Biblical Mathematics

Last week, I spent several days in Fowey.

Fowey 1Fowey 2Fowey 3

Renting out a lovely cottage not far from the sea, some friends and I spent a few days studying the book of Revelation. This deals with the supposed end times, when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, the Christians go to Heaven, and the non-Christians go to the Other Place*.

The book deals with a lot of visions which are often a kind of code-language. Different numbers also crop up, and these should often not be taken literally numerically, but rather as having a deeper meaning. Here’s two examples:


Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

Revelation 13:18

666 has passed into popular culture as the number of the devil. But what does it mean?

God made the Universe in seven days***.  God created Adam and Eve on the 6th day of creation, so 6 is man’s number. For the same reason, 7 means completeness, so 6 also represents falling short of completeness and goodness. I suppose putting 3 6’s in a row – 666 – is a perversion of the Trinity.


“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

Revelation 7:3-4

Some think that 144,000 is the number of people allowed into Heaven. Indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses used to maintain that only 144,000 of them would get into Heaven… before they realised there were more than 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world, and so Heaven must have an overflow facility.

Rather, it is symbolic. There were 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 disciples of Jesus, so 12 represents the totality of the church. 144 is 12 × 12. 144,000 is 144 × 1000, or 144 × 10 × 10 × 10, where 10 is another of those whole, round numbers. S0, 144,000 is just a code for the whole of the church.

There are others, but that would take an eternity to talk about. The book of Revelation holds out the hope that we will have an eternity to spend.


* No, I don’t mean Oxford University or the House of Lords**.

** This joke won’t mean much to you if you have never been a member of Cambridge University or the House of Commons.

*** And just like Craig David, He chilled on Sunday.


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