Works of fiction, such as The Babylon Code by Paul McGuire, hinge on the notion that Scripture is riddled with another level of meaning, a cipher. “We seem to have an instinctive fascination for mysteries and, especially, for mysteries that revolve around secret codes,” explained Marcel Danesi, Ph.D.
Why do some people believe that God created a hidden layer of meaning in his Word, a Bible Code?
Gematria: Hebrew Code
Scholars have identified an ancient Hebrew code known as gematria. Kevin DeYoung explained that with gematria, “every letter corresponded to a number, just like A might equal 1, and B equal 2, C equal 3, and so on,” but with greater complexity. “People did use [gematria] in the ancient world, more than we think.”
In other words, the Hebrew writers had devised a scheme by which they could send encoded messages to one another, but what for?
As DeYoung and other writers have noted, there was a practical use for ciphers, whether gematria or something else: protection.
If one wished to communicate in writing and the subject matter had to do with the Risen Christ, their Savior, and King, an intercepted message could have been interpreted as treason.
Sending coded messages was simply safer than writing things down plainly. But these were messages for one another, items that did not wind up in the New Testament.
An Encoded Focus
What if God used his scribes to embed coded messages into Scripture? Proponents of this idea tend to look for these codes relating to prophecy.
In particular, they search for hidden meanings regarding Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and return in the Old and New Testaments.
Some believe that revealing such a code in the Old Testament will provide added evidence for the veracity of Scripture. Others look for messages, which undermine the Bible.
Code breakers also go in search of Apocalypse-related messages to figure out when Christ will return and make all things new.
They delve into Revelation, Daniel, and other portions of Scripture in hopes of finding clues that will help them identify the Beast. Who is he? Where will he arise? And when will he start his reign of chaos? Is the Beast already here?
One giant problem with this zeal for revealing hidden messages is that the Christian focus becomes distorted. Obsession with ancient prophecy distracts one’s attention from seeing Christ now, at work in the world around his people and in his people.
While the imagery of Revelation, for example, is certainly open to interpretation, the purpose of John’s enigmatic and figurative writing was not a diversion.
Revelation “leave[s] most of our questions about the new creation unanswered — and that’s not a bad thing. John’s goal wasn’t to satisfy our curiosity about the new world, but to instill confidence that the creation would be reborn just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead.”
A Flawed Idea
One article writer asserts, “we cannot completely rule out the possibility that God has ‘hidden’ messages in His Word. God is certainly capable of structuring His inspired Word in such a complex way.”
But there are many hurdles to correctly deciphering Bible codes if they exist. One of these is that the number-to-letter schematic can result in numerous possible results.
For example, DeYoung highlights 666 — the Mark of the Beast — which could give readers the names of numerous political leaders over the past two millennia and possibly many silly answers associated with popular cultural figures.
Another problem with codebreaking has to do with “the perspective of the researcher […]. Some code-searchers claim to have found references to the World Trade Center, Yasser Arafat, Bill Clinton, anthrax, and various earthquakes and other disasters” (Ibid.).
In other words, a personal bias can lead one to answers, which fit one’s expectations. In other words, rather than expecting a would-be code to reveal its secrets, the codebreakers contaminate the results with preconceived expectations.
Why Look for Codes?
Yet the trend continues. Many people simply enjoy the challenge, but there are many who desperately search for clues as to the End Times so that they can prepare for that day. To this end, they seek out hidden messages in Revelation, Daniel, and elsewhere.
But the Lord’s Word says this: “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Christians have not been invited to find out when Christ will return, but many are desperate to see him.
One writer asks the important question: why imagine God intended to encode further meaning in his book at a mathematical level, beyond the use of foreshadowing, prophecy, and figurative language?
Jesus did not mention codes, nor did Paul. Scripture does not suggest that readers or hearers search for a hidden meaning. “God wants us to understand His Word […], so we must ask why He would ‘cloak’ valuable information that people would be unable to decipher for thousands of years.”
Another writer asserts that John had no intention of hiding a message in Revelation about the exact time of Christ’s return.
Revelation is “a symbolic vision that brought hope and challenge to the seven first century churches and every generation of Christians. It reveals history’s pattern and God’s promise,” which is the return of our victorious, risen Savior at which time he will “remove evil from His good world and make all things new.”
Although meaning is often veiled to some extent according to whether one believes or not, and also according to a believer’s maturity in faith, one is meant to see Jesus all over Scripture.
How could we trust a gospel, which is not designed to be understood? The disciples were able to spread the Good News because that news was clear and accessible. Extra-depth of meaning is there, but not hidden meaning.
A Means of Starting Conversation
As with any contentious argument regarding the Bible, the matter of codes is one that can lead to profitable conversation.
Jesus’ parables were not encoded messages, but one could certainly use the theme of code-breaking as a segue into the subject of metaphor in stories about the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
Furthermore, every codebreaker is motivated by something, whether fear or excitement, or even a longing to undermine the Christian faith. His or her personal story is a code of its own.
An attentive listener can crack that code by asking good questions and relying on Christ’s discernment.
Even a person who deliberately creates an enigmatic persona is an open book to the Holy Spirit. With a bit of patience, a loving Christian might reveal a pattern of faith which is a kind of puzzle.
After all, how can any human being demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit except by the power of Christ?
Then there are those who are simply not ready to hear the gospel. They are curious about God but look for distractions, which prevent them from facing the cross of Christ.
The truth about his life, death, and resurrection will transform them, and not everyone is ready to submit to their Lord and Savior.
A Clear Conclusion?
Christians rest their faith on many factors, including what Jesus said about himself, the changed lives of the disciples, and the Holy Spirit’s transformative power in their lives personally.
One does not need further evidence, such as hidden messages, for the truth about Jesus to be revealed.
And no purportedly hidden messages can change the good news he spread by his sacrifice; the message his disciples have also been spreading ever since. God’s Word is richly sufficient.
Courtesy; Candice Lucey a contributing writer at www.christianity.com