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Numbers as Christian Symbols


Like colors, a great many numbers have symbolic significance and are intentionally used that way in Christian literature, including the Bible.

The number one, for example, refers to the one God of this tradition, two is taken as a reference to the dual nature of Christ as being both human and divine, three signifies the Trinity, is often taken as a reference to the Trinity, four signifies the four gospel accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, five refers to the wounds of Jesus on the cross, etc.

In sum ...

1 = one God
2 = the dual nature of Christ as human and divine
3 = the Trinity
4 = the four "evangelists" or gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
5 = the wounds of Christ on the cross and, hence a reference to the theme of sacrifice.
6 = the six days of creation or creativity generally.
7 = the number of consummation and rest, for on the seventh day of creation, God rested.
8 = often refers to regeneration or resurrection and for this reason the baptismal font in many churches is eight sided.
9 = there were nine choirs of angels, nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, and nine, being the result of 3x3 also refers to the Trinity or God.
10 = refers to the Ten Commandments. Note that in Sermon on the Mount there are ten beatitudes, drawing a clear parallel between Moses and Jesus.

Many larger numbers have significance too. In fact, when reading the Bible, it is safe to assume that almost any number one encounters in the text can have symbolic meanings. Taking those into account can sometimes influence one's interpretation of a particular passage.

More Symbols: 

Index of Christian Symbols

The Human Body as a Symbol of the Sacred
The body as a symbol of the sacred

The Face of Jesus as a Symbol of Faith
The Face of Jesus as a symbolic construct.

Pop Christianty
Pray, How Often? Pop culture and commerical images in service to the Christian faith ... or is it Christianity in service to commercialism? You decide.

The symbolic power of simple shapes
Even shapes are symbolic in Christianity.

The significance of color in Christian symbolism
The meaning of color in Christian symbolism

Food symbols in Christian tradition
Food symbols in Christian tradition

Doves, Eagles, and Sparrows
Doves, Eagles, and Sparrows ... birds as symbols of the divine.

The Fish
The fish has been an important Christian symbol, not only because of the fact that Jesus included several fishermen in his close circle, but also because The initial letters of each word in the Greek phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior" form the word ICHTHUS, which means "fish."

Christian ship symbols
Christian ship symbols

The Ankh Cross
The Ankh Cross is an ancient Egyptian symbol for life, combining the feminine circle and masculine staff to form the whole. It was adapted by early Christians because of its resemblance to the cross.

The Jerusalem Cross
Jerusalem Cross

The Maltese Cross
The Maltese Cross

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
  CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.