Proverbs 25 and "secret things".

atombomb at atombomb at
Thu Jun 17 15:31:34 EDT 1999

Blessed be God.

Henry Churchyard wrote:
> Unfortunately, the developed system of unit, tens. and hundreds values
> assigned to the Hebrew/Aramaic alphabet (Aleph-Tet 1-9, Yod-Tsade
> 10-90, Qoph-Taw 100-400), didn't exist until the Hellenistic period...
> Also, many of the ages of the patriarchs, etc. differ between the
> Hebrew version and the Septuagint, for what that's worth...

It's worth a good deal, and they differ in the Samaritan Pentateuch as
well.  As I mentioned before, these discrepancies in the ages of the
patriarchs relate to differing schemes of periodizing the history of
the world in terms of the number of years since the Exile and the
building of the Temple (Sam), or its rebuilding (LXX), or its
re-rebulding (MT).  They are part of a general treatment of time and
history expressed in the medium of genealogy, in the "Sepher Toledoth"
(Gn 5.1 et passim) of Genesis and Exodus, which was apparently updated
twice. (By the way, I might mention that the Sepher Toledoth extends
not from Adam to David's ancestors, as is usually supposed, but to
Aaron's descendents: this is one of a number of ways that the center
of the Torah appears to be the Temple, not the king.)  I seem to
recall by the way that some of the DSS match with the LXX numbers, but
I could be wrong.  I don't have my notes handy at the moment or I
could give you more facts and references, but again I believe that you
can find pointers in the database either to C. Labuschagne and/or D.L.
Christensen.  Christensen in fact wrote an article later (in VT?
anyway it was in the late mid-80's) called something like "Did the
Patriarchs Really Live 900 Years" which I believe goes into this. 
Those differences are not random, but belong to a pattern which
evidences the same concerns in each case!

Patterns such as these are not gematric-- they deal directly with
numbers, and there is no leap from word to number and back.  The
meaning is in the numerical pattern itself whose elements are for the
most part specifically given by the text.  This is not to say that
there is no gematria in the hebrew bible-- I'm not sure whether there
is or isn't at this point-- but only that this is a separate

Your comment about the late assignment of numbers to hebrew letters is
interesting-- first of all, is this dating absolutely certain, or do
we merely not have evidence, among the handful of texts we have from
the prior period, that such an assignment was used?  Because that
would be an argument from silence (not the first!)  And secondly, if
it is true, then if we find any consistent use of gematria in any text
of the OT (not just applied to it, but presupposed by it, as may be
the case with the passage in John 21 that I discussed yesterday)--
would this not be strong evidence for hellenistic dating?  Of course,
that might be something we already know about a given sequence of
passages-- but one can easily imagine situations where it could either
be very upsetting, or very confirming. 

Best regards.

John Burnett, MA (OT)

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