2012 and the Bible

The two places in the Bible where some 2012 adherents find the alleged Mayan prophecy are in hidden codes in the original Hebrew text and in the imagery of apocalyptic literature.

Bible Codes

Bible codes are hidden message that some believe exist within the original-language text of the Hebrew Bible, or the Christian Old Testament. Some assert that these codes communicate future realities. Some adherents of the 2012 apocalypse believe this embedded code, in part, describes end-times events that verify the Mayan prophecy. While countless websites claim to have found such codes, mainstream biblical scholarship argues their methods and conclusions are dubious.

The primary method of discovering Bible codes is a method called Equidistant Letter Sequence, or ELS for short. This system operates by selecting an original-language letter as a starting point, then skipping a fixed amount of numbers, say 25, and then writing down every 25th letter to determine if the assembled characters spell a word or phrase, which supposedly reveals the future.

Belief in some form of Bible code dates back to the 13th century, but the subject resurfaced in 1994 when Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenburg published a paper titled "Equidistant Letter Sequence in the Book of Genesis" in the scientific journal Statistical Science. Bible codes gained even more popularity with Michael Drosnin's 1997 book, The Bible Code.

Mainstream biblical scholarship has largely denounced the existence of Bible codes. It's argued that even though the likelihood of discovering meaningful words in random sequences is small, there are so many possible starting points and skip patterns that many words can be expected to appear using the ELS method. Skeptics have even found “codes” embedded in Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace, which they conclude discredits ELS methodology.

Apocalyptic Literature

Jews and Christians believe that God has revealed glimpses of the future through human prophets whose prophecies were written down in the Bible. A substantial amount of prophecy in the Bible is contained in a genre of literature known as "apocalyptic" where imaginative symbols stand for real life people and events. While scholars agree that the Bible teaches about the end of the world, to date, not one conventionally credentialed scholar believes the alleged 2012 Mayan prophecy is mentioned in Scripture.

Nevertheless, there are many websites that suggests that some of the apocalyptic imagery in the Bible refers to December 21, 2012. One passage cited is Revelation 16:8-9, which reads,

“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him” (NIV).

Some adherents of the 2012 prophecy contend that this passage describes God’s judgment on the sun, which has traditionally been an object of Mayan worship. Orthodox Christianity’s interpretation of this verse varies depending on how one understands the book of Revelation. Historicists see the description as the fall of the Roman Empire. Preterists see it as God’s judgment upon Jerusalem. Futurists believe it describes solar flares, or perhaps symbolically, nuclear warfare. Yet not one interpretative camp believes it refers to 2012.

Isaiah 30:26-27 is also cited by some believers of the 2012 prophecy,

“The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted. See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire” (NIV).

On the basis on this passage, some 2012 adherents teach that a comet will break apart over the Earth on December 21, 2012, showering the planet with debris that will create a tongue-like display of comet material, which they see as a fulfillment of the last phrase of the passage. Some also posit that the comet will generate a solar eruption which will decimate the Earth.

Two facts can be made in response to this interpretation: (1) The historical context of the passage is a warning to ancient Israel about improperly aligning with certain neighboring nations, and (2) it’s clear that in context Isaiah's description of the sun and its light have positive connotations as they signify a time when the Lord will help people.

When prophesies such as 2012 arise, Christian scholars often remind people of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13:32 which reads, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark Hitchcock summarizes the mainstream Christian understanding of 2012 in his book, The Bible and 2012:

“Many 2012ologists look to Bible codes and select passages in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation in an effort to support their hypothesis. Yet they fail to read the rest of the Bible, especially the book of Revelation…Their pick-and-choose method of interpretation and application is not consistent with sound scholarship. Most 2012 researchers appear to reject the clear teachings of the Bible...yet at the same time they resort to allegedly hidden Bible codes to support their view of 2012. The Bible is consulted and considered reliable when they believe it supports their 2012 theory, but when it contradicts and challenges their beliefs it is rejected and in some cases even ridiculed.” (p. 92)


Hitchcock, Mark. 2012 and the Bible. Harvest House Publishers. 2009.

Article:Maya Bar-Hillel and Avishai Margali. "Madness in the Method" found at http://www.dartmouth.edu/

Article: Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, Yoav Rosenberg. "Equidistant letter sequences in the Book of Genesis". Statistical Science 9: 429–438