For those who were trained in the art of interpreting them, the numbers themselves had special meanings. The result was that people in antiquity could talk to each other in a code language, that only those initiated into the symbolism of numbers could understand. Unless we understand this code, we will not be able to understand the meaning of many ancient texts. Scholars provided the code long ago:
One was the number of God in Hebrew thought. There was one God alone. (Deut. 6:4) In Greek thought one was the number of unity and unity was the highest good. In Christianity there was also one people of God (Jn. 10:16; Eph. 4:4).
Two was the number of duality in both Greek and Hebrew thought. Duality might manifest as opposites, like good and evil, right and wrong. It could also appear as complements, like male and female, night and day.
[...] That makes no sense in terms of calendar years, but the numerical value for the word law in Greek is 430, so it is very likely that Paul was talking about symbolism and not calendar years. It is not surprising that Paul knew Greek gematria, since we know he received a Greek education. The gematria was also used in some early Christian texts that were not accepted into the New Testament. The Epistle of Barnabas says that the story of Moses circumcising 318 men in the Hebrew Bible was an anticipation of Jesus on the cross. [...]
[...] Three was also a number of completion in Greek thought, containing the beginning, the middle, and the end. Four symbolized Creation, the Cosmos, or the natural world in all the ancient cultures related to the Bible. There were four elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water; four compass points: North, South, East, and West; four corners of the earth; the four winds (Dan. four rivers of Eden (Gen and four creatures in scriptural images (Rev. 4:6). There were also four evil empires; and four Gospels for the world. [...]
[...] Twenty-four is two times twelve, so it is a number of wholeness and restoration in Christian thought, just as twenty-four hours makes a complete day. Christians view their tradition as a continuation of Judaism, so the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of Jesus together make twenty-four, for the restoration of the Kingdom of God. Thirty is meaningful as another number signifying wholeness. There are thirty days in a month in a lunar calendar, which is the basis of astrological calculation. [...]
[...] Just as the human has ten fingers and toes, there are ten Commandments, ten Patriarchs before the flood, ten plagues on Egypt, ten virgins (Matt. ten coins (Lk. and people are to tithe one tenth of what they have to God. Ten is the basis of several number systems and appears in calculations for the Temple. Eleven relates to the number twelve in the same way six relates to the number seven. Because twelve is a number of wholeness, eleven is a number of incompleteness. Only eleven apostles remain after Judas' death and a twelfth must be chosen. [...]
[...] To understand the use of numbers by biblical and early Christian writers, we have to think hieroglyphically and look for interrelationships in terms of parallels, ratios, and geometrical figures. It made sense to them that words with the same numerical value were related, in a way that is difficult for us to understand. Understanding these kinds of symbolism, therefore, can help us understand what the writers of ancient text intended to convey, and that understanding can also help us create bridges between modern cultures that still have different points of view. [...]
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