effect in the Torah and Tanach at the micro level (matrix level). They also do not show the multi-dimensional design aspects of the Bible code.

On page 86-87, Dr. Ingermanson describes the central point of his tests:

"If their interpretation is correct, the Torah must be chock-full of ELSs at many different skips. No matter which skip we consider, we ought to see many more meaningful ELSs than random chance predicts. This means that every skip-text must contain many more meaningful words (spelled both backward and forward) than you'd expect to see in a random text."

The answer is no, we codes researchers don't expect to see many more meaningful words at any skip ELS than in a random text. We've always seen that the expected occurrences and actual occurrences in real codes searches are close, and almost always within 3 standard deviations of the expected occurrences calculated before the search. The issue is not excess finds or far fewer finds that prove or disprove the Bible code, it is the large-scale clustering of related words by design at the micro level (matrix level). The design of the Bible code has each term in the right place to form meaningful matrices, even though from a macro perspective the amount of terms is the same as in a random text (with the same distribution of letters). There is intricate design within what Dr. Ingermanson has called randomness.

Perhaps an example would help the reader clarify the issue.

Let's start out with two empty boxes, the volume of the boxes will represent the amount of letters in a text like the Torah. In the bottom of the boxes we'll mark 150 squares with a marking pen, and that will represent Dr. Ingermanson's search of ELSs from 1 to 150. Into each box we place a computer. In box 1 the computer is assembled, we have design, we can plug in the computer and it will run perfectly. If we measured each of the 150 squares, we would have so many parts per square unit. We would also have a total number of parts in the box. We would observe sub-assemblies like circuit boards, chips, wiring harnesses, and even drives such as a CD player, floppy drive, and a harddrive. Those groupings of parts into sub-assemblies are like the matrices in the Torah and Tanach. There is design and purpose to it all.

In box 2, we disassemble the computer into the smallest parts possible until you have a pile of capacitors, resistors, diodes, transistors, integrated circuits, sockets, individual wires, empty circuit boards, and all the myriad of plastic parts used in a computer. The disassembled parts represent digrams and trigrams in a randomized text. You can shake the box vigorously, and the box will still roughly contain the same number of parts per square unit, and more importantly, the total number of parts is the same as in box 1. He says in his test design, that the number of parts should be different if there is design, a Bible code. However, given the volume of the box and our precise measuring of parts per square unit, we still arrive at the same total number of parts in both boxes. The number of parts per square unit is consistent, and the total number of parts is the same in both boxes. The difference is that box 1 has each individual part in the exact right place to interact with each other part. Each part belongs to a subassembly. The subassemblies all work together to make up a computer. The computer has design and it works.

In box 2 with a randomized text, the parts represent random words. Two parts may end up correctly together by chance, if we shake the box hard enough, but that grouping is not by design. A design does not mean more parts, it means that the same number of parts as in a random text are not there in chaotic form, but intelligently placed to form a meaningful design. That intelligent design is the Bible code. If Dr. Ingermanson used his same method of four macro tests, comparing the computer in box 1 to box 2 with individual components, he would have concluded that both were the same--the result of pure random chance, since each box had the same number of parts.

The Prosecution's case for premeditated killing of the straw man:
Dr. Ingermanson claims to have approached the testing without a preconceived notion, a neutral stance on whether it was true or not. However, internal evidence in the book may show a premeditation rather than an accidental killing of the straw man. You be the judge.

Dr. Ingermanson would probably claim accidental killing of the straw man.

 and then.....

While the prosecution claims premeditation
  and then.....

The prosecution's evidence from page 171 of the book:

"In the new paradigm we suddenly see the old data in a new way. We see the big picture, not hundreds of hand-picked little pictures. The big picture tells us that there is no Bible code. The alleged code is no more meaningful than "nude model Denice" in my scribbles or "Amy" in the alphabet.
For some people, this is good news. My wife, Eunice, told me months before I ran my software that she wanted me to disprove the Bible code. Her reasoning was that she was tired of hearing about people looking for all kinds of weird stuff in the Bible and allegedly finding it. She didn't think God was very happy with that."

Premeditated killing of the straw man or accidental killing? hmmmmm

In summary, I wish Dr. Randall Ingermanson well and highly recommend purchase of his book. He has endeavored to close the book on a subject that has many highly intelligent and skilled people, both codes proponents and critics, applying their best efforts. Dr. Ingermanson deserves our applause and gratitude just as I also applaud code critics like Dr. Brendan McKay and others, whose efforts have flushed out those who would find simplistic groups of 4-8 words and say they have a valid code. Skeptics and critics are healthy for any field of research, since it sharpens the proponents and eliminates misconceptions.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

The Bible code is not dead, and Dr. Ingermanson's book did not kill it.

Go Back to Book Reviews Index page