Originally created 05/31/97

Critics dispute book's claim that Bible code predicts events



NEW YORK (AP) - A book that claims the Old Testament contains coded clues to future events - including the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy and Yitzhak Rabin - has been met with skepticism in theological circles.

"The Bible Code," written by Michael Drosnin and published by Simon & Schuster, arrived in bookstores Thursday.

The $25 book claims that the original Hebrew text of the first five books of the Bible, when analyzed by computer, identifies rabbis who lived centuries later and foretells 20th-century assassinations and the 1969 moon landing.

The code is likened to a huge crossword puzzle, with letters scattered throughout the text with equal numbers of letters between them.

Drosnin said he found the phrase "assassin will assassinate" across, "Yitzhak Rabin" down, and nearby on the same page, in letters spaced 10 apart, the name "Amir" - Rabin's assassin.

His book was based on a 1994 article in the scholarly journal Statistical Science, in which two Israeli experts said they proved that Genesis contained names and birthdates of several dozen rabbis born centuries later.

But one of those experts said Drosnin has taken the codes too far.

"All attempts to extract messages from Torah codes or to make predictions based on them are futile and of no value," said Dr. Eliyahu Rips, a mathematics professor at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

Drosnin said: "I don't care what people claim. The fact is that I found these predictions, including Rabin's assassination, encoded in the Bible and it's clear as a bell. A child could have seen it."

Drosnin said he tried to warn the Israeli leader through a friend before his assassination in 1995, but was ignored.

Bob Bender, a Simon & Schuster vice president and senior editor, told The New York Times that the publishing house believes the book "reflects serious research."

Some scholars said computers could be used to find evidence of almost anything by sorting through vast amounts of raw data. References to Jewish holidays have been found by analyzing a Hebrew translation of "War and Peace."

The theory of coded predictions in the Bible has been used by some Christian and Jewish fundamentalist groups for fund-raising and proselytizing.

Shaul Magid, a philosophy professor at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, said he finds the idea of seeking evidence of future events in the Bible offensive because it "reduces scripture to technology ... eliminating any insights or inspiration" from the words.

Alan Brill, a professor of Jewish mysticism and thought at Yeshiva University, said that the material in Drosnin's book lacks any "theologically meaningful" basis and that there is no reason to believe modern-day events are predicted in the Old Testament.