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Closely Related:
- What is the meaning of "calculate" in Revelation 13:18?

1. Question:

In general, Which forms of numerology were in use that the writer of Revelation might have likely used for numerology, such as the reference to the "Mark of the Beast"?

NKJV, Revelation 13:18 - Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

Also, was the numerology values to be calculated from Greek characters, or Aramaic?


2. Some Research:

Chaldean Numerology, The differences between Chaldean and Pythagorean methods -

For example, the Chaldean system is based on the numbers 1 through 8, not 1 through 9, although the 9 does play a role in certain situations. Pythagorean Numerology pays more attention to the full name at birth than to the shorter name used in day-to-day social settings ... the opposite is true for the Chaldean system. The numerical values of the letters are also different, and the list goes on.

There are actually a lot of other forms of numerology, (especially in Judaism) - but what I am asking for here is the most probable form of numerology that the writer of Revelation might have been using - based on systems used at that time.

  • Is your question specifically about what form of numerology was used in Revelation 13.18, or in the Revelation as a whole and 13.18 is just the example you picked? If the first, then this question may be a duplicate. – user2910 Aug 28 '17 at 0:51
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    @MarkEdward - You are right that the questions are very closely related. I am not quite sure where that question is headed, but it seems to be asking for a "Judgment" of "How are we expected to 'calculate the number'?". This question is intended to be more of a historical survey of which numerological methods were actually in use at the time - that might be applied throughout the Book of Revelation. I figure that any answers to this question might indirectly inform that one. I really, really, don't want to solicit opinions on how each number should be calculated. – elika kohen Aug 28 '17 at 4:52
  • Asking about the entire book is too broad in my opinion. Asking about numerology in this particular passage is a duplicate, e.g. "Which beast does the number 666 represent?" or "What is the original Number of the Beast?" – Dan Jan 30 '18 at 21:26
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Most of the numbers used in Revelation have the symbolic meaning that were elsewhere used in the Old Testament. Ten was a symbol of perfection or completeness, as was the number of 1,000. Seven had the sense of complete, or full. Twelve generally reminded them of the twelve tribes of Israel, and collectively of the apostles of the New Testament. There twenty-four priestly courses. The number 40 was a time of testing and proving.

The 144,000 was 12x12x1000 for the twelve tribes of Israel multiplied by the 12 apostles of the gospel of Christ (a squared number of perfection) multiplied a third time by the symbol of complete fullness, 1000.

The best understanding of God's number system is to rely upon His original use of them from the scriptures. Mostly, they are literal, but they can also be symbolic. Some discussion of numbers as used in scripture can be found here.

The Hebrews / Jews of Christ's day did not commonly believe in the use of "gematria" to study the Bible. The peoples who did assign numerical values to letters were those of the nations - the Romans (V=5, X=10, L=50, etc) and the Greeks (Epsilon = 5, Iota = 10, Nu = 50, etc.). It was the pagan nations who assigned mystical meanings to names with the use of numbers.

Excerpt from an article at MyJewishLearning.com:

"While gematria was used periodically in the Talmud and Midrash, it was not central to rabbinic literature. The rabbis occasionally employed gematria to help support biblical exegesis, but did not rely on it heavily. They were much more invested in the use of logical reasoning and argumentation to support their positions.

However, gematria is essential to, the Jewish mystical tradition. The very basis of the kabbalistic cosmological system rests on the belief that God created the universe through the power of the Hebrew letters along with their numerical values. Indeed the many names of God and their permutations in Kabbalah have numerical values that are believed to contain potent power." Source: here

The present teaching of gematria comes from Babylonian and Greek practices. Excerpt from JewishVirtualLibrary.org:

"The use of letters to signify numbers was known to the Babylonians and the Greeks. The first use of gematria occurs in an inscription of Sargon II (727–707 B.C.E.) which states that the king built the wall of Khorsabad 16,283 cubits long to correspond with the numerical value of his name. The use of gematria (τὸ ὶσόψηφον) was widespread in the literature of the Magi and among interpreters of dreams in the Hellenistic world. The *Gnostics equated the two holy names Abraxas (ʾΑβράξας) and Mithras (Μίθρας) on the basis of the equivalent numerical value of their letters (365, corresponding to the days of the solar year). Its use was apparently introduced in Israel during the time of the Second Temple, even in the Temple itself, Greek letters being used to indicate numbers (Shek. 3:2)." Source: here

The background of Revelation is of the first century A.D. It was written in code by a Jew, the apostle John, to a Jewish audience, the first century Christian converts of the seven churches of Asia. It was most likely written in AD 66-68 as indicated in the preface of the Syriac text.

The traditional date of AD 95 which the "church" fathers assigned to Revelation is out of bounds considering the text. By AD 95 the city and temple at Jerusalem had been in ruins for 25 years. But, we know that the temple was still standing when John wrote the book as he was told to measure it (Rev. 11: 1-2).

The reference to the on-going sacrificial practices at the temple by those "which say they are Jews and are not" and "that synagogue of Satan" in Rev. 2:9 and 3:9 were present tense at the time of the writing.

The "great city, which IS spiritually called Sodom and Egypt" was identified as Jerusalem "where our Lord was crucified" in the very same verse (Rev. 11:8) and shows the present tense existence at the time of the writing.

The book must be viewed in the contemporary historical time frame of the first century A.D. See more at DatingTheNewTestament.com here.

As the first century A.D. was the time of the writing of the book, the codes used in the book had to have meaning for its audience - the first century Jewish followers of Christ. The book is highly symbolic, highly metaphorical in the Eastern poetical style. But, the code the Jews knew and understood was the TaNaKh (the Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketunim) or, the Christian Old Testament scriptures.

It had to be coded because of the political strife of the times as Judea was a province under Roman rule, and the Christians were being persecuted by both the Romans and the Sanhedrin. The name of the beast had to be encoded so that the readers of the book, as well as the author of the book would not be hunted down and killed.

So, John surely used a method that was common practice of the day in Greek thinking. And, as the Jews of the day spoke and read both Aramaic and Greek the number of the beast would have been automatically calculated either way. In fact, it was just confirmation, as they already knew who was persecuting them. The Roman historians Tacitus and Seutonius nicknamed Nero "the beast". See the post RomansinRevelation.

Rev. 13:18,

" Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." (KJV)

It was the number of A MAN- a man who was living at the time the book was written. The man that was the source of the persecution (tribulation) of the saints was Caesar Nero, and in Hebrew was spelled Neron Kesar. The consonants were nrwn qsr; in Hebrew "נרון קסר".

Excerpt from "Calculating the Number of the Beast" by Gary DeMar:

"So what name is behind the cryptic 666? When Nero Caesar’s name is transliterated into Hebrew, which a first-century Jew would probably have done immediately, he would have gotten Neron Kesar or simply nrwn qsr, since Hebrew has no letters to represent vowels. (The w represents a long “o” sound and the q represents the “k” sound in Hebrew.) “It has been documented by archaeological finds that a first century Hebrew spelling of Nero’s name provides us with precisely the value of 666. Jastrow’s lexicon of the Talmud contains this very spelling.”4 When we take the letters of Nero’s name and spell them in Hebrew, we get the following numeric values: n = 50, r = 200, w = 6, n = 50, q = 100, s = 60, r = 200. Put together, the sum is 666." Source: here

This numerical valuation of the name was an accommodation for the time, and did not denote a systemic practice for Biblical hermeneutics. There are many instances when the Holy Spirit used a reference that the people would hear and understand (Rev. 11:9) in their contemporary time frame. The practice of gematria was from pagan nations, and should not be the first thought for understanding the Bible.

The sound hermeneutical practice is that scripture interprets scripture, and the first use of the words from the Old Testament scriptures is carried forward. It must be understood historically, grammatically, and contextually.

The books of the New Testament were all written almost 2,000 years ago, and all were written before the destruction of Jerusalem. That makes them history for us, and they must be understood from a contemporary historical perspective of the first century A.D.

The entire article from American Vision referenced above is an excellent study. My post "The Beast of Revelation" and "It's Not The End of The World - Part V- Dating The Book of Revelation" contain further information on the subject. They are at my blog: ShreddingTheVeil.

All bold emphasis is mine.

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  • "we know that the temple was still standing when John wrote the book as he was told to measure it " It would seem John's vision of measuring the Temple is patterned after Ezekiel's. Since the essence of numerology is pattern and type, the conclusion (based on pattern and type) is the Temple has been destroyed, as it was at the time of Ezekiel's vision. In what way does Revelation permit ignoring the OT pattern without violating the underlying principle(s) on which numerology is based? – Revelation Lad Oct 30 '17 at 14:13
  • Who devised the underlying principle(s) of numerology? Is numerology / gematria a valid OT hermeneutic, or is it a more recent fascination with a pagan, mystic divination practice? I cannot find one pattern within Ezekiel that would be a type for / support of gematria's use in Rev. 13:18. The patterns, the type/anti-type of the OT to the NT are the people and the events. David / Christ; Elias / John the baptizer; the destruction of Jerusalem & the first temple (Ezek. 22) / the destruction of Jerusalem and 2nd temple (Matt. 24; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 18). – Gina Oct 31 '17 at 12:27
  • By my count the NIV has 35 references to Ezekiel throughout Revelation. Here is a link to a paper which discusses the relationship between Ezekiel and Revelation: era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/8887 Your statement that measuring the Temple must mean the Temple is an opinion that lacks Scriptural support. In fact in contradicts the OT example. – Revelation Lad Oct 31 '17 at 14:16
  • So you are not finding gematria in Ezekiel? You are taking exception to the measuring of the temple in Rev. 11? – Gina Oct 31 '17 at 15:23
  • Gematria is one way numbers are used but they function in a supporting role not to override what is plainly stated. By some counts, Revelation has over 400 allusions to the OT. The writer has a good grasp of the OT and a reader who encounters measuring the Temple is going to see a parallel with Ezekiel measuring a new Temple (not one which is currently standing). Then the burden is on the reader to demonstrate by some means other than measuring, the author of Revelation intends the reader to understand the Temple is till standing. otherwise the Ezekiel reference should be taken at face value. – Revelation Lad Oct 31 '17 at 15:41
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What form of numerology might John have used in Revelation?

He likely used the same form as he used elsewhere:

1Jo 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 1Jo 5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

The word 08064 שׁמים shamayim has a Hebrew gematria of 3 using mispar katan mispari (3+4+1+4=12 => 3), and the consonants have the metaphor of Spirit שׁ , Father מ and Son ם. The word 0776 ארץ ‘erets has gematria of 3 (1+2+9=12 => 3), and the letters have the metaphor of Spirit א, water ר and blood ץ.

The candlestick had six branches, three on one side and three on the other, and one in the middle above the others. The testimony of God was one testimony where the three in heaven and the three on earth are one.

John uses three 3's as a symbol in John 21:11

Joh 21:11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

153 = 144 + 9

On several occassions Jesus fed bread and fish. Since man does not live by bread alone (his body given for us), but by every word (fish), as Peter fed the sheep (144) there was sufficient for communion with the fulness of God where every person of the godhead is fully God (3 x 3).

I suspect that the use of numerology in the Bible is consistent, and much more limited than the rabbis believe it to be, but that John was familiar with it's proper usage.

As for the 666, that's a different question.

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    "The word 08064 שׁמים shamayim has a gematria of 3" What numerology system is this? And, was it a system that the author of Revelation may have known about? Would Christians have used Babylonian numerology? For reference, Mispar gadol. I don't see any rational bases to infer that 1 John was making any references to numerology. So, it cannot really be used as "evidence" to base the argument on. You are also making the assumption that the "Two Johns" are the same person, rather than John Mark, etc. – elika kohen Sep 26 '17 at 17:34
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    Your answer says the consonants in shamayim are 'the metaphor of Spirit שׁ , Father מ and Son ם'. What does it mean to say the consonants are a 'metaphor'? Why do you skip a consonant (י, yod)? How can the same letter (מ and ם are both mem) be a metaphor for both the Father and the Son? Most importantly, where is this claim coming from? – user2910 Oct 31 '17 at 15:43
  • The rabbis remember that the meaning of a word is derived from the combined metaphor of the letters. The metaphor of the letters is derived from the strokes that form them. Since the mems have different forms, they have different metaphor. The yod is one of the two formative vowels from which every other letter is formed. (Essentially dots and strokes, if we speak crudely of them). The word mayim is water, and it includes Father (Spirit) and Son (Truth). Jesus told the woman at the well ... she would worship in Spirit and truth, she would move the mountain to the water. – Bob Jones Nov 25 '17 at 0:46
  • @Mark. there's much discussion buried here about how best to present this hermeneutic, but if you search the site for things relating to sensus plenior, you will get an idea. As per those discussions it is not a simple thing to answer in comments. Thanks for asking. – Bob Jones Nov 25 '17 at 0:47
  • @Mark The meaning of a letter is derived from the meaning of the strokes within. There are two forms of the mem. The strokes are different, so the meaning is different. From the strokes the normal form is the Son of God and his bride connected at the top as a metaphor of the covenant with man declared by the Father. In the final form they are also connected at the bottom, showing the fulfillment by the son on earth. As metaphor, they can be spoken of in many ways based on that primary meaning. Since they are both mem's; the father and the son are one. – Bob Jones Feb 3 '18 at 16:17
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According to this definition of there are two primary points to Numerology:

Numerology is any belief in the divine, mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names and ideas. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts. [Numerology]

The first use, the relationship between a number and events, is present in the three objects which form the crux of judgment: seals, trumpets, and bowls each total seven and have been presented in a “Sabbath-like” format. In each case the seventh has been "set apart" from the first six:

Seven Seals
First six: 6:1 to 6:17
Interlude: 7:1 to 7:17
Seventh: 8:1 to 8:5

Seven Trumpets
First six: 8:6 to 9:21
Interlude: 10:1 to 11:14
Seventh: 11:15 to 11:19

Seven Bowls:
First six: 16:1 to 16:14
Interlude: 16:15-16
Seventh: 16:17 to 16:21

The second point of numerology, the meaning of a numerical value, is also present in the seals, trumpet, and bowls. The number seven corresponds to a finished work; three sets of "completed works" corresponds to God's three main works: creation, redemption, and a new creation. In addition, the three sets of seven total 21, a number which some say “symbolizes the great wickedness of rebellion and sin.” [21]

  • After the children of Israel left Egyptian bondage they had 21 major rebellious events as their traveled and wandered the wilderness.
  • On the last day of God's seven-day Spring festival, the 21st of the month of Nisan, the Eternal carried out his last judgment against the Egyptians. He drowned Pharaoh and his entire army in the Red Sea as they were pursuing the Israelites in order to make them slaves again.
  • The last day of God's annual Fall Feast of Tabernacles, which occurs every year on the 21st day of the seventh Hebrew month, pictures the end of Christ's 1,000 year reign on earth when the devil is loosed out of his prison for a short time. His very first task, along with his demons, is to lead people into war and rebellion against all that is Holy. After a short period of time God executes His final judgment against the Satanic forces by consuming them in fire.

However, it is not correct to say the author employed "Numerology" to express these ideas since it is clear the events are described as bringing judgment. The author's use of the numbers, 3, 7, and 21 are to support what is clearly stated and not to convey a hidden or secret meaning.

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