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Signature or Forgery?

An open letter to Grant Jeffrey, author of "The Signature of God"

Note: This letter was originally sent to brother Jeffrey (twice), who did not respond. In the interest of making these facts generally known, I have posted it publically.  The letter should NOT be construed as an attack on brother Jeffrey or his ministry.  The letter simply calls attention to what I believe are inaccuracies and faulty arguments in his book.

To: brother Grant Jeffrey
c/o Frontier Research Publications, Inc.
PO Box 470470

Tulsa OK 74147-0470

Dear brother Grant Jeffrey,

Grace and peace to you in Jesus' name!

A brother in Christ gave me your book, "The Signature of God". I have read it with great interest. Thank you very much for gathering together so much useful historical information, especially with respect to the coming of the Messiah.

However, as far as your use of mathematics and probability theory is concerned, it appears to me that there are a number of discrepancies in your calculations. Since I am a professional mathematician, I believe that I have some understanding of these matters. In the following letter I present my findings.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you that my motive is purely and simply to advance the Kingdom of God. I believe that this is your motive as well. If we are zealous for God, we must be zealous for the truth. Let us claim together the Lord's promise to guide us into all truth.

I would appreciate very much if you would write me back and correct any misimpressions I may have received, or any mistakes I may have made.

Here are points in question:

Point #1. On page 165, you stated, "The Egyptian captivity was prophesied to last exactly 430 years." However, in Genesis 15:13, God says to Abram, "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years."(KJV) Hence four hundred years were prophecied, not 430. I was unable to locate any prediction of 430 years prior to Exodus 12:41-and Exodus 12:41 is not a prediction at all but rather an after-the-fact statement.

Point #2. On page 166, you stated, "The Babylonian army conquered Israel in the spring of 606 B.C. Both secular history and the Bible reveal that, as predicted, the Babylonian Captivity ended exactly 70 years later in the spring of 536 B.C." It seems that you are using modern calendar years, and not Biblical years. On page 168 you state, "if we wish to understand the precise times involved in the fulfillment of prophecy, we need to calculate using the same biblical lunar-solar year of 360 days which the prophets used." However, seventy calendar years is just about equal to 71 biblical years. According to your reckoning, therefore, the captivity lasted 71 biblical years.

Point #3. In the chapter entitled "Precise Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy -- the Signature of God" you discuss a passage from the book of Ezekiel (chapter 4, verses 1-17), which you claim predicts the revival of the modern state of Israel in 1947. You base your time calculations on the passage's reference to 390 "years of iniquity" for Israel and 40 "years of iniquity" for Judah. But in the passage these are called years of iniquity (Ezek. 4:5), and not years of future punishment. They represent the period of time that Israel and Judah have strayed from the Lord. The total number of years is 430, the same number of years which Israel stayed in Egypt until the "iniquity of the Amorites" was full (Gen. 15:16). In the time of Moses, God drove the Amorites from Canaan when their 430 years had been fulfilled - and in the same way, God drove Israel from the land after their 430 years were fulfilled.

Ezekiel bore the iniquity of Israel and Judah for 430 days, one day for each year. These "days of seige" (Ezek. 4:8) are prophetic of the impending seige of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Jer. 52:4-7) and not of the future exile of the Jews from the land of Canaan. After the days of his seige are ended, then Ezekiel prophecies the exile by scattering his hair to the winds (Ezek. 5:2). There is no indication whatsoever that 430 years refers to the length of Israel's future exile.

Part of your argument depends on the application of Leviticus 26:18, which states: "If ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins." According to the clear, plain application of this principle, if the Jews do not repent after 70 years of punishment, God shall punish them an additional 7 times 70 equals 490 years. So the total punishment would be 560 years, 8 times the original punishment.

But instead of a straightforward application, you use Lev. 26:18 in a very arbitrary way. Although the Scripture clearly indicates that 70 years was to be the total length of exile (Jer. 29:10-14), you take the 70 years as somehow the initial segment of a 430-year sentence -- entirely without Scriptural justification. You claim that Israel did not repent after 70 years, so God multiplied their punishment seven times. However, you do not multiply 70 times 7, or even 430 times seven, but rather 360 (equals 430 minus 70) times 7. This is just playing with numbers. By similar reasoning, you could justify any of 40,70,390,430 years for initial the punishment period (because these are all numbers which appear in the passage), and add seven times any of 40,70,390,430,30 [=70-40], 320[=390-70], 350 [=390-40] or 360 [=430-70]. This alone gives 28 distinct combinations. Moreover, if this combination rule failed to yield the desired result, there are other rules and numbers in the Scriptures which could be taken and applied. It's not surprising that eventually a combination was found which worked.

Point 4. In the same chapter you use the multiplication rule to give odds that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. But the multiplication rule only works if different events are mathematically independent, which(in simple terms) means the occurrence of one event is unrelated to the occurrence of the other. If you ignore the independence condition, you can quite easily come up with numbers which are utter garbage. Considering the following odds, which are more-or-less accurate for Americans:

male - 1 out of 2
over 65 - 1 out of 6
does not exercise - 1 out of 2
wears glasses - 1 out of 4
greying hair - 1 out of 6
more than 20 lbs. overweight - 1 out of 4
farsighted - 1 out of 4
shortness of breath when climbing stairs - 1 out of 5
retired - 1 out of 6
high blood pressure - 1 out of 5
smoker - 1 out of 4
balding - 1 out of 5
has grandchildren - 1 out of 5

Total (by multiplication rule): 1 out of 138,240,000.

This means that chances are that there are only about two people in the entire United States who meet this description. Or, think of it this way. Suppose you see 1000 people a day. Then you might hope to meet such a person on the average of once every 379 years. This is clearly ridiculous -- there are thousands of Americans who fit this description. It's easy to come up with ridiculous numbers like these if you use the multiplication rule carelessly, without considering the independence of the different events listed.

In many of your examples, the independence criterion is clearly violated. For instance, here are some of the Old Testament predictions which you give:

Fifth prediction: "His hands and feet would be pierced"
Eleventh prediction: "He would be crucified with thieves"
Thirteenth prediction: "His side would be pierced".
There three are clearly not independent, so the multiplication rule does not apply. Fourth prediction: "He would be betrayed by a friend";
Seventh prediction: "His betrayal for 30 pieces of silver";
Ninth prediction: "His betrayal money would be thrown in the Temple and then given to buy a potter's field".
These three events are also not independent. Sixth prediction: "He would be wounded by His enemies";
Eighth prediction: "He will be spit upon and beaten".
These are also not independent.

Please do not misunderstand what I'm trying to say. I agree with you completely that Old Testament prophecy clearly establish Jesus as the promised Messiah, according to God's foreordained plan. However, I do object to the misuse of probability theory in order to arrive at numbers which are virtually meaningless. I don't think this strengthens your case, but rather weakens it. If you do want to compute a probability, you should do so correctly. Incorrect arguments do not glorify God.

Point #5. In the chapter entitled "Evidences From Prophecies Fulfilled in Our Generation", you discuss Biblical prophecies which have been fulfilled in recent years. On pages 199-201, you attempt to compute the odds against these prophecies being fulfilled in our lifetime. There are several difficulties with your calculation:

First, your calculations assume a 40-year generation, because you break up the 2000 years since Jesus into 50 40-year periods. Thus, you are not calculating the prophecies of fulfillment in our lifetime, but rather in one (40-year) generation. This would be acceptable, except that the prophecies were not fulfilled in a single 40-year period. It has already been more than 40 years since the rebirth of Israel, and some of the prophecies have not yet been completely fulfilled (Israel rebuilding the temple, rebuilding of Babylon, one world government, preparations for Armaggedon, mark of the Beast). If you stick with 'lifetime' (80 years) as your time period, you must divide each probability by 2 (which reduces your final odds by 1000). On the other hand, if you stick with 'generation' (40 years), you need to leave out some prophecies, because not all occurred within 40 years.

Second, you use the multiplication rule, and as I have indicated above the multiplication rule does not apply. Several of the prophecies are closely tied up with the rebirth of Israel -- thus, their probabilities should not be multiplied.

Third, assigning a probability of 1/50 to each event is very questionable. Many of the prophecies mentioned have had multiple fulfillments. For instance, there have been several revivals of the Roman Empire in different centuries (for instance: the Holy Roman Empire; Napoleon; Hitler), not just in this one. As far as earthquakes are concerned, the worst earthquakes in history did not occur in this century. There have been many deadly pestilences & worldwides famine since the death of Jesus. As far as percentage of population involved is concerned, the worst of these disasters have not been in our generation: for instance, the Black Plague killed something like one quarter of the entire population of Europe. Of course many more people are killed now by earthquakes, plagues, famines, etc -- simply because there are many more people, and they are more widely spread geographically!

I'm not trying to be a scoffer or nit-picker. My only goal in life is to glorify God and exalt the name of His Son Jesus Christ. Probability theory is my bread-and-butter, and I believe I can tell when it's being used right and when it's not. False arguments based on the misuse of probability do not glorify God, but rather make Christians into a laughing-stock.

Point #6. In the chapter entitled "The Name of Jesus Encoded in the Old Testament" you discuss the name of Jesus appearing in equidistant letter sequences in passages in the Old Testament. You give odds of 1 in 50 quadrillion that the phrase "Jesus is able" would be encoded in Isaiah 53:8-10. I am at a loss to understand where this number comes from. The Hebrew for "Jesus is able" has seven letters, and there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Hence, "Jesus is able" is one of 227 = 2.5 billion (2,500,000,000) possible four-letter sequences. Assuming that all seven-letter sequences have more-or-less equal probability, this means that the odds are 1 out of 2.5 billion that a randomly-chosen sequence will turn out to be, "Jesus is able".

However, 1 out of 2.5 billion is still much, much too small. This is the probability for a single equidistant letter sequence: but there are many such sequences in the passage. Here is a nearly-exact formula for the number of equidistant sequences with L letters in a text having T letters (which I derived and checked on the computer):

T x ( T - L + 1)
2 x (L - 1)
The passage has about 163 letters: so T=163, L =7, and there are about 2132 equidistant seven-letter sequences according to the above formula. However, you allow for counting forwards or backwards - this gives 4264 sequences. Furthermore, in your chapter you mention at least three variants of the name Jesus. Also, you mention several other phrases involving the name Jesus which you searched for, not just "Jesus is my name". Assuming 500 possible phrases, with three variants of Jesus' name, with 4264 possible equidistant letter sequences, we arrive at 500 x 3 x 4264 = 6,396,000 total possibilities. To get odds, therefore, we need to take 6,396 million possibilities for meaningful sequences and divide by 2.5 billion total possibilities, which comes out to about 2.5 out of 1000. If we double the size of the passage to 326 letters, the odds are increased fourfold, to about 1 out of 100. Since there are hundreds of Messianic passages in the Bible, it's not surprising at all that you were able to find a meaningful phrase about Jesus in this one. There is no evidence of God's intentionial design.

The probability of finding one of the variants of the name "Jesus" is in a passage of length 82 (like Isaiah 7:14-15) may be estimated as follows. There are 2160 equidistant sequences with 4 letters in the passage (counting forward and backward). There are (at least) 3 variants of Jesus' name. There are a total of 224 = 234256 possible sequences of length 4. Hence the odds are 2160 x 3 / 234256, or 2.7 out of 100. If we increase the size of passage to 160 letters (like Isaiah 53:8-10), the odds become four times larger, or about 11 out of 100. Again, since there are hundreds of Messianic passages in the Bible, these occurrences of Jesus' name do not give positive evidence of God's special design.

Actually, the odds just computed are probably too small. I have assumed that all Hebrew letter frequencies are roughly equal. A more thorough analysis would have to include the different frequencies of occurrence of different Hebrew letters. Taking this into account could easily double the odds, in which case the arguments for God's intentional arrangement of these patterns are even weaker.

Concerning equidistant letter sequences, professor Barry Simon of Caltech (who is a devout Jew, and believes in the divine inspiration of the Torah) has done a very thorough analysis.   His findings may be found at:


He has concluded that there is no evidence for divinely inserted codes (for instance, he has found similar "codes" in the Hebrew translation of  "War and Peace").  A large number of professional mathematicians support his conclusions (see http://www.math.caltech.edu/code/petition.html).

Point #7. In the chapter entitled "The Mathematical Signature of God in the Words of Scripture", you discuss the Bible numerology of Ivan Panin, who claimed that God placed mathematical patterns within the text of the Bible. Your book gives three examples of "sevens" patterns which Panin found. However two of the lists have been "padded" to make them seem more impressive. Some of the patterns are simple arithmetical consequences of others, and cannot be construed as additional evidence of design.

For instance, in the the list of Sevens in Genesis 1 (page 233), item #2 states "The number of letters equals 28 (28¸ 4 = 7)"; item #3 states, "The first three Hebrew words ... contain 14 letters (14¸ 2 = 7)"; and item #4 states, "The last four Hebrew words ... contain 14 letters (14¸ 2 = 7)". But item #4 follows by simple arithmetic from items #2 and #3, and should not be listed as a separate Seven. Similarly, item #6 (sixth and seventh words have 7 letters) follows from #3 (last four words have 14 letters) and #5 (fourth and fifth words have 7 letters), and should not be a separate item. #5 is a part of #9 (central two words have 7 letters). In item #7, ("three key words have 14 (14¸ 2 = 7)") the criterion for choosing 'key words' is ambiguous. Why isn't "created" a key word? Or "beginning"? On this basis, the list should have only 7 separate entries instead of 11.

In the list of Sevens in Matthew 1:1-17 on page 235, there are similar examples. Item #6 (21 vocabulary words begin with a consonant) follows by arithmetic from #4 (49 vocabulary words total) and #5 (28 vocabulary words begin with a vowel). Item #9 (14 words occur once) follows from #4 and #8 (35 words occur more than once). Item #13 (seven female names) follows from #10 (35 proper names) and #12 (28 male names). Hence, the list should have only 11 separate entries instead of 14. As far as #13 is concerned, I can find only 4 female names (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Mary). As for #12, I believe that there are 43 male names (42 generations from Abraham to Christ, plus Zerah is mentioned in verse 3). This reduces the number of valid entries to 10.

In my opinion, your credibility suffers when you overstate your case.

In closing, I would like to state the conclusions I have drawn concerning the attempt to find numerological patterns and numerically exact predictions within the Scriptures. The God of the Bible is also the God of creation. The Bible is the product of His inspiration; and so are the heavens and the earth. He does not tuck little secret coded messages in atomic radiation or the arrangement of the planets. To look for such is to miss the point. God's glory is declared in the heavens (Psalm 19:1-6). His glory is clearly seen in what He has made (Romans 1:20). The artist's genius is evident in the composition of his painting, not in minute patterns in the brushstrokes. This is true of God's creation - and it is also true of His Word, the Holy Scriptures. The master artist's work gives evidence for itself - the artist does not even need to sign it. A signature can be forged, but a true masterpiece cannot be duplicated.

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Copyright © 1998 CrossPollen
Last Revised: January 12, 2002

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