In 1975, when I discovered the Sagan Signal, I was a Baptist minister associated with a denomination that equated Bible code schemes to the work of the Devil. I thought that secret Bible codes were satanic devices designed to deceive gullible people into thinking that the Scriptures contained “new revelation” more important than the Gospel. I equated people who promoted such heresies to agents of Satan.
I believed this with all my heart, yet, there I was, looking at what for all the world appeared to be a Bible code! But this one was significantly different. It wasn’t about fantastic prophecies that are standard fare in most Bible code schemes, and, even more significant, the symmetry wasn’t generated by an algorithm. The grain, wine, and oil sequences were in the surface text, and appeared to be of an academic nature, which was all the more reason for me to think that my code hypothesis might be true. I tried everything I could think of to find some explanation for the data staring me in the face that didn’t involve a Bible code, and I came up empty.
My discovery had an immediate and profound impact on my life. After much prayer I decided to leave the ministry and devote myself to finding the truth.
Certain that it was God who had encrypted the grain, wine, and oil sequences into His Word, my goal from the moment I left the ministry was to get the data peer reviewed by credible theologians at a respected graduate seminary. For that to happen, I knew that I needed a miracle.
What I had found was, plain and simple, a Bible code, and my denomination didn’t believe in Bible codes. The challenge was simple enough. To earn a high level peer review I had to find a way to encase the grain, wine, and oil sequences in a biblically acceptable concept that would entice conservative Baptist theologians into evaluating the data - without thinking that it was a code. For years I made no progress, until one day, while casually thumbing through a Bible encyclopedia, I came across the word “sigillography.”
Sigillography is an archeological discipline involving the study of signets and seals. In antiquity, before the invention of the printing press, important letters were rolled up into a scroll and sealed with hot wax. Before the wax dried, a ring with an image, made of metal, bone, or stone, was impressed into the wax, leaving, in effect, the signature of the author. The signet/seal system was used for thousands of years throughout the Ancient Near East to prove ownership and authorship. Seals are still regularly found in archeological digs on written documents and on containers used to store commodities.
Like a bolt out of the blue, it dawned on me that sigillography might be my ticket into seminary. Evangelical Christians believe that God is a King who co-authored the Bible. The Scriptures clearly teach that God has a signet ring and there are a number of specific references in the Bible to divine seals. If it was true that God co-authored the Bible, encrypting the 46 grain, wine, and oil sequences into the Old Testament as His divine seal would have been the perfect way for Him to leave proof of that fact. I proceeded to put together a plan that, in retrospect, was so daring that the odds of it succeeding were minimal, at best.
I joined a local Conservative Baptist church and scheduled an appointment with the pastor, John Lodwick, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. I told John about my hypothesis, that I called the signet/seal theory, and of my plans to enroll at Dallas Theological Seminary for a peer review. To get into seminary I needed a sponsor, so I asked him if he would be willing to help me out. Clearly impressed with the biblical nature of my proposal, he graciously offered to think it over and get back to me.
Unknown to me at the time, a distinguished member of Pastor Lodwick’s congregation was Dr. Robert C. Cook, a retired Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon. Dr. Cook, now deceased, received his B.A. from Westmont College, his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, his Th.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and advanced graduate studies at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Cook was a world-renown evangelical scholar.
Pastor Lodwick ran my theory past Dr. Cook, who was so intrigued by it that in a personal conversation he recommended that instead of moving to Texas, I should submit my research for peer review to Dr. Gerry Breshears, the Dean of Theology at Western Seminary in nearby Portland.
Dr. Cook had contacted Dr. Breshears, a highly respected theologian and the past president of the prestigious Evangelical Theological Society, and told him about my research. Anxious to see the evidence, Dr. Breshears invited me to apply as a full-time student of divinity with the understanding that I would be granted a full peer review. In short order, I was going to Portland three times a week, taking classes and preparing papers for my peer review. What had seemed like an impossible dream had become a reality. The sequences were going to be tested!
Over the first two months I submitted three introductory papers on biblical sigillography to Dr. Breshears and Dr. Todd Miles, the Professor of Advanced Hermeneutics and second member of the peer review team. When Dr. Breshears returned my third paper, he had written at the top: “Show me the data!” In my fourth paper I disclosed the 46 grain, wine, and oil sequences – and then waited.
Two months later I was called in to Dr. Miles office and given the results of the peer review. I was told that what I had discovered was, in the words of Dr. Miles: “Nothing less than a new hermeneutic.” Not a word was said of the signet/seal theory and there was no discussion of authorship, just that I had made a historic discovery – the existence of an encoded hermeneutic in the Old Testament. What I was being told was exactly what I believed, but was too fearful to state openly because I thought it would have been an overreach that would have kept me from being accepted into seminary.
For my discovery I was awarded Independent Study Status, a rare privilege typically reserved for visiting scholars. This allowed me to conduct research at my discretion for credit towards my master’s degree. At the same time, and much to my consternation, the entire project was wrapped in a cloak of secrecy. No announcement of my discovery was made to the public, to any theological journals, or, that I am aware of, to the seminary president or trustees.
From the moment I was told that I had discovered a new hermeneutic I knew there was little chance that I would be allowed to write my master’s thesis on my discovery. My prognostication turned out to be correct. Six months after being praised and awarded for making a breathtaking discovery, I was casually approached by Dr. Breshears in a crowded hallway, and, without explanation, quietly informed that I would have to choose another topic for my thesis. I wasn’t surprised or upset, only thankful. I had gotten far more from my time at Western than what I could have possibly hoped for.
How helpful this information might be to academics is debatable. I think the main takeaway is that the Sagan Signal has been independently investigated by both Bible scholars and secular skeptics, and both arrived at the same conclusion, that it is a non-predictive, non-algorithmic code.
Over the past several years I have contacted numerous seminaries and Bible scholars, trying, unsuccessfully, to get them to investigate the Sagan Signal with full transparency. I’ll keep at it, but it appears that my best hope is with secular scholars.
Donald L. Zygutis