Did Prophetic Geniuses Hide Numerical Patterns in the Bible?

I want to thank you for publishing your research and being brave enough to follow your conscience.

Independently of you, I began noticing numerical patterns in the psalms. Unlike you, I would not claim this is “divine providence” but rather evidence of mystery schools, or fraternal organizations just like the ones who built cathedrals like Chartes. There is no denying that the ancient world had the knowledge to incorporate number into architecture and literature in a meaningful but hidden way. They used methods that required later students to think in a new way to uncover these patterns.

It seems to me that you feel you have refuted your original thesis precisely because your original premise rested on the crude, fundamentalist approach to religion. I would agree that fundamentalism, biblical literalism is wrong, I left the mainstream church long ago and had some of the same questions you bring up. However, I am convinced now that whoever wrote the bible understood that God is a being that influences by rejecting all earthly force and power. This idea allowed a number of prophetic geniuses to gather in the ancient land called Israel and produce a work of literature on par with the gothic cathedrals. One does not need to accept the modern teachings of the church to see evidence of that.

Hey there Jay,

I’m very glad you have taken the time to share your point of view. Let me begin by correcting a false impression. I did not begin with any premise that could be described as a “crude, fundamentalist approach to religion.” On the contrary, I began with an extremely broad mystical view based on the Kabbalah, Tarot, Astrology, Numerology, I Ching, Jungian Psychology and similar esoteric studies. As explained in the article you commented on, I was not a Christian when I began my studies. I was on a quest to discover the unity underlying all religions. As my studies progressed, I was continuously drawn towards the Bible because it is at the center of the Western esoteric tradition.  I abhorred the fundamentalist approach to religion and actually had a conscious fear of becoming “like Jerry Falwell” if I got too involved with the Bible. Unfortunately, that fear was realized to a significant degree.

How then did I fall into the fundamentalist belief that the Bible was the very “Word of God”? That was inevitable given the kinds of patterns I was seeing. It seemed impossible that such patterns could have been deliberately designed by any group of humans, regardless of their “prophetic genius,” because the patterns required both foreknowledge and the ability to go back in time to design the specific content of books written hundreds of years earlier. Here is how I presented this argument when I was a believer:

  1. The Jews established the content of the Protestant OT but with a different order.
  2. The Catholics established the order of the Protestant OT following the LXX which included the Apocrypha.
  3. The Reformers established the complete pattern of 66 books by simply removing the Apocrypha.

I concluded that the resulting pattern – the Bible Wheel – could not be attributed to any deliberate design by the Jews, the Catholics, or the Reformers. Who then designed it? The only possibility was an agent who transcends space and time. God was the obvious choice.

The question of Who Designed the Bible Wheel? was not so easy to answer after I quit Christianity and rejected theism in early 2011. I was still convinced the patterns were valid and was still mystically inclined so one of my first approaches was to interpret the Bible Wheel as a Cosmic Mandala of Archetypal Wholeness (June 2011). But I soon lost interest in that approach because it contained a little too much “woo factor” for my freshly awakened sense of skepticism. I knew such an “explanation” was little more than a story that could not be justified in any meaningful way. It seemed better better to just leave it unanswered.

I explored the possibility you are suggesting in my article Did Early Christians Knowingly Design The Bible Wheel?  (Sept 2011). I concluded with these words:

There is absolutely no way in the world that they can be explained as the work of any human or group of humans. … The evidence of some sort of “supernatural design” seems as solid and incontrovertible to me now as it did when I was a Christian. And as far as I know, I am looking at the Bible Wheel with the same critical eye by which I judged the Bible itself to full of errors, contradictions, logical absurdities, and moral abominations attributed to God.”

My final attempt was to explore the possibility of An Evolutionary Explanation of the Bible Wheel (November 2011).

As you can see, I remained convinced that the patterns were real and in need of explanation. But I also was exercising my skeptical reasoning abilities on a daily basis as readers would challenge my reasons for quitting the faith. And that’s what ultimately (after two more years) led to my freedom from my own delusions about the Bible. The turning point came when I began to familiarize myself with the psychology of belief and used it in my refutation of Christian arguments. Rationalization is the handmaiden of delusion. It is how people maintain their false beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. This was the topic of my article The Art of Rationalization: A Case Study of Christian Apologist Rich Deem (October  2012) about a year after I quit Christianity. Here is the opening paragraph:

Rationalization, commonly known as “making excuses” or “self-justification” is a psychological defense mechanism triggered by conflicting desires, feelings, or beliefs which evoke a painful state of mind called cognitive dissonance. No one is exempt. If there is one guarantee in life, it is that our amazing and complex world will repeatedly contradict our personal desires, limited knowledge, and cherished beliefs. But this is not a bad thing. On the contrary, the pain of cognitive dissonance is the pain of birth, of growing, of moving into the light of reality. It is the pain that shows the way to break free from the prison of our ignorance and selfishness.

I went on to explain how cognitive dissonance “is to the mind as pain is to the body. Without it, our minds would quickly fall into delusion and disintegrate like the bodies of children born with congenital insensitivity to pain who repeatedly injure themselves.” After a detailed analysis of the errors in Rich Deem’s arguments, I ended with these words:

This topic is of keen interest to me because I was a fundamentalist Christian for about 15 years. I explain the cognitive dissonance that drove me out of the faith in my article called Why I Quit Christianity. I have left a very long trail spanning more than a decade on this site and many posts in other forums defending my work on the Bible Wheel. My next project is to apply the insights I gained by writing this article to myself. Most arguments raised against my work claimed that the Bible Wheel had no objective validity and that all my evidence was nothing but the product of cognitive biases like cherry picking, confirmation bias, pareidolia, and so forth. So now I will review those arguments and put my old responses to them through the same fire I have used to test Rich Deem’s arguments. It should prove enlightening.

The fulfillment of that project was realized in a series of articles written in October and November of 2014:

It has indeed been enlightening!

Now getting back to your work:

Not having read your entire work, I don’t know if you have covered this or not. But years ago I realized that the first 22 psalms are a complete set, and that psalm 23 is a recapitulation of the first psalm, but expressed from a more inner point of view. The form and content of both psalms are the same; they focus on being rooted in the midst of the transitory. Psalm 45 expresses the joy that comes from this inner sense of being rooted. I began finding other psalms that I could tie together, one being an outer expression and the other an inner expression of the same idea. This lead me to look for different themes within the psalms. I do not want to go on and on about what I have found, but just to say that I have found enough to convince me there was a plan behind the psalms that focused on a few key themes being repeated on certain numerical intervals. While I appreciate all of the thought you have put into this, I must point out that your “refutation” of the idea that the bible is tied together in a meaningful way seems to rely on refuting the premise that the whole book is literal truth written by divine inspiration.

Your methods and insights seem similar to mine when I was a Christian. I was constantly looking for connections between the Psalms that differed by multiples of  22. (1, 23, 45, etc). I was in the habit of taking every book in the Bible and laying its chapters out on a circular grid of 22 spokes and as many cycles as necessary to fit all the books. I called these “Inner Wheels.” I have hundreds of pages devoted to this topic (see here).

I also was deeply impressed by the sense of “completion” in Psalm 22 since it corresponds to Tav (the 22nd and final Hebrew letter) which I took as symbolizing the cross upon which Christ was crucified and said “It is finished.” But there is a problem. In the Septuagint, that Psalm is indexed by the number 21 because Psalm 9 and 10 are combined. This appears to be a remnant of the original Hebrew form in which the two were a single acrostic psalm (source). This creates a problem of consistency because the Christian order of books follows the Septuagint contra the Tanakh while the indexes of the Psalms follows the Tanakh contra the Septuagint.

The larger problem, of course, is the method itself. It is subjective. Anyone can find themes that “tie together” pretty much any arbitrary set of chapters in the Psalms. I know, because I spent many years trying to justify my assertion that they were designed on the same repeating pattern of the number 22 that you use. I failed to find any objective standard, though I did succeed in deluding myself by cherry picking the most “amazing coincidences” while disregarding the overwhelming number of connections that didn’t fit the pattern I was looking for. That is the essence of the error in that method. There is no objective standard to discern between real and imagined patterns, and most of the evidence (which doesn’t fit the pattern) is ignored.

Looking at the first verse of Genesis we see a clear expression that the beginning of things is polarity, heaven and earth, higher and lower. This theme is developed in the first book, with polar forces being represented in stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Ephraim and Mannassah…The second verse is the division of the waters, the separation of higher and lower within. The second book is Moses, the dual citizen dividing the waters, and separating the people from Egypt. The third verse is the appearance of dry land, the third book, the journey to the promised land….I could go on but I may be repeating things you have already said. It is clear that a conscious pattern is present in the biblical mythology, regardless of whether one believes it was all divinely inspired. The themes within the bible are clearly recapitulated in a conscious way and these same themes can be found in other cultures and mystical traditions as well. So although you may have been overly eager to analyze the uses of words and letters to prove the bible was written by god, you were still on to something.

Again, your methods are essentially identical to mine. I wrote a lot about the connections between the second day, the dividing of the waters, the second seal (with the sword that divides), etc., etc., etc. I did that for all the ordered lists in the Bible, even including book and chapter indexes. Given such a large data set, it would be surprising if a person could not find many hits. But again, we are merely cherry picking. We focus only on the hits and ignore the ten thousand misses. And that’s how we create illusions of design.

Now don’t get me wrong, I agree that there are many “themes within the bible are clearly recapitulated in a conscious way.” There’s no doubt about that! A couple excellent expositions on that theme are The Great Code: The Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye and The Book of God: A Response to the Bible by Gabriel Josipovici. But that’s a far, far cry from your claim that the actual structure of the books and chapter indexes were deliberately designed to encode some sort of mystical knowledge.

Thanks for considering another point of view. Best Wishes.

My pleasure! Thanks again for taking time to share your point of view. I hope the conversation continues.

All the best,

Richard

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10 Comments

  1. Simon Miles
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Dear Richard,

    Thank you for this very fascinating account of your journey. It really makes good sense of your position, and the long and challenging route you have taken in coming to grips with the discoveries that you made in the Bible.

    It is clear that the whole business really turns on the question of finding some kind of objective test of whether or not these alleged patterns are present, and intentional. This is a very subtle question. I applaud your honesty in the way that you have analysed, and found deficient, some of the objective tests that you had set up originally in the BibleWheel book.

    Personally, I continue to find many of the patterns you have identified to be extremely fascinating, but I would not want to argue from this whether or not Christianity, or even the Bible, is “true”. I know that might seem a little odd, but for me, they are actually separate questions.

    I suppose that I probably have more in common with your “Cosmic Mandala” phase in your journey. I would not describe myself as a fundamentalist Christian, by any means, but neither could i call myself a non-Christian. I prefer the term “freethinking individual”. :-) But I would not want to be dogmatic about any of this. I do find many of the patterns meaningful, but at the same time, I would readily concede that I am not able to demonstrate in any objective, or statistical fashion, that the patterns must certainly be intentional. As I say, I think it is a very very subtle business.

    However, I do think that there may be other ways in which it might be possible to identify whether some of these patterns are significant, or intentional.

    I have mentioned previously on this blog some discoveries of my own that relate to the Biblewheel, or more particularly, to the way that the Biblewheel potentially interacts with some other topics. And I am sure you will recall that we have corresponded privately about this in the past. So I mentioned here that the time had come to go public with my work, and I am happy to report that this has now happened. I would invite you and your readers to watch the following video, which is a presentation that I gave earlier this year at a conference in the UK.

    The video can be found here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLwuuRirqBM

    I would welcome comments or responses to this from you or your readers. I will say at the outset that there is really no dogmatic position I am adopting, so there is no position that I would want to strongly argue about, or anything like that. For me, these are patterns that attracted my attention, and seem worthy of examination. What they mean, how they got there, whether they are significant, are questions that I have tried to frame in the presentation in such a way that the viewer can make up their own mind, within their own framework of reality.

    At best, this material may shed some light on aspects of these Biblewheel patterns. Or, on the other hand, all of this may just be wild co-incidence and proof of nothing more than that I have had too much time on my hands. But the talk has been well received, and it seems that it has struck a chord with many people who are thinking carefully about these kinds of issues. In that spirit, I offer this presentation to you and your readers as another potential step in the journey of coming to terms with the potential implications of your BibleWheel discoveries, which remain, for me, of great interest.

    All the best,

    Simon Miles

  2. Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Hey there Simon!

    Great to hear from you. That was an excellent presentation you gave in that video. I’m gonna let it sink in for a while before commenting more.

    All the best,

    Richard

    PS: A couple corrections from the video: My name is pronounced mug-you. It rhymes with “few.” And I live in Washington state, not California.

  3. Simon Miles
    Posted November 23, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks Richard, for watching the video and your positive response. Much appreciated. Apologies for mispronouncing your name. I had no idea that McGough was pronounced that way! Also for getting your state wrong. Not sure what I was thinking there! Anyway, very pleased that the video has given you some food for thought, and I look forward to any comments you might like to make.

    Best wishes

    Simon Miles

  4. Posted November 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Richard, for watching the video and your positive response. Much appreciated. Apologies for mispronouncing your name. I had no idea that McGough was pronounced that way! Also for getting your state wrong. Not sure what I was thinking there! Anyway, very pleased that the video has given you some food for thought, and I look forward to any comments you might like to make.

    Hey there Simon,

    No worries about the mispronunciation – there’s no way you could have known how it was pronounced. It has many different pronunciations. Mine seems rather rare.

    I really don’t know what to think about your conclusions. Again, I can say your presentation was done very well, and the coincidences are very striking. But they strike me as just that – coincidences. If they have meaning, I can’t imagine what it might be. The “cosmic mandala” theme is a fine interpretation for folks so inclined, but believers would be equally justified to say that it is proof of the Christian fundamentalist claim that God designed the Bible. Or given the alien connection with crop circles, folks could go that way. Given such a broad set of possible interpretations, it’s hard to see how the phenomenon you have documented could tell us anything.

    It’s good to be chatting about this. I hope the conversation continues.

    All the best,

    Richard

  5. Filius Null
    Posted November 26, 2015 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoy this site. Re: cherrypicking, I work with the greek only, to limit the words per value. When patterns emerge, they are more conspicuous. Thanks for keeping the DB alive.

  6. Jay
    Posted November 27, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Richard,

    I was surprised and honored that you took the time to lay out such a thoughtful response. I do acknowledge that I had misstated your early views as “fundamentalist”; thanks for clarifying that. Obviously you were always more thoughtful than those who dogmatically cling to beliefs without looking for any reasons behind them. You were looking for meaning and I respect that you followed your conscience both during your time as a christian and afterward.

    I hope that if nothing else, your post above will spark some good debate. I am pursuing a careful balance in my studies. I have seen the dangers of dogmatic religion and the paralysis it can cause and don’t blame those who jettison it altogether. I don’t feel the need to believe that every word of the bible is god-given truth or unquestionable. In fact, I am quite comfortable using the word “mythology” about many of the stories in the bible. Yet there are some common themes that did not necessarily require either divine intervention or a plan that spanned centuries. One of these themes that runs throughout the bible is that outer displays of earthly power are not as influential as inner confidence in God’s love. This theme is behind the story of Jacob and Esau, the defeat of the Egyptians, Gilead’s victory, Esther and Christ’s resurrection story. I think there is evidence of schools, such as the Essene school that were trying to express this idea through various mythological stories. The gospel accounts differ in details, sometimes contradicting each other, but they were all united in the idea that earthly power and might is not as progressive a force as compassion. My thought is that this idea drew together a number of thinkers in the ancient world who produced this body of literature which contains some patterns, but not one overarching pattern, that the bible wheel theory proposed. So yes, I also find it implausible that the 66 books were consciously organized into three sets of 22 that each corresponded. I would merely suggest that some of the patterns you cited as evidence for your theory are valid patterns, because the schools that produced these works were using a few common themes that were passed down. I do agree with you that to cite these patterns to “prove” that the bible is organized as a bible-wheel is a bit contrived.

    So I merely think that the theory behind the bible-wheel has some interesting points and that some of the patterns you noticed may have been valid efforts by later prophets to emulate Moses. I do understand that you had to cherry pick to make it fit and that once you had time to reflect on the data the “fit” no longer worked. I do understand that noticing similarities between the seven days of creation and the first seven books of the bible is not enough to have an objective case that throughout the bible there is a larger conscious design, whether divine or not. And yes, I was aware of the connection between psalms 9 and 10, as well as the fact that there are numerous connections between psalms that do not fit any numerical pattern, such as psalm 14 and 53, which are obviously reiterations of a theme, but seemingly random ones.

    Which is all to say, I think the patterns you found are interesting and may have some meaning, but I do agree that the data you collected does not prove the bible-wheel theory.

    I may not have time to respond to other posts, but I will check back in occasionally. Thanks for the book recommendations, I will look into those.

    Jay

  7. Paul S
    Posted November 29, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Hi Richard,

    Can you give a couple specifics as that showed you that the claimed death, burial and resurrection of Christ cannot be true?

    Thanks,
    Paul S

  8. Posted November 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Can you give a couple specifics as that showed you that the claimed death, burial and resurrection of Christ cannot be true?

    I don’t recall making that claim. I would be happy to answer if you could please quote what I wrote so I can have a context.

    Perhaps you are thinking of my comment that we know that Yahweh cannot be the true God because the Bible describes him as immoral, irrational, and cruel as well as just, wise and kind? I say that God could not be true because those are contradictory properties.

  9. Posted November 29, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I was surprised and honored that you took the time to lay out such a thoughtful response. I do acknowledge that I had misstated your early views as “fundamentalist”; thanks for clarifying that. Obviously you were always more thoughtful than those who dogmatically cling to beliefs without looking for any reasons behind them. You were looking for meaning and I respect that you followed your conscience both during your time as a christian and afterward.

    Hey there Jay,

    Thanks for the good words.

    And yes, I was aware of the connection between psalms 9 and 10, as well as the fact that there are numerous connections between psalms that do not fit any numerical pattern, such as psalm 14 and 53, which are obviously reiterations of a theme, but seemingly random ones.

    And that’s the essence of the problem. How do we discern between random chance and deliberate design. Some structures, like the acrostic Psalms, are pretty obvious and easy to establish. Others, like common themes, are almost impossible to prove, especially since they are not consistent.

    Which is all to say, I think the patterns you found are interesting and may have some meaning, but I do agree that the data you collected does not prove the bible-wheel theory.

    True. Took me a long time to realize that. I was in such a habit of accepting the “hits” as “evidence” while ignoring all the misses, it was very difficult to see how I had fooled myself.

    I may not have time to respond to other posts, but I will check back in occasionally. Thanks for the book recommendations, I will look into those.

    I hope the conversation continues. I would be interested to know what you really think of the patterns you have found, and how you justify the conclusion.

    Great chatting!

    Richard

  10. Posted March 12, 2016 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Simon, that was interesting lecture you gave on YouTube, you must have had mind boggling time to collect all these incidents. Menorah as a Tree of Life, connected with the Flower of Life seems apparent development of the motif.

    Did you ever encounter crop circle at Crop Circle At Jubilee Copse, Nr Hannington, Wiltshire, reported 28th July 2012?

    Last year I made my attempt to decode it, I think successfully by the message, but not by the origin and meaning of the message. You can find it as a small software project found at GitHub:

    https://github.com/markomanninen/cropcirclesquaredecodings

    Later I found message was decoded even earlier and published on some forum, so I cannot take any credit on that part. But I wonder if you see any similar meaningful events that can explain “copying” some ideas from the internet and exposing them on this crop circle?

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