0

With the current Hebrew version of Genesis 1:1 the number Pi can be found within a gematria calculation. I am curious how far back it goes and if it exists in the earliest versions of Genesis 1:1 or if it has been changed at some point.

http://homepage.virgin.net/vernon.jenkins/Pi_File.htm

(Interestingly using the same method John 1:1 calculates to the number "e", also known as Euler's number.)

The link above has the Genesis 1:1 calculation for the text.

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

bere'shiyth bara' 'elohiym 'eth ha-shamayim we'eth ha-'arets.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

If you check the link you can see it requires word for word and letter for letter precision to calculate Pi, so I am curious to know how far back it goes, and if earlier versions differed.

Where can I find the earliest versions of Genesis 1:1?

7

The consonantal text of Genesis 1:1 as quoted by OP is the only ancient Hebrew text known for this verse:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ
brʾšyt brʾ ʾlhym ʾt hšmym wʾt hʾrṣ

The oldest known manuscript of this famous text is from the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q7 = 4QGeng. Unfortunately it is a broken text, but there is sufficient visible (for the purposes of this question) to confirm that its text is the same as the familiar one known from the standard text of the Hebrew Bible:

4Q7

Whether this is the oldest form of this Hebrew is a different question, however. Epigraphic Hebrew -- the "living" form of the language during the biblical period -- did not use internal "vowel letters" (consonants used to indicate vowels), although their use grew perceptibly from the 10th to 1st C BCE. Jeremy Hutton ("Orthography: Epigraphy", in Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics [Brill, 2015]) writes:

The representation of long, word-internal vowels was apparently a secondarily adapted feature which gained in frequency and regularity during the Persian and Hellenistic periods.

If the oldest form of the first verse of Genesis followed these orthographic conventions, then it would probably read:

brʾšt brʾ ʾlhm ʾt hšmym wʾt hʾrṣ
      ^ ^

That is, the first two occurrences of /y/ in the transliteration above would be missing (the "gap" noted by ^ below the line). (The last /y/ is consonantal.)

Such an orthography would, of course, render meaningless the calculation of π described by OP. I reiterate, though, that this is a hypothetical text, and not one that exists in any known manuscripts. And it is clear that the י in אלהים is present in 4QGeng, as would be expected by this date:

elohim

-1

While the text itself has not changed, the method of gematria used with the text was changed by Judah the Patriarch in the 2nd Century CE when Merkabah was prohibited from discussion.1 The oldest gematria belongs to the Merkabah 2 and was extant at the time the Torah was written.3 It returns the following values for the first line of Genesis:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

In the beginning (220) created (203) Elohim (86) ath (+) The Heavens (98) vath (and +) The Earth (296).

The value of the first word (בראשית) is 220, and 220 / 7 = 31.42857 and by moving the base point along by 10 gives 3.142857 which is the well known ancient approximation for Pi.

A fuller analysis of Genesis 1:1 with the gematria of the Merkabah can be found here.


Sources:

  1. The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel’s Vision, by Professor David Joel Halperin, page 14.

    Mishnah Haggidah 2:1
    “The Merkabah may not be expounded by an individual unless he is a scholar ‎who understands on his own”;

  2. Reader’s Guide to Judaism, by Sarah Pessin, page 457:

    Gematria key:
    א 1 ב 2 ג 3 ש 3 ד 4 ת 4 ה 5 ו 6 ז 7 ח 8 ט 9 י 10 כ 20 ל 30 מ 40 נ 50 ס 60 ע 70 פ 80 צ 90 ק 100 ר 200

  3. "A Mesopotamian Background for the So-Called Aggadic ‘Measures’ of Biblical Hermeneutics?", by Stephen J. Lieberman, Hebrew Union College Annual Vol. 58 (1987), pp. 157-225.

    Lieberman concludes that, given the employment of numerological techniques before and during the composition of the Hebrew Bible, it is entirely possible that Gematria was employed in the biblical text itself, encoding hidden messages, and this is something that the gematria of the Merkabah confirms Q.E.D.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.