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Occasionally I get emails from publicists, wondering if I might be interested in reviewing a book by one of the authors they represent. Most often, the titles don’t interest me, and I decline despite the offer of a free book — especially when the books are self-published.

Recently, though, I bit on a book/workbook combination published by a man named Thomas Wright, who claims to offer scientific proof for the existence of God. I had no expectation that his book would live up to its claim, but I was interested in seeing how he would go about attempting to prove God in scientific fashion.

It turns out that the book is an exercise in futility, because it’s based on several very large assumptions. Wright is a fan of the so-called “Bible code,” an old rabbinic idea popularized in several recent books by Michael Drosnin. The notion behind the “Bible code” is that is one begins with the Hebrew version of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), and follows a standard sequence of counting every 50th letter (or any other number), and writes them in order. Examining those strings of letters, they believe, will uncover secret messages about the future. Though the search for sequential codes started with the Torah, some “codebreakers” believe that, with the help of computers, they have found additional predictions in other parts of the Hebrew Bible.

Disciples of the “Bible code” believe that God inserted these codes into the Torah as a means of including prophesies about later events, and they claim to have found predictions of everything from the names of famous rabbis to the assasination of Yitzak Rabin to climate change and the Gulf oil spill. Mainstream scholars ignore the “code” as so much bunk, while adherents insist that their findings could not be explained as random, and must, therefore, have been inserted there by God.

This is the basis of Wright’s thesis, which begins with what he claims to be an Orthodox Jewish belief that God dictated the entire Torah to Moses around 1500 B.C., instructed the Hebrews to preserve it perfectly, and told them that prophetic codes had been inserted into the text. He assumes, likewise, that every letter has been passed down unchanged since then.

From this starting point, Wright — who accepts the existence of secret codes divinely inserted through the careful arrangement of words and letters — declares that he can scientifically prove through statistical calculations that only divine activity can explain the existence of the codes.

Voila! God’s existence has been scientifically proven!

Not.

In the first place, there are very few modern Bible scholars who believe the Torah existed in any form in 1500 B.C., or that it was handed down as a whole to Moses. We could come much closer to proving that the first five books of the Bible as we have them today, like other books of the Old Testament, developed over time and were in a state of some fluidity until their final canonization, which probably did not take place until late in the first century.

All we have to do is compare various ancient scrolls and versions, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls (some of which date to the first or second century B.C.), the various copies of the Greek translation known as the Septuagint (which was probably translated in the third century B.C.), and the later “official version” of the text preserved by the Masoretic scribes, and we discover a multitude of differences. Even fundamentalist scholars who work in Hebrew acknowledge the presence of thousands of textual variants.

Anyone who chooses one particular version or copy of the text over others and who assumes it is identical to an original given to Moses in 1500 B.C. must do so on the basis of faith, not scientific or scholarly evidence.

I’m not a professional in the field of logic, but I doubt that an assumption based on belief is a valid basis for an argument designed to scientifically prove a fact.

In the end, Wright’s short but dense tome of numbered paragraphs proves nothing other than his faith in a flawed argument.

If we could prove God, there would be no need for faith. While we may claim to “know” God through subjective experience, we cannot prove God through objective means.

At the end of the day, I doubt that God has any interest in whether humans are able to “prove” divine existence or find secret prophecies, but I am very confident that God wants us to demonstrate the kind of justice, love, and mercy that the Bible calls for — not in code, but in plain (and very translatable) Hebrew.

 

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