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Is there Significance in the Numbers of the Bible?

Is there Significance in the Numbers of the Bible?

Numerology and the Bible
PowerPoint (PowerPoint 2010 37 MB) | Outline from PTP on Numerology (Word 2010)

Numerology (aka math) is a subject where most people, as soon as they hear any of the words numbers, math, census, addition, multiplication, etc., turn their brains off. However this is also an area of the Bible that comes under attack often.

Numbers are thought to be used in the Bible in four ways.

  1. Conventional
  2. Rhetorical (Poetic)
  3. Symbolic
  4. Mystical

Each of these types of usage has come under attack.

Attacks of this nature typically are things like. . .
accusing God of not knowing the value of Pi because it is stated as 3 in 1 Kings 7:23. (and other accusations regarding this passage: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=742)
accusing the Bible of mistakes in census numbers between the before the wandering numbering of the tribes and the after the wandering of the tribes.
accusing the Bible of exaggerating large numbers particularly of census, army sizes, and of ages before the flood.
Pre-flood AgesBy the way, I noticed that I couldn’t find a good ages chart anywhere on the web, so I made one. This is my antediluvian (pre-flood) ages chart. It shows the dramatic decline in lifespan after the flood.

Most of the attacks associated with poetic use come as people try to interpret the poetic use as being a literal number. Such is the case with John 2:6 where the concept of “a few” is being communicated, not an actual number.

Symbolic and Mystical
Here is where people really start to get into trouble. The attacks come, with heavy use of Daniel and Revelation, in twisting the scriptures to some end. Usually the end of the world. However, reasoning from Biblical critics has led to interpretation from everything to specific meanings to all the numbers in the Bible, adding significance to the number of times a name or phrase is used, or even converting the Bible to numbers so that some claim can be made.

In short, the Bible uses symbolic numbers sparingly and in order to interpret their meaning, one must look at both the context, the intended audience, and come up with a solution that would have made sense then, to the people it was written. If looked at in historical context, most numbers and symbols that aren’t exactly explained (although many are in Revelation) have a logical meaning that we can figure out today.

This is not a new thing. Even in the second century people were twisting the numbers in the Bible to predict Christ’s return, or attempt to predict other events. Even Issac Newton got into the act. It is widely known that, while an accomplished scientist, he actually spent more of his life trying to wrestle hidden meanings out of the text of the Bible. He even predicted the end of the world, which he said would not be before 2060.

While it is sad that people will twist the scriptures to their own ends, a study of how the Bible actually uses numbers can do nothing but strengthen your faith. As you look closely at the accusations against the Bible, careful study reveals each of these accusations to be utterly false. If your faith is in doubt on any of these topics, please examine articles that can be found at apologeticspress.org, ChristianCourier.com, or ask a Bible question at housetohouse.com.

Don’t let your faith be shaken by simple attacks.