Hebrew letters used as numbers

atombomb at sirius.com atombomb at sirius.com
Sat Jun 19 02:47:00 EDT 1999


Blessed be God.

Hello again--

Henry Churchyard wrote regarding the use of the Hebrew alphabet for numbers:

[snip]
> 
> Even if you could throw its origins back another century, it seems
> likely that a majority of the books of the Hebrew Bible only
> underwent slight editing after that time, so that it's hard to see how
> gematria could have been much of a factor in their composition.

I have more of a question than a comment; at this point I'm way out of
my depth.  But I recently read Thomas L. Thompson, "The Intellectual
Matrix of Early Biblical Narrative: Inclusive Monotheism in Persian
Period Palestine", in D.V. Edelman (ed.), The Triumph of Elohim: From
Yahwisms to Judaisms (Kok Pharos Pub., Kampen, NL; 1995:  pp. 107-127;
this book also recently enjoyed an American publication but I do not
have the data)-- which argues, following J. Van Seters, that "the
Yahwistic tradition is a product of the reemergence of Israel rather
than of its 'Golden Age'." 

Also, some time back on this list I recall an off-hand comment about
those who believe the Hebrew Bible to be more or less entirely "a
Maccabean political tract", which I would have dismissed as entirely
absurd (trained as I am in the classical theories of JEP and D etc),
had I not just finished Thompson's article and been set to thinking
about it. 

Now, I'm not only ignorant; I'm also out of touch-- so my question is
whether a camp that tends to see the scriptures as being this late is
actually developing these days?  If so, it seems to me that if your
ideas about the dating of the numeric use of the Heb. alphabet are
correct, then the presence of any clearly deliberate use of gematria
in the text would tend to confirm the theories of those who would see
these books as stemming from that late period, and would have a
correspondingly vigorous impact, I imagine, on our notions of biblical
editorship and on the documentary hypothesis generally.

I would certainly enjoy any further discussion of this tangent.

Regards to all, 

John Burnett



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