Re: personal revelations

From: Iain Strachan (
Date: Mon Feb 21 2000 - 10:12:14 EST

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    Wayne wrote:
    >Knowing the _content_ of the book of Jeremiah, I would have to
    >at least admit that the motives of Jeremiah were sincere. He did
    >not go into that ministry to cheat and screw the world. So I would
    >not see the numerology (in of itself) as being a sign of divine creation,
    >rather, I would see the numerology reflecting something about the
    >attitudes, passions and values of the prophet.
    >At any rate, it shouldn't be a surprise that people would want
    >to use numbers for things they value highly. Even the first clown
    >I described had reasons for using numerology.
    >In short, it is the _content_ that makes the Bible meaningful, and
    >the numbers (even if they really can be irrefutably shown to be
    >significant), are still merely the "decorations" on the cake. Even
    >if there were none, it would still be engaging. On the other hand,
    >the first clown's book is only tawdry decorations.


    Thanks for these thoughtful observations.

    Essentially, as I see it, you are proposing that the human writers might have added the numerical features as embellishments because it was their way of giving glory to God, or making the text as beautiful as possible (bearing in mind that gematria was very widely practiced). Such beauty-enhancing embellisments of course occur in a number of different ways in literary forms, for example the practice in Shakespeare of finishing a long speech with a rhyming couplet.

    Although this is fine in general, I have a problem with it when applying the idea that, for example the numerical patterns in Gen 1:1 were simply embellishments. This is because the numerical structure (as illustrated in detail on Vernon's website) is far too detailed; it is like just decorating a poem by making the line-ends rhyme, it would necessitate the entire sequence of integers being pre-specified. It is my view, having looked at examples where deliberately numerically constrained writing have been given, that this would impose far too great a constraint on the freedom to write something meaningful. In another post, I cited the "2300" poem from the 17th Century; the numerical constraint was so severe that it produced a highly artificial, worthless bit of literature. Furthermore, despite the fact that each line came, via the author's ingenuity, to 2300, there would not be any internal structure in the lines that would yield any reinforcement of the design, as ther!
    e i
    s in the Gen 1:1 example.

    Another problem with it being done by the humans, is that the historical evidence suggests that the earliest known deliberate use of number letter equivalence using the same scheme is in the 2nd century BC on Maccabean coins. It may of course be that the scheme was in place earlier than that; but it appears that the original scheme was Greek, and devised by mathematicians in the 5th Century BC, and that the Hebrew scheme followed after. Of course it may be the case that the scheme was around earlier, but this becomes highly speculative. In any case, where numbers are mentioned explicitly in the OT, such as 969, then it is not written as numerals, but spelt out in words "Nine hundred, sixty and nine". If the numeral scheme was in place when Genesis was written, and if the authors deliberately introduced numerical embellishments using that scheme, then it seems odd that they didn't use the numerals to represent the many numbers that you find in the OT.

    Anyway, thanks again for the thoughtful feedback.

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