For Hacking the Humanities this year I would love to textmine a sacred text, looking for the uses of female pronouns. So, while doing research on text mining and the King James Version Bible (one of the many translations available), I came across something quite interesting:
The Bible has been textmined for prophecies.
and some of them came true?
Well, if we are to believe avid Bible-Coder Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson, who owns a Youtube channel where he uploads his findings, the Hebrew bible not only predicted Donald Trump winning and then losing the presidential election and the appearance Corona-virus, but also that it would spring from bad bat-meat. The most entrancing videos are justly referred to as ‘World’s end’ videos.
But how does this form of textmining, referred to as the ‘Bible Code’ work?
The process used for bible-coding is called Equidistant Letter Sequence method, or ELS. It is, in a sense, quite similar to a word search quiz (woordzoeker in Dutch). You choose a starting point – in this case a letter, and a number of skips, and try to create words this way. In the example below we see how the words ‘bible’ and ‘code’ can be spelled out using ELS. In the example, the words bible has a skip number of 5.
‘Bible Code‘ spelled out in ESL
Source of image: Cmglee https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72238456
While it looks rather strange – not to mention somewhat childish – the ESL methods works on bible texts as well: the image above contains only the letters of Genesis 26:5-10, the first book of the Bible. If you read carefully from the top, you will be able to see that the first two lines of text say “[ge] my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.’ This being part of the line from Genesis 26:5 of the King James Version. The ‘ge’ appear to be random.
The Bible Code is not as recent as some would think. The Jewish community has tried to discover hidden messages in the Torah for centuries. Scientists too, have joined them, including notably the natural philosopher Sir Isaac Newton. ESL was first used in the 13th century of the Hebrew Torah by Spanish Rabbi Bachya Ben Asher, who worked on the Hebrew calendar. However, little was known about the method until 1997, when it was popularized in the book ‘The Bible Code‘ by the recently deceased American author Michael Alan Drosnin. By now the book is a trilogy, the latest addition published as The Bible Code III: Saving the World in 2010. There is also a film that uses the ESL as described by Drosnin.
Naturally, the ESL method has come under heavy debate, especially when pared with sacred texts like the Hebrew Torah and English translations of the Bible. Not only does the ESL method seem to produce results on any long text, but the multitude of 700 full Bible translations and changes in language over time make the results of ESL debatable. Apart from its avid users, this type of text mining has been abandoned.
Luckily, there are other, more dependable text mining projects underway. The International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research had an article published on 2019 detailing a project that aims to use Natural Language processing to prove intersection between the Bible, Tanakh and Quran. Other text miners of the bible index words, such as Garrett Grant in the video below.