AN EXAMPLE OF THE USE OF NUMBERS IN ST. MATTHEW’S GOSPEL
According to tradition, the Apostle Matthew was a Levitical priest who was also called Levi [Matthew 9:9; 10:3; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27, 29]. If so, the Apostle Matthew was intimately aware of the symbolic link between letters and numbers.
In his Gospel, Matthew manipulated the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth to reflect the significance of the Hebrew gematria of King David’s name which was the number fourteen [D = 4, V= 6, D= 4; Hebrew was written only in consonants] and the significance of number symbolism in his division of the forty-two generations from Abraham to David to Jesus the Messiah. Matthew’s manipulation of the genealogy is reflected in the fact that he dropped the names of several Judahite kings in Jesus’ line: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah [see 2 Chronicles 36:1-13], doubled the use of the name of both King David in verse 6 and King Jechoniah in verses 11 and 12 in the beginning of his 2 and 3 sets, and added the name of Tamar’s other son Zerah (not in the line of descent) to make his list reflect the symbolism he desired in the total number of names/ males, and to produce 3 sets of 14 generations for a total of 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus of Nazareth.
-The Hebrew gematria for David’s name is 14 (double spiritual perfection)
-The Greek gematria for Jesus’ name (language of New Testament) is 888 (8= salvation)
-Abraham’s name is mentioned 7 times the Gospel of Matthew (spiritual perfection) and 3 times in Matthew’s chapter 1 toledoth (generational list). 3 is fullness and completion and for Christians represents the mystery of the Trinity.
-David’s name is mentioned 5 times in Matthew’s toledoth. 5 is the number symbolizing power and grace.
Matthew’s manipulation of the list of Jesus’ ancestral line
Matthew manipulates the names of Abraham’s descendants into 3 sets of 14 individual male descendants or as he tells us in Matthew 1:17: The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ. He manipulates the list to get 3 sets of 14 generations each to create 42 names of the list of the descendants of Abraham to bring attention to the link between the names and the covenant promise to Abraham and David by Yahweh. David’s name is # 14 in the list and the gematria of his name is the number 14. The number 42 also has significance. 42 divided by 12, the number of Israel, yields 3 ½. This is a prophetic number in both Daniel chapter 12 and in Revelation. See Daniel 12:1-13 (focus on verse 7 which adds up to 3 ½ ). 3 ½ is half of 7. It is an imperfect number. Note: both St. Jerome and Pope St Gregory the Great wrote extensively about and gematria its significance in Scripture. Sir Isaac Newton wrote more about gematria and numbers in Scripture than he did about the theory of gravity.
Set #1 List of generations in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 1’s genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth:
|additional names of Zerah and Tamar (woman #1)|
|Rahab (woman #2)|
|Ruth (woman #3)|
There are 14 generations
There are 27 total male names (repeats and counting Zerah’s name)
There are 3 names of gentile women
Total names: 30 names (note: it was necessary to add Zerah’s name to make 30 names)
|David||fathered||Solomon||Uriah’s wife (note: David’s name is repeated)|
|6. Joram||fathered||Uzziah||(3 missing kings)|
|13. Josiah||fathered||[see #14]|
|14 Jechoniah||[deportation of Judah to Babylon]|
There are 14 generations (no repeats)
There are 29 names of males total if you include Uriah
There is 1 female mentioned but not counted because unnamed (the wife of Uriah- 4th gentile woman. 4 is the number of the earth)
Set #3 (after the deportation to Babylon; notice no restoration is mentioned)
|13. Joseph||husband of||Mary||(the 5th women) mother of|
|14. Jesus the Christ||(bringing true restoration to Israel)|
Matthew manipulates the list by counting Jechoniah twice in order to get 14 generations in the final set. Jesus’ name is the 14th generation but if you count all the names without repeats Mary’s name is the 14th name with Jesus name coming after 6 sets of 7 as the 7th 7. There are 27 names total in this set.
The total of all the names given in each set is 86. 8 is the number of salvation, 80 the number of salvation times divine order (10), and 6 is the number of man. Matthew’s message is that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of David and the King of Kings who has come to bring salvation to Israel and to mankind.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF NUMBERS IN ST. MARK’S GOSPEL
In St. Mark’s Gospel Jesus is the authoritative Son of God and God’s triumphant envoy come to suffer and die in order to claim victory over sin and death. Mark continually focuses on the immediacy of the proclamation of Jesus’ message of salvation and his accounts of Jesus’ teachings are often presented in a central theme sandwiched between two related or concurrent events. An example of Mark’s skillful telling of the events of Jesus’ teaching coupled with word repetition and the symbolism of numbers is found in the account of the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with an issue of blood in Mark 5:21-43. The account begins with the petition of Jairus, the president of the local synagogue. Jairus’ 12 year old daughter [Mark 5:42] is at the point of death and he pleads with Jesus to come to his house to heal his daughter [Mark 5:23; 35] before it is too late. As Jairus leads the way, Jesus follows with a large crowd pressing upon Him. Suddenly Jesus feels a surge of His healing power pass from Him. He stops, turns to the crowd and demands Who has touched my clothes? A woman in the crowd has suffered from an issue of blood which has rendered her ritually unclean for 12 years. Sheconfesses that she has touched Jesus’ garment – probably touching one of the tassels of his prayer shawl, one of the tzitziyoth of His talit [Numbers 15:37-39] – believing if only she could touch Him she would be healed. Jesus replies to the woman: My daughter, …your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint [Mark 5:34].
While Jesus was speaking to the woman some people from Jairus’ house arrived with the distressing news that the child has died, but Jesus urges Jairus to have faith. Arriving at Jairus’ home Jesus only allows 3 Apostles to accompany Him: Peter, James and John Zebedee. Addressing the weeping relatives Jesus insists that the child is not dead but only asleep. When the assembled relatives ridicule Jesus He turns them out of the house, only permitting the 2 parents and His 3 Apostles – 5 people, to remain with Him. Together with the child and Jesus there are 7 in the room when Jesus commands the child to “get up!” Mark records: The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was 12 years old.
Do not miss the other significant repetitions. In addition to the number twelve, and the word “daughter” applied to both the child and the woman, the words “may be saved [cured]” are applied to the daughter in 5:24 and in are spoken by the woman in 5:28, and the word “faith” is spoken by Jesus to the woman in 5:34 and to Jairus in 5:36.
The central theme which unites both these stories is healing, purification, restoration, and new life – not just of these two daughters of Israel but of the healing and restoration Jesus is bringing to all of Old Covenant Israel. Twelve is the number of perfection in government and, therefore, the number which signifies the Church. Just as Jesus raised the child of Jairus to new life, so will He raise up the faithful remnant of Old Covenant Israel to become the faithful New Covenant people of God. The selection of the three Apostles is a sign that what is about to happen is of theological significance; the five people invited by Jesus to come into the room when the child is healed signifies the gift of God’s grace applied through the faith of the believers, and the seven gathered together, including Jesus and the child, signifies the healing and regenerative power of God the Holy Spirit – seven is the number of spiritual perfection. In St. Mark’s Gospel the healing and restoration of these two daughters of Israel signified the healing and restoration of the faithful covenant people of God who embraced Jesus as the promised Messiah. It is through this faithful remnant that Jesus will establish the New Covenant and the Universal Church through will the whole world “may be saved”.
GEMATRIA FOR THE NUMBER 666 IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
“There is need for shrewdness here: anyone clever may interpret the number of the beast: it is the number of a human being, the number is 666.” Revelation 13:18
[Some ancient manuscripts record the number 616 instead of 666]
Examples of Gematria for Neron Caesar and Nero Caesar in Hebrew and Jesus in Greek
[Hebrew letters are read from right to left]
|nwrn rsq – (Neron Caesar)||wrn rsq – (Nero Caesar)|| Iesous – Jesus
| Q = 100
S = 60
R = 200
N = 50
R = 200
W = 6
N = 50
| Q = 100
S = 60
R = 200
N = 50
R = 200
W = 6
| I = 10
E = 8
S = 200
O = 70
U = 400
S = 200
The gematria of Roman numerals
The total of the Roman numbers is 666 [the ‘M’ for 1,000 is two ‘Ds’ back to back; there are only 6 Roman numerals]. 666 is the number of the Beast. Caesar was Rome and Rome was Caesar and Caesar claimed to be a god. The word for “god” in Greek is theos. Caesar god in Greek is kaisar theos. The gematria is:
- 666 is a trinity of 6s; never to be a 7
- 6 is the number of man, especially as man in rebellion against God:
The number seven, however, represents perfection, fullness and completion – especially perfection through the work of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 19:16 there are two titles for Christ which St. John reveals to us form one “name.” Is he telling us to add the words together to determine the gematria of the titles? The gematria of “King of kings, Lord of lords” in Aramaic (leaving out the “and”) equals 777 – a trinity of perfection in contrast to the Beast’s number 666 which will never achieve perfection.
The significance of numbers in Holy Scripture is far greater than just the numerical value of each individual number. Deciphering and discerning that significance only adds to the mystery and wonder of the study of Sacred Scripture. But Sacred Scripture, the written word, cannot be separated from the Living Word, Jesus Christ. In the study of the words of God written down for us in human terms that we can understand, we cannot begin to understand the spiritual meaning of the one without a living union with the other, our Savior Jesus the Christ. And it is through the great and true teacher God the Holy Spirit, who was sent to us by God the Son, that the truth and wonder of God’s works will be revealed to us.
Great are the works of Yahweh,to be treasured for all their delights.
Greek Letter Number Equivalents
There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet and there are an additional three symbols that are finals not letters.
There are 24 Greek letters but to make up for the necessary number equivalents the final ‘s’, called “stigma”, was designated for the number 6. For some unexplained reason it was taken as a number symbol for 6 out of the letter sequence. Two arbitrary symbols were also added called respectively Koppa, for 90, and Sampi, for 900.
Qoppa (uppercase Ϙ, lowercase ϙ) is an obsolete letter of the Greek alphabet and had a numeric value of 90. It has been attested in early Aeolic and Boeotian scripts, but became altogether extinct by pre-Classical times. There are two very different glyphs for qoppa: “archaic Qoppa” (Ϙ ϙ) used to write words and “Numeric Qoppa” (Ϟ ϟ) used in modern Greek legal documentation. Qoppa was originally borrowed from the Phoenicians, who had /q/ in their language. It was later imported into the Etruscan alphabet, and was eventually adopted into the Latin alphabet in its current form, ‘Q’. It was also adopted into the early Cyrillic alphabet as koppa (Ҁ, ҁ).
Sampi is an obsolete letter of the Greek alphabet that had the numerical value of 900 when used as a mathematical character. The name “sampi” seems to come from [o]sàn pî: “like pi.” Another name formerly used for this archaic letter was Disigma because of the phoneme it represented, /ss/ or /ks/.
Hebrew Letter Number Equivalent
* last 5 symbols are finals not letters. The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters. The 5 finals were added to make up three series of 9 or 27 symbols to provide adequate number equivalents.
5 is the number of “grace” in the symbolism of numbers in Scripture. The 5 Greek words form the acrostic phrase “Jesus Christ, God’s Son Savior,” taking first letter of each Greek word yields the word “fish” in Greek: Iota, Chi, Theta, Epsilon, Sigma = ichthys, FISH, an early Christian symbol.
How lovely to think about the way our Creator God planned everything so carefully and perfectly, everything with a plan.
As His highest creation, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
God’s accuracy may be observed in the hatching of eggs.
For example, the eggs of the potato bug hatch in 7 days;
Those of the canary in 14 days;
Those of the barnyard hen in 21 days.
The eggs of ducks and geese hatch in 28 days;
Those of the mallard in 35 days.
The eggs of the parrot and the ostrich hatch in 42 days.
(Notice, they are all divisible by seven).
God’s wisdom is seen in the making of an elephant.
The four legs of this great beast all bend forward in the same direction. No other quadruped is so made. God planned that this animal would have a huge body, too large to live on two legs. For this reason He gave it four fulcrums so that it can rise from the ground easily.
The horse rises from the ground on its two front legs first.
A cow rises from the ground with its two hind legs first.
How wise the Lord is in all His works of creation!
God’s wisdom is revealed in His arrangement of sections and segments, as well as in the number of grains.
Each watermelon has an even number of strips on the rind.
Each orange has an even number of segments.
Each ear of corn has an even number of rows.
Each stalk of wheat has an even number of grains.
Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number and the next row an odd number.
The waves of the sea roll in on shore twenty-six to the minute in all kinds of weather.
All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks.
The Lord specified thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold –all even numbers.
God has caused the flowers to blossom at certain specified times during the day, so that Linneus, the great botanist, once said that if he had a conservatory containing the right kind of soil, moisture and temperature, he could tell the time of day or night by the flowers that were open and those that were closed!
Thus the Lord in His wonderful grace can arrange the life that is entrusted to His care in such a way that it will carry out His purposes and plans, and will be fragrant with His presence. Only the God-planned life is successful.
Only the life given over to the care of the Lord is safe (E. W. Bullinger).
- The Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Jack Finegan; Hendrickson Publishers
- Numbers in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, E.W. Bullinger; Kregel Publications.
- The Stromata, Clement of Alexandria; Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume 2; Hendrickson Publishers.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998, Revised June, 2000; May, 2003; July, 2003; May, 2007, May, 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.