The following text is from a Mail On Sunday newspaper article published in 1985.


IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD (and it was in code)
The amazing story of how a computer may have proved the existence of God

The inside of a traditional Jewish synagogue has changed little in two thousand years. Rows of pews surround a raised central platform, the women are separated from the men in an upper gallery. The centrepiece, at one end of the hall, is an ornate cupboard, containing a highly-decorated scroll, hand written in ancient Hebrew, of the Five Books of Moses, these are the first five books of the Bible - the Torah.

The atmosphere at services is always more chaotic than a church; prayers form a social gathering as well as a religious duty. Close your eyes and you could almost be in Palestine at the time of Christ, or anywhere the Jews have existed. On this occasion it was North London, on a Sunday. Instead of prayers, the attraction was a seminar - conducted by a bearded Rabbi in his early forties, from Israel. It was perhaps interesting that, in the front row, listening intently to Rabbi David Ordman, was the chief Rabbi of Great Britain.

Rabbis are teachers not holymen, so it was quite conceivable that an eminent scholar like Dr Immanuel Jakobovits could have a lot to learn from an obscure Israeli, 20 years his junior. Ordman had indeed got something remarkable to report, the result of five years of dogged research by himself and 19 other Rabbis. He had discovered that God exists. To the irreligious, it is a shocking thought, but Ordman has an explanation for them as well. In the desert, 400 years before Christ, someone had the intellect to match one of the most sophisticated computers of the 1980's. It was this computer - the American Prime Main-frame machine, installed at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem - that Ordman used to prove his point.

Ordman and his colleagues believe they have discovered a series of hidden codes, painstakingly buried in the original Hebrew text of the 2,400 year-old Torah. He says that the codes are so complex as to defy the possibility that they were put there by any human being, least of all a scribe in the Middle East 400 years before Christ.

The traditional story, of course, is that God handed the text of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. As scholars became more sophisticated in the last century, they decided that the books - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy - were, in fact, an edited compilation, a pious fraud put together by several writers over a period of four centuries. Rabbi Ordman's evidence, however, casts doubt on all that, and raises the possibility, frankly an awesome one even for religious who 'believe' that it really is all true: That the Torah is the work of Someone or Something out there.

The Torah must have been written 'by Whoever', to be read aloud as it still is every Sabbath in the Synagogue. Yet even if you read it, the codes Ordman and his colleagues have found - they are really highly sophisticated word games - are quite invisible without a computer. So it is possible that they were built into the text as a sign to future generations - who might one day have the technology and also the cynicism that goes with sophistication - that the Torah is more than just a few old books? That the codes Rabbi Ordman has found are a sign from God? Thirty years ago, even without the help of a computer, mathematically- inclined Rabbis started noticing some oddities about the Torah that had gone unnoticed. They noticed that the number seven had a strange significance. Not only was the seventh day the day on which God rested in Genesis, but if you took any passage in the Torah, the main subject of it, be that Adam, God, Noah, is always mentioned seven times. It is clearly a motif that must have been relatively easy, even if irritating, for some ancient writer to insert. But he, or they, or Someone also played another game. If you took the first Hebrew 'T' in the first line of Genesis, then counted out each subsequent 49th letter (49 is the square of 7) the word Torah emerges correctly spelt.

The same happens in the first lines of Exodus. In the third book, you take the first 'Y' and each subsequent seventh letter, the Hebrew name of God - YHVH (Yehovah) - crystallises out of the text. In Numbers and Deuteronomy it is Torah again, backwards now, but still in perfect sequence. Ordmans Rabbis knew all of this before they programmed the entire 125,000 words of the Torah into the computer. They were also painfully aware of what psychologists call the Experimenter Effect - the tendency for researchers to find precisely what they are looking for. Yet even their simplest early discovery shocked the Rabbis.

The Rabbis found that the main subject of each passage was not only mentioned seven times in a straight reading of the Hebrew, but it was also often coded into the verse in the now-familiar way, frequently more than once. The computer started to chatter out more and more, scanning through billions of combinations. It was work that would of taken mere humans hundreds of years to do.

In a 13-verse passage of Leviticus, all about Aaron, they found Aaron - Hebrew spelling ARN (the language leaves most vowels out) - coded in 25 times at different, but regular, letter intervals. In Genesis, in a section about Adam and Eve, EDN (Eden) was coded in 16 times. Sometimes the coded-in word was the subject of the passage, but was not actually mentioned in it. Instead it would appear like a subtitle.

The Rabbis started feeding words almost at random into the computer, and asking it to search widely through the text looking for the word, coded at any regular letter interval of up to 150. One word they tried was 'Galut', meaning 'exile'. Its first appearance was coded into a Genesis passage about Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden - the first exile in the history of man. Next it turned up in a passage where Cain complains to God about his wanderings after killing Abel. The second exile. Its third appearance is in the first description of Noah's Ark. Later, Galut appears in God's prophecy to Abraham that the Jews would be 'sojourners in another land' (this was Egypt).

Each time, like an eerie commentary from a distant voice, the word is there, in a time capsule.

There is an old idea in Judaism that its duties cannot be chosen. You cannot refuse to eat pork and then work on Saturdays. It is all or nothing. The Rabbis were intrigued, then, when they discovered that if you removed a letter, any letter, from a portion under analysis, the coding system was blown to pieces. Was that a symbol that the Torah was to be taken whole or not at all? They are still wondering.

The Rabbis were finding codes wherever they looked. For centuries Torah students had believed, but not known for sure, that an obscure, heroic character called Pinehas, was the same man as the great prophet, Elijah. It intrigued the Rabbis, then, to find Elijah's name coded into a paragraph in Numbers about Pinehas. The letter interval was 63, a multiple of 7 but not a number found before. The problem is solved by the fact that in the ancient Hebrew alphabet, where numbers are written in letters (A being 1, and so on) the figure 63 is written by the letters N,O,V, and I. And NOVI is the Hebrew for prophet. It was uncanny - a code on two levels.

The next discovery was as weird. It is thought by very traditional Rabbis that the Torah is a blueprint for creation. The great medieval Spanish rabbi Maimonedes said his name was in the Torah. Indeed, his initials did crop up at one point. Maimonedes's greatest religious book was the Mishneh Torah, the second Torah, whose 14 volumes describe the 613 duties the Torah bestows on Jews. But in the passage where his initials appear, so does the name of the Mishneh Torah, in code. The words are separated by a long gap - of just 613 letters. Setting the computer to range over increasingly long pieces uncovered the most brilliant example of ancient codification yet.

The Rabbis punched into Genesis the names of 25 different trees from a dictionary of biblical Hebrew, knowing that trees in general were a major part of the creation story. Thirteen of the trees cropped up, coded into one 43-word section. They put more names into the programme, and a further 18 came up - a total of 31 tree names hidden in one passage and nowhere else in the book.

The straight translation should cause no surprise now:

'... and the Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.' "To plan this sort of thing would take years," says Ordman. "And they had to prepare a text as well, with perfect grammar, a message, no contradictions."

"WE ARE NOT TRYING TO PROVE THE DIVINITY OF THE TORAH HERE, BUT THAT THE STATISTICAL ODDS AGAINST IT BEING HUMANLY WRITTEN ARE IMPOSSIBLE"

And that would prove far more than the Jews are 'right' and everyone else 'wrong'. For the Torah is more than a history of one people. It is the basis of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - even such concepts as democracy and equality. The good news the Rabbis think they have found may be for humanity itself. David Ordman asked the Mail on Sunday, as a favour, not to print this story. He said publicity at this early stage would rock the boat, perhaps change the world before it is ready for it. The discoveries, he felt, were too mind-boggling. "We don't need publicity, it would cheapen the subject," he said.

Many people will believe he is mistaken in this.

Written by Jonathan Margolis.
Mail on Sunday, 04/08/1985, pages 12 & 13.