Welcome to my blog about biblical gematria, the merkabah and the birth of the alphabet. In my next posts we’ll discover why the Merkabah is the beating heart of Kabbalah and its secret center.
Before we start today, I’d like to address an issue that came up after my last blog post (besides the layout issues with the calculations). I accidentally mislead by saying the Greek values had been transliterated. In actual fact I’d reasoned that if biblical Isopsephy followed the pattern of biblical gematria then two of the letters of the standard Greek set would be incorrectly numbered as 300 and 400. I determined that these were the Tau and Upsilon and I adjusted the values of those accordingly. Likewise I adjusted the Greek letters that matched the sofit values of the Hebrew to their normally valued counterparts. So I started with the standard values for the Greek and adjusted them to biblical gematria with these tweaks. My apologies; I’d temporarily forgotten how I came by them. I should really take more notes… Many thanks to David Allen Hulse for pointing out my error.
The three most famous texts of Kabbalah are the Sefer Yetzirah, the Bahir and the Zohar and all of them are connected with either biblical gematria or with the conformations of the Seven Palaces [the Wheel of the Chariot]. The Yetzirah may have used biblical gematria with an ancient system of trigonometry, while the Bahir and the Zohar each contain midrash upon the Palaces. One book of the Zohar in particular (the Sefer Dtzeniouthia) contains a riddling instruction for converting the diagram of the Tree of Life into the Seven Palaces.
The Sefer Yetzirah
The most famous and arguably the most controversial of the texts of Kabbalah is the Sefer Yetzirah. There is debate over whether the text can even be classified as Kabbalistic due to the early date of its composition and its gnostic influences. I’ve studied it, but to tell you the truth I’ve never gotten very much sense out of it, which is a reflection on me and not the text. Happily, my friend ראובן הלוי has been doing rather better, and after analyzing the Sefer Yetzirah with biblical gematria (aka Chariot gematria) he believes that an ancient system of trigonometry may be embedded within the text. He’s used biblical gematria with the 231 Gates of the Sefer Yetzirah. I will quote him here in full:
“I created a modified circle of letters by combining ג/ד into one section and ש/ת into one section since ש/ג and ד/ת share the values of 3 and 4 respectively. So instead of a circle divided into 22 sections, it’s now divided into 20 sections with the line between א and ב centered at the top, and the ג/ד and ש/ת sections directly opposing each other from either side of א and ב.
Following the logic of the Chariot, each gate is a line connecting two letters on the circumference of the wheel. The value of each gate is computed by adding the values of the two connected letters. So gate בא/אב would have a value of 3, gate מח/חמ would have a value of 48, etc. (A gate and its reverse are counted as the same gate, e.g. אב and בא are the same gate; חמ and מח are the same gate, etc.― Otherwise there would be 462 gates instead of 231.)
The major change that occurs using the Chariot gematria is that instead of every letter having a unique value (1 to 400) now there are two letters with the value of 3 (ג and ש) and two letters with the value of 4 (ד and ת). With two duplicated values it becomes possible to form triangles with their vertices located at the circumference of the circle.
Because ג and ש both have the value of 3, the gate from שת to ח and the gate from גד to ח can both have the same value of either 11 or 12. (If we use שת as 3, we have to use גד as 4. If we use שת as 4, we have to use גד as 3. Because either option is possible, gates שת―ח and גד―ח can be either 3+8=11 or 4+8=12.) We could also take שת and גד as both equaling 7. In that case, שת―ח and גד―ח would both equal 15. In either case, we can proceed around the circle as I’ve done in the rest of the images [ed – follow this link to see all 18 individual images].
Note that if ש is 300 and ת is 400, gates with equal values will only form parallel lines that never intersect. For example פי ,עכ ,סל and נמ all have the value of 90, but all of those lines are parallel, because in a circle, 80~10 contains 70~20, 60~30 and 50~40― so they will not intersect. If we take two random gates that do intersect, like במ and טק, the intersection will be somewhere in the middle of the circle, not at the circumference. Only the Chariot gematria allows triangles to be formed whose vertices are on the circumference of the circle.
There are 18 possible triangles that can be formed (see third image). If using 3 & 4 as the “counter-values” of שת―גד, the triangles two other gates values can be 4/5, 5/6, 8/9, 9/10, 10/11, 11/12, 12/13, 13/14, 23/24, 33/34, 43/44, 53/54, 63/64, 73/74, 83/84, 93/94, 103/104 and 203/204. If we use 7 as the counter-value of שת―גד, the triangles two other gates can have the values of 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 27, 37, 47, 57, 67, 77, 87, 97, 107 and 207.
What I have to do now (and I would much appreciate the help of someone more adept at mathematics than myself) is figure out if these values correspond to a table of sines/cosines. If so, then the Sefer Yezirah― when decoded with the Chariot gematria― contains an ancient system of trigonometry.” ~ ראובן הלוי
Unfortunately I can be of very little use to him as my mathematical skill is rather basic, so if you can help him take his research forward please get in touch!
Next up we’ll be taking a look at the the Sefer Bahir so stay tuned for more numerical honey.
 Christopher P. Benton dated it to the time of the Mishna (2nd Century CE) due to its grammatical form, but Richard Reitzenstein placed its origin in the 2nd Century BCE.