Importance of Gematria

(Jamie Hobbs) #1

Calling all Hebrew scholars. What is the importance of gematria in understanding the portions of Scripture written in Hebrew? Are there certain books or passages that would be better understood through the use of gematria, or does that not play into the original meaning of the text at all?


(Jimmy Sellers) #2

Jamie, I am not a scholar Hebrew or otherwise. Here is an article that I found helpful. From a quick read I am not sure that it will help with your Hebrew but I do believe it can add some context to some first century Jewish writers use of and interest in numbers.

(SeanO) #3

@Jamie_Hobbs My brief answer would be that gematria are not significant at all for study of the Canon of Scripture other than perhaps the mark of the beast - 666. Much of the ‘Bible code’ business can be proven to be statistically insignificant. Below i have provided a paper published showing that even when people try to make an academic case for Bible codes, such as a 1994 paper by Witzum, their results can be invalidated after thorough study. One of the interesting points of this paper was that the current OT texts we have and that Jewish rabbis possessed had a variety of vowel spellings. Now, as you know, the vowels were not originally written, so while this does not change the meaning of the text, it would impact any supposed Bible codes.

As a caveat, I have not peer reviewed the paper myself and I am not a statistician, but it was published in a peer reviewed journal and the results are in keeping with common sense. While I am certainly not a Hebrew scholar, I hope those thoughts are helpful.

Statistical Evaluation of the 1994 Paper

While statistical analysis of most ‘Bible Codes’ shows them to be nothing more than playing with words, Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg (1994) published a paper that appeared to be more well founded. However, the following article also debunks this paper in great detail if you are interested. Bible codes are a case of eisegesis rather than exegesis - people using coincidences to try to make valid conclusions.

This paper shows that codes can also be found in War and Peace if it is translated into Hebrew and similar methods used.

“However, although those “discoveries” might appear astonishing at first glance, a modest amount of effort is sufficient to expose the invalid statistics (and, all too often, sleight of hand) beneath the thin facade of “science” (McKay, 1999a).”

“In summary, there is hardly any chance that the
Koren edition is close in letter-by-letter detail to the
original text. In fact, if the text of Genesis were to be
consistently spelled in the style of the inscriptions
dated closest to the traditional year when Genesis
was written, the differences would number in the
thousands (even without any change of meaning).”

StatSci.pdf (417.0 KB)

In Revelation

The number of the beast is one of the places it is possible Gematria were used for Nero because a textual variant of Revelation uses 616, which is also equivalent to another form of Nero’s name using Gematria. These articles go into more detail.

Hank Hanegraf on 666

Sam Storms on 666

How Patterns are More Likely than We Think

As just a simple example of how statistics can be surprising when it comes to what we would call coincidence or divine ordainment, consider the birthday paradox. We might say if we only had 23 people in a room and 2 had the same birthday, their arrival at that place may have some significance. Statistically, it does not.

How many people must be there in a room to make the probability 50% that two people in the room have same birthday?
Answer: 23
The number is surprisingly very low. In fact, we need only 70 people to make the probability 99.9 %.

How to deal gently with people asking about 'The Bible Code' or similar?