I am excited to put out part 3 and 4 of Reading Revelation Better in the coming days. I wanted to bracket out this conversation about numbers. Let me make two concessions and then I will post a part of the conversation that has been going on.
1) This is not numerology. It is poetics…only with numbers.
2) a Biblical scholar would call my example ‘woefully anecdotal’. but this is an entry-level introduction so it will do for now.
Q: Whenever I encounter interpretations of it I always come away thinking: “Really? Did these numbers have that much meaning in them for these people? Those symbols were normal and often used?”. I can’t imagine being in a culture so steeped in symbolism & numerology that this stuff would make sense.
R: Think about it this way,
If I say 1776, you know exactly what I am alluding to.
If I say 4 score and 7 years ago, you know what I am referencing.
If I say 666, I don’t even have to mention what it comes from.
If I am talking about battle and mention 300, you would probably get that.
So we have all sorts of numbers that we are kind of ingrained with. Now imagine that we lived in a culture that where a=1 and b=2 (etc.) so my name (Bo) would be worth 17. So 17 would just be the number of my name. your name would be 59. If we lived in a culture where this was just part of how we thought, then we might naturally read this stuff different.
What do you think? How does that sit with you?
Q: OK, I can kind of see how we have a similar system going on today, perhaps not as pronounced though. The example of “300″ really hit home with me. I guess another example of this in today’s world might be “911″ which immediately brings to mind an emergency situation?
So I think I understand why 1 = unity (pretty intuitive) & 3 = completeness (trinity?). How about the others? For instance, when you say 8 = “newness” do you mean that when the word for “newness” was spelled out that if you added the numbers you get 4, in the same way Bo = 17 in english? Or are you saying 8 just WAS newness to them in the same way 911 IS emergency for me or “the 4th” is Independence?
R: YES! you got it. The 911 is a fantastic example.
So 8 is newness, not like the name thing (spelled out and added up) but in the symbolic way that the 8th day was a new week, boys were circumcised on the 8th day, and when the author of of 2 Peter (2:5) wanted to talk about God starting fresh with the Ark & Flood, the number 8 is intentionally used. (Noah & his wife, and their three sons and their wives = 8).
The number 8 is specifically invoked. it meant something and so could be alluded to in the same way that 911 means emergency to us.
I am really enjoying this conversation! Hope you are finding it helpful.
(I use “R” for response instead of “A” for answer… because I don’t have the answers- just responses.)