Alpha and Omega are also numbers (6)


The prologue and epilogue to John’s gospel are clearly defined literary sections. The opening, sometimes called the Hymn to the Logos, is composed of 496 syllables while the ending is 496 words in length. So far we’ve looked at five reasons why John might have chosen to highlight this number in order to make a persuasive and compelling ‘numerical literary’ apologetic. It might not impress the average post-modern thinker who grew up in a world where arithmetic and language are completely different subjects. However, even two millennia after it was written, its word-number fusion still retains enough of the ‘wow!’ factor to stop more than a few skeptics in their tracks.

So far we’ve looked at five reasons why John might have chosen to feature 496:

(1)   It’s a ‘perfect’ number.

(2)   It’s a ‘triangular’ number.

(3)   The mathematical structure recalls that of the Immanuel prophecy.

(4)   The triangular number points in Hebrew to one of the names of God.

(5)   There’s an equation which links 496 and the logos (as a defined ratio) to the Law of Moses on the one hand and to the Resurrection of Jesus on the other.

And now here’s a sixth reason. Any serious practitioner of numerical literary style would not fail to embed a significant word with the same numerical value as either the word or syllable length.  Numbers were not the separate digits they are today: letters served a dual function.

Today many people automatically think of numerology when numbers are said to encode a hidden meaning. Often this is the case—but there is no reason, simply because abuses abound, to suggest that the marriage of mathematics and words is always an occult one. In the case of early Christian writings, I believe this ‘hiddenness’ is more a result of our cultural bias and ignorance than of any genuine obscurity. For instance, in attempting to analyse the Hebrew thought behind the Armour of God passage in Ephesians 6, I hypothesised that, if I my understanding was correct, then the numerical value of the section should be 77777. But it wasn’t: it was 77791. In accounting for the 0.018% discrepancy, an even wider field of Paul’s thought opened up. But my point is: there’s a remez in the numerical literary structure, an allusion that we’ve missed (or perhaps lost) since the late Middle Ages.

Back, however, to John’s remez, his hint based on 496. In the Greek text, he twice used the word monogenes, only-begotten.  Using gematria to add the letters according to their numerical values, monogenes equals 496. Again, there is a very strong implication of an anti-Cerinthian salvo: another shot against the Gnostics. Begotten, thus flesh. Only-begotten, thus one. In every possible way, with every possible accepted literary convention of the time, John hammered it home that Jesus was not separate from Christ, that He was the son of the Father and the only one at that.

Heaven had come down to kiss and redeem Earth.

Leave a Reply

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.