Long before "The Da Vinci Code" dominated bestseller lists, a cluster of Jewish mathematicians were promoting "The Bible Codes," the deeply mathematical interpretations of the five books of Moses which may, vaguely, predict some future events.
And yes conspiracy theorists, the government is involved -- insofar as one of the code's four main proponents worked at the National Security Agency (NSA).
"The evidence is all showing that these codes are real," said Harold Gans, who spent 28 years at the NSA as a senior cryptologic mathematician before retiring in 1996. "The Torah could not be written by any being bound by the laws of nature."
The codes claim to be a set of phrases and word clusters, which together create an invisible text. By counting letters at various intervals, words appear and de-coders put those words on a matrix where clues supposedly have predicted the Kennedy assassinations, World War II and 1994 Northridge earthquake. Another major quake is predicted for 2010 (so head to Costco -- now). Unlike overt predictions of Armageddon in the Christian Bible, the Bible codes have not found broad appeal among Torah readers, though some scholars find it interesting.
Central to "The Bible Codes" argument is that codes predicting the future are buried deep in the Torah, though longtime NSA code-breaker Gans said in a telephone interview that such predictions lack, "fine detail. You have evidence that the Torah changed a lot, but in the end, we have codes."
Decoding an often-contested and passionately followed religious text into cold mathematical terms proved intriguing for a numbers man. "We are dealing with a document [that] exists today," Gans said. "Where it came from is totally irrelevant. The probability against these codes being happenstance is very small. I'm not calling it God. I'm not saying what it is."
Gans for years has found it difficult to explain the codes' layered mathematical points to his fellow Orthodox Jews in Baltimore.
"It's frustrating, yes," he said. "The codes have not changed my belief in any way except that it's made me a little more sure."
Harold Gans speaks Sunday, Aug. 28, 7-10 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. $10 (at the door). For information, call (310) 553-8403. Gans is also speaking Monday, Aug. 29, 7-10 p.m. at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills. For information, see calendar