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Biblical numerology refers to the interpretation by some biblical scholars of numerical values used in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that they believe relate to symbolism, which imply quality or attributes, of the value rather than to an actual quantity. While studied by theologians, not all agree with this interpretation. Others, preferring a more fundamental approach, believe that the numbers represent the literal quantities. This article explains the interpretation of those who believe that numbers sometimes represent attributes and not the number itself. According to the theory, these numbers were purposely inserted by their authors to emphasize a particular message. Numerical symbology is most abundantly found in Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation, but is not confined to those books.
While many ancient languages, religions, and philosophies contained numeric interpretation of events, words, and names, this article is concerned with those uniquely affecting Judeo-Christian beliefs. Although Greek culture was well-known to scholars in the first centuries BC and AD in the Middle East, Greek ideas about numerology do not seem to have permeated Jewish and Christian beliefs.
1/3: In the Book of Revelation the fraction one-third is used sixteen times in reference to a divine curse or punishment.
- and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. (Rev 8:7)
- and the third part of the sea became blood (Rev 8:8)
- And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. (Rev 8:9)
- Examples include:
- Three major feasts appear in Jewish Tradition (Exod 23:14-19)
- Prayer was urged three times daily (see Dan 6:10 and Ps 55:17)
- Three-year-old animals were prized for special sacrifices (Gen 15:9)
- There are three major celebrations in the Easter Triduum (the holiest part of Holy Week, the holiest week in much of Christianity), which lasts approximately three days (Holy Thursday, which includes the Chrism Mass, and the Mass of the Lord's Supper in the evening, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil – on Holy Saturday night – and Easter Sunday)
- According to orthodox Christianity: the Trinity
4: Four signifies a sense of totality:1252 or "the world," preeminently in the Book of Revelation. It derives its meaning from there being four cardinal directions, as also attested in Mesopotamian literature.:1252
- Four corners of the earth (Rev 7:1)
- Construction of the altar: four corners, four pillars, etc. (see Exod 27:1-8 and Exod 27:16); many of these altar construction guidelines are still used today
6: Both Hebrew and Christian sources believe six indicates "imperfection," "man", or "evil." For Christianity, this occurs preeminently in the Book of Revelation. Some Christians believe that 666 is the Number of the Beast. The significance of three 6s shows eternal imperfection of Lucifer.[clarification needed] However, a secular source, Britannica, reports that it means "perfection" in religion.
- There are seven sacraments in Western Catholicism, Eastern Catholicism, the Anglo-Catholic rites, and much of Orthodoxy
- There are seven days in a week
- In the Book of Revelation, there are multiple examples, including seven churches, seven bowls, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders and seven spirits
8: Eight means a "new life" or "resurrection".
- Examples include:
- Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Fishbane, Michael, eds. (2004). The Jewish Study Bible. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195297515.
- How to read the Bible - Catholic Bible 101
- Senior, Donald; Mary Ann Getty; Carroll Stuhlmueller (1990). The Catholic Study Bible. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 398, 399. ISBN 978-0-19-528391-4.
- Rev 13:18
- Encyclopedia Britannica