Peter and the fixation with gematria

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Thu Jun 24 17:57:20 EDT 1999

Dear Peter,

It seems to me that you have not clarified your post's relevance; you have
merely repeated what you have said a few times.

>I am sorry if my tone upset you, but I was making a very serious point 
>by analogy.
>ANALOGY which is widely accepted I think:
>Biblical Hebrew texts were written at some time before Hebrew letters 
>were used as numbers. After the numbering scheme was introduced, 
>various people began to read the Hebrew text as if it was a set of 
>numbers and came to some interesting speculative conclusions (this is 
>gematria as I understand it). These speculations, however, are not 
>related to the author's intention and have no bearing on the dating of 
>the text.

While I agree that gematria has little going for it in a historical
context, your comment here seems to have no relevance whatsoever in the
subject you are attempting to comment on. If one attempts to deal in
historical matters one needs the historical background. Perhaps it is
necessary to go through some of that background information so that you see
that this putdown of yours may not be relevant at all.

Have your read the Astronomical Book of Enoch? Have you noted all the
scholarly dating behind the book? Have you noticed that the book deals with
the 364 day calendar that was taking over from the earlier 360 day
calendar? The implication here is quite clear: the Astronomical Book was
written partly to justify the change to a new calendar, the 364 day
calendar which it argues is more accurate. It is a demarcation point in
history. The use of the 364-day calendar started not long before it was
written to champion the calendar.

There is quite an interest in the calendar in the second century BCE.
Antiochus IV had the Syrian (luni-solar) calendar used in Jerusalem for
religious purposes and his birthday was to be celebrated each month along
with Macedonian religious feasts (2Macc6:7-8). Daniel 7:25b says that
Antiochus "shall think to change the times and the law". Close to the end
of the century, the book of Jubilees fights a rear-guard action attempting
to bolster the solar calendar against the rise of the lunar calendar. I'd
say that they lunar calendar had been introduced by the Macedonians for
civil purposes back in the third century, while the solar calendar was
being used for religious purposes. The lunar calendar made the jump into
the religious sphere sometime after Antiochus enforced its use. The DSS
mishmarot show signs that the lunar calendar was winning at that stage.

Nevertheless, from the three main sources, Enoch, Jubilees, and the DSS, we
learn that the calendar was a very hot issue. So your flippancy on the
matter is quite out of place.

>Biblical Hebrew texts were written at some time before computers were 
>introduced. After computers were introduced, various people began to 
>look for hidden "Bible code" messages in the Hebrew text and came to 
>some interesting (to some) speculative conclusions. These 
>speculations, however, are not related to the author's intention and 
>have no bearing on the dating of the text.

The Astronomical Book isn't that many chapters of 1Enoch: it wouldn't take
you long to at least read it. You'll find it quite rigorous in its

>Biblical Hebrew texts (specifically, Ezekiel) were written at some 
>time before the "Enoch" and DSS calendar was introduced. 

Forget the words "DSS calendar" for a moment. They put you off: your logic
is based on erroneous presuppositions. The calendar is in the OT/HB. The
story of Noah for example. Haggai gives three dates, a Sunday and two
Tuesdays. Daniel one, a Friday. Moses's first words in Deuteronomy were
uttered on a Friday. The Lord spoke to Moses at the beginning of Numbers on
a Friday. Aaron died on the first of the fifth, a Friday. Joshua crossed
the Jordan with the Hebrews on the tenth of the first, a Friday. (I have
attached the calendar structure below so you can attempt to apply it

>After the 
>calendar was introduced, various people began to read the dates in 
>Hebrew text in the light of this calendar and came to some interesting 
>speculative conclusions. 

Rubbish, Peter. This is unfoundable speculation on your part. You have
*nothing* to make you think this.

>These speculations, however, are not related 
>to the author's intention and have no bearing on the dating of the 

This is now being presumptuous about the text. Why don't you ask your
author what his intention was? I have seen no provided method that allows
you divine those intentions.

>By the way, who first read these dates out of or into Ezekiel? Was it 
>someone at Qumran etc? Or was it some medieval or modern scholar who 
>discovered this alleged match with the "Enoch" and DSS calendar?

Why not read the relevant ancient texts and discover it yourself. The
364-day calendar is reasonably plain to find in the Astronomical Book. It
is very pointed about those extra four days that correct the old 360-day

>As for the details of that calendar, what is the significance that 
>none of the visions took place on a Monday? Or is that simply chance? 

Probably not. Certain days were more favourable than others.

>In that case, could it not be chance also that none of them took place 
>on the Sabbath? 

Try and calculate it.

>Since we don't know what exactly the zero year of 
>Ezekiel's reckoning was, if we can find any one day of the week on 
>which no visions took place (in fact apparently there were two such 
>days) we can adjust the zero year so that that day is the sabbath. 

Please read a little about the 364-day calendar first. For example, does 7
divide into 364? If so, it doesn't matter which year is the first year.
Peter, I think this conversation is pretty meaningless, if you are talking
about things you just don't seem to understand and are not prepared to do
the background reading for. [This background reading is long but sparse. A
few examples: 

VanderKam, J.C., "The Origin, Character and Early History of the 364-Day
Calendar: A Reassessment of Jaubert's Hypothesis," CBQ41 (1979) 390-411; 

Wacholder, B.Z., "The Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles during the Second
Temple and the Early Rabbinical Period," HUCA44 (1973) 153-196; 

Beckwith, R.T., "The Earliest Enoch Literature and Its Calendar: Marks of
their Origin, Date and Motivation," RevQ10 (1979-81) 365-403.

There are usually calendar discussions with editions of 1Enoch and Jubilees.]

>would also help if you gave accurate data e.g. 30 not 13 for the year 
>in 1:1, or has someone made a conjectural emendation to fit this date 
>into your calendar scheme? I am sorry, but this does look like the 
>type of argument used in gematria, except that in gematria usually the 
>source text is not emended.
>OK, I accept that you may be right, that we do not have any definite 
>proof (certainly that you would accept) of the date of Ezekiel, 

What would you accept (that would be valid for texts from other cultures as

>whether early or late. Another page to be ripped out of your already 
>very thin history book, 

Yes, very thin. (But your possessive pronoun is out of place.)

In time you might appreciate that history is a rigorous subject and that
internal datings alone don't cut it. While you only have internal dates you
have nothing that can be differentiated from fantasy. (Though you may note
that I'm not necessarily calling anything fantasy, you still have an
epistemological burden to say what is -- in fact -- not fantasy.)

>along with the page which told me definitely 
>of the prosperity of Tyre in the short period between the decline of 
>Assyria and the rise of Babylon (a period in which there was no great 
>power to disturb trading links between Judah and Tyre - and anyway 
>such trade tends to carry on regardless of political maneuvering until 
>this becomes extreme).

You seem to think that trade will crop up overnight because the Assyrians
were sleeping. What usually happens is that when routes are cut off others
are sought out and when possible found causing rerouting of access and
communication. The sea was much safer, and neither the Assyrians nor the
Babylonians had a navy, though the Tyrian possessions on the Levantine
coast had been ravaged for over a century. After having suffered a crushing
repression at the hands of Ashurbanipal in 645, being under the Assyrian
yoke for quite some time after that and with renewed disruption peace in
605, Tyre had so little time to change the structure of its mercantile

(And can you imagine a scenario for what this repeatedly crushed city could
have done in a space of a few hypothetical years to merit the glow of Ezek28?)

Who actually has proposed that there were renewed trading links between
Tyre and Jerusalem? And on what tangible grounds?

>You write "The first dating to an Ezekiel prophecy is in the fifth 
>year of the exile of Jehoiachin, ie ca. 592, so presumably the 
>Egyptian stuff came after that date." Presumably you refer to 1:2 (a 
>date omitted from your list), 

(It is the date in 1:1, which is in the list.)

>which identifies this date with the 30th 
>year in 1:1. Well, now I see another reason why you want to emend this 
>figure in 1:1. For according to your understanding of the dates 8:1 is 
>dated 24 years earlier and so. ca. 616! 

If you don't understand what I'm saying, how can say what my understanding is?

The year is of course inconsequential to the 364-day calendar. The logic in
most of your post is simply wrong. Unfortunately wrong.

>More likely 8:1 is in fact the 
>6th year of the exile of Jehoicahin, putting 8:1 one year after 1:2. 
>What is more, the dates in 33:21 and 40:1 are explicitly from the 
>exile and so presumably compare with 1:2 not 1:1. But that completely 
>messes up your nice calendar scheme.


>I'm sorry, but your calendar scheme fails to fit properly with the 
>actual data of the book of Ezekiel, 

It would be better to learn a little more about the subject material. This
post hasn't started dealing with the issue. Not knowing about the
background material doesn't mean that you should publish the fact.

>but rather fits nicely with the 
>sort of special pleading used by the type of people who try to fit 
>data into a scheme (like gematria) which was devised after the data.

Sadly you haven't made any case to get where your words want to go.

>Let me also repeat my point that those who had, early in their lives, 
>sought to benefit from Egyptian help around 605-601 

If you had noticed, Josiah went out to stop the Egyptians. This would
suggest that he was already in the party of the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar
dealt a crushing blow against the Egyptians at Carchemish: can you really
imagine that there would be Egyptian supporters in Jerusalem after
Carchemish? I know, hope springs eternal.

>would very likely 
>have continued to hope that Egypt would deliver them from exile until 
>the ends of their lives, especially if they were ignorant of the true 
>weakness of Egypt. 

Having seen Nebuchadnezzar at work from 605 onwards, do you think they
would have held out any hope, especially after he had closed the gate on
the Egyptians?

>So for the perhaps better informed Ezekiel to seek 

One first has to assume an Ezekiel to have a better informed one. Would you
like to justify that assumption?

>to correct their optimism in the 580's (dates in chapters 29-32) is to 
>my mind rather probable.

The idea of probability here does not seem to be related to events in the
real world.

The post I'm responding to has mainly displayed a lack of knowledge of the
fundamental issues regarding the calendar problem and a willingness to
espouse unsupported assumptions. Peter, I would probably not launch into an
attack on people's views in the field of Hebrew philology for I would
probably not have the apposite knowledge to do so with any meaning.

>Here is a table containing all of the Ezekiel data for when visions came to 
>the prophet:
>      Verse    year-month-day
>       1,1      13 -  4 -  5    Sun
>      (3,6      7 days later    Sun)
>       8,1       6 -  6 -  5    Thu
>      20,1       7 -  5 - 10    Sun
>      24,1       9 - 10 - 10    Fri
>      26,1      11 -  ? -  1    W|F|Su   (Masoretic text omits month) 
>      29,1      10 - 10 - 12    Sun
>      29,17     27 -  1 -  1    Wed
>      30,20     11 -  1 -  7    Tue
>      31,1      11 -  3 -  1    Sun
>      32,1      12 - 12 -  1    Sun
>      32,17     12 -  ? - 15    W|F|Su   (Masoretic text omits month
>                                          LXX indicates 1st month = Wed)
>      33,21     12 - 10 -  5    Sun      (LXX indicates 12th month = Wed) 
>      40,1      25 -  1 - 10    Fri

The calendar must have seemed perfect, four divisions of the year, each of
91 days, 13 weeks, two months of third days and one of 31, then the cycle
repeated. This meant that the feasts always fell on the same day. It was a
day and a quarter shorter than the real year, but it is not strange in the
ANE to find more than one calendar in operation at the same time.

             Months 1, 4, 7, 10     Months 2, 5, 8, 11     Months 3, 6, 9, 12

  Wednesday  1   8  15  22  29          6  13  20  27          4  11  18  25
  Thursday   2   9  16  23  30          7  14  21  28          5  12  19  26
  Friday     3  10  17  24          1   8  15  22  29          6  13  20  27
  Saturday   4  11  18  25          2   9  16  23  30          7  14  21  28
  Sunday     5  12  19  26          3  10  17  24          1   8  15  22  29
  Monday     6  13  20  27          4  11  18  25          2   9  16  23  30
  Tuesday    7  14  21  28          5  12  19  26          3  10  17  24  31

(The above needs a fixed font so that it can be seen correctly and if your
margin is too narrow you'll have a little reconstruct work!)

While the solar calendar is a historical fact at least back to the end of
the third century BCE, I see no relevance for your fixation with gematria
in the context of the calendar.



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