# 6. Numbers

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Numbers were figures, symbols, or characters which were used for counting and enumerating for mathematical purposes. The people of the ancient Near East used numbers differently that we do. They used them in a practical way rather than as a part of a mathematical theory. They applied numbers to their day-to-day problems.

Numbers in the Old Testament are spelled phonetically. During the Intertestamental Period an alphabetic system of writing was used.

Archaeological discovery has provided some evidence about the way in which Hebrew people wrote their numbers. There were marks for the numbers 1-3, while the rest of their numbers were spelled out.

Not very much is known about the arithmetic of the ancient Hebrew people. Scripture has some examples of simple mathematics: addition (Num. 1.26), subtraction (Lev. 27.18), multiplication (Lev. 27.25), and division (Num. 31.27). They had a knowledge of fractions (Gen. 47.24).

While numbers indicated quantity, they were not exact and official as in the Western world. They were estimates of the total which were rounded off. As an example, the ages of people in Scripture are either a multiple of five or a multiple of five plus seven. Scholarship is not sure of why this exists and they do not know what it means, only that it does exist.

Bible students of all ages have devised intricate systems of foretelling the future which revolve around the symbolic usages of numbers. There are some numbers in Scripture which have a symbolic characteristic. The number seven is one of them. It often expresses the idea of completeness or perfection. Some interpreters use a system which attempts to find hidden meaning in the Bible by using elaborate codes based on the numerical values of the individual letters. Some have tried to establish the correctness of the text of Scripture by a mystical numerical pattern. Here are some of the common numbers and their usual symbolic meanings.

• One: Conveys the concept of the unity and uniqueness of God.
• Three: A complete or ordered whole like morning, noon, and night.
• Four: Completeness like four sides to a square.
• Five: Often used as a small round number.
• Six: Represents something that is less than perfect.
• Seven: Associated with fulfillment and perfection.
• Ten: Denotes a round or complete number.
• Twelve: This number is a representative of the elect purpose of God.

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Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

Jesus Followers

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)