MERE COINCIDENCE is the primary “evidence” that convinces most people of the truth of such religious beliefs as “God answers prayers” and “prophecies have been fulfilled” and “God designed the Bible.” Any random coincidence that “confirms” what one wants to believe is accepted as “evidence” while everything else is ignored. Years of habitual magical thinking, accepting mere coincidences as evidence, leads to strong delusions. That’s why people believe weird things like Astrology, Tarot, Numerology, and the Bible Wheel.
The Isaiah-Bible Correlation is another such coincidence that I presented as strong evidence that “confirmed” the exact order and content of the books of the Protestant Bible. Many Christians have noted that the 66 chapters of Isaiah naturally divide into groups of 39 and 27, just like the 66 books of the Bible naturally divide into 39 chapters of the Old Testament and 27 of the New. I independently noticed this in 1993. For more than a decade I made it a habit to always check for any correlation with Isaiah when studying the Bible. Over time, I accumulated enough “connections” to convince me that it could not have happened by chance. Did I have any actual statistical data? No. All I had was “intuition” based on “obvious connections” and, of course, the presupposition that the Bible was designed by God.
The Isaiah-Bible Correlation was one of my primary lines of evidence that God had designed the Bible. Here is how I introduced it on my old site (complete with sweeping over-the-top claims, as was typical of my style back then):
The Book of Isaiah is distinguished from all books of the Bible in that it, and it alone, was designed in complete accordance with the full pattern of the Wheel, from Aleph to Tav. With its sixty-six chapters forming a one-to-one correspondence with the sixty-six books of the Bible, Isaiah presents a complete image of the Bible within the Bible. Though the resolution of the inner image is low in various places, there are so many points of spectacular supernatural integration that the overall pattern of the Bible is simply unmistakable. This idea is not new. Many previous authors have acknowledged the relation between Isaiah and the Bible. Consider these words from the Introduction to Isaiah found in Thomas Nelson’s New King James Version:
Isaiah is like a miniature Bible. The first thirty-nine chapters (like the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament) are filled with judgment upon immoral idolatrous men. Judah has sinned; the surrounding nations have sinned; the whole earth has sinned. Judgment must come, for God cannot allow such blatant sin to go unpunished forever. But the final twenty-seven chapters (like the twenty-seven books of the New Testament) declare a message of hope. The Messiah is coming as a Savior and a Sovereign to bear a cross and to wear a crown.
Outside of the context of the Wheel, many, if not most, biblical students have been inclined to view this as nothing more than an interesting coincidence, a bit of Bible trivia, or perhaps a happy accident that lends itself as a natural mnemonic device to aid the memorization of Scripture. Even those who saw it as evidence of God’s design typically lacked the tools needed to justify such an obviously extravagant claim to the skeptical believer, let alone the stiff-necked unbeliever. But within the context of the Wheel, where one becomes accustomed to perceiving what has long been believed, this “coincidence” is unveiled as yet another glorious witness to the majesty of God’s infinite wisdom.
There is good reason most “biblical students” would reject this as mere coincidence, since it is common knowledge that the chapter breaks were not added until the Middle Ages. But that didn’t deter me because I believed that God continued acting “behind the scenes” to guide the development of his Bible.
There really are some striking coincidences that lend credence to the idea of the Isaiah-Bible Correlation. The problem is that such coincidences could be found no matter what order of books is used, and those who follow alternate patterns become just as convinced by their “connections” as I was by mine. Case in point: About five years ago I was contacted by a Dr. Robert Tippie who had come up with his own version of the Isaiah-Bible Correlation, which he presents on his page called The Isaiah Connection. He followed the order of books that Ernest L. Martin used when he created his novel sevenfold symmetrical pattern that was supposed to be the “original Bible restored.” For the Old Testament, he followed the order of the Tanakh, and for the New he followed the “manuscript order” in which the catholic epistles precede the Pauline. I discussed Martin’s pattern as an alternate to the Bible Wheel in my article Patternicity on Steroids. Here it is again:
Here is how Dr. Tippie explains the significance his Isaiah Connection:
The Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, with its 66 chapters, is a microcosm of the whole Bible with its 66 books. There is a definite, direct, one-to-one correspondence between each chapter of Isaiah and each book of the Bible. This is an amazing, if indirect, proof, of the sovreignty [sic] of God and the superintendence of His Spirit over the whole of Scripture. Written by different authors, in different languages, in different cultures at different times, it is incredible that this relationship exists between the book of Isaiah, and the whole of the Bible.
This Isaiah connection is a strong evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible, and the completeness and authenticity of the received canon. The Isiaiah [sic] connection affirms that the Apocrypha is indeed, apocryphal! The omnipotent foreknowledge of God in history is demonstrated by this connection. While Isaiah, when he wrote, was largely addressing the real-life situations and people of his day, God was purposing that His words through Isaiah would serve a larger aim. Isn’t this always the way with God?
The sequential order of Bible books which must be followed for a perfect match with Isaiah chapters has profound implications. It will be noted that the order in our English Bibles is NOT the order confirmed by the Isaiah connection. The order for the Old Testament books is that found in the Hebrew Bible, which is the original order.
Dr. Tippie was not alone in his conviction that the Isaiah Connection proved Martin’s pattern was correct as opposed to the traditional pattern of the Protestant Bible. Another Bible teacher, who runs a blog called Gilbert and Friends, follows the same pattern as Tippie and Martin, and has this to say about its significance (source):
Isaiah is “the Book” that is a witness to what Books belong in the Bible and their proper order of occurrences. … [It is the] perfect template that God has given to compare as to authenticity regarding authorship by God the Almighty. [It is] proof positive that the Bible is the work of only one Author, who is God Himself.
There is no need to go through the details of the contradictory correlations since there is no objective standard by which to decide between them. The fact that devout believers could convince themselves of “supernatural design” using contradictory sequences of books is all we need to conclude the whole business is nothing but cherry-picking and confirmation bias (which was obvious to most informed people anyway).
These examples are particularly interesting to me because I always believed that my Isaiah-Bible Correlation was confirmation of the order of books in the Protestant canon which was the foundation of the Bible Wheel. That claim fails because the same thing can be said about Tippie’s “Isaiah Connection” being a confirmation of the order of books Martin used to create his “sevenfold symmetric” pattern that was integrated with Aleph and Tav, just like the Bible Wheel. And so we have another set of examples of believers finding “proof” of divine design using entirely contrary patterns. And so we see the critics were correct. Such patterns can be found in anything. There is no reason to believe they have any significance at all.
This is very important because the sense of “mutual confirmation” gives excessive weight to otherwise weak coincidences, making it seem impossible that they could happen by chance. But here we have two contradictory patterns (Bible Wheel vs. Martin’s Restored Bible) that are both “confirmed” by contradictory correlations with Isaiah. Things like this really help free my mind, as explained in my article Patternicity on Steroids:
One of the most effective ways I have found to “break the spell” of patternicity is to compare my patterns with contrary patterns promoted by other believers. Like the story of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti in which psychiatrist Milton Rokeach brought together three men who each claimed to be Jesus Christ and confronted them with one another’s conflicting claims, bringing myself face to face with similar but contrary claims helps me see that mine were not really different than theirs, especially when theirs strike me as obviously false and easy to refute (which they usually do, since they are not, after all, my patterns!). And so I free myself.
And so I free myself!