Thursday, 4 February 2010

Hebrew and Greek numbering

In ancient Hebrew the letter glyphs doubled as numeral glyphs, the same symbol could be a letter or a number depending on the context. Written Hebrew did this several centuries before Christ. In Hebrew the glyphs for the numbers 400–900 are final forms (the alternate shape of letters when they are the last letter of a word) and I am uncertain how old they are, or if paleo-Hebrew had glyphs for higher numbers. The higher hundreds can be written as a combination of the lower hundreds glyphs.

Greek used a similar system called the Milesian (or Ionian) system which replaced the earlier Attic system. The Attic system was somewhat similar to the Roman system. Greek uses 3 glyphs that had become obsolete at the time it was used to allow numbering to 900; though the position of fau (Ϝ) leaves one curious as to whether it may still have been in use at the time the system was invented/ copied.

Below are the Hebrew and Greek glyphs for the corresponding numbers. The lower case Greek was non-existent at the time of the New Testament.

Hebrew Glyph Number Greek Glyph
א 1Α α
ב 2Β β
ג3Γ γ
ד4Δ δ
ה 5Ε ε
ו 6Ϝ ϝ
ז 7Ζ ζ
ח 8Η η
ט 9Θ θ
י 10Ι ι
כ, ך20Κ κ
ל 30Λ λ
מ, ם 40Μ μ
נ, ן 50Ν ν
ס 60Ξ ξ
ע 70Ο ο
פ, ף 80Π π
צ, ץ 90Ϙ ϙ
ק 100Ρ ρ
ר 200Σ σ
ש 300Τ τ
ת 400Υ υ
ך 500Φ φ
ם 600Χ χ
ן700Ψ ψ
ף 800Ω ω
ץ 900Ͳ ͳ

Thus 23 is written ΒΓ, and 799 is ΨϘΘ.

Gematria is the association of words with numbers. The development of a word to number correspondence is understandable because the twofold sense of the glyphs. Every word has an associated number that is obtained by adding up the values of the glyphs read as numbers. For example the word king melek (מלך) is calculated as 40 + 30 + 20 = 90 (assuming 20 rather than 500 for kaph). David (דוד) is 4 + 6 + 4 = 14. This may be why Matthew included groups of 14 in his genealogy of Jesus.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for your post discussing the Gematria, and the example of Hebrew Gematria where David=14, hence the list of 14 generations in Matthew 14. Gematria is a huge and fascinating subject, and often sheds light on many passages in the Bible.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So good topic really i like any post talking about Ancient Greece for Kids but i want to say thing to u Ancient Greece not that only ... you can see in Ancient Greece Demography and the Spartan Economy and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... thanks a gain ,,,

    ReplyDelete

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