Friday, April 3, 2015
Thursday, April 2, 2015
The Temptation of Christ (1854) by Ary Scheffer. Image Source: Wiki. Based on Matthew 4:9: "Satan says that to Jesus: 'All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.'"
The number 40 is central to the Christian religion. It is the pivotal signifier of the temptation and resurrection of Christ. It is the number, one might say, on which his proclaimed historic existence and divinity depend. If one were to hang the entire faith on numbers, they would be 3, 1 and 40; and according to the Rule of Three, 40 is mathematically and mystically related to 3 and 1. As Christianity evolved away from Judaism, an incredibly elaborate religious story mingled with Roman imperial history. Taken literally by its believers, this legend of human and divine sacrifice came to obscure the Christian faith's underlying numerology.
Jews remain more forthright than Christians in their numerological mysticism. Building on ancient Mesopotamian mythologies of water gods, they used ingenious mathematical theories to see 40 as the harrowing number of sin, atonement and forgiveness, and made it a symbolic catalyst of revolution:
Aside from delayed messianism, the heart of the Jewish tradition turns on the problem of sin and how to resolve sin. The number 40 represents that resolution of sin as a basis for a jump to a new level of development. It is a way out of the terrible dilemmas posed to humans who try to find a higher path when confronted by the bestial aspects of their nature: immorality, depravity, viciousness and brutality.According to Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis, author of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism, the number of 40 represents "a time of radical transition or transformation." Any time the number 40 appears in a biblical passage, it's meant to indicate a liminal time when something extraordinary occurs. Multiples of 40 also are used to denote extraordinary circumstances ... .
The magic of numbers, the deep, transformative and pure value of mathematics to find absolute truths in a flawed world, lies at the core of this story. Math provides quantitative and definitive keys to otherwise unknowable abstractions. And for any human being on this planet, not just Jews and Christians, that is really something. The breathtaking power of mathematics offers a path away from compromise, from failure and shades of grey, from violated ideals and muddied knowledge. For those who wish to renew hope amidst the grime of adulthood, for those who yearn for purity, numbers provide real answers. Although it is not usually acknowledged in spring religious observances (descended from pagan fertility rites and projected onto the Christian calendar), it is on these mathematical and numerological assumptions that Christian Lent and Easter are founded.
Image Source: Busted Halo.
Monday, March 30, 2015
In the Hebrew Book of Jonah, the prophet Jonah spent 3 days and 3 nights inside a whale. Image Source: CredoMag.
Numbers carry sacred, mystical and occult meanings in Jewish tradition, because they are symbolic religious tokens of the relationship between god and man. Also known as Gematria, the Jews derived this numerological bridge between the divine and the human from the Assyro-Babylonians. Letters of the Hebrew alphabet were ascribed numerical values, such that the mathematical sums embedded in written words conveyed transcendent symbolic messages. To continue HOTTC's series on Forty Days and Forty Nights, this post explores the powerful meanings associated with the number 40 in Jewish culture.