Biblical numerology refers to the interpretation, by some biblical scholars, of numerical values used in the Torah, the rest of the Hebrew Bible, and even 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 often 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.
Among other definitions, two can imply "witness."
- 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)
- In Christianity, there are three persons in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- 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)
- Four corners of the earth (Rev 7:1)
- Construction of the altar: 4 corners, 4 pillars, etc. (see Exo 27:1-8 and Exo 27:16); many of these altar construction guidelines are still used today
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.(see Rev 13:18) 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 7 churches, 7 bowls, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 spirits.
Eight means a "new life" or "resurrection".
- 8 people on Noah's Ark (see Gen 7:7 and 2 Peter 2:5)
- Circumcision on 8th day (Gen 17:12)
- In Catholicism, certain Marian or Christological feasts are celebrated over octaves
- The twelve tribes of Israel
- Twelve Apostles
- Meanings of numbers in the Bible
- 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.
- Encyclopedia Britannica
- Bruce E. Baker (2012). Prolegomena to Critical Theology,. Apocalyptic Ministries,.
- E. W. Bullinger (1967). Number in Scripture. Kregel.
- F.W. Grant (2006). The Numerical Structure of Scripture. Kessinger.
- Robert D. Johnston (1990). Numbers in the Bible. Kregel.
- Reginald T. Naish (2010). Spiritual Arithmetic. Nabu.
- Don Odon (1989). The Spiritual Power of Bible Numerics. Odon.
- Ed F. Vallowe (1998). Biblical Mathematics. Olive.