Essays by Stan Tenen

Comments on McKay's "Solving the Bible Code Puzzle"
Essay ©1999 Stan Tenen
Below is an email response from Stan Tenen to a colleague regarding the 1999 paper by Brendan McKay, et al., refuting the rabbi name-date correlations originally proposed by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg. Solving the Bible Code Puzzle, by McKay, et al., was published in the May 1999 issue of Statistical Sciences (printed in September 1999).

These comments are also an update and introduction to the 1995 letter-essay by Stan Tenen suggesting a possible explanation for the major letter-skip patterns, based on Meru Foundation research.

The original article by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg, published in Statistical Sciences Vol. 9, #3, is available (in it's full version) on the Internet on the Project Euclid website at URL: <>

The article by McKay, et al., published in the May 1999 issue of Statistical Sciences is available on the Internet at <>

Mr. Tenen's Comments:
I greatly appreciate your email, pointing to the new "Solving the Bible Code Puzzle" paper by McKay, Bar-Natan, Bar-Hillel, and Kalai, to be published in the May 1999 issue of Statistical Science.

I downloaded the paper from <>, as you suggested. This is the most excellent and complete critique of the so-called "Bible Codes" I've seen to date. I highly recommend it to all those who have an interest, and am passing this message on to people who were on your cc list, and also to some of the other e-lists that I'm involved with.

For those who have not seen the paper, let me include a few short quotes. [NOTE: "WRR" in the below means "Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg," authors of the original paper on the "Bible Codes" published in Statistical Science in 1994.]


Page 25: "We believe that these experiments [performed by McKay, Bar-Natan, Bar-Hillel, and Kalai, authors of the new paper] clearly establish that the success of WRR's experiment was primarily due to the choices made in compiling their lists and not to any genuine ELS phenomenon in Genesis. The data for the above three experiments can be found at McKay's web site (1999b)."

Page 26: "It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the result of Gans (1995) also reflects more on the data than on any phenomenon inherent in Genesis."

Page 27: "Both the overall distribution of the 132 permutation ranks, and the magnitude of the extreme values, were consistent with what we observed for "War and Peace" and for randomized texts.

"In summary, despite a considerable amount of effort, we have been unable to detect the "codes". This is in stark contrast to the near-perfect reported success rate of WRR."

Page 30: "Thus, there is good evidence against the conjecture that the present "codes" are the remnants of earlier more perfect "codes"."

Page 31: "Be that as it may, our most telling evidence against the "codes" is that we cannot find them."


As you know, I've been a critic of the prophetic-seeming "Bible Codes" from the beginning. It's good to see that this aspect of the letter-level coding in Genesis has been professionally dealt with, and hopefully laid to rest. But I'd like to point out that it's very important that we don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater." The "bathwater" is the prophetic claims made for the supposed statistical correlations. But there is still ample and robust statistical evidence of some "letter-skip coding" in the Hebrew text of Genesis. While possible changes in the text make it very improbable that the longer letter-skip patterns have any meaning, that's not true of the predominant 49- and 50-letter skips -- which are not prophetic, and for which no meaning has been proposed. These are still real, and still beg for explanation.

I believe that the non-statistically deduced letter-correlation patterns I've been examining at the very beginning of the Hebrew text of Genesis are real, and offer both a technically and spiritually sound explanation for the predominant surviving letter-skip patterns. The models I've developed, which are based in symmetries inherent in the alphabet, imply that the text of Genesis is strung on a regularly woven lattice (or system of lattices). These woven structures appear to make sense of difficult passages in Rabbinic, Talmudic, and Kabbalistic texts, which are now dismissed (by academic scholars) as no more than personal fantasy or mythology.

My work suggests that the text of Genesis is written out on a sort of basket-weaving pattern, related to the observed epicyclic orbits of the planets, and to what we would now call torus knots. Some of this -- but not the most technically interesting or robust parts -- can be seen on the Meru Foundation website, and I can provide more convincing, albeit still draft, material to those who are interested.

This approach yields solid -- if still highly speculative -- results. For example, these models suggest a gesture-origin for the Hebrew (Rashi - Nachmanides Meruba) letters that's consistent with the most recently published anthropological findings. Some material on this can be found at <>. In other words, while these models don't have statistical support, and I'm not suggesting that they should, they do appear to be useful, and consistent, with both traditional and modern technical perspectives.

On the torus-knot models I'm proposing, equal-interval letter-skip patterns of 49 or 50 letters are naturally and immediately visible, when the letter-text of Genesis is written out on each node of the appropriate model. In other words, neither statistical tests nor computers are required to see the predominant letter-skip patterns when the text is "wound" on the appropriate "cylinder" -- and in this case, the appropriate "cylinder" is specifically referred to in Rabbinic, Talmudic, and Kabbalistic references, i.e., it's an extraordinarily meaningful form in and of itself.

Based on criteria I drew up before beginning my investigation, I did notice some seeming anomalies in the statistical distribution of the letters. I have not followed up on this, but it begs for investigation and explanation. For example, the letter Samek occurs in the Genesis text every 100-150 letters (by informal survey). But there is no Samek until the word "sobeb" in the story of the Garden of Eden, 2207 letters into the text. My geometric metaphor suggests some possible explanations for this. But the whole matter needs to be explored much more carefully, before jumping to conclusions. If anyone reading this is interested in looking into this, please let me know.

Now that the prophetic claims have been put aside, I'd like to see a continuing investigation of the skip patterns, because I believe that while they are not prophetic, some of them suggest a real substructure to the text, which should be of scientific and theological importance.

Best regards, Stan

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