The End is Not NearI’ve already blogged a couple of times about Christian crank David Meade, who claims a “Biblical prophecy” (bolstered by numerology, pseudoastronomy, solar eclipses, the Egyptian pyramids, Bible codes, and conspiratorialism) predicts “the End of the World” will start this coming Saturday, September 23, 2017. Initially these stories were found only in Rupert Murdoch’s outlets, but many others have picked up this story. Some relay it as breathlessly as Murdoch’s papers, channels, and sites, but others treat it more dismissively (recognizing it as the bullshit it is).

One outlet that dismisses it is Christianity Today, which protested this kind of crap (Archive.Is cached article):

Again, we must deal with fake news. I’ve written on this numerous times before here and here and, undoubtedly, this won’t be the last time.

In this case, it’s making Christians look silly.

Again.

But there it is on the front page of Fox News, “Christian doomsdayers claim world will end next week.”

It’s under the heading “Science.” When you click on it, the article headline proclaims, “Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim.”

Note, first of all, that CT‘s chief objection to this “Biblical prophecy” is not that it’s all bullshit, predicated on distortions and lies. Oh no. Their initial objection is “it’s making Christians look silly.” Well, duh. Of course it is! It’s making Christians look silly, because this sort of bullshit is entirely consistent with Christianity’s long history of trotting out “prophecies” which are dire scenarios of death and destruction. Arguably, Christianity itself was clearly inspired by 1st century CE apocalyptic Judaism … so the propounding of apocalyptic doom is entirely within its wheelhouse! If Christians don’t want to look silly, they need to alter their religion so it doesn’t lead to this kind of doomsaying, and they need to shut down — and shut up — anyone in their religion who does so.

Yeah I know, good luck with that. Clearly Christians have no desire to do this … hence, if those crankish doomsayers make them look bad, they have no one to blame but themselves for allowing those doomsayers to run amok for the last two millennia.

But on top of that “boo hoo hoo, this crank makes us look bad” whine, CT goes on to explain:

No, the world won’t end on September 23rd and, Fox News, believe it or not, there is no such thing as a ‘Christian numerologist.’

Note the claim at the end of this sentence: “There is no such thing as a ‘Christian numerologist.’” That, unfortunately for CT, is simply not true. There absolutely are “Christian numerologists” because numerology is embedded within the religion.

Consider the significance of certain numbers, in Christian scripture: The numbers 3, 7, and 12 (for example) figure in repeatedly. Adam and Eve had 3 sons, and so did Noah; Jesus was accompanied by 3 apostles in the Transfiguration; Peter denied him 3 times; Jesus was dead 3 days; the world was created in 7 days; the book of Revelation begins with 7 letters to 7 churches of Asia; later in it, there are 7 seals and 7 trumpets; Jacob/Israel had 12 sons who founded 12 tribes; Jesus had 12 apostles; 144,000 (or 12×12) “sons of Israel” appear in Revelation; and on and on it goes. Numbers clearly matter in the Bible. They have metaphorical and metaphysical meaning, on many levels. This inevitably leads to numerological analysis.

What’s more, there’s actually explicit numerology in scripture. Specifically, it’s found in Revelation:

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Revelation 13:18)

But some early manuscripts say “the number of the Beast” is 616, not 666 (fortunately, some modern Bible translations indicate this). This is hard to make sense of, if one assumes (as many Christians do) that Revelation’s Beast is some future person; but if one is looking for historical figures whom the author of Revelation knew about (it was probably composed in the 90s CE), there’s one obvious candidate that could explain this coincidence. That infamous person’s name, in Greek, when transliterated into Hebrew and rendered using Hebrew gematria, is 666, but his Latin name (also transliterated into Hebrew) becomes 616. That infamous person is none other than the Roman emperor Nero. Nero was said to have persecuted Christians (both Christian and non-Christian authors report it). He is also said to have martyred the apostle Peter. He was, to put it briefly, a common bogeyman among Christians (not wholly unreasonably, it seems). So it makes sense for him to have inspired the figure of “the Beast.”

At any rate, to say there’s no such thing as a Christian numerologist is to assert there was no special use of numbers within Christian tradition, and especially in the Bible — which on its face is foolish. All by itself, “the number of the Beast” is numerology. Period.

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