Biblical Gematria Wiki

I can’t actually rewrite the official wiki about Gematria and publish it on Wikipedia because (they would say) I have a conflict of interest. I created and develop a gematria calculator and I write books about gematria. However if they would have let me write a Wiki on gematria, this is what I would have wrote…

Biblical Gematria

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Gematria (/ɡəˈmeɪtriə/Hebrew: גמטריא‎ or Gimatria גימטריה‎, plural גמטראות‎ or גמטריאות‎, gematriot)[1] is a type of ancient math that traditionally employs mathematical rhetoric notation with an alphanumeric code. Numerical values are derived from letters, names, words (especially nouns) or phrases. Types of calculations to be performed are indicated by verbs and prepositions.

Alphabetic Gematria originated as a Hebrew practice that was later adopted by Greek/Christian culture. It was used extensively during the first temple period and in the composition of the older works of the Tanakh; for example the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy, 1 Kings, Job and Ezekiel are richly embedded with gematria. Although gematria is widely cited as being Greek in origin, some of these biblical works precede the birth of Pythagorus so the evidence of the timeline contradicts this hypothesis.

The Babylonians preceded the Hebrew practice with a form of gematria that used tables with a logographic writing script. Although interesting, this logographic version of gematria (called ‘Aru’) cannot be the origin of the alphabetic system, due to the fact that logographic characters represented whole words and thus their values were arbitrarily assigned.

Using a process of transliteration, the Hebrew system of gematria was ported across to the Greek script to create a system of Biblical isopsephy, to the Arabic abjad numerals, and to English gematria.

A well-known example of Hebrew gematria is the first sentence of the Bible (Genesis 1:1): בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ. The word ברא (“creating”) is a verb that indicates addition, as do the prepositions את and ואת. The nouns to add are:

בראשית + אלהים + השמים + הארץ. The calculation is composed of 20 letters that (using the assignments in the Biblical Gematria table shown below) add up to 700.

Contents

  1. Etymology, Traditional fields of use, History, Methods, Biblical Encoding, Related Ciphers, Standard gematria, Atbash, The Reversal Cipher, The Genesis Order, Use in other languages, Greek Isopsephy, Examples of Biblical Isopsephy, English Gematria, Gematria in popular culture, See also, Notes, References

Etymology[edit]

Although the term is Hebrew, it may be derived from the Greek γεωμετρία geōmetriā, “geometry“, which was used as a translation of gēmaṭriyā,[3] though some scholars believe it to derive from Greek γραμματεια grammateia “knowledge of writing“. It is likely that both Greek words had an influence on the formation of the Hebrew word.[4][1]

The word has been extant in English since at least the 17th century from translations of works by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Although ostensibly derived from Greek isopsephy, it is largely used in Jewish texts, notably in those associated with the Kabbalah. The term does not appear in the Hebrew Bible itself.[1]

Traditional fields of use[edit]

Some identify two forms of gematria: the “revealed” form, which is prevalent in many hermeneutic methods found throughout rabbinic literature, and the “mystical” form, a largely Kabbalistic practice.[6] A few instances of gematria in Arabic, Spanish and Greek, spelled with the Hebrew letters, are mentioned in the works of Abraham Abulafia;[7] some Hasidic Rebbis also used it, although rarely, for Yiddish.[8]

History[edit]

Before the correct values for biblical gematria were discovered by Ashe in 2015, some scholars thought it was possible that gematria was encoded in the Hebrew Bible, and in retrospect we may say they anticipated the discovery. For example, Israel Knohl noted that “it is not out of the question that this technique was already known in the biblical period and was used specifically in religious contexts”,[9] and has hypothesized “the fact that the representation of the numerical values of letters is not demonstrated in mundane use in ancient Israel before the Hellenistic period may point to the possibility that this method was first a sacred secret knowledge that was kept in closed circles”.[10] Victor Hurowitz points out “numerological principles in the organization of the book [of Proverbs]” and demonstrates that Gematria has Mesopotamian precedents.[11] Stephen J. Lieberman writes “we must admit that it is possible such techniques were employed in biblical texts. The means were available, and if the desire was present, it was certainly possible for hidden messages to be put into the Bible”.[12]

One reason why biblical gematria was kept secret until modern times is that two letters of the alphabet hold the value 3, and another two letters hold the value of 4 and this is a counter-intuitive quality of the code that is resistant to casual enquiry. Another reason for the tardy discovery of the code is that the letters of biblical gematria adopted a priestly order. Instead of the usual aleph to tav, the priestly order runs: beth, aleph, gimel, shin, daleth, tav heh …etc … to resh with gimel & shin sitting in 3rd place while daleth and tav are in 4th place. The likely reason for these double values and placements is that they were intended to prevent pronunciation of the full holy name of God, since one cannot say two letters at the same time.

Chapters 1-2 of the Book of Genesis are arranged according to the priestly order of the alphabet, but since one verse cannot be placed atop of another one, the shin is placed behind gimel and the tav is behind daleth.

Methods[edit]

Biblical encoding[edit]

In biblical gematria, each letter is given a numerical value between 1 and 200, as shown in the following table.

Decimal Hebrew Glyph
1 Aleph א
2 Bet ב
3 Gimel ג
3 Shin ש
4 Daleth ד
4 Taf ת
5 Heh ה
6 Vav ו
7 Zayin ז
Decimal Hebrew Glyph
8 Het ח
9 Tet ט
10 Yud י
20 Kaf כ
30 Lamed ל
40 Mem מ
50 Nun נ
60 Samech ס
70 Ayin ע
Decimal Hebrew Glyph
80 Peh פ
90 Tzady צ
100 Koof ק
200 Reish ר
20 Kaf(final) ך
40 Mem(final) ם
50 Nun(final) ן
80 Peh(final) ף
90 Tzady(final) ץ

Related Ciphers
There are many different methods used to calculate the numerical value for the individual Hebrew/Aramaic words, phrases or whole sentences but few of these were used to compose the Tanakh. In the Talmud biblical gematria often dovetails with standard gematria; a rabbi or sage will appear to be discussing the value of a word or phrase with standard gematria, but he is actually discussing the value in biblical gematria (i.e. they use a blind).

Standard gematria
Standard gematria is sometimes called Mispar Ragil. It assigns the values 1–9, 10–90, 100–400 to the 22 Hebrew letters in order from aleph to tav.

AtBash
Atbash exchanges each letter in a word or a phrase by opposite letters. Opposite letters are determined by substituting the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (Aleph) with the last letter (Tav), the second letter (Bet) with the next to last (Shin), etc. A few instances of Atbash may be found in the Hebrew Bible. For example, see Jeremiah 25:26, and 51:41, with Targum and Rashi, in which the name ששך (“Sheshek”) is thought to represent בבל (Babylon).[1]

The Reversal Cipher
A more well used cipher in the bible uses the same principles of Atbash but with the priestly ordering. Called by Ashe ‘the Reversal Cipher’ the values are as follows:

Credit: Bethsheba Ashe.

Some examples of the Reversal Cipher are Exodus 14:19-21 which spells out the Shemhamphorash and sums to 9000:

ויסע מלאך האלהים ההלך לפני מחנה ישראל וילך מאחריהם ויסע עמות הענן מפניהם ויעמת מאחריהם ויבא בין מחנה מצרים ובין מחנה ישראל ויהי הענן והחשך ויאר את הלילה ולא קרב זה אל זה כל הלילה ויט משה את ידו על הים ויולך יהוה את הים ברוח קדים עזה כל הלילה וישם את הים לחרבה ויבקעו המים9000 =

. When we take the notariqon of Genesis 1:1 and apply the Reversal Cipher we get a sum of 800 from the initial letters: בבאאהוה.

The Genesis Order
There is also a simple form of biblical gematria that was probably taught to children of the royal household (including daughters). The letters are given the value of their priestly order in the alphabet. Therefore Beth is 1, aleph is 2, gimel is 3, shin is 3, daleth is 4, tav is 4, heh is 5, vav is 6, and so on until resh is 20. Ashe has called this the Genesis order.

The best example of the Genesis Order in the Tanakh is from Proverbs 31:10–31, which is an alphabetic acrostic. These verses are called the Eshet Ḥayil (“woman of valour”). Proverbs 31 declares itself to be the Words of King Lemuel, and the Oracle taught to him by his mother. No other mention is made of this King in the Tanakh, but Jewish legend identifies him as Solomon, taking this advice from his mother Bathsheba.

Taking every first word from each verse, as well as including the name of God יהוה in verse 30 there are 86 letters that sum to 777:

אשת בטח גמלתהו דרשה היתה ותקם זממה חגרה טעמה ידיה כפה לא מרבדים נודע סדין עז פיה צופיה קמו רבות שקר יהוה תנו  777 =

Use in other languages[edit]

Greek isopsephy[edit]

The extant examples of use in Greek come primarily from the Christian literature.

Biblical Isopsephy: α=1 β=2 γ=3 δ=4 ε=5 ϝ=6  ζ=7 η=8 θ=9 ι=10 κ=20 λ=30 μ=40 ν=50 ξ=60 ο=70 π=80 ρ=100 σ=200 τ=3 υ=4 φ=20 χ=40 ψ=50 ω=80 ς=200 ϟ=90 ϡ=90

To arrive at these values, the Standard Isopsephy values are adjusted to match their Biblical Gematria counterparts, and so we use the extended version of Standard (which has the final forms of the letters extending into the hundreds) as a key:

Capitalized Letter Letter Value
Α α 1
Β β 2
Γ γ 3
Δ δ 4
Ε ε 5
Ϝ ϝ 6
Ζ ζ 7
Η η 8
Θ θ 9
Ι ι 10
Κ κ 20
Λ λ 30
Μ μ 40
Ν ν 50
Ξ ξ 60
Ο ο 70
Π π 80
Ϟ ϟ 90
Ρ ρ 100
Σ σ 200
Τ τ 300
Υ υ 400
Φ φ 500
Χ χ 600
Ψ ψ 700
Ω ω 800
Ϡ ϡ 900

 

Here are three examples that illustrate how biblical gematria was ported across to the Greek script.

  • Because Standard Gematria has Shin as 300 but Biblical Gematria counts Shin with the value of 3, then Greek Tau (300) is adjusted to 3.
  • Because Standard Gematria counts Peh sofit as 800, but in Biblical Gematria sofits have the same values as the normal letters, the Greek Omega is counted as 80 rather than 800.
  • Because Kaph sofit is 500 in Standard Gematria but is 20 in Biblical Gematria then Phi, which has the Standard Isopsephy value of 500 is adjusted to have the value of 20.

Due to the fact that there is no natural relationship between the Greek letters Phi (20) and Kappa (20) as there is for Kaph and Kaph sofit (which is the same letter with the only difference being the Kaph sofit appears at the end of a word), then it follows that Biblical Gematria was ported to the Greek script and not the other way on.  Standard Isopsephy can be converted to Biblical Isopsephy by following how Biblical Gematria was changed to Standard Gematria, but Standard Gematria cannot be converted back to Biblical Gematria by simply comparing Standard Isopsephy with Biblical Isopsephy, and this conclusively proves the case that Christian Biblical Isopsephy emerged from Biblical Hebrew Gematria.

Gnostic Christianity appeared to draw their hermeneutics from both Jewish and Pythagorean sources, but the Church Fathers were quick to reject the suggestion that their own number mysticism was founded on the work of the philosophers.  In a letter to Horontianus, St. Ambrose made this clear as he spoke of the Sabbath saying:

“The number seven is good, but we do not explain it after the doctrine of Pythagoras and the other philosophers, but rather according to the manifestation and division of the grace of the Spirit; for the prophet Isaias has enumerated the principal gifts of the Holy Spirit as seven.”

Examples of Biblical Isopsephy

It has been a matter of speculation why exactly 153 fish were caught by the disciples of Jesus, as we are told by John the evangelist (John 21:10-11), and the answer is provided by Biblical Isopsephy:

Ανεβη Σιμων Πετρος και ειλκυσεν το δικτυον εις την γην μεστον ιχθυων μεγαλων εκατον πεντηκοντα τριων και τοσουτων οντων ουκ εσχισθη το δικτυον.

“So Simon Peter went abroad and drag the net to land.  It was full of large fish, 153. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.”

153 + Ιχθυων + μεγαλων + δικτυον + γην = 777

(Translation: 153 + fish + large + net + land = 777).

Many writers of the New Testament were Jewish converts to the faith, and brought their knowledge of gematria with them. Some of these writers found it difficult to work with the Greek words for God, and would substitute them with the values of their Hebrew corresponding words. Thus in Revelation 7:3. John uses Hebrew values for the names of God though he writes the Greek words. For Θεοῦ (“God”) he replaces with the value of the more specific אל יהוה (“God YHVH”):

δουλους + אל יהוה + μετωπων = 777.

(Translation: Servants + God YHVH + Foreheads = 777).

And in Revelation 1:8: John replaces the Greek value of κυριος θεος (“Lord God”) with יהוה אלהים (“YHVH Elohim”) in the following calculation:

Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ, λέγει κύριος ὁ θεός, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ὁ παντοκράτωρ.

“I am the alpha and the omega, {the beginning and the end} says Lord God, one being, and one was, and one coming, one almighty.”

Εγω ειμι יהוה אלהים αααα Παντοκρατωρ = 777.

(Translation: “I am YHVH Elohim 1 1 1 1 Almighty”.)

The first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet spell out Ath which means ‘to add’, and is probably a clue to use Hebrew for the Holy Name instead of the Greek. “One” is referred to 4 times which is why there are 4 alphas in the calculation.

English Gematria[edit]

English gematria in the recent history of the Western Mystery tradition was dominated by the voluminous writings of Aleister Crowley, who employed a transliterated version of biblical gematria in almost all of his inspired ‘Class A’ books. The transliteration scheme was taught to him by the Golden Dawn and it includes digrams (two letters used to represent a single sound). Crowley merely changed the values of the shin (Sh) and tav (Th) from standard values to the secret values of biblical gematria:

Credit: Bethsheba Ashe

Interestingly, Crowley has composed the opening of Liber AL vel Legis to match the gematria of Genesis 1:1. The book has the subfigura number of 220, which matches the first word of Genesis: בראשית (“In the beginning”). Had + manifestation + Nuit = 480, which matches the sum of: אלהים + השמים + הארץ (“Elohim + the heavens + the earth”). In each case the full sum is 220 + 480 = 700.

The four values of 220, 217 (AL x 7), 480 and 93 appear as groupings upon a diagram called ‘the Seven Palaces’ but more often is simply referred to as the Merkabah (The Chariot). Each section corresponds to a letter of the tetragrammaton:

The Seven Palaces of Yetzirah, by Bethsheba Ashe
  • Yod for the blue section (220).
  • Heh for the yellow section (217).
  • Vav for the pink section (480).
  • Heh for the green section (93).

Each path or palace on this diagram represents an aspect of the creation story. In Kabbalistic terms, the seven palaces is the Macrocosm to the Microcosm of the Tree of Life – thus these two conceptions resonate with one another and are the transformative focus of the Great Work.

Gematria in popular culture[edit]

The usual suspects… + Pi (the movie about Gematria).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Jump up to:ab c d  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSolomon Schechter & Caspar Levias (1901–1906). “GEMAṬRIA”. In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
  2. ^“Gematria” at Dictionary.com
  3. ^“gematria”Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membershipOxford English Dictionary
  4. ^Benjamin Blech, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jewish Culture”, p. 395 (2004)
  5. ^g. the rebbes of the Zhidichov dynasty noticed that the Yiddish word vaser(water) has the same value as Geshem (rain in Hebrew), and used this fact for theurgic meditations
  6. ^Knohl, Israel. “The Original Version of the Priestly Creation Account and the Religious Significance of the Number Eight in the Bible”. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  7. ^Knohl, Israel (2012). “Sacred Architecture: The Numerical Dimensions of Biblical Poems”. Vetus Testamentum. 62 (2): 189–197. doi:1163/156853312×629199ISSN 0042-4935.
  8. ^Hurowitz, Victor (2012). “Proverbs: Introduction and Commentary”. Miqra LeYisrael. 1–2.
  9. ^LIEBERMAN, Stephen (1987). “A Mesopotamian Background for the So-Called Aggadic ‘Measures’ of Biblical Hermeneutics?”. Hebrew Union College Annual. 58: 157–225. JSTOR23508256.
  10. And so on and so on…

References[edit]

  • some references here…

That’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed my mock up of a Wiki page. Stay tuned for more numerical honey next time…

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Video-editing & animation by Bethsheba Ashe.
Original image: Tomus secundus … de supernaturali, naturali, praeternaturali et contranaturali microcosmi historia, in tractatus tres distributa, by Robery Fludd, Frankfurt, 1619-1621.
Permission to commercially reproduce video and images is granted to the Times of Israel.

About the Author
Essayist, artist and designer, Bethsheba is also the author of 6 books on Qabalah and the Occult, and one screenplay. She is the Grand Master of the Fraternity of the Sanctum Regnum, and inventor of the world’s first dual logographic and alphabetical writing script (Galay). She is also the creator of the popular Gematria Calculator: Shematria. Critics have called her one of the most original and insightful writer in the field of the Western Mystery Traditions.
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