In 1975 I was the minister of a dynamic, fast-growing church in Bend, Oregon. The congregants, made up of people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, were as collectively beautiful as the name of our fellowship, the Chapel of the Cascades. Typical of most evangelical churches we celebrated the Lord’s Table once a month in remembrance of Jesus’ shed blood and sacrificed body. While pondering over the sermon I would be giving for the upcoming occasion I thought that it might be interesting to see if there were any bread and wine couplets in the Old Testament that I might be able to build a message around.
Without realizing it, my decision to explore the Old Testament for sermon material related to the Last Supper put me on a fast track to independently discovering the Sagan Signal. With no assistance from Isaac Newton, the Masonic Lodge, Carl Sagan, or anyone else, I began looking for bread and wine sequences, with absolutely no idea where my research would lead or what results I would find.
Using a modern study Bible, it wasn’t long before I uncovered a number of grain, wine, and oil triplets, and I was somewhat peeved. I was looking for “bread and wine,” and all I found was “grain and wine.” Adding to my frustration was a third word in the sequence, “oil,” an unnecessary and unwanted component. But I stayed with it, and somewhere during the course of my research, which I didn’t think was going very well, I came across some modulated sequences that generically corresponded to grain, wine, and oil. My curiosity was piqued. I wondered how many more of these oddball symmetrical triplets I might find. It wasn’t long before I had identified enough of them to know that it couldn’t be a coincidence. What was unfolding before my eyes was unlike anything I had learned about in seminary.
I had stumbled on a curiosity that obviously called for more research. Through a process that somewhat resembled reverse engineering, I ended up discovering both parts of the Sagan Signal. The grain, wine, and oil sequences in the Old Testament, and the three levels of symbolism in the Last Supper.
At the time I was a conservative Baptist 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. The grain, wine, and oil sequences appeared to be of an academic nature, which was all the more reason for me to think that my code hypothesis might be true. Nevertheless, my bias against Bible codes ran deep. 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 and ministry. Seeing that it presented a nuclear family model of the Trinity, the code I found wasn’t consistent with what I was taught to believe. This precipitated a crisis of faith that ended with my resignation. Leaving a ministry that I loved was extremely difficult, and what made it even harder was that I couldn’t tell anyone, not even my wife or closest friends, about my discovery. I knew that making a public announcement that I had found a secret code in the Bible that challenges the doctrine of the Trinity would create havoc in my congregation. After much prayer I decided to leave quietly, turning the ministry over to one of my assistants.
I left my church and severed my ties with my denomination on friendly terms. I wasn’t angry and I didn’t renounce my faith. I still believed in Christ and the Bible, but no longer in the God of Christian orthodoxy. It was clear to me that somewhere over the two thousand year history of Christianity, the “Truth Train” got derailed and it was still off the tracks. 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 theological 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 symbol, carved into a signet ring made of metal, bone, or stone, was impressed into the wax, leaving, in effect, the symbolic 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 grain, wine, oil, and other 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.
In a nutshell, I was a seminary student who didn’t believe in Bible codes, submitting a proposal to professors who didn’t believe in Bible codes, who taught at a seminary that didn’t believe in Bible codes, attached to a denomination that didn’t believe in Bible codes – being told that what I had discovered was a Bible code! Not a Bible code that featured sensational prophecies, mind you, but one meant to be used as an interpretive tool to uncover the Bible’s deepest truths.
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. I wasn’t surprised. Secrecy has always surrounded those who learned of the code.
Over the next several months there was not a single meeting between myself and Dr. Breshears and Dr. Miles about my discovery. I have two theories to explain why the project went so suddenly dark. One is that at the time they issued their opinion, the professors had considered only two possible sources for the symmetry, God or humans. In this binary choice, human attribution would have been easily eliminated, leaving God as the author. But at some point afterwards, as they continued on with their research, it likely dawned on them that there was a third option: extraterrestrial intervention. Understandably, they would not have wanted to go there.
The second possibility is that given their credentials I don’t believe it would have taken the two theologians long to discover the connection between Psalm 128 and the third level of symbolism in the Last Supper that identifies a nuclear family Trinity. There is a long-standing saying in the Christian faith: “Don’t mess with the Trinity.” The possibility of the Godhead being a Father, Mother, and Son rather than a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, would have been reason for them to shut down. It’s also entirely possible that both factors, extraterrestrial intervention and a revised Trinity, came into play.
Knowing where the continued research of Breshears and Miles was likely to take them, 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.
Though nothing was ever put in writing, I had an unqualified affirmation from two credible scholars at a leading evangelical seminary that the 46 grain, wine, and oil sequences were a code, a product of intelligence and intent. It was a historic and memorable occasion. While it may not impress skeptics, my experience with Dr. Breshears and Dr. Miles at Western Seminary convinced me that the Sagan Signal is real. With the posting of this manuscript on the web, I urge professors Breshears and Miles to take full ownership of their historic decision, and encourage them to share with the world the groundbreaking research that went into their conclusion.
These two theologians can be justifiably proud of the fact that they had the courage to step outside the box and consider bold new possibilities, when many theologians and seminaries would have turned me away. Their willingness to engage a controversial hypothesis, advanced by a man who had resigned from the ministry, is commendable. It is an admission that, even today, in the 21st century, there are treasures in the Bible still waiting to be uncovered.
Considering the circumstances, the decision of Breshears and Miles to keep the project under wraps is completely understandable. Had I been in their shoes, I would have done the same thing. Christianity was not ready then, and it is not ready now, to accept that Jesus Christ was an extraterrestrial and that the Sagan Signal teaches a nuclear family model of the Trinity.
Now that the world knows the depth of involvement of Western Seminary in the verification of the Sagan Signal, my recommendation to this outstanding institution is that it throw its full and unconditional support behind a formal cryptanalysis of the data. That way, whatever the results turn out to be, Western Seminary and its theologians will be seen as forward-leaning and pro-active, rather than running away from the challenge that confronts them. Either way, whether the Sagan Signal theory is confirmed or debunked, Western Seminary will have played a major role in the process.