Re: Significance of numbers: Kepler and 720: waxing eloquent

William T. Yates (
Thu, 09 Sep 1999 20:45:33 -0700

Ted Davis wrote:

> If we want to place significance on numbers, let's consider Kepler's
> argument for the significance of 720 in the archetypal design of the
> universe (this is his term, "Archetypal," and it seems appropriate), more
> significant than these alleged biblical things since it would be plain to
> all, at least to all who follow his line of reasoning. :-)
> <snip>

> Now it happens that the sun and moon each subtend about half a degree of
> arc in the sky, or 1/720 of a circle. NO, it doesn't "happen" that this is
> so, it was part of the creator's intention. "We must seek the archetypal
> cause," but "there is no geometrical cause for the division of a circle into
> 720 parts". But there is a harmonic cause--and we must remember that Kepler
> considered the harmonies of the world as his greatest discovery--to wit,
> that "the least number which offers itself in determining all the parts of
> the monochord and in setting up the twofold scale of the octave, ie in the
> minor and major mode--I say that this number is 720, as was shown in the
> Harmonies of the World." (I lack space to develop this here and won't
> respond to inquiries; go look for yourself at the Epitome of Copernican
> Astronomy, Book IV, and the relevant parts of the Harmony.)
> 720 is divisible by
> 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,12,15,18,20,24,36,40,45,48,60,72,80,90, etc. Surely a
> remarkable number for God to pick. As Kepler says, God chose this number to
> scale the universe "both on account of the number itself," and "also on
> account of the eclipses of the sun, a spectacle ordained by the Creator in
> order that the speculative creatures should thereby be taught concerning the
> rationale of the course of the stars. And teaching would be done most
> rightly if the semidiameters of the sun and moon were to appear equal at the
> greatest distance of each." He refers to conclusions that follow from this
> as "a wonderful concord of probabilities."
> Now, let's be honest, folks, which would YOU rather read: Kepler's
> profoundly beautiful conception of the universe, expressed thusly, or the
> deafeningly dull prose that editors of modern scientific journals impose on
> (often) equally unimaginative authors. Now, perhaps, there is a fuller
> understanding of why I decided to become an historian rather than a
> scientist?
> :-)
> Ted Davis

Actually, aren't the divisons of the circle and hour based on 60 derived from
Babylonian practice? It seems I've read this somewhere. If so, that puts a
whole new slant on things, doesn't it? Here we have people putting forward the
theseis that these things are derived from or reflective of God and His
creation when actually they came from that paragon of paganism, Babylon!

--Bill Yates
--Moderator, Writer's Club Christian Writer's Workshop
--Editor,'s Believer's Weekly
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