MASTER'S SEMINARY JOURNAL

BOOK REVIEW

The Signature of God: Astonishing Biblical Discoveries


By Grant R. Jeffrey
Toronto : Frontier Research (1996). 278 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
8.2 (Fall 1997) : 238-241

Grant Jeffrey has authored a number of volumes on biblical studies. Most of those books have been published by Frontier Research Publications of Toronto. The majority deal with the prophetic materials of Scripture. Both Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe have recommended Jeffrey’s publications. The Signature of God went through five printings in its first six months (July-December 1996) due to its popularity. Its claims are similar to those contained in a recent national best seller: Michale Drosnin, The Bible Code (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997). Ronald S. Hendel and Shlomo Steinberg have written an excellent response to The Bible Code in their article “The Bible Code: Cracked and Crumbling,” Bible Review 13 (August 1997):22-25.

The profile, popularity, and claims of The Signature of God demand its review in this journal. It is not the practice of The Master’s Seminary Journal to multiply negative reviews, but some volumes cannot be ignored because of their popularity, even though their content is debatable. A warning sometimes needs to be given concerning such works. This will be that kind of review.

The thesis of Jeffrey’s work is “that the Bible contains a number of fascinating proofs that absolutely authenticate the Scriptures as the inspired and authoritative Word of God” (9). The evidences marshaled include that of historical documents, archeology, science, medicine, fulfillment of prophecy, coded words and phrases hidden in the Hebrew text, mathematical characteristics hidden in the Hebrew text, and “undesigned coincidences.”

Jeffrey’s intentions are good and his format is fascinating. However, his treatment of the material is not always sound. To begin with, he engages in a cavalier and unsubstantiated use of numbers. For example, he claims that within 40- 50 years of NT events “millions of Gentile and Jewish believers” existed (29) and that during the 2nd and 3rd centuries “millions of these converts died horribly as martyrs” (30). He cites statistics for the use of “heart” in the OT in a context dealing with the physical organ, but he gives no indication that most of the references do not refer to the organ (155). In addition, Jeffrey cites statistical probabilities for the fulfillment of various OT prophecies without proof of the accuracy of the probabilities—in fact, many are admittedly estimates (172-81).

Another characteristic of Jeffrey’s approach is his utilization of impressive numbers without supporting documentation. Examples include the percentages of early American colleges which were Christian and of the classes of those schools in 1855 who became ministers of the gospel (20), the number of recovered manuscripts and letters from the first few centuries which were written by Christians (22), and the claim that 98% of the content of the NT is found in those materials (22). Other undocumented and questionable statistics include the claim that there are more than 85,000 converts to Christianity every day worldwide (31-32) and that more than 100 million true Christians live in China today (197).

Some of Jeffrey’s claims are definitely erroneous. In regard to codes and mathematical characteristics, he dogmatically asserts that “while these incredible patterns exist in the Hebrew text of the Torah, no other apocryphal texts display this pattern, nor can they find it in any other Hebrew religious or secular texts” (11). However, Muslim scholars make exactly the same kind of claims for the Quran. During this reviewer’s fifteen years of missionary service in a Muslim country, he learned that Muslim scholars cite numerical “codes” in the Quran as proof that it is a God-given book. The number “nineteen,” for example, occurs in a large number of varied situations in the Quran, a feature that cannot be attributed to mere coincidence. The statistics for this Quranic number include chapters, verses, words, letters, and sequences. Consider the following quotes from Muhammad Zamir, Dreams, Miracles and Supplications in Islam (Dhaka, Bangladesh: The University Press Ltd., 1995), 25-26 (emphasis added):

The mystery continues. ‘Basmalah’ (in Arabic) or ‘Besmele’ (in Turkish) or ‘Bismillah’ (in the languages of the Indian Sub-continent) all refer to ‘Bismillah ar Rahman ar Rahim’ (In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful). Almost all the chapters of the Holy Quran start with this sentence (except the ninth Sura Tauba), and this consists of 19 letters. It is also interesting to note that the first word “Ism” meaning “Name” occurs 19 times in the Quran. It is also extraordinary that the word Allah occurs 2698 times in the Quran—which again is divisible by 19 (19 x 142 = 2698). This incredible series of coincidences continues. ‘Al Rahman’ (the Most Gracious) occurs 57 times (divisible by 19) and ‘Al Rahim’ (the Most Merciful) occurs 114 times (again divisible by 19). These are unmistakable signs of divine authorship.

Any discussion of the mathematical aspects in the Quran would remain incomplete without reference to the Code letters or ‘Muqatta-aat’ as they appear at the heading of certain Chapters (Suras) in the Quran. It has been pointed out by Deedat that out of a total of 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet, exactly half of them are involved in these Quranic initials (Alif, Lam, Mim, Re, Kaf, Small Hey, Ya, Ain, Swad, Toeh, Seen, Qaf, Nun, Big Hey). These 14 letters are constituted into 14 different combinations . . . . These 14 different combinations are repeated in 29 different Chapters of the Quran. If one adds the 14 initials to the 14 Combinations and the 29 Suras, one obtains a total of 57 (a multiple of 19). Another coincidence?

The miraculous nature of the Holy Quran and the great importance of 19 throughout the Holy Book has been also dealt with by other Islamic theologians. In this context they refer to Sura Qaf, Sura Sad and Sura As-Shura and point out the the divine strain of 19 continues in the use of the Heys, the Mims, the Ains, the Seens and the Qafs in these Suras.

One would indeed be a fool if one did not understand from these divine marks the underlying indication of Allah. No human author could have possibly written such a Book with its complicated dovetailing method and its numerical factors.

This kind of argumentation is not a new discovery by Christian writers like Grant Jeffrey. If such arguments and demonstrations are proofs of divine inspiration, then the Quran also qualifies. In fact, his claims of certain sequences can be applied to the King James Version to show that its translation was a product of divine inspiration. Consider the following example: in the KJV Psalm 46’s 46th word from the beginning is “shake” and the 46th word from the end is “spear.” William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and was 46 years old in 1610. Therefore, on the basis of Jeffrey’s reasoning, the Hebrew OT, the KJV (at least the latest revision of the original 1611 version), and the Quran all bear the divine imprimatur.

Other erroneous claims to be found in The Signature of God include: “The New Testament was widely copied and translated into many other languages during the first few decades following the resurrection of Christ” (30); “the original Greek manuscript of the New Testament was translated faithfully into Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Coptic, Latin, and other languages between A.D. 60-70” (31); “the Torah, or the Law, recorded by Moses approximately 1491-1451 B.C.” (139); and, “the Bible has now been translated in more than 3,850 languages in every nation” (196). All of these statements are demonstrably false.

Jeffrey avoids recent archeological research and evaluations (even by staunch evangelicals) for the Sinai inscriptions, the tower of Babel, and the walls of Jericho. Much of the support for his very questionable interpretations of these archaeological materials comes from nineteenth-century sources.

 As if this were not enough to dissuade the thinking person from getting caught up in Jeffrey’s claims, the actual evidence he presents in equidistant letter sequences is also flawed dramatically. In order to find “Hitler” in Deut 10:17-22, he had to omit one letter in accordance with a rabbinical abbreviation. In order to obtain “be-yam marah Auschwitz” (“in the bitter sea of Auschwitz”), in the same passage, however, he had to retain the letter twice (avoiding rabbinical abbreviations) and include it once (209-10).

This reviewer was unable to confirm Jeffrey’s claim that “Yeshua Shmi” (“my name is Jesus”) occurs in Isa 53:10—it did not compute. The same can be said of “Yoshiah” (“he will save”) in Gen 3:20. Based on these few samples, this reviewer is sure that most claims are either completely false or involve the manipulation of either text or numbers allowing for aberrations that produced the desired conclusion. Arbitrary omission and inclusion of letters in accordance with some rabbinical abbreviations clearly forces the text to fit preconceived notions.

 Utilizing the same technique of equidistant letter sequences, computer aided research has revealed references to 13 assassinations of world leaders in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Melville’s book was published in 1851. One of the assassination references is to Indira Ghandi’s death in 1984. Is Moby Dick to be considered divinely inspired?

 Caution is commended any time someone claims that God has hidden something for centuries in order to reveal the secrets to him/her at the end of time. Jeffrey makes this claim repeatedly (204, 211, 246, 247). Such subjective theologizing confirms the dangerous errors contained in The Signature of God. The book and its views cannot be recommended by anyone who believes in the unique nature of the inspiration of Scripture.