Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Spin The Bible Wheel

In surfing the net, I discovered this, the Bible Wheel, developed by Richard Amiel McGough - www.BibleWheel.com [1]. It displays the books of the Bible in a two dimensional way, not simply as a linear list of books. The unifying feature of the Bible Wheel is mapping the books to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. As you might guess, the source of most of my info is www.BibleWheel.com [1].

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

It starts with the standard Protestant Bible, which has 66 books, 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. The Catholic Bible has 73 books, all the same books as the Protestant Bible plus seven more called the Apocrypha - GotQuestions [2]. And the Hebrew Bible is different in yet other ways, more on that later. The 66 books are arranged in three concentric circles (more like a spiral really) of 22 books each, again, one for each Hebrew letter. It's way more interesting visually than three columns of a spreadsheet. What I find fascinating is internal structures of the Bible revealed. In a book written over the course of 1500 years by about 40 men - BibleQ [3], here are some coincidences revealed by the Bible Wheel.

  • That it works at all. It's convenient that 66 books makes three complete laps of the 22 letter alphabet.
  • The 5-12-5 pattern. Cycle one consists of the Torah (5 books), OT History (12 books), and Wisdom (5 books), total 22 books. Cycle two consists of Major Prophets (5 books), Minor Prophets (12 books), NT History, aka Gospels and Acts (5 books), total 22 books.
  • There are 22 Epistles in the New Testament if one counts Revelation as an Epistle. In English, epistle means letter.
  • Lots of three's. OT history is divided into 9 pre-exile books and 3 post-exile books. The Minor prophets are divided into 9 pre-exile and 3 post-exile. These post-exile books line up on the same "spokes" as the 3 Epistles to the scattered - James, 1 & 2 Peter.  
  • More three's. The 3 Synoptic Gospels line up on the same spokes as the 3 Epistles of John. McGough points out other patterns of three.
  • Five/Four patterns.  The Major Prophets are symmetric with the New Testament History books. They both consist of Five Books composed by Four Writers. McGough points out other 5/4 patterns.
  • McGough shows other patterns among the books as well.

The categories listed, like Major Prophets or Wisdom Books are not an invention of McGough. In fact the divisions are quite old, in use for over a thousand years.
Our Bible consists of sixty-six component parts. These are divided into two distinctive major collections, the Old and New Testaments. But each of these two Testaments, the one consisting of thirty-nine books, the other of twenty-seven, is found to be arranged in certain clearly homogenous groups; and in this connection careful investigation reveals the presence of a marvelous Divine design running through the whole. ... This presence of plan and design does not only pertain to the Bible in this general sense; it runs through all the different book-groups considered separately; and the more we follow it through in detail, so the more wonderful it becomes, until all possibility of its being mere coincidence is eliminated by over-whelming abundance of evidence that this is indeed the word of the living God - Baxter's Explore the Book [4]
Both Baxter and Scroggie followed the ancient Christian tradition that lists the sixty-six books under the three general categories (genres) of History, Prophecy, and Writings, the latter containing the subcategories of Wisdom (Didactic) Literature and Epistles (Letters). This tradition probably arose in Judaism, before Christianity was born, with the publication of the Septuagint (ca. 200 BC) which follows this categorical system -  Bible Wheel (chapter 2) [5].

Here's how the Bible Wheel looks with book names, showing the symmetry of the Old Testament.

Old Testament Symmetry

The Bible Wheel book then discusses other symmetries observable in the wheel. He also discusses the different ways the number seven shows up. I'll skip that discussion here, and jump to McGough's chapters on the design of the spokes. He ties the books on each spoke together, asserting they have a common theme. For example, Spoke one is the triplet (Genesis, Isaiah, Romans) which all speak of beginnings. "A quick review of Romans reveals it to be an intricate theological tapestry woven primarily with threads drawn from Genesis and Isaiah." - BibleWheel.com (chapter 5) [6]. Spoke 22 is (Song of Solomon, Acts, Revelation). In Song of Solomon, an earthly king receives his bride, In Acts, Jesus' bride the church is born on Pentecost, in Revelation, He receives His bride the church. He spends quite a bit of time "proving" this for Spokes 1 and 22, but not for the rest. If it is true that each Spoke has a theme, one could mine lots of interesting connections among the books.

There are a number of passages in the OT known as acrostics, which means each verse starts with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. McGough uses these acrostic passages to assert that the Hebrew letters and the books on that spoke share a deeper meaning. It is true that each Hebrew letter is named after something, aleph is ox, bet is house, gimel is camel, dalet is door, etc. Some teach that Hebrew words are word pictures based on the meanings of the letters. I'm not ready to accept that the three books on every spoke are related, much less related to the meaning of a specific Hebrew letter. That will take more study.

I was fascinated with the Bible Wheel when I first saw it, and remain so even after reading that McGough has debunked his own work, 15 years worth of work at that. I had some misgivings about the premise, but McGough has rejected it completely (though he leaves the website up), and turned against Christianity as well. I still find it a remarkable demonstration of God's hand in writing the Bible, and I hope to use it to mine the text of the Bible for interesting connections.

My biggest objection is that looking at the text as the 66 books of the Protestant Bible is not the only way to view it. The Hebrew Bible, approximately the same as the Old Testament, has always been mapped one to one with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, only there are 24 books mapped to a 24 letter alphabet, not 22. Two of the 22 letter alphabet have two pronunciations (P/F and S/SH), thus some count 24 letters - The Hebrew Alphabet [7]. The order and numbering of the Hebrew Bible is different from the order of the Protestant or Catholic Bibles. It is illustrated in a chart at Jewish and Christian Bibles [8].

The order of the New Testament has been altered as well. No books have been inserted or lost, but the order was changed.

This original order was rearranged by the Catholic Church in the Latin Vulgate version, in which Paul’s epistles were given first place -- ahead of the Judahite epistles which were relegated to second place. This gave the book of Romans a more prominent place in the New Testament as part of Rome’s bid for religious power. As a result, the Catholic Church effectively displaced and replaced the Judahites by displacing the "Jewish epistles" and replacing them with Paul’s epistles beginning with “Romans.”
Up until the 4th century A.D. all of the Church Fathers who list the New Testament books do so by placing the Judahite epistles FIRST, followed by Paul’s epistles - The Original Manuscript Order of the New Testament [9].
Restoring the order and numbering of the books would mess up McGough's Bible Wheel. Maybe it would reveal new insights - I tried putting the books in original order, no patterns appeared to me. And remember Hebrew reads right to left, Greek reads left to right, so the Protestant order only works in a translation, see The Unpublished Bible [10]. A Hebrew/Greek Bible would lend itself to a circular form, with no beginning and no end. Still, I can't deny the remarkable parallels among different sections of the Bible (in Protestant order), especially when considering it was written by 40-some authors over 1500 years.

Changing the order and numbering of the books calls into question the meaning of each spoke. There are certainly some parallels there which McGough shows for spokes 1 and 22, but he doesn't show the rest. Tying the spokes to letters in Hebrew? I guess I need more proof.

McGough's debunks the wheel saying he had confirmation bias, "the tendency to seek or interpret evidence favorable to already existing beliefs, and to ignore or reinterpret evidence unfavorable to already existing beliefs". Also called cherry picking, choosing data that supports your argument, and ignoring data that doesn't.

But the connections ARE real. When the Bible is viewed as 66 books in that order, certain parallels are revealed. It's a fairly large baby to throw out with the bathwater. I still like the Bible Wheel for what it reveals. Perhaps McGough tried to take the analogies too far. And even though he claims to have debunked it, for the time being, the website  www.BibleWheel.com [1] is still up. Enjoy it while you can, there is a lot of info there, I only hit some of the highlights.


1. http://www.biblewheel.com/
2. https://www.gotquestions.org/Catholic-Bible.html
3. http://bibleq.net/answer/1954/
4. https://www.amazon.com/Baxters-Explore-Book-Sidlow-Baxter/dp/0310206200
5. https://www.biblewheel.com/Book/Chapters/Chapt02.php
6. https://www.biblewheel.com/Book/Chapters/Chapt05.php
7. http://www.dummies.com/languages/hebrew/the-hebrew-alphabet/
8. http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Heb-Xn-Bibles.htm
9. http://hope-of-israel.org/manorder.html
10. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-unpublished-bible.html

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