In 1999, Revival Centres Church dramatically abandoned their longstanding belief in Bible Numerics. Yet to this day, splinter groups still push the unscientific teaching.
According to Revivalist “Bible Numerics,” the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible contain a miraculous mathematical pattern. Change one letter of the Bible and the entire pattern falls apart. This teaching is based on doctored texts and flawed logic. It has its roots in the pseudoscientific writings of Ivan Panin in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Bible Numerics involves counting different types of words and letters, summing the gematria or numeric value of letters, identifying the factors of these calculations, and other similar tasks.
Upon disavowing Bible Numerics, Revival Centres updated their website to say:
Do you believe in the Bible Code, or Bible Numerics?
While we have never accepted the Bible Code, for many years we thought that there was something in Bible Numerics.
Although it has never formed part of our statement of beliefs, our thoughts at that time were that numerics was one of the proofs for the divine authorship of the Bible. We did note, however, that no doctrinal point should rest solely on Bible Numerics. As it turned out, that was a wise approach.
Following further study … the thought that there are intricate numerical patterns hidden within the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible can actually be proven to be true for any text, in any language, including this morning’s newspaper. Such proof (for any text) is mathematically proven, demonstrable and irrefutable.
Anyone wishing to disagree can send an email, and we will send back to them the amazing patterns hidden in their complaint.Revival Centres International FAQ (archived)
They included a link to a lengthy paper. They then tried to downplay their heavy investment in the teaching:
Revival Centres International has never used Bible Numerics to “prove” a particular doctrinal point of view. …
Our previous use of Bible Numerics was undertaken in good faith, and not promoted heavily. Nevertheless, since then our understanding has grown.
This isn’t entirely true. Revival churches were (and are) big on using Bible Numerics to “prove” their favoured version of Mark 16 is authentic even though it doesn’t appear in the oldest manuscripts. Many converts first joined a Revival church of Bible Numerics.
So why did the Revival Centres abandon Bible Numerics? Well, the work of mathematician Brendan McKay was brought to their attention.
Professor McKay took an interest in the pseudoscientific theories of the Bible Code and Bible Numerics which had proliferated across parts of Christianity. He set up a website to document his findings: In Search of Mathematical Miracles. He wrote a computer program called Panin’s Panic that can find “miraculous” numeric patterns in any text and any language.
In 1890, Panin believed he had discovered amazing patterns in the Hebrew text of the Psalms, and soon afterwards in the Greek text of the New Testament. Thereafter, until his death in 1942, he devoted his life to this investigation, leaving over 40,000 pages of notes. A sampling of his discoveries were published, and are still being published repeatedly.Ivan Panin and Friends
His conclusion? “Similar patterns can be found anywhere.” Worse still, McKay showed that “scholars” of Bible Numerics can’t even agree on the correct reconstructed text that supposedly contains a mathematical miracle. And he put paid to Panin’s “proof” of the divinity of Revivalists’ sanctioned version of Mark 16.
Will other Revival churches ever disavow Bible Numerics?
It’s hard to know. Sometimes doctrines like this slowly go out of fashion, instead of being officially recanted all at once.
In the Revival Fellowship, some members still fervently adhere to the teaching. Others look for miraculous numerical patterns in individual words or names, but caution against getting too carried away. In the absence of an official policy, it really is a free-for-all. You have to tiptoe to make sure you don’t offend anyone with your personal take on this once-dogmatic doctrine.
The moral of the story
It’s great that Revival Centres disowned an unscientific belief, but the reality is all Revivalist beliefs are unscientific. Instead of cherry-picking the evidence based on preconceived conclusions, the pursuit of truth depends on being open to other perspectives, applying the scientific method, and making the most of experts of who have devoted their lives to expanding humanity’s knowledge in an ever-expanding range of fields.
Revival Centres paper on Bible Numerics
Pastor Geoff Beggs of Revival Centres International wrote an entire paper to debunk Bible Numerics. While it can no longer be downloaded from the Revival Centres website, you can still read it here: