THE SIGNATURE OF AN IGNORAMUS
The Canadian preacher Grant Jeffrey beats professors of mathematics
By Mark Perakh
Posted on August 2, 2000
Canadian Christian preacher Grant R. Jeffrey is the author of a number of popular books all devoted to one aim, to prove that the Bible reveals the absolute truth, is impeccably consistent and, beyond doubt, is indeed the word of God. His books, while each approaching his task from slightly different angles, have many common features and in many respects repeat similar or even identical arguments. Therefore, to judge the overall level of Jeffrey’s discourse and to form an opinion of the quality of his argumentation, it seems sufficient to choose only one of his books, reasonably representative of Jeffrey’s writing. The book titled “The Signature of God” (Frontier Research Publishers, Inc, 1996) seems to meet the above condition.
A reader who opens the book in question encounters several quotations from Jeffrey’s fellow admirers of the Bible as a divinely-inspired revelation, who are all immensely impressed and enchanted by Jeffrey’s creations. As one of them wrote in regard to some previously published book by Jeffrey, “It is absolutely the most intriguing eye-opening book on end-time events I’ve come across in a long, long time. It’s terrific!” The rest of the opinions about Jeffrey’s works equally extol the virtues of his books.
In this article we will discuss Jeffrey’s arguments in order to see whether or not they indeed so brilliantly prove his case.
The book in question contains an introduction, and fifteen chapters, of which chapters 2 through 14 present various sets of specific arguments allegedly proving that the 44 writers who, according to Jeffrey, wrote various parts of the Bible, were directly guided by God. My intention is to discuss many of these alleged proofs, but I’ll do it in an order differing from that chosen by Jeffrey. I’ll start with chapters 10 and 11, which I will discuss together, followed by chapter 12, because these three chapters most vividly demonstrate the actual intellectual level of Jeffrey’s discourse and the degree of his adherence to facts. After discussing the three listed chapters, I will discuss the rest of Jeffrey’s book.
A detailed discussion of every paragraph in Jeffrey’s book would require writing another book of about the same size. Fortunately, reviewing some representative examples of Jeffrey’s writing will suffice to form an opinion of its quality and reliability. Therefore I will discuss the book in question by reviewing only selected examples of Jeffrey’s discourse.
JEFFREY DISCUSSES THE BIBLE CODE
Chapter 10 in Jeffrey’s book is titled “The Mysterious Hebrew Codes.” In this chapter Jeffrey tells the readers about what he calls the “staggering phenomenon of hidden codes beneath the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.”
The existence of the alleged code in question was first claimed by a Slovakian, Rabbi M. D. Weissmandl more than fifty years ago. The alleged code consists of meaningful words which appear in the Hebrew original of the Pentateuch in the form of so-called ELS (which stands for “Equidistant Letter Sequences”). To understand the concept of ELS, look at the phrase “book is titled” in the first line of this section. First, following the practice of the proponents of the alleged code, remove the spaces between the words of that phrase, thereby converting it into an uninterrupted string of letters, which is “bookistitled” (if the phrase in question contained any punctuation marks, they would be removed as well). Now look at the first letter of this written sequence which is “b”, and notice that the fourth letter after “b” in that phrase is “i”. Count four more steps along the text, and notice that the fourth letter after “i” is “t”. The three letters, “b,” “i” and “t” are separated by equal distances along the text and they form a meaningful word “bit.” This is an example of an ELS with a skip of 4. Here is another example. In the beginning of this section, look at the word “readers.” Its last letter is “s”. Now move leftwards, i.e. against the direction of the text. The second letter to the left of “s” is “e”. Continue leftwards, and the second letter to the left of “e” is “a”. The three letters, “s”, “e” and “a” are separated by equal distances and form a meaningful word “sea" if read from right to left. This is another ELS with a negative skip of two (-2). It can be easily demonstrated (as it has been actually done many times) that a very large number of ELS appear in any texts in various languages, including Hebrew, English, Russian, etc.
There is nothing amazing or unexpected in the appearance of numerous ELS in any
sufficiently long text, be it the text of the Torah or a Manhattan phonebook.
Each language contains an enormous number of words and phrasal combinations and
a statistical estimate shows that many of them are expected to appear as ELS in
every texts by sheer chance.
Let us look at how Jeffrey presents the phenomenon of ELS in his book.
First, he tells the readers about Rabbi M. D. Weissmandl’s discovery of
the word Torah as an ELS in the first
five books of the Bible. Reading Jeffrey’s narrative reveals at once that he is not
a stickler in regard to the even well known facts. For example, on page 202
Jeffrey tells us that Weissmandl found word Torah
“encoded” as an ELS in the book of Genesis with a skip of 7.
Actually the skip of that ELS is 50 rather than 7.
(On page 206 Jeffrey provides the correct value of that skip).
Of course, that small error is not very significant in itself, but it
indicates that readers have to be aware of possible inaccuracies by Jeffrey.
As we read Jeffrey’s narrative further, we see more and more of inaccuracies
and direct distortions of facts, which are so abundant that it is hard to decide
which to discuss first.
On page 203 Jeffrey tells us about the paper by D. Witztum, E. Rips, and Y.
Rosenberg (WRR) that was printed in Statistical
Science journal in 1994. In that paper, its authors claimed that pairs of
ELS for words related by meaning are situated in the text of the book of Genesis
in an unusually close proximity, thus indicating that those ELS happen in the
text not due to random chance but rather to a deliberate design.
While WRR stopped short of claiming directly that the sets of ELS they
studied were placed there by God, such a conclusion was obviously implied.
Jeffrey did not spare words to highly praise the alleged discovery by WRR which
seemed to nicely fit his agenda of proving the divine origin of the Bible.
The journal that printed the paper by WRR is, as Jeffrey tells us, “one
of the most prominent mathematical and scientific journals in the world.”
While the journal in question is indeed a fine scientific publication,
its virtues could hardly be evaluated by Jeffrey who, as it can be seen from his
dealing with probabilities (see further in this section) betrays his profound
ignorance of anything redolent of science in general and of statistics in
particular. Jeffrey’s accolade
was not a result of his familiarity with the journal in question, since he is
not only ignorant of the material usually published in that journal, but cannot
understand even the very paper by WRR he likes so much. While praising the
journal, Jeffrey mentioned in passing the commentary the editors of that journal
supplied when printing the paper by WRR. If
properly interpreted, that commentary leaves no doubt that the editors did not
trust WRR’s data and published their paper as a challenge to readers who might
be willing to invest enough time and effort to unearth flaws in WRR’s paper.
Jeffrey continues, “Their (WRR”s) discoveries of complex Hebrew codes that
reveal supernatural and prophetic knowledge about the future is causing
tremendous consternation in the academic community because it challenges the
long-held belief of liberal scholars who generally reject verbal inspiration of
the Bible.” Two lines further
Jeffrey concludes this paragraph as follows: “Despite the fact that numerous
scholars and scientists have attempted to challenge the validity of this Torah
research, the evidence has not been refuted.”
Nothing is even remotely true in the above quotation. The immediate question is how does Jeffrey know about the
“tremendous consternation” in the scientific community?
His occupation is “tremendously” far from any scientific activity.
Has he conducted a survey of scientists’ views on WRR’s paper? Have any
number of prominent mathematician ever expressed their consternation?
In fact, no “tremendous consternation” was caused by WRR’s paper in
the scientific community which practically unanimously rejected WRR’s paper as
a result of a faulty statistical study. Indeed,
soon after Jeffrey’ book was published, more than fifty prominent experts in
mathematical statistics signed a letter posted on the Internet in which they
claimed to have personally studied the work by WRR and unequivocally concluded
that WRR’s results cannot be trusted. Reviewing
the signatures on that letter reveals that many of them belong to scientists who
are nowhere close to being what Jeffrey refers to as “liberal scholars”
since a substantial number of them claim to be faithfully religious.
No such document exists in which any group of mathematicians would
support WRR’s work.
It is far from true that the alleged evidence presented by WRR was not
refuted. On the contrary, in a
number of publications the work by WRR was subjected to a detailed critical
analysis and the overwhelming consensus among scientists is that WRR’s
so-called evidence is unsubstantiated (see,
for example, the material placed at the websites:
or http://www.talkreason.org/mkarep/ ).
In his attempts to make his point Jeffrey is using various, sometimes subtle and
often not so subtle, manipulations of facts if this serves his goal.
Here are a few examples.
On pages 206-207 Jeffrey returns to the ELS for the word Torah allegedly encoded in the book of Genesis with a skip of 50.
He tells us that an identical ELS for the word Torah
was also found in the second book of the Pentateuch with the same skip, and that
a similar ELS but this time with a negative skip (-50) is found in the fourth
book and with a smaller negative skip (-49 rather than -50) in the book of
Deuteronomy, in the last two cases starting at a certain distance from the
books’ beginnings. Then Jeffrey
refers to unnamed mathematicians who allegedly calculated the probability of the
appearance of the mentioned ELS for the word Torah
by chance as less than one in three million.
What Jeffrey fails to tell is that the actual calculation of
probabilities for the appearance of an ELS for the word Torah in the Hebrew text of the Torah (i.e. of four equidistant
letters Tav, Vav, Resh, Hey) predicts that such ELS with various skips are
expected to appear thousands of times in a text which is over 300,000 letters
long. He also omits any discussion
of the asymmetry of the four ELS in question.
While in the first two books of the Torah the ELS spelling Torah
start with the first occurrence of the letter Tav
from the beginning of the corresponding book, in the fourth and fifth books the
ELS for Torah, with negative skips, start well inside the books’ texts, and
the one in Deuteronomy has a different skip from the other three ELS.
Jeffrey also fails to say that the ELS for the word Torah can easily be found in any Hebrew text of sufficient length.
This selective narrative by Jeffrey clearly testifies that he is far from being
objective but rather tends to emphasize whatever, in his view, supports his
agenda, and downplay or even completely omit anything that may testify against
This described style of Jeffrey’s can be illustrated by numerous other
examples. On pages 208, 209, and 210 Jeffrey describes examples of ELS in the
text of the Bible spelling such words as Hitler, Sadat, and others.
He, again, maintains that “many academics rejected out of hand the
possibility that this phenomenon could be real.”
Of course, Jeffrey avoids mentioning any names of these alleged
academics, since it is much safer to argue against unnamed opponents.
He continues, “Despite many attempts, no one could refute the data.”
This assertion is very far from being true.
More than one scientist has convincingly refuted the assertion that the
examples of ELS quoted by Jeffrey are something surprising or unique.
Similar ELS can be found (and have been found) in abundance in many non-biblical texts. This simple
fact in itself shows either the complete lack of impartiality on Jeffrey’s
part (if he knows about those finds in non-biblical texts) or his profound
ignorance of the matter (if he is not familiar with the examples of ELS in
On page 212 Jeffrey refers to professor D. Kazhdan who, as Jeffrey wants us to
believe, supports the results of WRR’s work.
This is not true. All that
Kazhdan has ever publicly said about the Bible code was in a letter he signed
jointly with two other mathematicians, indicating that WRR conducted “serious
research.” He never said
that he shared WRR’s views or that their data were proven. Subsequently Kazhdan asserted (in private messages) that he
never studied WRR’ work in detail and therefore has no opinion about the
validity of their claim. Moreover,
if Jeffrey chose to refer to Kazhdan, why did he not refer to those many
mathematicians who studied WRR’s work and rejected their results?
A few lines further on, Jeffrey bestows the title of “Professor” on Doron
Witztum who never received that title from any university (Witzum does hold a
master's degree in physics, but has not worked as a physicist for many years).
True to form, Jeffrey grants the title of Professor also to Harold Gans (page 217)
who never had such a title but who had formerly been a cryptologists for the USA
government and now is Director of Research at Aish HaTorah, the organization
that uses the alleged Bible code as the main tool in their effort to induce
irreligious or doubting Jews to return to observance.
In other words, Mr. Gans is a professional proponent of the codes who
makes his living by propagandizing the alleged codes. He hardly could be viewed
as an unbiased witness. By attributing to Gans a scientific rank that gentleman
never had, Jeffrey is using a thinly veiled attempt to prove that real
scientists of high repute support his exaltation with the alleged codes. In
reality, with only a very few exceptions, there are almost no serious scientists
supporting the alleged codes. (Besides Professor Rips who is one of the authors
of the WRR’s paper, only one other mathematician, Professor Michelson claimed
his belief in codes. Besides these
two mathematicians, Professor R. Haralick, who is a prominent expert in the
field of pattern recognition, adheres to the opinion that whereas WRR’s
statistical approach is not satisfactory, the dispute between the proponents and
opponents of the codes has not yet been resolved and further study is in order. On the other hand, practically every other mathematician who
has expressed any opinion on codes, has rejected WRR’s work as statistically
flawed). Of course, since Gans is a proponent of the codes, Jeffrey
characterizes him as a “brilliant scientist.”
In general, everybody who is in favor of codes, is, in Jeffrey’s view,
either a “world-class” statistician, or a “brilliant mathematician” and
Jeffrey does not hesitate to provide them with titles and degrees they never
It is worth mentioning, that Jeffrey’s love for WRR is unrequited.
Rips and Witztum never refer to Jeffrey. They have said more than once
that there is nothing unusual or amazing in finding any number of individual ELS
in any texts. Their own work was conducted in a very different
manner. They applied a certain
apparatus of mathematical statistics to estimate the degree of closeness of
pairs of ELS for semantically related words
(it is that approach Kazhdan referred to as a serious research). Although there is an almost unanimous consensus among
scientists that the study by WRR was faulty and cannot be relied upon, these
authors at least went much further than simply pointing to various individual
ELS in the text of the Torah, and tried to conduct a statistical study of the
phenomenon. Since Jeffrey is
obviously not capable of understanding the mathematical apparatus in WRR’s
work, he had to resort to the primitive method of demonstrating various
individual ELS whose appearance has no statistical meaning and which can be
found in abundance in any text, as was demonstrated many times over (see, for
example, the articles at
where there are also
many references to other relevant websites and publications).
On page 214 Jeffrey describes the paper by WRR. True to form, he distorts the
paper in question in many ways. For
example, he writes on page 214, “Incredibly, the computer program found every
single one of the thirty-four names of those famous rabbis embedded in the text
of Genesis paired at significantly close proximity with their actual date of
birth or their date of death. The odds against these particular names and dates
occurring by random chance were calculated by the mathematicians as only one
chance in 775 million.”
Everything is wrong in that statement. To
begin with, WRR has claimed the level of confidence for their data to be not one
in 775 million but only one in 62,000. As is the norm for his method, Jeffrey
substitutes the desired for the actual. He
fails to mention that WRR did not find in the book of Genesis ELS either the
names or the dates of birth/death for some of the “famous rabbis” listed in
the Encyclopedia of Great Men of Israel. Furthermore,
he fails to mention that out of 298 possible combinations of names and dates WRR
used only 163. He fails to mention
that replacing some of the names included by WRR in their list of famous rabbis
with some other rabbis’ names from the same database dramatically changes
WRR’s results. He fails to
mention that almost all the names and dates used by WRR can be found as ELS in
non-biblical texts as well, for example in the Hebrew translation of Tolstoy’s
novel War and Peace, and that the proximity of ELS for rabbis’ names to ELS
for the dates of their birth/death in War and Peace can be found to be as close
or even closer than in Genesis. He
fails to mention that in every test conducted by WRR there were always
some mismatched lists of rabbis in which the rabbis’ names happened to
be closer to their dates of birth/death than in the original (“correct”)
list. He fails to mention that in every test by WRR, the ELS for the names of
some rabbis were located closer to the ELS for the dates of births/death of
other rabbis than to their own dates of birth/death. Overall, Jeffrey’s report
on WRR’s work, which he obviously did not comprehend, distorts that paper to
the extent of making that paper unrecognizable. The conclusion is inevitable:
either Jeffrey does not know what he is writing about, or he consciously
distorts the facts to fit his agenda. While
Jeffrey is apparently not above conscious distortions of facts when it suits
him, the main reason for his lack of impartiality seems to be his ignorance
which makes him see what he wants to see rather than objectively evaluate the
All over the chapter in question, Jeffrey repeats time and time again his
assertion that (unnamed) scientists who approached WRR’s data with skepticism,
were first baffled by the WRR’s results and were then compelled to admit that
those results are irrefutable. For
example, here is one such statement from page 212 of Jeffrey’s book:
“Despite the fact that all of the reviewers held previous beliefs against the
inspiration of the Scriptures, the overwhelming evidence and the integrity of
the data forced the editors to approve the study’s scientific accuracy…”
Everything is wrong in that statement.
First, Jeffrey has no knowledge of the religious beliefs of “all of the
reviewers” because even the names of those reviewers except for Professor P.
Diaconis, are not in the public domain and none of them, including Diaconis, has
ever expressed publicly his/her attitude toward the Scriptures.
Second, the editors never said that they were convinced of the
“overwhelming evidence and integrity of data” but rather indicated that the
results of WRR were baffling and invited readers to look for the faults in
WRR’s statistical procedure (which was ultimately done by several
Here is one more, rather vivid example of how Jeffrey presents the desired as if
it is the actual. On page 208 we
read: “Another fascinating feature of this phenomenon was found, in Genesis 2,
which deals with the Garden of Eden. Scientists found twenty-five different
Hebrew names of trees encoded within the text of this one chapter.
The laws of probability indicate that the odds against this occurring are
one hundred thousand to one.” Apparently
believing that no human, even Moses himself, could so skillfully encode the
names of 25 trees as ELS in a relatively short text, Jeffrey publicly challenged
anybody to compile a text of a comparable length in English containing ELS for
the names of any 25 trees. Convinced of the invincibility of his position,
Jeffrey offered to pay one thousand dollars to anybody who would meet the
challenge. In a few weeks, Mr.
Gidon Cohen of York, England, presented an English text of some 300 words in
which the names of 29 trees occurred as ELS.
Later, Mr.Cohen compiled a text in which a whole popular poem was
“encoded” as a set of ELS. This
“encoded” poem can be seen on B. McKay’s website
So much for Jeffrey’s persistent statements that only God himself was capable
of creating the alleged code comprising multiple ELS.
To impress his readers, Jeffrey often provides alleged probabilities of the occurrence of this or that ELS, giving extremely small numbers such as one in so many millions, or even one in tens or hundreds of millions, etc, and in one case even one in fifty quadrillions (page 206). He refers to (usually unnamed) scientists who allegedly calculated these enormous odds. These numbers one more time reveal Jeffrey’s profound ignorance of probabilities as well as his impudence illustrated by his persistent use of those meaningless numbers. (A detailed discussion of the proper calculation of probability can be seen in a paper at http://www.talkreason.org/perakm/probabilities.htm ). An overwhelming evidence showing that any alleged code in the Bible cited by Jeffrey can be found also in non-biblical Hebrew texts, such as a book titled Ziunim Ze Lo Hakol by a contemporary Israeli writer Dan Ben Amotz, or in the textbook on geography of Israel, or in the Hebrew translation of L. Tolstoy’s War and Peace, can be viewed at
, or at http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim
. This simple fact shows that all those “amazing”
discoveries of various sets of ELS in the Bible cited by Jeffrey are meaningless
and happen there by sheer chance.
MY NAME AND HIS NAME IS YESHUA, OR IS IT?
However untrustworthy is chapter 10 in Jeffrey’s book, it pales in comparison
with the display of ignorance and distortions we see in chapter 11 titled The
Name of Jesus Encoded in the Old Testament with the subtitle “Yeshua is My
Name.” In this chapter Jeffrey refers to “research”
conducted by one Yacov Rambsel. The
latter is a messianic pastor who has spent years searching, without using a
computer, for such ELS in the Bible which “encode” information about Jesus
as the Messiah. It is well known
that the Old Testament never mentions the name of Jesus of Nazareth (whose name,
of course, is mentioned abundantly in the New Testament).
It is also known that Yeshua is an abbreviated name whose full Hebrew
version is Yehoshua. There is
plenty of material in the Old Testament about Yehoshua Bin-Nun, but not a word
about Yehoshua nicknamed Yeshua, born in the city of Bethlehem, who spent his
early years in the hometown of his parents Joseph and Mary, Nazareth, and died
on a cross at the age of about 33 on the Golgotha hill near Jerusalem.
Rambsel and Jeffrey maintain that the name of Jesus was “encoded” in the Old Testament as ELS with various skips, together with other words forming phrases such as Yeshua Shmi (“My name is Jesus”), Yeshua More (“Jesus Teacher”), Yeshua Yakhol (“Jesus can”, or “Jesus is able”), Dam Yeshua (“Blood of Jesus”) and the like. For example, on page 223 Jeffrey wrote: “…God has hidden at equally spaced intervals in the Hebrew text the incredible message that ‘Yeshua is My Name.’ ” This is one of the most astonishing and tremendous biblical discoveries in the last two thousand years.”
Of course, even if the existence of a code deliberately placed in the Bible were proven, for anyone who is not obsessed with the desire to find the name of Jesus of Nazareth in the Old Testament, the natural question would be: “How can we determine which Yeshua is meant by such a ‘code?’ What is so amazing about somebody just saying that his name is Yeshua? However, this question is moot because actually the very existence of an alleged Yeshua code deliberately placed in the Old Testament can easily be refuted.
Before discussing arguments against the Yeshua code, let us look at some examples of such a code offered by Jeffrey. On the very last (unnumbered) page of Jeffrey’s book he presented six examples under the heading “Yeshua Coded in the Old Testament Prophecies.” Apparently these six examples were provided to Jeffrey by Rambsel. We are not discussing here Rambsel’s writings, but we can briefly state that the good pastor has displayed in his books such a deep ignorance of certain subjects he has tried to handle (for example, calculation of probabilities) that quotations from Rambsel may only render any publication the butt of jokes. The amusing point is that none of the six examples printed at the end of Jeffrey’s book spells the word Yeshua but rather meaningless combinations like Yashaua, Yasvei and the like. The detailed discussion of the six examples in question can be found at http://www.talkreason.org/mkarep . Reviewing the examples in question reveals a simple fact: Jeffrey is ignorant of Hebrew as well as of many other subjects he pretends to have knowledge of.
Of course, Jeffrey’s ignorance of Hebrew does not mean the absence of the ELS spelling words Yeshua Shmi, Dam Yeshua and the like, in the text of the Old Testament. On the contrary, these words are very likely to be found quite often as ELS in any Hebrew text of sufficient length including the text of the Old Testament. Therefore locating all those alleged “codes” as ELS containing the four letters Yud, Shin, Vav, and Ayin in the Old Testament did not constitute any discovery, was not amazing in the least and could not serve as proof of any beliefs or views. If Rambsel and Jeffrey were scientists in the pursuit of truth rather than religious zealots prone to interpret anything they could lay their hands on as confirmations of their preconceived views, they would have tested many others, non-biblical texts to see if analogous ELS can be located in those texts as well. They never did. If they did, they would easily find an endless number of ELS spelling Yeshua Shmi, Dam Yeshua, Yeshua Yakhol etc, in any non-biblical texts thus depriving the occurrences of such ELS of any special meaning. Many examples to that effect can be viewed at http://www.talkreason.org/mkarep/ where the pertinent ELS are shown, found in the book of a contemporary Israeli writer and in the textbook of geography of Israel.
As mentioned before, the main proponents of the “codes,” Rips and Witztum, as well as their supporters, dismiss Rambsel’s and Jeffrey’s books as nonsense. In particular, rabbi D.Mechanic, who is one of the most ardent supporters of the “codes” in general and of Rips and Witztum in particular, has shown many examples of ELS in the Old Testament spelling such phrases as Yeshua Shakran (Jesus crook), Yeshua Navi Sheker (Jesus false prophet) and the like. There are similar examples provided by Dr. J. Price, who is a Bible expert and a Christian pastor. Dr. Price, who is a believing Christian, concluded that the alleged “codes” do not exist. Jeffrey, whose religious beliefs are, of course, his personal matter, should have followed the example of his fellow co-religionist and to admit that all his fascination with the “codes” was just a result of his insufficient familiarity with the subject.
SEVEN TIMES SEVEN ETC
Chapter 12 in Jeffrey’s book is titled “The Mathematical Signature of God in the Words of Scripture.” In this chapter Jeffrey tells the readers, with his usual abundance of such epithets as “fascinating,” “incredible,” and "staggering," about the multiple occurrences of number “seven” in the text of the Bible, allegedly forming an intricate pattern which, if we believe Jeffrey, could exist only due to God’s deliberate design. Let us quote Jeffrey (page 230): “This character of God is consistent with the revealed phenomenon of staggering complexity involving mathematical pattern within the text of the Scriptures.”
Let us omit the question of Jeffrey’s uncanny ability to judge God’s
character, and discuss instead his particular statements regarding the
mathematical pattern allegedly woven into the text of the Scriptures by God.
In his description of the pattern involving number “seven,” Jeffrey refers to one Ivan Panin whom Jeffrey characterizes as a “fascinating and famous mathematician” (page 230). In fact, Ivan Panin hardly can be referred to as a mathematician since he had no mathematical education, never published any mathematical papers and his dubious claim to fame is based only on his work concerning the occurrences of number “seven” in the Bible.
Let us again quote from Jeffrey (page 231): “Panin completed an astonishing study during the course of fifty years that revealed the most amazing mathematical pattern beneath the surface layer of the text of the Bible.”
Jeffrey proceeds to explain the way numbers are written in Hebrew. That language has no separate characters for numerals, which are represented by letters of the alphabet. Here are the numerical values of the letters in question: alef=1, bet=2, gimel=3, dalet=4, hey=5, vav=6, zayin=7, khet=8, tet=9, yud=10, kaf=20, lamed=30, mem=40, nun=50, samekh=60, ayin=70, pey= 80, tzade=90, qoph=100, resh=200, shin=300, tav=400. To express any number, combinations of the above letters are used. For example, one hundred and thirty-three can be written as one hundred + thirty + three, that is Qoph-Lamed-Gimel, or it can be written as ninety+forty+three (Tzade-Mem-Gimel) , or as sixty+forty+two+one (Samekh-Mem-Bet-Aleph). Of course, not all possible combinations are commonly used, as there are some traditional ways to write numbers. For example, thirty-five is usually written as thirty+five (Lamed-Hey) rather than twenty+ten+five.
Then Jeffrey suggests to imagine that a similar system is applied to the English alphabet. If this were the case, the numerals would be represented as follows: a=1, b=2, c=3, d=4, e=5, f=6, g=7, h=8, i=9, j=10, k=20, l=30, m=40, n=50, o=60, p=70, q=80, r=90, s=100, t=200, u=300, v=400, w=500, x=600, y=700, and z=800. Then, for example, one hundred and thirty-three could be represented as either SLC, or as RMC, or, say, as QNBA, and the like.
Having explained the rule for representing the numerals in Hebrew, Jeffrey turns to what he calls “A Listing of the Phenomenal Features of Sevens Found in Genesis 1” (page 233).
Jeffrey cites the very first sentence of the book of Genesis, which in Hebrew is: ” Bet-Resh-Aleph- Shin-Yud-Tav, Bet-Resh-Aleph, Aleph-Lamed-Hey-Yud-Mem, Aleph-Tav, Hey-Shin-Mem-Yud-Mem, Vav-Aleph-Tav, Hey-Aleph-Resh-Tsade.” (In that rendition, I separated words by commas, and the letters within words, by hyphens. Also, in the Hebrew original the text is read from right to left while in the above rendition the letters are listed from left to right). The traditional translation of that sentence is “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
The listing of the “Phenomenal Features” in the above sentence is given by Jeffrey on page 233 as follows:
1. The number of Hebrew words..................................………….Seven
2. The number of letters equals 28 (28/4=7)… ..……...………….Seven
3. The first three Hebrew words… contain 14 letters (14/2=7)…..Seven
4. The last four Hebrew words …contain 14 letters (14/3=7)…..…Seven
5. The fourth and the fifth words have seven letters……….….,,,…Seven
6. The sixth and the seventh words have 7 letters…….......….…...Seven
7. The three key words: God, heaven and earth have 14 letters (14/2=7)Seven
8. The number of letters in the four remaining words is 14 (14//2=7)....Seven
9. The middle word is the shortest with 2 letters. However, in combination with the word to the right or left, it totals 7 letters. ….....................Seven
10. The numeric value of the first, middle and last letters is 133 (133/19=7)….......Seven
11. The numeric value of the first and last letters of all seven words is 1393 (1393/199=7).…………………………………………………….…....Seven
Having shown the above list of 11 “phenomenal features,” Jeffrey tells the readers (page 233) that “when professors on the mathematical faculty at Harvard university were presented with this biblical phenomenon they naturally attempted to disprove its significance… However, after valiant efforts these professors were unable to duplicate this incredible mathematical phenomenon.” Of course, true to form, Jeffrey did not name those Harvard professors of mathematics, neither did he tell us how and where their failure was reported. The reason for that omission is that Jeffrey would not be able to name those mathematicians even if he wanted to. This entire statement is fantasy. In fact, Panin’s alleged discoveries have been convincingly shown to be unsubstantiated, as can be seen, for example, in McKay’s web site at http://cs.anu.edu.au/!bdm/dilugim/panin.html . Although I am not a professor of mathematics at Harvard I will give examples illustrating the complete lack of significance in the alleged “phenomenal features of sevens” in the quoted sentence from the book of Genesis.
Before providing those examples, let us turn first to Jeffrey’s persistent attempts to exaggerate the significance of the alleged discoveries he is so fascinated with. Some of the eleven “phenomenal features” listed above are just repeating each other. For example, feature 3 is that the number of letters in the first three words of the sentence in question is 14. Simple arithmetic indicates that the number of letters in the last four words is also 14, since the total number of letters in the sentence is 28. Hence, feature 4 is actually a consequence of features 2 and 3, and listing it as an additional “phenomenal feature” is just a device to increase the number of alleged “phenomenal features” and thus impress the readers with the sheer number of alleged miraculous features. Likewise, feature 8 is just an arithmetic consequence of features 2 and 7 and its separate listing is again due to Jeffrey’s zeal in his trying to hammer, by whatever means, his beliefs into his readers’ brains.
Feature 10, as per Jeffrey’s listing, is that the first, the middle and the last letters of this sentence have the numerical value of 133 which is divisible by 7. However, as it is quite often with Jeffrey’s assertions, this statement is misleading. Since the sentence consists of an even number of letters (28), it has no middle letter. To get the quoted number, 133, it is necessary to add the numerical values of four rather than of three letters, namely the first (Bet), the last (Tsade) and the two letters in the middle of the sentence, Mem and Aleph.
Finally, let us view the examples I promised a few lines earlier. I will list the features observed in my examples in exactly the same way as done by Jeffrey.
As my first example, I will write a short statement which will express my view of the first sentence in the book of Genesis as follows: <IN THIS SENTENCE I SEE NO MIRACLES.>
Let us look at my statement printed above in capitals. It is obvious that this sentence was not contrived using any special tricks as its gist is germane to the ongoing discussion.
What we see in that sentence is as follows:
1. The number of words is 7……………….........................…….Seven
2. The number of letters equals 28 (28/4=7)…………........….....Seven
3. The first three words contain 14 letters (14/2=7)………….....Seven
4. The last four words have 14 letters (14/2=7)…….....................Seven
5. The word in the middle (I) is the shortest but together with the word to the left and the two words to the right it totals 14 letters (14/2=7)……….......................................................................…......Seven
6. The numerical value of the last letters of all seven words is 329
7. The number of letters in the words occupying odd positions is 21
8. The number of letters in the words occupying even positions is 7..
9. The number of letters in words ending with vowels is 14
10. The numerical value of the first letters of words ending with vowels
11. The numerical value of the first and last letters of all words ending
in vowels is 329
12. The number of vowels in all the words ending with vowels is
13. The numerical value of all letters in the words whose length
odd number is 119
14. The numerical value of the last letters of the words whose length is
an odd number is 14
15. The numerical value of the first letters of the words whose length is
an even number is 329
16. The numerical value of last letters of the words whose length is
an even number is 315
17. The numerical value of the first letters of nouns is 140
18. The numerical value of the last letters of nouns is 105
19. The numerical value of the first and the last letters of nouns
20. The numerical value of all letters of the verb is 105
21. The sum of numerical values of every seventh letter (i.e. of e, i, i, and s) is 245 (245/35=7)..………………………………………………..Seven
22) (where also 35/5=7)..............................................................…..Seven
I decided to stop listing the “phenomenal” seven-related patterns in my sentence when I completed 22 items, thus making it exactly twice as many as in Jeffrey’s list for the first sentence of Genesis. Many of the above features are exactly like those listed by Jeffrey/Panin for the first sentence in Genesis.
Some of the features listed by Panin/Jeffrey for the beginning sentence of Genesis (features 5, 6 and 7) are absent from the list of features in my statement printed in capitals. On the other hand, in my statement there are a number of features which are absent from Panin/Jeffrey’s list but seem to be the even more interesting coincidences. It is easy to imagine Jeffrey’s delight if he could include such “phenomenal” features in his list regarding the first sentence of the Bible.
Could it be that I came up with my sentence by “incredible” (one of Jeffrey’s favored epithets) luck and that such coincidences are extremely rare? OK, let us look at another sentence, which is again my own statement relevant to our discussion: <THE SEVENS OCCUR IN EVERY OLD TEXT.>
I would add that “sevens” happen in new texts as often as in the old ones,
what we see in the above sentence is as follows:
1. It consists of seven words…………………………………….…Seven
2. It contains 28 letters (28/4=7)…………………………………...Seven
3. The first three words contain 14 letters (14/2=7)……………….Seven
4. The last four words also contain 14 letters (14/2=7)……….……Seven
5. The middle word (IN) is the shortest with 2 letters. However, in combination with the word to the right or left it totals 7 letters….............................................................................................…Seven
6, 7, 8. The numerical value of all letters which are in odd positions in an odd-numbered word and also in odd positions in the sentence total 1715 =7*7*7*5….......…………………………(Seven, Seven, Seven)
There are more seven-related
coincidences in that sentence, and readers are welcome to look for them.
Maybe it was again my “incredible luck” to come across a second sentence with all those seven-related coincidences? Here is one more: <NO WONDER YOU SEE SEVEN IN GENESIS.> Again, this sentence is not about some arbitrary topic. It is fully relevant to the subject of discussion.
1) How many words in that sentence? Surprise, surprise, seven!...........Seven
2) How many letters? Of course, the reader has already successfully guessed – 28 letters (28/4=7)......…………………………………….............................…………......Seven
3) How many letters in the first four words? Is it fourteen? No kidding? Yes, fourteen (14/2=7).............……………………………………...........…………………....Seven
4) How many letters in the last three words? Yes, Mr. Jeffrey, fourteen letters (14/2=7). What a miracle!.…………………………………......................................……………...Seven
5) The numeric value of the first letters of all seven words is 875 (875/125=7). Isn't that nice?.…………………………………………………….............…......................Seven
6) The numeric value of the last letters of all seven words is 1316 (1316/188=7). Incredible!.......……………………………………………………..........................Seven
7) What is the sum of numerical values of the first and last letters of all seven words? Check it – it is 2121 (2121/303=7). Isn’t this “incredible,” “surprising” and “staggering,” Mr. Jeffrey, using your favorite expressions?....Seven
8) Also, one more “miraculous” coincidence in the sentence in question: the sum of numeric values of every fourteenth letter (14/2=7).................................................................................................................. Seven
9) is 105
Maybe such coincidences are easier to locate if the sentence has 28
letters? Let us see. Here is a sentence, expressing Mr. Jeffrey’s view of the
MATHEMATICIANS WERE CONFOUNDED BY PANIN'S PUZZLE.
Here are some of the
patterns in that sentence.
It contains seven words. 2.
It consists of 49 letters (49/7=7). 3. The numerical value of all letters is
5390 (5390/770=7). 4. The verbs in
that sentence have 14 letters (14/2=7). 5. The first word has seven letters. 6.
The numerical value of vowels in the nouns is 343 (343/49=7).
Many more sevens can
be identified in that sentence.
When one of my
friends read the draft of this paper, he sent me his opinion of it.
Here is an excerpt from his message:
Dear Mark, after
reading your article on Jeffrey/Panin,
I decided that
PROFESSOR MARK PERAKH'S NUMERICAL SENTENCES ARE WONDROUS!
Imagine my surprise
to discover that this sentence has
* number of words = 7
* number of letters =
7 x 7
* total numerical
value = 7 x 7 x 68 (Not to mention
many other patterns of 7.)
There is little doubt that many readers can easily compile many more examples of sentences with a host of allegedly miraculous seven-related patterns.
Maybe creating sentences with a pattern of sevens is
easier in English than it is in Hebrew? Let us then try some Hebrew examples.
The initial words of Genesis in the Hebrew original are “B’reshit bara Elohim et hashamaim veet haarets” which is translated in the King James version as “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” While that translation is reasonably close to the original, the expression “B’reshit” could be more accurately translated as First (“First God created …” etc). The expression “In the beginning” more precisely is matched by the Hebrew expression “B’hatkhalah.” So, in my example, I will use the latter expression. Furthermore, while in Genesis 1 we read the word “bara” translated in the King James version as “created,” in Genesis 2 the word “yatsar” is mostly used instead, translated as “formed.” I will use "yatsar" in my example.
Here is my example: <B’HATKHALAH
YATSAR ELOHIM ET HAADAMAH VEET HAMAIM.>
The translation of that Hebrew sentence is: “In the beginning God formed the land and the waters.”
Rendered in Hebrew letters, my sentence is as follows:
YUD-TSADE-RESH, ALEPH-LAMED-HEY-YUD-MEM, ALEPH-TAV, HEY-ALEPH-DALET-MEM-HEY,
It is easy to see that my example differs completely from the first sentence of Genesis in its choice of words (and hence of letters) except for the word Elohim (God) and the preposition “Aleph-Tav” (et) which has no equivalent in English but is used in Hebrew to indicate the proper relationship between a verb and a noun.
What we see in the above Hebrew sentence I composed, is as follows:
1. The number of words is seven…………………………............Seven
2. The number of letters is 28 (28/4=7)……………………….…..Seven
3. The first three words have 14 letters (14/2=7)………............Seven
4. The last four words have also 14 letters (14/2=7)………........Seven
5. The middle word (Aleph-Tav) is the shortest with 2 letters. However, combined with a word to the left or to the right, it totals 7 letters …. Seven
6. The three "key" words: God, land, and waters, have 14 letters (14/2=7)......……………………………………………………………….Seven
7. The remaining four words also have 14 letters......................Seven
8. The sum of numeric values of first and last letters of all seven words is 1120 (1120/160=7)……………………………………….……................Seven
Listing the above features, I followed exactly what Jeffrey did for the first sentence in Genesis.
Maybe the last example was easy to compose because the gist of that sentence was somehow similar to that of the first sentence in Genesis? Well, then let us try to compose some other Hebrew sentence, relevant to the subject of our discussion. Here is such a sentence:
"BEDUGMAOT HAELE EIN SHUM NESIM O PLAIIM."
It translates as follows: "In these examples there are no wonders or miracles."
In Hebrew letters, this sentence is as follows: BET-DALET-GIMEL-MEM-ALEPH-VAV-TAV, HEY-ALEPH-LAMED-HEY, ALEPH-YUD-NUN, SHIN-VAV-MEM, NUN-SAMEKH-YUD-MEM, ALEPH-VAV, PEY-LAMED-ALEPH-YUD-MEM.
We see in that sentence the following features:
1) It contains seven words...............................................................Seven
2) It has 28 letters (28/4=7).............................................................Seven
3) The first three words have 14 letters (14/2=7)...........................Seven
4) The last four words have also 14 letters (14/2=7)......................Seven
5) The sum of numeric values of every seventh letter, if read in the Hebrew original from left to right,
is 308 (308/44=7)..............................................................................Seven
6) The sum of numeric values of the last letters of all seven words is 581 (581/83=7).....………………………………………………………….........Seven
7) The sum of numeric values of the first, last and two middle letters is 392 (392/56=7)…………………………………………………………….........Seven
Since we have used three examples of 28 letters-long sentences in English, let us make our exercise symmetric by adding one more example in Hebrew. Here is one more Hebrew sentence:
BEHEKHLET KAL LIMTZO SHEVA BETOKH GIRSOT SHONOT.
Its translation is “It is definitely easy to find seven in various versions of texts.” Obviously, this sentence is again relevant to the subject under discussion. In Hebrew letters it is as follows:
BET-HEY-KHET-LAMED-TET, QOPH-LAMED, LAMED-MEM-TZADE-ALEPH, SHIN-BET-AYIN, BET-TAV-VAV-KHET, GIMEL-RESH-SAMEKH-VAV-TAV, SHIN-VAV-NUN-VAV-TAV.
The features we see in that sentence are as follows:
1) It contains seven Hebrew words…..……………………………………............Seven
2) It consists of 28 letters (28/4=7)…………………………………………..........Seven
3) The first four words have 14 letters (14/2=7)…………………………........…..Seven
4) The last three words have also 14 letters (14/2=7)…………….........…………Seven
5) The middle word (SHIN-BET-AYIN) has only three letters, but combined with a word to the left or to the right, totals 7 letters………………………………......Seven
6) The first and the second words have seven letters……………..........……….Seven
7) The third and the fourth words have 7 letters………………… .... . ……….Seven
8) The numeric value of the first letters of all seven words is 357 (357/51=7)...…………………………………………………………………….....Seven
9) The sum of numeric values of every seventh letter Seven
10) is 560 (560/80=7)........…...................................................................................Seven
I believe the above examples provide ample evidence that seven-related pattern are common, not only in the above examples, but in any texts, both in English and in Hebrew. I leave it to the readers to try identifying more of the “sevens” in my examples.
Hence, we see that many seven-related coincidences occur by chance in any text, biblical and non-biblical. Therefore Panin’s and Jeffrey’s fascination with those alleged miracles is just an indication that they lacked elementary skills and the willingness to properly verify any observations which seemed to be “incredible” before claiming to have discovered a miracle.
The listing of “phenomenal features” in my examples could be continued, and examples of sentences with similar coincidences could be easily multiplied, but I believe I have already spent too much time showing the obvious lack of significance in Panin/Jeffrey’s exercise with the “sevens.” (Other examples of coincidences involving number seven in non-biblical texts can be seen on McKay’s web site at http://cs/anu.edu.au/~bdm ). Is there any principal difference between pattern of “sevens” in the text of the Bible and those in my examples? None whatsoever.
The readers can now decide whether or not they should believe Jeffrey’s assertion that professors of mathematics from Harvard University were unable to (I am quoting Jeffrey): “construct a sentence about any topic they choose” in English, which would incorporate features similar to those Panin discovered in Genesis. Using Jeffrey’s own expressions (page 82) we can justifiably assert that Jeffrey has displayed “unbelievable arrogance” when he was “sitting in judgment” of professors of mathematics.
On page 234 Jeffrey tells us that he tried to compile a text containing pattern of sevens himself but failed and therefore came to the conclusion that no human could have done it unless directly guided by God. Jeffrey writes: “I tried and it is impossible to complete a paragraph on any topic and remain true to the system of interlocking sevens.” On page 238, he provides a variation of the same categorical assertion: “…any honest attempt to create a paragraph on any subject that will contain this astonishing pattern of mathematical features within the surface text will utterly fail.” Then Jeffrey continues by asserting that even a super-computer cannot produce a passage with sevens like those found in the Bible.
First of all, even if that statement were true, it would be irrelevant because no one claims that the occurrence of the patterns of sevens in the Bible is a result of a deliberate effort by human writers. The most reasonable explanation of the patterns in question is that they occur by chance in every sufficiently long text.
Second, regardless of the origin of the patterns of sevens, Jeffrey’s assertion that no human mind and even not a super-computer are capable of creating such intricate mathematical webs in a text, calls for a reminder that Jeffrey was equally confident that no human could create a text containing ELS for 25 names of trees (see the preceding section). This confidence cost Jeffrey a thousand bucks. It would be wise for him to be a little more cautious when making such predictions.
When Jeffrey tried to create a text with ELS for 25 names of trees, and when he tried to create a paragraph with a pattern of sevens, he failed. This failure has led him to the conclusion that in both cases the task was beyond the capabilities of anybody but God.
The obvious flaw of that argument is that Jeffrey had chosen the wrong measure – his own personal intellectual power. To explain what I mean, I will give an example.
I would challenge Mr. Jeffrey to start with writing a sonnet. A sonnet is a short poem with a strictly prescribed form. Every sonnet consist of 14 lines, usually divided into four stanzas, the first and the second of them each four lines long, and the third and the fourth ones three lines long. The lines must rhyme following a certain pattern. Of course, the sonnet, besides following the strictly prescribed form, must also express certain feelings and/or ideas in a poetic form. I don’t think we can expect a good sonnet from Mr. Jeffrey any time soon. However, if, contrary to expectations, Mr. Jeffrey creates a reasonably good sonnet, my second challenge would be to him to write a “wreath of sonnets.”
The latter is the most difficult form of poetic creation. It consists of 15 sonnets. They all must relate to a single common idea, but relate to it from various angles, subtly exploring it in depth. The last line of sonnet 1 must become the first line of sonnet 2, the last line of sonnet 2 must be the first line of sonnet 3, etc. The first lines of each of the 14 sonnets must constitute the last, fifteenth sonnet. All this structure of interlocking rhymes, lines, and phrasal expressions contains an intricate mathematical pattern, partly involving “sevens” and not any less complex than that of the sevens in the Bible Jeffrey is so amazed with, even if only because the pattern in the combination of 15 sonnets must also obey strict semantic limitations, while the pattern of sevens in the Bible needs only to follow some mechanical arithmetic rules not related to the meaningful message.
Imagine that Mr. Jeffrey tried to create a meaningful wreath of sonnets. There is a very good chance he would fail. However, even if Mr. Jeffrey, as well as many of his readers, cannot write wreaths of sonnets, many poets can. Some of them wrote more than one such wreath, without a computer, and many of those creations have been commonly acclaimed as great poetry.
Would Mr. Jeffrey claim that, since he cannot write a wreath of sonnets, nobody can? Then, why does he think that nobody can compose a text with the patterns of seven just because he tried and failed?
What a pity that unlike in the case of the alleged Bible code, Jeffrey did not offer to pay a thousand bucks to anybody who would compile (I am quoting Jeffrey, page 234) a “paragraph of over one hundred and fifty words following such pattern of sevens as found in Genesis 1.” If he did, some people would have a chance to join Mr. Gidon Cohen in making Mr. Jeffrey poorer by a few more simoleons (of course, if any of them chose to spend the time necessary to complete that boring and senseless task).
Conclusion: the allegedly “phenomenal” features involving the number seven, discovered by Panin in the Bible and reported in Jeffrey’s book, have no significance and appear in the biblical texts by chance, as they also do in any other texts. Jeffrey’s fascination with the alleged “phenomenal features” is just one more proof of the unreliability of his statements and of his lack of sufficient knowledge and understanding of the subject he so brazenly chooses to discuss.
Finally, one more comment on the last two sections. The suggestion of an alleged "code" and of an alleged patterns of sevens could make sense only if the text of the Bible were a precise replica of the original text, letter-by-letter. Obviously realizing that, Jeffrey repeats several times in his book a claim that every letter of the Bible has been preserved precisely since Moses wrote the Torah, as it was dictated, letter by letter, by God. For example, on page 209 Jeffrey wrote: “Jesus Christ, Himself, affirmed that the actual letters composing the Scriptures were directly inspired by God and were preserved in their precise order throughout eternity.”
While eternity is too long a period of time to experimentally verify Jeffrey’s statement, we can do so for a much shorter period, namely for about sixteen centuries.
There exists a monumental compendium of commentaries and interpretations of the Torah written in the course of several centuries by Jewish “sages.” It is called the Talmud and consists of many books. Jeffrey is obviously not familiar with that source of information. If he were, he would know, for example, of a tractate named Kiddushin which is found in the Talmud. Here is a quotation from that tractate (Kiddushin 30a) written many centuries ago: “The sages of the previous generation were called soferim (meaning ‘those who counted’) for they counted all the letters in the Torah. Thus they said that Vav in the word Gachon (Leviticus 11:42) is the middle letter of the Torah; the words darosh darash (Leviticus 11.16) are the middle of the words; the verse Vaitgalach (Leviticus 13:33) is the middle of the verses.”
If though, we look at the Koren edition of the Bible we possess today, we find the following: 1) The middle letter of the Torah is Aleph in the word hu (Leviticus 8:78) which is located at a distance of 4829 letters from Vav in the word Gachon which appears only once in the Torah. 2) The middle verse is Vaiten alav et hachoshan (Leviticus 8:8) which is at a distance of 164 verses from Vaitgalach. 3) The middle word of the Torah in the Koren edition is achat (Leviticus 8:26) which is at a distance of 743 words from darash darosh. Hence, the text of the Torah as we know it today differs from that known to soferim centuries ago, by hundreds of words and verses and by thousands of letters. Of course, the fact that the text of the Bible underwent many changes in the course of its long existence, has been well known to experts in that matter. This fact alone makes all the suggestions about the ELS code or the pattern of sevens allegedly woven by God into the Bible void of any meaning. Jeffrey, though, is ignorant of this fact as he is of scores of others and arrogantly tries to impose his ignorance on his readers whenever it fits his agenda.
ARROGANCE OF AN IGNORAMUS
I admit that calling a person an ignoramus is not very polite, and I do not enjoy at all the situations in which I have reason to resort to such epithets in regard to anybody even if they are those whose views I reject. Unfortunately, some of Jeffrey’s statements are so extremely rude and arrogant that they provide ample justification for refuting his claims in the most blunt form.
To discuss each and every faulty
argument in Jeffrey’s book would require writing one more book, and I don’t
think Jeffrey’s opus deserves the time and effort necessary to complete such a
detailed refutation of his pseudo-proofs. Therefore
in this and in the following sections I will discuss only some selected points
in Jeffrey’s book, starting with the mentioned rude references by Jeffrey to
those who do not share his beliefs.
On page 16 of his book Jeffrey wrote: “Any person who honestly believes
that all the marvelous complexity of this universe simply happened by chance is
a fool. If he is not a fool, yet still claims to believe that this
incredibly complex universe is a result of random chance, then I must conclude
that he is not being honest.”
Let us recall names of some people
who, according to Jeffrey, were either fools or liars.
Einstein. One has only to look at Einstein’s
“Autobiographical Notes” (in the collection “Albert Einstein,
Philosopher-Scientist,” Harper and Bros. New York, 1949, pages 3-5) where
Einstein unequivocally calls himself a skeptic.
Similar assertions Einstein made elsewhere (for example in his letter of
September 28, 1945 to Guy H. Raner Jr, where he said he was an atheist).
Niels Bohr. Lev
Landau. Bertrand Russel. Stephen
Hawking. Many more Nobel price winners, outstanding physicists, mathematicians,
chemists, writers, philosophers either did not share Jeffrey’s belief that the
universe emerged as the result of an action by God or doubted that view and did
not adhere to a definite belief in that matter. All these people of great
intelligence and integrity, in Jeffrey’s view, are either fools or liars.
Accounting for the simple fact that Jeffrey himself has no credentials
whatsoever in any field of science, or literature, or in any other respect,
except for being a prolific preacher, isn’t his claim a display of the
arrogance of an ignoramus?
It is always hard to argue with ignoramuses because, lacking the correct knowledge of even the seminal concepts of the subject, they stubbornly adhere to preposterous views. They are usually confident in their views however contrary those views are to the reality hidden from these people by the veil of their ignorance. Many years ago, I knew some illiterate man, a peasant who had a penchant for discussing physics of which he has, to put it mildly, only an approximate knowledge. One of his unshakably held views was that an electric bulb lights up when “a plus and a minus meet.” He pestered me with demands to discuss this and other questions and was very confident that he succeeded in muzzling with his wise arguments. Of course, since his ken in physics was next to zero, I had no way to disabuse him of his ridiculous views. Now, discussing Jeffrey’s book, I feel the same frustration facing the impossible task of arguing with somebody who has none of the background necessary for a reasonable discourse, be it the question of probability calculation or any of Jeffrey’s alleged proofs which I am going to review. Since Jeffrey is not only largely ignorant of scientific facts, but is also the epitome of self-righteous arrogance, as is obvious from his assertion about “fools or liars,” the task of discussing his book is indeed quite unrewarding.
Chapter 6 in Jeffrey’s book is titled “Scientific Proof that the Bible is Accurate.” In that chapter Jeffrey very convincingly proves that he has no proper understanding of some facts of science. Let us look, for example, at Jeffrey’s attempt to enlist thermodynamics as a tool allegedly supporting his beliefs.
On page 112 we read: “The second Law of Thermodynamics describes the fact that all systems and elements of the universe tend to disintegrate to a lower order of available energy or organization.” A few lines further, Jeffrey continues, “In fact, the second Law of Thermodynamics, the Law of Entropy, absolutely proves that the theory of evolution is nonsense.” Jeffrey bases his assertion on the proposition that evolution means an increase in the complexity of organisms, i.e. the increase in the level of organization, i.e. the decrease of entropy. In Jeffrey’s view, this would be contrary to the second law of thermodynamics and that is why, in his view, the evolution theory is nonsense.
Of course, we already know that, in Jeffrey’s view, everybody who disagrees with his beliefs is a fool, and that professors of mathematics at Harvard are half-wits incapable of “constructing a sentence” with a certain mathematical structure. From the quoted sentence we see that Jeffrey’s opinion of physicists and biologists is also not very high. Indeed, if we believe Jeffrey’s assertions about the laws of thermodynamics, physicists do not understand these laws since they interpret them rather differently from Jeffrey. Likewise, the many biologists who support some version of the evolution theory, must be dunderheads as well as they do not realize that their view is an obvious nonsense.
In fact, Jeffrey’s assertions are nonsense, both in regard to the laws of thermodynamics and to their implications for the evolution theory.
Let us see how Jeffrey interprets the second law of thermodynamics. When explaining that law, Jeffrey shows that he has not grasped a very important element thereof. The second law of thermodynamics maintains that spontaneous processes in closed macroscopic systems are accompanied by the increase of entropy, i.e. by an increase in the degree of disorder. A crucial part of that law is in the words I printed in italics. While the word “macroscopic” is important, it has little bearing on Jeffrey’s misinterpretation of the law in question. However, the word “closed” is quite germane for this discussion. Contrary to Jeffrey’s assertion, the second law of thermodynamics does not say that “all systems and elements of the universe” tend to move toward a larger entropy (i.e. larger disorder) but only “closed systems.” By a “closed system” thermodynamics means a system which does not exchange matter and energy with the surrounding. Living organisms are by no means closed systems. They are homeostatic systems (i.e. they tend and largely succeed to automatically maintain certain ranges of temperature and composition) but they continually exchange matter (food and excrement) and energy (heat and work) with their surroundings. Actually each normal (not sick) living organism, be it a plant, animal, or human being, continually and largely successfully resists the increase of its entropy. If Jeffrey’s interpretation of the second law were true, not just evolution, but the very existence of living organisms would be impossible. Each time a child is conceived, a process starts, which culminates in the child’s birth and in which the entropy of the fetus, and with it of the mother’s body as a whole, continually decreases. Does this process contradict the second law of thermodynamics? If we believed Jeffrey, the answer would be “Yes.” The correct answer, though, is “No.” The fetus as well as the mother’s body are not “closed systems.” The entropy of a system which is not closed can very well decrease or stay constant and this will not contradict in the least any laws of thermodynamics. What the second law also means, is that if we choose to extend the boundaries of the system to make them envelope some part of the surroundings, then, if the size of the expanded system is chosen to be sufficiently large, the entropy of the expanded system will indeed increase while the entropy of the originally chosen smaller system decreases or stays constant. Life, among other things, is a process in which the entropy of a system fluctuates about certain more or less permanent level, while accompanied by the increase of the entropy of the surroundings, and with it of the universe as a whole.
Without discussing here the merits or shortcomings of the evolution theory, we can state that it is fully compatible with the second law of thermodynamics, whereas Jeffrey’s interpretation is just a display of his illiteracy in physics.
(I will not discuss here Jeffrey’s attempts to use the first law of thermodynamics to support his views, not because it is any better than his treatment of the second law, but just to avoid an excessively detailed discussion).
Here is one more, small example of Jeffrey’s persistent attempts to interpret every vague reference in the Bible in a way favorable to his beliefs. On page 114 Jeffrey asserts that the prophet Isaiah knew that the earth is a sphere. He cites Isaiah as follows; “It is he who sitteth upon the circle of the earth…” etc. In Jeffrey’s view, this quotation reveals the prophet’s miraculous knowledge “that was far in advance of what the men in that day knew.” Jeffrey seems not to know the distinction between a circle and a sphere. Every kid, standing in an open field or sitting in a boat away from the shore, and looking around, can assert that the horizon circles around his/her position, but this by no means indicates the spherical shape of the planet which, just on the basis of what is observed, very well can be assumed to be a flat circular (or oval) disk. On the other hand, the idea of the spherical earth was by no means unknown to ancient philosophers, who observed the gradual appearance of approaching ships over the horizon, or the circular shadow of the earth during the moon eclipses, or the visible spherical shape of the moon so the idea of a spherical earth could easily be assumed without any miraculous source of knowledge.
The examples of Jeffrey’s misinterpretations of scientific facts, erroneous statements and unsubstantiated attempts to interpret this or that quotation from the Bible as allegedly confirming his beliefs, can be multiplied, but those few examples discussed above provide enough material to realize how dismayingly unfounded are his efforts to convince the readers of his beliefs.
I have mentioned a couple of times in the preceding sections that Jeffrey’s overall ignorance of science is, among other things, evident from his handling of probabilities. The proper calculation and interpretation of probabilities has been discussed in another paper on this web site (see http://www.talkreason.org/perakm/probabilities.htm ). From that article, it must become clear that Jeffrey’s understanding of the probability theory does not extend beyond some popular explanations. For the sake of simplification, these sources explain the concept of probability inadequately, grossly underestimating the underwater stones one encounters when dealing with probabilities.
With a typical self-confidence of an ignoramus, Jeffrey did not shy away from trying to teach probability to the readers whom he apparently expected to be even less familiar with the subject than he is himself. His explanation of the multiplication of probabilities and of the odds encountered when estimating a probability of an event that combines several consecutive tests (pages 171-172) does not go beyond the most rudimentary understanding of that complex quantity. Since, however, this question has been elucidated in detail in the mentioned separate paper, in this section I intend to discuss not how he calculates the probability but rather to show how awkwardly he tries to use the probability concept to support his assertion that the Bible contains numerous predictions of future events and that these predictions have been precisely fulfilled.
On page 170 Jeffrey wrote that “the Old Testament contains over three hundred passages that refer to the coming of the Messiah.” He continues asserting that among those passages, forty-eight allegedly provide “specific details about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.” Then Jeffrey quoted some of those alleged predictions, insisted that they all came true, and calculated the alleged probability that those predicted events could have happened by chance. Of course, the probabilities he calculated turned out to be extremely small. Hence, concludes Jeffrey triumphantly, the Bible has precisely predicted future events and therefore it must be God’s word.
I will not discuss Jeffrey’s calculations per se. Instead, let us look at the alleged “predictions” related to Jesus.
The simple fact is that none of those “predictions” mentions the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Interpreting the quotations in question as related to Jesus is a completely arbitrary choice by Jeffrey and other defenders of the concept in question. Jeffrey seems to be impressed by the wording of those passages in the Old Testament that in his view relate to Jesus because it is quite similar to the wording of some verses describing the life and death of Jesus in the New Testament. Is that surprising in any way? Obviously, the authors of the New Testament were well versed in the Old Testament and used to quoting it. They borrowed many expressions from it in their writing, even when they were not using it to prove the truthfulness of their contention that the coming of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament. Since, though, they actually had such an agenda, it was even more natural for them to utilize the expressions from the Old Testament to show that this or that event was a fulfillment of a prediction delivered through a prophet.
Most of the Old Testament’s passages in question can be interpreted in various ways, and there is no evidence whatsoever that they imply Jesus of Nazareth. Let us review a few examples.
On page 172, Jeffrey quotes from the book of Genesis 49:10 as follows: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloah comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Then Jeffrey quotes from the New Testament (Matthew 2:1) as follows: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of the Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.” To view the latter quotation as the fulfillment of the prediction in Genesis 49:10 requires a lot of imagination. Jeffrey estimated that the fulfillment of the said “prediction” had the probability of 1 in 2,400. Even if this estimate were mathematically correct (which it is not by any stretch of the imagination –see the essay on probabilities) it is meaningless because there is no evident connection between the quotation from Genesis and that from Matthew. What has the quotation about a lawgiver from Judah to whom will be the obedience of the people in common with the quotation about wise men coming to Jerusalem after Jesus was born in Bethlehem? There is no reason whatsoever to assume that the lawgiver from Judah was meant to be Jesus of Nazareth.
On page 173 Jeffrey quotes another passage from the Old Testament (Isaiah 40:3) as follows: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert the highway for our God.” The quotation from Matthew 3:1.2 which, in Jeffrey’s view, signifies the fulfillment of the prediction in Isaiah 40:3, is as follows: “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Again, Jeffrey performs a meaningless calculation of the alleged probability that the appearance of John the Baptist (which actually does not meet the definition of a random event) could be predicted by chance, as one in 20, not realizing that for an event which is not random the probability has no meaningful interpretation. Again, even if the calculation had a meaning, there is absolutely no reason to connect the above passage from Isaiah with that from Matthew. The only one common point in the two passages is the use of the word “wilderness.” Is that a sufficient reason to assert that Isaiah meant John the Baptist?
In his next example, Jeffrey calculates the probability (in his estimate, one in 50) that Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem on a donkey could be predicted by chance. His quotation from Zechariah 9:9 says: “…King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Then Jeffrey provides a quotation from Luke 19:35 which describes how Jesus came to Jerusalem riding on a colt. Is this really a proof of a fulfilled prediction? Zechariah spoke about some unnamed king. There is no reason whatsoever to assume he meant Jesus. In another place in his book (pages 250-253) Jeffrey devotes a whole section to the discussion why the ancient Israelis used no horses. What then is unusual in that particular prediction by Zechariah that whichever king he had in mind would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey? Of course, the probability of 1 in 50 is itself absolutely arbitrary in this case as well.
I rest my case now, without reviewing the rest of Jeffrey’s claims of
allegedly fulfilled predictions none of which are better substantiated than the
three quoted above. All of them are actually arbitrary interpretations of
quotations without any factual basis, accompanied by a meaningless calculation
of probabilities of events which were not random.
JEFFREY COUNTS THE POPULATION OF THE EARTH
On pages 125 through 127 of Jeffrey’s book we find a section titled “The Population of the Earth.”
Let us quote from page 125: “Obviously, a huge discrepancy exists between the evolutionists’ suggestion of man’s origin approximately one million years ago compared to the Bible’s declaration of man’s creation by God approximately six thousand years ago.” Indeed, the discrepancy is huge, and that statement is one of the very few correct statements in Jeffrey’s book. However, even this, generally correct, assertion requires amendments. First, the conclusion that man appeared on the earth roughly one million years ago is not a consequence of an evolutionary theory. This conclusion is based on archeological data. Therefore it is not a “suggestion by evolutionists,” but a scientific theory supported by a large body of evidence. Of course, the biblical story about the creation of man about six thousand years ago is indeed a “suggestion” lacking any evidence besides the assertion in the Bible itself.
To support his belief in the inerrancy of the biblical story, Jeffrey offers demographic calculations. He suggests to start his calculations assuming that the entire present population of the earth consists of descendants of just one couple of survivors of the Flood. The latter, according to Jeffrey’s suggestion, took place some forty-three hundred years ago. Since, according to the Bible, there were eight survivors, i.e. four couples after the Flood, Jeffrey presents his account for only one rather than for four couples as a manifestation of his impartiality. His next assumption is that every family throughout history produced on the average 2.5 children. Again, since, in his view, the actual rate of growth was larger, this conservative assumption proves his impartiality. Finally, Jeffrey suggests that the average lifespan of a generation was forty-three years, again a very conservative estimation. Then the number of generations. between the time of the Flood and today is estimated as one hundred. Based on these three estimates – one original couple, 2.5 children per couple, and one hundred generations - Jeffrey calculated that the population of the earth today must have reached about five billion. In Jeffrey’s opinion, “it is fascinating that the earth’s population today is almost identical with what we would expect if mankind began repopulating the earth after the Flood forty-three hundred years ago.” What a triumph for the believers in the Bible’s story!
On the other hand, if man existed for about one million years, says Jeffrey, then we would have to account for 23,256 consecutive generations. Repeating the calculation based on the same assumptions as used for the biblical account, we would arrive at an enormous number of people that must live on the earth today, namely ten to the power of 2091.
Of course, these numbers can only cause laughter among experts in demographics.
Jeffrey does not tell the readers how exactly he calculated the number - about 5 billion – of people living today. However, his assumptions – only one couple starting the proliferation after the Flood, one hundred generations after the Flood, the lifespan of forty-three years per generation and 2.5 children per couple – enable us to figure it out. If every forty-three years every 2 people were replaced, on the average, by 2.5 people, then every forty-three years the population of the earth increased 2.5/2=1.25 times (i.e. by 25%). Then the total of one hundred generations must result in the increase of the population by 4.9 billion times (i.e. 1.25 to the power of one hundred). Apparently, that is how Jeffrey came up with the quoted number of roughly five billion people.
The above calculation shows why Jeffrey arbitrarily chose to account for only one couple of Flood survivors rather than for all the four couples of the biblical account, and why he arbitrarily chose the lifespan of a generation to be forty-three years. It was contrived a posteriori to get the desired number – about five billion people living today. In doing that, Jeffrey conveniently forgot to multiply his number by 2, the initial number of the Flood survivors he chose to account for. If he did multiply, his number would not be about 5 but about 10 billion, i.e. almost twice the actual population of our planet today. If, though, he had accounted for Shem, Ham and Japheth with their wives, rather than for only one surviving couple, he would have arrived at about thirty billion instead of five billion.
However, the actual absurdity of Jeffrey’s calculation is much worse, as it can be seen if we try to apply his method of calculation to some other situations.
Here are some examples. Jeffrey professed his unshakable belief in the biblical story. According to that story, when the Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt, the Jewish nation consisted of 600,000 men, plus an unknown number of women and children. If we assume that the number of women was roughly equal to that of men, and that each couple, by a very conservative estimate, had at least one child, the total number of Jews fleeing Egypt must have been at least about 1.5 million people (some rabbinical sources estimate that number to be closer to 2.5 million, but let us choose a more conservative estimate). If that number is correct, a natural assumption is that the total population of Egypt was at least several million. Indeed, archeological data indicate that about 3,300 years ago, when the exodus of the Jews supposedly occurred, the population of Egypt was about 2.5 million people. Of course, besides Egypt, there were other countries, so the total population of the earth must have been, at that time, many millions.
Let us see if any of the two numbers – either 1.5 million of Jews or 2.5 million of Egyptians living at the time of the alleged exodus, can be reconciled with Jeffrey’s calculations.
The exodus, according to the Torah's chronology, took place about 3,300 years ago. Then the time interval between the Flood and the exodus, according to the biblical story, was about 1,000 years. If the lifespan of a generation, according to Jeffrey’s assumption, was 43 years, then the number of generations that lived between the Flood and the exodus must have been 1000/43, which rounds up to 23. If the proliferation after the Flood started with only three couples (Shem, Ham and Japheth with their wives) the population of the earth at the time of Exodus, according to Jeffrey’s calculations, must have been "6 times 1.25 to the power of 23," which is only about 1,016 people, rather than millions! Yes, Mr. Jeffrey, your calculation is hopelessly at odds with the very biblical data you so firmly believe in.
Now look at the time that elapsed after the exodus. Let us estimate only the population of Egypt, which, as we have mentioned before, was, some 3,300 years ago, roughly 2.5 million people. During the about 3,300 years that elapsed since the alleged exodus, the number of generations, each living for 43 years, as per Jeffrey’s assumptions, must have been 3300/43 which rounds up to 77. Then the population of Egypt in our time, if we apply Jeffrey’s calculation, must have become "2.5 million, times 1.25 to the power of 77," yielding over 72 trillion (72,000,000,000,000) people. Even if we account for possible migration of people from and to Egypt, the absurdity of that number is too obvious.
Hence, whatever way we analyze Jeffrey’s estimation of the population growth, we find that his approach yields absurd numbers. For relatively short periods of time, Jeffrey's calculation yields unreasonably low numbers, while for long periods of time it yields absurdly large numbers.
In particular, if we discuss the population growth over the course of millennia, we have to remember that wars, famine, diseases, greatly impeded population growth. Just a few hundred years ago, half of the Europe’s population perished in the course of a few years because of the plague. How many times did similar epidemics happen at the dawn of human history?
The actual rate of population increase over millennia was of course much-much lower than Jeffrey’s calculation suggests. Moreover, because of the much lower rate of the population growth, not only the number of people living today, but also the total number of people who have ever lived is much less than Jeffrey’s estimate implies. Contrary to Jeffrey’s assertion, the “trillions of skeletons” are not “predicted by the theory of the evolutionary scientists.”
The archeological data unequivocally show that man existed long before that day about six thousand years ago when, according to the Bible, the first man was created out of dust. Even on the remote islands of the Pacific, populated later than the continents, a human society already existed about 30,000 years ago.
Of course, Jeffrey offers no arguments whatsoever which would refute the archeological evidence.
JEFFREY CONFIRMS THE NEW TESTAMENT’S ACCOUNT
Chapter 5 in Jeffrey’s book is titled “The Historical Evidence About Jesus Christ.” Since we already are familiar, from the preceding sections, with Jeffrey’s handling of facts, we can expect distortions, misrepresentations and misinterpretations to abound also in this chapter. Indeed, that is what we find in Chapter 5.
Rather than to discuss at length all alleged proofs of the authenticity of the Gospels offered by Jeffrey, which would require many pages of discussion, let us concentrate only on a few examples of Jeffrey’s discourse which are typical of his treatment of facts.
a) On page 91 we see a section titled “Evidence about Jesus from Flavius Josephus.” Flavius Josephus, whose original name was Yoseph Ben Mattatiahu, was at one time a commander of Jewish warriors who defended the fortress of Yotapata in the Galilee against the onslaught of Romans under the command of the future Emperor of Rome Vespasian. When the fortress fell to the Romans, Yoseph surrendered to the Romans and later became a Roman citizen of high stature. He wrote several books, some of which, including “Antiquities of the Jews,” survived until our time. He was writing that book some sixty years after the supposed death of Jesus of Nazareth. Josephus Flavius was born in AD 37, i.e. several years after the date (about AD 33) assumed as that of Jesus’ crucifixion. He could not have witnessed the events described in the four Gospels if these events indeed occurred in the first three decades of the first century. All Josephus could do was to repeat a story he heard from someone else. Possibly, he had access to the sacred texts of what he called the “Christian tribe,” since in his time a Christian community existed in Rome. Therefore, the passage in Josephus’s book telling the story about Jesus has none of evidentiary value as a testimony by a witness would. Moreover, some details of that story have caused suspicion that the passage in question is a later insertion by some Christian scribe in order to create a forged testimony by a supposedly unbiased historian. Josephus himself was a Jewish priest, an observant Jew who would not view Jesus as Son of God and the Messiah. This is evident, in particular, from another book by Josephus, “Against Apion,” which was probably the first book ever to denounce anti-Semitism and defend Judaism. Therefore the passage in question sounds quite out of line with Josephus' style and attitude. In the passage in question, Jesus is referred to as "Christ." It is hard to imagine that, characterizing Jesus, Josephus Flavius, who was fluent in Greek, would use the word “Christ” which is the Greek word for Messiah. He also knew very well that it was unthinkable for Jewish elders and priests to suggest to a Roman governor to condemn a Jew to the cross. Being well aware of Jewish customs and religion, which, among other things, forbade transferring a Jew for trial to Gentiles (especially during the holiday of Passover!) and for whom the crucifixion was anyway an abomination, Josephus Flavius would hardly accept the story about Jesus at face value and repeat it without comments. These considerations give weight to the suggestion that the passage in question is a later insert by some Christian forger. However, even if Josephus had indeed written the passage in question, it has no evidentiary significance being just hearsay, a story he obtained from some other, unknown source.
b) Other references by Jeffrey to various non-Christian sources (Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Cornelius Tacitus) are no more convincing than that with Josephus Flavius. They boil down to repeating some limited information about the activities of early Christians, with vague references to the founder of their “cult” of whom none of the quoted authors had any first-hand knowledge. All of them simply repeated the story they heard about those early Christians and about the alleged founder of their creed.
All other references by Jeffrey are of the same quality: vague stories about John the Baptist and James, brother of Jesus, which the quoted authors heard from someone else and of which they had no personal knowledge.
c) One of the most preposterous (and actually mendacious) claims by Jeffrey is found on pages 97 through 105. Here Jeffrey refers to the famous Dead Sea scrolls and claims that in these scrolls there are proofs of the Gospel’s authenticity. This claim is absolutely unsubstantiated. The Dead Sea scrolls comprise hundreds of fragments of various manuscripts of which many originated at the time of Jesus’ supposed life and death. There are amongst the scrolls parts of all books of the Old Testament except for the book of Esther (but not a single fragment which could be proven to be a segment of the New Testament) and multiple documents of that time, both of civic and religious contents. The fact, quite damaging to Jeffrey’s beliefs, is that there is not a single word about Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus born in Bethlehem, or Jesus son of Joseph and Mary, or any Jesus (Yeshua), in any of the Dead Sea scrolls. All of Jeffrey’s unfounded attempts to connect this or that fragment of the Dead Sea scrolls with Jesus, the alleged founder of Christianity, are without merit and border on a deliberate distortion of facts. Of course, Jeffrey could say that the absence of proof is not a proof of absence and I would agree with such a statement. Unfortunately, Jeffrey chose another way, to twist the meaning of certain quotations from the scrolls in question in order to support his beliefs. Let us review a couple of examples.
On page 99 Jeffrey wrote: “In 1991 the world was astonished to hear that one of the unpublished scrolls included incredible references to a “Messiah” who suffered crucifixion for the sins of men.” According to Jeffrey, the “scroll also describes the Messiah as a ‘leader of the community’ who was ‘put to death.’” The fragment of a scroll in question, the total of only five lines, is believed to have been written by an Essene scribe. It actually refers to Isaiah but makes no mention of Jesus or anybody from Nazareth, or anybody born in Bethlehem or anybody crucified in Jerusalem about AD 33, and, contrary to Jeffrey’s assertion, has no features whatsoever which would be common with any part of the New Testament except for the mention that the Messiah was a “shoot of Jesse.” The latter reference is of no special meaning in regard to Jesus because it was established tradition in Judaism that the Messiah would come from the descendants of King David (whose father’s name was, in its English rendition, Jesse). Likewise, the reference in that scroll to the Messiah’s hands and feet being pierced does not mean anything because such treatment of condemned men was quite usual for the Romans at that time. Thousands and thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans and the hands and feet of the victims were routinely broken and pierced. Jeffrey’s statement that “this scroll confirms the historical truthfulness of the New Testament record about Jesus and His crucifixion” is just an attempt to put a favorable spin on something which actually has no bearing on his thesis.
On page 101 Jeffrey tells about another “fascinating discovery” of a scroll mentioning The Son of God. Again, this scroll, reflecting the beliefs of an unknown scribe, makes no reference whatsoever to the Jesus of the Gospels. Jeffrey finds similarity between the wording in that scroll and some phrases in Luke 1:32 and 35. Such similarity is not surprising at all. Luke, who, according to the Christian tradition, was a physician, must have been an educated man well familiar with the ways of expression in his contemporary writings, sermons, and discussions of religious questions. It was only natural that some phrases in his writing were similar in style and vocabulary to creations of other writers of that time. To conclude from the above similarity of style that the scroll in question confirms the Gospel’s tale seems to be a rather far-fetched proposition.
The story told in the four Gospels supposedly refers to events of pivotal importance in the history of civilization. Hundreds of manuscripts, originated at the time of the events described in the Gospels, both known before the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls and those found starting in 1947 in the caves at the Dead Sea, never mention the name of the supposed central figure of those events and make no obvious reference to him or to his life and death. This fact, while not necessarily proving that the Gospel’s story is fiction, nevertheless provides a strong argument to the opponents of the Gospels’ truthfulness. Jeffrey’s assertions to the contrary are utterly unfounded and cannot be accepted seriously.
The rest of Jeffrey’s examples are of the same type. He quotes some words from a scroll which have no signs of being related to Jesus, and without any factual basis for it, asserts that the writer of the scroll meant something confirming Jeffrey’s beliefs. Reviewing that part of Jeffrey’s book amply illustrates the lack of real proofs at his disposal and his desperate determination to create alleged proofs from whatever material is at hand. It would be funny if it were not sad that such a farrago of unsubstantiated claims and obvious distortions becomes a best seller and excites those readers who have no sufficient educational background to see through Jeffrey’s skullduggeries.
d) Jeffrey must be given credit for his attitude towards Jews, since, unlike some of his fellow Christians, he has no anti-Semitic trends in his book. On the contrary, Jeffrey has some kind words in regard to Jewish people, as, for example, on page 34: “Jewish people are known for their brilliance and their willingness to debate at great length any issue involving their religion and history.” Throughout his book, Jeffrey makes numerous references to Jewish sources, whenever they, in his view, confirm his beliefs, asserting the reliability of those sources. However, readers would search in his book in vain for any discussion of the question why the people known for their brilliance refused to share his beliefs in the divine origin and mission of Jesus. Jeffrey could find the explanation of the Jewish view of Jesus in a multitude of Jewish sources. It would force him to argue against those same brilliant people who, as he asserts, provided, to his delight, numerous proofs of the validity of the Old Testament but, on the other hand, expressed a variety of historical, religious and simply logical arguments against the veracity of the Gospels.
This is just one more example of Jeffrey’s selective approach to the arguments related to his agenda.
INFLUENCE OF JESUS AS A PROOF OF JEFFREY’S BELIEFS
On page 96 Jeffrey quoted approvingly from a book by Philip Schlaff “The Person of Christ,” as follows: “This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon…. Without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.”
Is the above statement true? Except for including the name of Mohammed in it, it is, as long as the immense influence of Christianity on the culture of many nations is meant. It is not true, though, when it implies that such influence is absolutely unique.
Yes, an enormous body of literature, beautiful sculptures, great paintings and poems, dissertations and historical studies have been inspired by the story of the life and death of a poor and unarmed traveling rabbi from Nazareth, regardless of whether or not it is an actual story or a legend. However, a similar statement equally applies to some other figures, first of all to Mohammed and Buddha. The numbers of people who accept the teachings of each of these two historical figures is about as large as that of the Christians. The scope of literature and art inspired by them is as impressive as that inspired by Christianity. The incomparably beautiful architecture of temples in India, Thailand and Cambodia was inspired by religions having nothing in common with Jesus or Christianity. Such examples can be easily multiplied.
There are also many examples of the enormous influence of certain persons on scores of other people, differing from Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha only in the scale of that influence. Moreover, there are ample examples of evil personalities who nevertheless had very large followings and became the subjects of art, literature and studies. Of course, the maniacal jester Hitler comes to mind as an example. This man had neither money nor arms when he started his crusade aimed at conquering the world and annihilating Jews, Gypsies, and mentally ill people, while killing in the process also thousands of Poles, Russians, and even scores of his fellow Germans. For twelve years, he succeeded in converting tens of millions of educated, talented and industrious people into a nation of murderers, and only the resounding defeat of his valiantly fighting hordes and the catastrophic destruction of the country caused the awakening of his brainwashed followers.
Stalin organized a massacre of millions of his fellow citizens but during World War II Russian soldiers fought and died shouting his name.
Of course, there are many other examples of the absolute power of certain personalities over the life and death of their followers. Pastor Jones led eight hundred of his followers to a senseless suicide. There are known other similar occurrences.
Despite the difference in scale and motivations between these phenomena, they all have important features in common. A charismatic personality captures the minds and imagination of scores of people who become faithful followers of whatever ideas, conceptions, and ways of life the founder of that particular faith or political views expounds. While the mass psychology underlying such phenomena has not been sufficiently understood, one thing is obvious. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and other religions contradict each other in many respects. They cannot all be equally true. However, each of those religions has millions of followers. The number of followers of this or that conception or religion and the degree of their devotion to that conception or religion by no means signifies that the tenets of this or that religion or teaching are true. Therefore, Jeffrey’s and Schlaff’s reference to the immense influence of Christianity on the culture of the Western world, however true and impressive, cannot be viewed as proof of the doctrine of that religion or of the story told in the Gospels.
In the preceding sections of this article, I mentioned a couple of times that reviewing all chapters and paragraphs in Jeffrey’s book would require a book of about the same size and that therefore I chose to limit my review to selected sections only. It may raise a natural question, of whether or not my selection of items for review was governed by an agenda. In other words, the question may be whether or not the sections omitted in my review deserve praise or at least are to be accepted as a reasonable discourse. My answer to that question is a categorical No. While my choice of items subjected to review was to some extent influenced by my own areas of interest, I can assert that I have read the rest of Jeffrey’s book and did not find there a single item I would accept as reasonable. Whatever topic Jeffrey discusses, be it archeological data allegedly confirming the biblical story (pages 69-80) or his explanation of the origin of the circumcision custom (pages155-156) or the many other subjects Jeffrey chose to discuss, it is always replete with exaggerations, imprecision, inaccuracies, direct errors and distortions, all aimed at allegedly proving Jeffrey’s professed beliefs.
Some readers may gain an impression that I am against books discussing the validity of religious claims via rational argumentation. To some extent it is true. It does not mean I am against books discussing religious claims, regardless of their authors’ position. What I am against is the attempts to use allegedly rational and/or scientific proofs of the validity of religious beliefs without strictly adhering to facts while twisting scientific theories either because of ignorance or because of deliberate deception by the writers.
Unfortunately, Jeffrey’s book in question is an epitome of such a creation by an ignoramus who both has no real understanding of science and distorts the historical evidence at will. More often than not, even when Jeffrey makes some statement which is true in general, it still requires amendments to get rid of some inaccuracy.
The famous Russian-Jewish physicist Lev Landau, reviewing some dissertation of a young physicist, wrote in his customary blunt and humorous style that the reviewed piece contained many items that were new and interesting. Unfortunately, concluded Landau, everything that was new was not interesting while everything that was interesting was not new. Borrowing from Landau and slightly paraphrasing him, we can state that Jeffrey’s book contains many items that are relevant and true. Unfortunately, everything that is relevant is not true, while everything that is true is irrelevant.
Perakh's main page: http://www.talkreason.org/marperak/ .