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Summary: The four words that verifies our faith. 1. Written 2. Believe 3. Christ 4. Life

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-Qopchedy qokedydy qokololy qokeedy qokedy shedy.

[NOTE: For this to make sense to the congregation, you will need to project these words on a scene, or have them printed as part of the worship bulletin.]

Try saying that!

The best cryptologists in the world have been unable to decode the 400-year-old document from which those words, if indeed they are words, are transliterated.

- Called the Voynich manuscript,

- These words are taken from a book discovered in an Italian villa in 1912 and named for the dealer who purchased it. It’s comprised of 234 pages and is hand lettered in an unknown code. There’s no punctuation or any indication of where sentences begin or end, but the volume is richly illustrated with watercolor images of plants not known on earth, apparent astrological signs and constellations not known in our solar system, strangely proportioned naked women and intricate systems of liquid-carrying tubes.

During World War II, the Allied cryptographers, the experts who broke the Nazi ciphers, played with the Voynich in their spare time, but made no headway. Other professionals, including linguists, botanists, mathematicians, astrologers, medievalists and literary scholars have taken a run at the Voynich, too, but have all come up dry, as have numerous amateur puzzle-solvers.

Recently, however, psychologist Gordon Rugg, who teaches at Keele University in England, came up with what is probably the solution. Working on the manuscript at home in the evenings, he finally concluded that it says — nothing at all!

Rugg proposes that it’s an elaborate hoax generated by an Elizabethan con artist to dupe a king into paying a large sum to acquire it. Indeed, the first known owner of the Voynich was the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who reigned from 1576-1612. He paid 600 gold ducats for it (about $30,000 in today’s money), believing it was the work of the 13th-century philosopher Roger Bacon.

Though this hoax possibility had occasionally been suggested, no one took it seriously because the document appeared too elaborate to be a fraud. Rugg, however, actually demonstrated how the so-called language of the manuscript was generated, and now many cryptologists and others are finding Rugg’s conclusion persuasive.

More important than the manuscript, however, is the type of investigation Rugg brought to the riddle. He calls it the “verifier approach,” and it has promise for solving more important puzzles, such as how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or to learn more about the origins of the universe.

The verifier approach looks for gaps in logic, research or experimentation, and then explores those. When professionals investigate a riddle they tend to rely on the principles from their expertise; the problem gets thoroughly considered from their niche perspectives. But often that means these experts miss the big picture, with the result that there are approaches that nobody examines. And sometimes the solution lies somewhere in one of the overlooked gaps.

Rugg argues that experts, whom he defines as someone with 10 years in a discipline, have no more reasoning power than anybody else, but they do have a lot of experience — experience that can blind them to things that seem to fit their expertise but are actually something different.


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