Author: Ron Graham
Notes on Numerology
—With notes on the 153 fish (John 21:11)
There are some numbers in the Bible which seem to have significance. The Book of Revelation for example has symbolic numbers such as seven, twelve, and one thousand. This does not mean that the Bible is numerological, or that there is some number code by which the Bible hides certain insights.
When I was a young Christian, a sister in the church of Christ gave me a small book by F.C. Payne of South Australia, entitled The Seal of God. She should have known better.
This book persuasively promoted a system of supposed Biblical numerology, claiming it to be a second level of revelation for the discerning reader of scripture and observer of structures in nature.
Fortunately my father advised me to treat this stuff as a Satanic doctrine and I rid myself of the booklet. Many other such books have been written so let's look at the question of numbers in the Bible.
1 Overview of Numerology
Numbers are given cryptic significance in numerological systems, especially the numbers 1 to 9. A number of several digits is reduced to its essence by adding the digits together, and if necessary continuing to add the resulting digits together, until a single digit is obtained. However a numerological system may keep 10 as a basic number separate from 1, and may also assign qualities to certain other double digit numbers.
Letters of the alphabet also have significance because each letter is converted to its ordinal number in the alphabet, A=1, B=2, C=3 etc. Letters with double digits are reduced to one digit. Thus, for example, the letters B-K-T share the number 2 because K=11 and 1+1=2, whilst T=20 and 2+0=2.
Of course "the alphabet" differs from language to language, and some languages have more than one alphabet or no alphabet at all. Furthermore, in numeroligical systems, some letters are weighted to have more significance, depending on whether they are vowels, consonants, stand at the beginning, middle, or end of a word, and so forth.
Names are especially given numerological significance. Of course a person may have many names, a first name, surname, middle names, baby name, nick names, maiden name, married name, professional name, and even a name for the internet! Furthermore, if one is multilingual, then one may have a variant set of names for each language.
Birth times and dates of course consist of numbers representing second, minute, hour, day, month, year. Naturally these too are given numerological significance in a similar manner to a person's astrological birth sign.
If the birth sign and the birth number have different attributes, the numerologist simply considers these to be complementary not contradictory, and he has plenty of elbow room to weight his digits and shuffle his meanings and interpretations to harmonise the readings.
2 Numbers in Scripture
I suppose the most famous number in the book of Revelation is 666. (See link at end of this article). The book of Daniel also has symbolic numbers. Plenty of other numbers can be found in the Bible, but not all have mystical significance.
153 the number of fish
John records how many fish were caught in the miracle that the risen Christ did when he appeared to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. There were 153 (John 21:11). Efforts to find some mysterious meaning in this number are worthy of scorn. It was simply the number of fish that were counted in the net as counted by the amazed disciples.
Of course the number 153, like many other numbers, has interesting properties. Among them, the sum of the cube of its digits equals itself: 1³+5³+3³=153.
Summing the Cube of the Digits
Moreover, I'm told that you can take any base ten positive integer that is divisible by three without remainder; sum the cube of its digits; take the answer and sum the cube of its digits; repeat till you reach the limit —which will always be 153.
For example take 666 6³+6³+6³=648 6³+4³+8³=792 7³+9³+2³=1080 1³+0³+8³+0³=513 5³+1³+3³=153 1³+5³+3³=153 (limit).
Note: In the notation above, the expression 5³ (for example) means five cubed, or 5X5X5. It may also be written as 5^3 meaning five raised to the power of three.
What's the Significance?
Some people see this characteristic of 153 as significant. They think the number’s special association with 3 makes it a symbol of the “Trinity” and of Christ’s deity. As for me, I am satisfied that Jesus proved his deity by causing the netting of “a lot of fish”. Christ hardly needed to decorate the miracle with any arcane symbolism.
One admits, however, to being amused that repeatedly summing the cubes of digits reduces 666, the number of the beast, to 153, the number of fish! Is there something fishy there?
3 Contrived Meaning of Numbers
In numerology including Bible numerics, each number is given certain attributes, but these vary according to which numerological system you favour. Numerological systems are derived principally from the Pythagoreans and in the case of supposed Biblical numerology, the Kabbalists. Of course numerology is also influenced by the number elements of other occult systems.
The following is a sample of what may be attributed to a number by a numerologist...
- 1 = unity, origin, creation, completeness
- 2 = separation, witness, marriage, communion, evil
- 3 = godhead, trinity, wisdom
- 4 = world, earth-air-fire-water, permanence
- 5 = grace, justice
- 6 = sin, days of creation
- 7 = perfection, life
- 8 = resurrection, fullness
- 9 = ending, cosmos
Numerology is Arbitrary
The thing that probably strikes you most from the above overview, is how arbitrary the whole system is. Finding the significance of a person's name, for example consists of several steps, all of which involve making decisions among variants.
The numerologist has to decide what name to use, how to reduce it to a number, and what attribute to assign that number. The numerologist selects from so many variants that the reading can be whatever the numerologist thinks fit.
By way of example, my name (Ron) follows this pattern: The letter R=18, and the digits 1+8 reduce to 9. The letter O=15, and the digits 1+5 reduce to 6. The letter N=14, and the digits 1+4 reduce to 5. Combining these results, 9+6+5 reduces to 20 and 2+0 yields 2.
What is the significance of this? Well, the number 2 means separation and/or witness, which is appropriate because I, as an evangelist, am separated unto the gospel and in preaching the gospel I will be said to "witness for Christ". The name "Jesus" also reduces to 2, just like mine. You see, if you are gullible, that the seal of God is upon my ministry, hidden in my name.
On the other hand, the number 2 is said to mean so many different things that you could just as easily make me out to be a false witness and antichrist who is in communion with the devil!
Don't Be Deceived
Don't be fooled by such nonsense, "Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edifying which is in faith" (1Timothy 1:4).