Number Games in Holy Texts

In scriptural tales, when numbers were included in the texts, they invariably relayed hidden meaning to those trained in the art of sacred language. In ancient cultures, long before the rise of Judaism among the Hebrew tribes, numbers were considered to carry mystical significance. Virtually ignored by believers today is the fact that precise calculations were vital for many ancient observations and constructions which required several steps of computation which had to include and combine spherical geometry and trigonometry. As obvious as this should seem, the common opinion of the ancients has been that they understood only fundamental mathematics. Any fascination of mathematical exercise in prehistory cultures is thought to hold little implication. The number of persons such as is claimed within each of the Israelite tribes, however, do hold hidden significance for those trained in sacred language technique. Consider some other examples.

The number six, as in the six days of Creation, was regarded in ancient cultures as a balanced number, a “perfect” number, for 6 was seen as representative of Creation’s bearing principle–or the feminine aspect within Creation activity. Influenced by prehistory Creation lessons which had been given using various constellation illustrations, 6 was regarded as the first feminine number, for it represents the energy involvement out of Source which will “go forth and multiply.” In zodiac depictions we should note that the astrological sign Virgo is the sixth from Aries and tradition says Aries represents the head; also note that Virgo is the only female illustration in major zodiac signs. In the Genesis myth we are told that all Creation was whipped up in just six days. The number six was thus considered by the 8th century BCE priest-authors in Jerusalem as the number of God. And the sixth day of Creation was held as especial because man, considered as God’s highest achievement, was created on the sixth day. (The number 6, some have noted, holds the outline of a fetus in gestation.) Not so coincidently in Christian lore Jesus has credited to him as his sixth miracle his own transfiguration. This just happens to correspond to the sixth plane of energy involvement in prehistory Creation lessons which were in regard to primal energies moving into development as matter.

Interestingly, the ancient regard for the number six was eventually explained by the Greek philosopher-mathematician Pythagoras (c.582?-500 BCE). The number six was the first number among several that the followers of Pythagoras were taught as expressing the perfection upon which all that exists is anchored. It was their belief that numbers express the true nature of things. A number was regarded as “perfect” if it is equal to the sum of its proper divisors. A proper divisor is a number which divides another number exactly, and the number six, for example, equals 1+2+3. Other numbers regarded as “perfect” are 28, 496, 8128, and 33440336.

Augustine, the Christian saint, expounded upon the mathematical endowment of the number six (never mentioning Pythagoras) saying, “Six is the number perfect in itself, and not because God created all things in six days: rather the inverse is true; God created all things in six days because this number is perfect. And it would remain perfect even if the work of six days did not exist.”

Another number from prehistory Creation accounts is the number four (4). In prehistory Creation lessons the fourth stage involvement of primal elements concerned creative energy as it flowed toward manifestation as defined matter. In scriptural versions this fourth elemental energy involvement was commonly disguised with a zero added. Examples: 40 days of rain in the Noah account, the 40 years of wandering in the Moses epic, and in each case they attained their destiny after passing through four elementary energy developmental stages. This is also the coded meaning in the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after Lazarus had “…lain in the grave four days already” (John 11). It is not accidental that there are four canonized Gospels either, each providing developmental phases of the Life Principle, personified as Jesus, who represents the universality of all life. Nor is it accidental that the supposed authors of those Gospels are symbolized with the four deliberately jumbled divisional signs from the zodiac. Matthew is signified with the Ox (Taurus), Mark is symbolized with the Lion (Leo), Luke is represents with Man (Aquarius), and John is represented with the eagle, which in Jewish astrology symbolized Scorpio. And in Christian accounts there are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelations 6:1-8), which were deliberately jumbled by color descriptions to disguise the symbolism borrowed from prehistory lessons on Creation’s elementary involvement.

In Genesis 32:14, where the dishonesty of Jacob is celebrated, other numbers convey disguised meaning. Jacob is portrayed as indulging in a schemed peace-making deal with his brother Esau from whom he had earlier stolen the “birthright” blessing of their father. As a peace-offering Jacob is portrayed as giving Esau “…two hundred she-goats and twenty-two he-goats” as a token of his good will. That number 220 happens to be the first among particular numbers which were regarded by Pythagoras to be charged with “friendly” vibrations. The reason for this respect was that certain numbers, such as 220 and 284, are each equal to the sum of the proper divisors of the other. [The proper divisors of 220 are: 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 20, 44, 55, and 110. These are numbers which divide evenly into a number, including 1, but excluding the number itself.]

We today tend to forget that many ancient cultures were highly sophisticated and were well acquainted with mathematics, medicinal, scientific, geometric, astronomical and psychological principles. The principle known in mathematics as pi is commonly thought to be of rather recent understanding. But it is interesting to note that ancient Babylonian and Egyptian mathematicians were quite familiar with the fact that the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle is a constant, or what we know as pi. And they understood also that pi is no ordinary constant, for its precise value can never be known, and thus the constant holds the special status of being transcendental. This is so because not only is it a decimal that does not repeat, but neither does it terminate.

The prehistory mathematicians were well aware also of other numbers which shared the baffling properties of pi. As an example, the ratio of the diagonal to the side of a square is also a decimal that neither repeats nor ends. And a diagonal line drawn through a square results in two right triangles whose hypotenuse is the diagonal with the sides of the square which act as the sides of the two triangles. Such a diagonal division of space within a square which is symbolized in this manner is therefore mathematically equivalent to the division of light from darkness in Genesis 1:4, the division of waters from waters in Genesis 1:6, and even the provisional division as male and female in Genesis 1:27. And the ratio of two intergers[1] is calculated by a decimal which neither repeats itself nor ends, and it is this “irrational number” which can be said to be representative of God in the seemingly irrational scriptural storytelling. [1 An integer is any number or a set of positive whole numbers, such as 1, 2, 3 and zero.] Major “prophets”–Elijah for example–are portrayed as parting waters, and multiplying life essentials (bread, fish, oil, etc.), each in a one-time-only creation deal. This represents the division of energy for positive/negative exchange which makes for multiplication of creative energies.

Persons who are prone to regard biblical tales as having been written by or dictated by God become a bit upset when the authors of holy word seem to get tripped up by principles of mathematics. The account of the resplendent temple allegedly erected by King Solomon (1 Kings 7:23), for example, falls a wee bit short in the calculations of the “molten sea”–a huge circular tank which is said to have held water for religious ceremonies. That holy holding pool is described as being “…ten cubits from one brim to the other…and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” This would mean that the value of pi is casually rounded off as three–somewhat at odds with the true value of 3.14159+. The contention presented in this tale thus exposes the fraudulent claim that direct divine wisdom was being relayed to seekers, for it is impossible to make a circle which has a diameter of ten cubits and a circumference of an even thirty.

Not surprisingly the obsession of using numbers as an indication of divine purpose was carried over by the Roman Empire authors of the New Testament as another technique aimed to attract Jewish converts. It is not exactly coincidence therefore that Jesus is depicted as having been crucified on the 6th day of the week. And there is the miracle of Jesus multiplying five loaves of bread and two fishes (Pisces) to feed followers (Matthew 14:19), which, we should remember, occurred after he had improved upon the miracle of parting waters by walking upon them. Speaking of fish consider, in the book of John 21:11 (written c. 105-106 CE), the number of fish allegedly caught by disciples at the Sea of Tiberius (better known as the Sea of Galilee) was 153. This happening is depicted as having taken place after Jesus had shown himself for the third time after his crucifixion. The peculiar number 153 in this professed happening is another which happens to be mathematically special. It is known as a triangular (three-sided) number, for it is equal to the sum of the integers from 1 to 17. In other words, if a triangle was a diagram with figures of fish, and the triangle measured 17x17x17, it would contain exactly 153 same-sized fish. Nothing miraculous here, nothing supernatural–just a mathematical exercise used in storytelling to imply their faith systems’ divine power over natural forces. From such as this we are indebted to “revealed” sacred truth.


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