Number symbolism

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Numerorum mysteria by Pietro Bongo , 1591

Number symbolism (also: number mysticism or numerology ) is understood to mean the assignment of meanings to individual numbers or combinations of numbers, whereby the numbers are given a symbolic function that goes beyond their mathematical function. This symbolism, with differences in form and function, is observed in religion , liturgy , literature , customs and superstition and also plays a role in research into historical forms of music , architecture , medicine , art and law .



In contrast to the mathematical understanding of numbers, in which numbers have purely formal functions, number mysticism assigns additional meanings to certain numbers . In customs, mysticism and religion, figures charged with significance appear as symbols , as metaphors or in the structure of rites ( e.g. oracles ) or buildings. These numbers have a specific character, an individual quality and properties, such as “male”, “female”, “auspicious” or “holy”, which can vary depending on the culture. Often, value judgments about things are also transferred to numbers linked to them or, conversely, value judgments about numbers to things linked to them.

Almost all number-symbolic systems consider the single-digit numbers from one to seven as well as ten. This is likely to be due to the phases of the moon and the resulting cultural conventions such as the seven days of the week . The number ten is also fundamental to the decimal system , based on the ten-fingered hand.

Number symbolism is common in numerous cultures and religions worldwide. The first and comprehensive system of occidental numerology on the basis of symbolic Bible exegesis was developed by Pietro Bongo in the late 16th century .


Alphabetical systems

There are numerous numerology systems that give certain letters in the alphabet a numerical value. Examples of this are the Abdschad , the Hebrew numeral and the Armenian numeral .

The Jewish tradition of interpreting words based on their numerical values ​​is called gematria . The Arabic system of numerology is the Abdjad . In this system, each letter of the Arabic alphabet has a specific value.


Some theories in alchemy can be traced back to numerological principles. For example, the Iranian alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān based his experiments on a specially developed numerological system based on the names of the substances used in Arabic.


Scientific theories are often referred to as "numerology" when the original purpose of the study is based on a number of patterns rather than based on scientific observation. This slang usage of the term is widespread in scientific commentaries and is mainly used to reject a theory or a scientific publication as doubtful.

The best known example of numerology in science is the Large Number Hypothesis , which was established by Paul Dirac in 1937 . This is a theory that deals with the strange accumulation of absolute ratios on the order of 10 40 . Other personalities, such as the mathematician Hermann Weyl and the astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington , also dealt with the hypothesis .

The discovery of atomic triads, which dealt with the elements of a group or column of the periodic table , has been called a form of numerology that eventually led to the creation of the periodic table. In these triads, the average atomic weight of the lightest and heaviest element of a group is calculated, which then roughly corresponds to the atomic weight of the middle element. Although this method does not work with every triplet, some subsequent scientific work has been based on this observation.


Methods in games that allow the use of "lucky numbers" (lottery, bingo, roulette, etc.) correspond to the concept of numerology. While no strategy can be used that will increase the player's chances of winning, they can bet on "lucky numbers" that they believe will help. Although there is no evidence that such a numerological strategy would have a better result than randomly setting any numbers, such methods for increasing the motivation to bet are widely supported by casino operators.

Scientific aspects

Bible exegesis

Isidore of Seville already emphasized the cognitive value of number symbolism for theology in his Etymologiae :

The importance of the numbers is not to be sniffed at. For in many places in the scriptures it becomes clear what a great mystery they contain. For it is not for nothing that the praises of God say: "You have made everything according to measure and number and weight." The number six, which is perfect by its divisors , indicates the perfection of the world (created in six days) through its numerical meaning. In the same way, the forty days fasted by Moses , Elias and the Lord Himself cannot be understood without knowing the numbers. There are other numbers in the holy scriptures whose improper meaning can only be interpreted by those familiar with this subject. (Isid. Orig. 3.4.1)

It is still true today that the exegesis and analysis of historical and religious texts is hardly possible without an understanding of numerical symbols.

Cultural and linguistic studies

The other sciences that deal with number symbolism include linguistics (numbers as semantically relevant objects) and cultural studies (numbers in customs , rites and superstitions ). In addition, esoteric practices of number symbolic oracle technique under the term numerology with regard to their social and psychological effects on the individual and society can be an object of social and cultural science interest.

Natural sciences

With scientific methods, number-symbolic (numerological) practices, for example for the purpose of fortune-telling or to gain occult knowledge, cannot be checked and, because of their wide scope for interpretation, cannot be falsified . In doing so, they evade scientific judgment. Followers of the natural sciences therefore assign numerological practices to the area of superstition and generally rate them as erroneous beliefs.

This is also used against claims that symbolic numerical relationships faithfully reproduce natural conditions (crystallography, vegetation forms), as well as against hypotheses that assume a hidden number symbolism in buildings such as the Great Pyramid and link archaeological findings with astrophysical and geophysical conditions in their argumentation.

Number symbolism in the Bible

The Bible of the Old and New Testaments contains an abundance of numerical data which, according to the doctrine of the fourfold sense of the Scriptures, have been intensively interpreted literally and allegorically in the history of the Bible . Numbers that appear in both the Old and the New Testament are often typologically interpreted as predicting the later Christian sense. Thus, the four four-faced and four-winged beings in the vision of Ezekiel (in Ezekiel 1,4  EU ) have been interpreted as types of the four evangelists at the latest since Jerome .

Numbers play a role in the apocalyptic writings in particular , as they are perceived as systematizing and making the world order clearer. The origin of biblical-apocalyptic number symbolism can be seen in the Babylonian number speculation.

Biblical number symbolism in detail

  • Seven : The first account of creation is seven days and God rested on the seventh day ( Gen 2, 2–3  ESV ); Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat and seven lean cows ( Gen 41: 2–7  ELB ), which Joseph interpreted for him as seven fat and seven lean years; Revelation is addressed to seven churches ( Rev 1,4  ELB ); John sees a book with seven seals ( Rev 5,1  ELB ), seven angels blow seven trumpets ( Rev 8,6  ELB ); seven angels pour seven bowls of divine wrath on the earth ( Rev 15.7  ELB ).
  • Twelve : The people of Israel were divided into twelve tribes ( Gen 49: 3–28  ELB ); Jesus called twelve apostles ( Mt 10 : 2–4  ELB ); the heavenly Jerusalem should have twelve gates and a length of 12,000 stadia ( Rev 21 : 10–16  ELB ).
  • Forty : Forty is often a time of preparation or repentance in the Bible. Forty days and forty nights it rained during the flood ( Gen 7.4  ELB ), forty years the people of Israel wandered through the desert after leaving Egypt ( Ex 16.35  ELB ), and Moses' stay on the mountain lasted forty days Sinai ( Ex 24.18  ELB ); Forty days the prophet Jonah gave the city of Nineveh to convert ( Jona 3: 4  ELB ); Jesus fasted forty days when he was tempted in the desert ( Mt 4,2  ELB ).
  • One hundred and forty-four: John learns in his Revelation that the number of "sealed" Israelites is 144,000, 12,000 each from the twelve tribes of Israel ( Rev 7,4  EU ).
  • Six hundred and sixty-six : number of the beast in the Revelation of John ( Rev 13:18  ESV ).

Number symbolism in cultures


For ancient oriental religions such as B. in Babylon , numbers have a mystical meaning. Certain numbers correspond to the influence of the stars and constellations

  • one : is the sign of unity.
  • two : Is the symbol for the division of the universe into two , above and below; also moon and sun , winter and summer were brought into connection.
  • three : arises from the tripartite division of the cosmos into three spheres of fixed stars ; likewise the tripartite division of the earthly universe into air heaven, earth and ocean. The triad father, mother, son ( Enki , Ninḫursanga , Marduk ) can also be associated with it.
  • four : The four corners of the world, four world directions, four winds, four seasons, four phases of the moon, etc. are related to it.
  • five : The mystical pentagram was created by adding Venus as the fifth dimension to the planets of the four corners of the world. The week of five days, the cosmic towers of five levels are to be identified.
  • six : number of the hadad . Six double months, six world ages. Sometimes the sun gear is shown with six rays.
  • seven : number of the stars (sun, moon, planets Mercury-Jupiter), seven cosmic towers with seven steps, seven curls of Gilgamesh , seven branches of the tree of life, seven Pleiades , seven main stars on the great heavenly chariot, seven names of Mars , seven days of the week with Highlighting the 7th as a bad day. The Babylonian flood rises seven days, the flood falls seven days, seven atonement rites, a serpent with seven heads or seven tongues. The underworld has seven gates in the Ištar's journey into hell .
  • eight : is the number of Ištar-Venus. It is represented by an 8-pointed symbol, tripled means the symbol "star". A building of Sennacherib has eight directions of the compass rose, eight spokes of the wheel of fortune, eight gates .
  • nine : highlighted in certain calendar systems, broken down into 3 × 3; multiplied by 3 results in the day on which the moon and sun share the determination (27).
  • ten : number of Marduk .
  • eleven : The eleven rays of Marduk, eleven-string harp from Telloh.
  • twelve : number of Nergal . Basis of the duodecimal system (5 + 7; 5 × 12). The twelve year orbit of Jupiter , twelve division of the zodiac , twelve double hours for the day. 12 showbreads in the ritual tables, sometimes also the number of the Babylonian Olympus.
  • thirteen : The 13 belongs to the twelve. Was considered a lucky number by (12 + 1) pairs of gods.
  • fourteen : number of evil demons . Doubling the seven. Legend has it that the underworld has fourteen gates, fourteen helpers accompany Nergal into the underworld. But see also the Christian holy fourteen helpers in need in a positive sense.
  • fifteen : number of Ištar. Rest day in the moon course, full moon day, Nebuchadnezzar builds his palace in 15 days. Niniveh , the city of Ištar, has 15 gates.
  • twenty-seven : every 27th day, the moon and sun meet to share their destiny.
  • 30: the moon god Sin , which is usually written as d 30.
  • fifty : 50 honorable names of Marduk, 50 temples.
  • seventy : number of the completed cycle.
  • seventy-two : 72 elders; Solar bill (5 × 72 = 360); Precession number (in 72 years the vernal equinox moves 1 degree).
  • three hundred and sixty : round number of the year. 30 × 12 breads made from wheat flour are placed in the temple building rite.

East asia

The symbolism of numbers also plays a central role in ancient and modern China . The 3 as the basis of numerous triads, the five, the eight, and finally the 12 as the determinant of the calendar and the zodiac are of particular importance .

The 4 ( Chinese   , Pinyin ) is the unlucky number because in Chinese it sounds similar to “to die” and “death” ( Chinese   , Pinyin ). Other unlucky numbers are 7 and 10. Therefore, the numbers 4, 7 and 10 are avoided or replaced as much as possible in China and Japan.

8 ( Chinese   , Pinyin ) is the lucky number due to a sound similarity (to Chinese   , Pinyin “to flourish”, “wealth”).

In the East Asian region there is an interpretation that z. B. has been incorporated into the holistic building biology there according to the Feng Shui theory. Related topics here include the Yin and Yang- based view of the world.

Baha'i religion

The numbers nine and nineteen have a special meaning for the Baha'i .

Numbers in fairy tales

In fairy tales, numbers are represented as symbols with a magical meaning. The numbers 3, 7 and 13 have particularly prominent meanings as they bring luck or bad luck to the main characters. Something only works on the third attempt, as in Little Red Riding Hood, or the thirteenth fairy utters a curse. For example, the fairy tale Cinderella speaks of three dresses and three evenings. On the third evening, she loses her shoe, which brings her luck. However, other numbers are also common in fairy tales. The 12, for example, often occurs in fairy tales, but is given a more neutral position, as a 13th person is added at the end or something similar. Proverbs are often repeated, which often happens 2 or 4 times. In Rapunzel, for example, the phrase "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let your hair down" is repeated 4 times.

Numbers from words

The conversion of words into numerical values ​​is also part of the number symbolism. For this purpose, numerical values ​​are assigned to individual letters, which then result in result numbers according to various calculation methods, which usually include the formation of the checksum .

The meaning of these result numbers is taken from tables that recall the meanings of the tarot .

Hebrew-Greek-German numeric alphabet

Surname According to Numerical value Surname According to Numerical value character Numerical value
Aleph A / E / I / O 1 alpha A. 1 A. 1
Bet B (V) 2 beta B. 2 B. 2
Gimel G 3 gamma G 3 C. 3
Dalet D. 4th delta D. 4th D. 4th
Hey H 5 epsilon E. 5 E. 5
Waw W (O / U) 6th Digamma F. 6th F. 6th
Szajin Sz 7th Zeta Z 7th G 7th
Chet Ch 8th Eta Ä 8th H 8th
Thet Th 9 Theta Th 9 I. 9
iodine I (J) 10 Iota I (J) 10 J 10
Cap K (Kh) 20th Kappa K 20th K 20th
Lamed L. 30th Lambda L. 30th L. 30th
Mem M. 40 My M. 40 M. 40
Now N 50 Ny N 50 N 50
Ssamech Ss 60 Xi X 60 O 60
Ajin (A / E / I / O) 70 Omicron O 70 P 70
Peh P (Ph) 80 pi P 80 Q 80
Zade Z 90 Episemonbau R. 90
Qoph Q 100 Rho R. 100 S. 100
Resch R. 200 Sigma S. 200 T 200
Shin Sch / S 300 dew T 300 U 300
Taw T 400 Ypsilon Y (U) 400 V 400
Phi Ph (F) 500 W. 500
Chi Ch 600 X 600
Psi Ps 700 Y 700
omega Oo 800 Z 800

Methods for calculating the number of names are widely used by Cheiro and Reichstein .

Similar to the daily horoscope, there are also assignments of numerical values ​​to calendar days.

Modern superstition

In the United States even today people avoid naming a 13th floor. Instead, it is numbered, for example, with "12A" or with 14. It is similar in airplanes or on cruise ships, where there are no 13th row of seats or no 13th deck. Rooms with the number 13 are also dispensed with in hospitals and hotels, and car number 13 in Formula 1 motorsport (but not on the 13th starting place). In Wellington , the capital of New Zealand , government offices are often on the 13th floor because they are not rentable to business people; they apparently have concerns that such an address could be detrimental to business. Some conspiracy theorists attach great importance to numbers, such as twenty-three . In esoteric circles there are also theories about symmetrical numbers ( 11:11 phenomenon ), which from a scientific point of view most closely belongs to the field of selective perception . The Weihenstephaner Bräustüberl in Freising is called "Lecture Hall 13" by students of the Technical University of Munich. On campus Freising-Weihenstephan officially no auditorium exists with the number thirteen.

See also


Writings from followers of number symbolism

  • Pietro Bongo : Numerorum mysteria. Bergamo 1599 etc.
  • Michael Stelzner: The universal formula of immortality. The meaning of numbers - the unity of science and religion. Wiesbaden 1996.
  • Friedrich Weinreb : number sign word. The symbolic universe of the Bible language. Hamlet i. General 1986.
  • Friedrich Weinreb: Creation in Word. The structure of the Bible in Jewish tradition. 2nd Edition. Zurich 2002.

Overview representations

reference books

  • Arman Sahihi: Old Persian numerology, the number oracle of the Parsees , Ariston Verlag, Geneva / Munich 1992, ISBN 3-7205-1717-9 .
  • Heinz Meyer, Rudolf Suntrup: Lexicon of the meanings of numbers in the Middle Ages. Munich 1999.
  • Helmut Werner: Lexicon of numerology and number mysticism. Komet, Frechen 2001, ISBN 3-89836-132-2 .

Overall presentations and investigations

  • Joseph Sauer : Symbolism of the church building and its furnishings in the conception of the Middle Ages. 2nd Edition. Herder Verlagsbuchhandlung, Freiburg im Breisgau 1924, 1st section, 2nd chapter, p. 61 ff
  • Heinz Meyer: The numerical algorithm in the Middle Ages. Method and use. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1975.
  • Franz Carl Endres , Annemarie Schimmel: The Mystery of Numbers. Number symbolism in a cultural comparison. Cologne 1984.
  • Hans A. Hutmacher: Symbolism of the biblical numbers and times. Paderborn 1993.
  • Rudolf Taschner : The numbers gigantic shadow. The fantastic world of math. 2nd Edition. Munich 2009.
  • Rudolf Taschner: number time coincidence. Secrets of science. Munich 2009.

Web links

Wiktionary: Number symbols  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Number mystics and numerology.
  • Meir Bar-Ilan: Bibliography of Numerology. In: , Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan Israel 2004 (accessed June 9, 2013). Selection bibliography for numerology, not just scientific. Meir Bar-Ilan is a Senior Lecturer at the Talmud Department and Jewish History Department.
  • unknown: Othijoth: Biblical signs. In: , Kath. Kirchengemeinde St. Michael, Burgstetten [no year] (accessed on June 9, 2013). Explanation of Hebrew letters and numbers, with pictures.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Frank Lewis: Overview of the Abjad numerological system. In: Bahai-Library, accessed on March 16, 2015.
  2. Syed Nomanul Haq: Names, Natures and Things: The Alchemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan and His Kitab Al-Ahjar (Book of Stones). Springer-Verlag, 1995, ISBN 0-7923-3254-7 .
  3. Victor J. Stenger: Is the universe fine-tuned for us? ( Memento of July 16, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (pdf). University of Colorado, accessed March 16, 2015.
  4. ^ Johann Wolfgang Dobereiner. Purdue University, accessed March 16, 2015.
  5. ^ IJ Good: A Quantal Hypothesis for Hadrons and the Judging of Physical Numerology. In: Disorder in Physical Systems. Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-19-853215-6 , p. 141.
  6. ^ Dan Falk: Cosmic numbers: Pauli and Jung's love of numerology. In: NewScientist - Opinion. on April 29, 2009, accessed March 16, 2015.
  7. Number Symbolism - Myth or Reality? In: CasinoObserver. accessed on March 16, 2015.
  8. Ratio numerorum contemnenda non est. In multis enim sanctarum scripturarum locis quantum mysterium have elucet. Non enim frustra in laudibus Dei dictum est: "Omnia in mensura et numero et pondere fecisti." Senarius namque qui partibus suis perfectus est, perfectionem mundi quadam numeri significatione declarat. Similiter et quadraginta dies, quibus Moyses et Helias et ipse Dominus ieiunauerunt, sine numerorum cognitione non intelleguntur. Sic et alii in scripturis sacris numeri existunt, quorum figuras nonnisi noti huius artis scientiae soluere possunt. (Isid. Orig. 3.4.1)
  9. Pat Alexander, David Alexander (ed.): The great manual for the Bible. Stuttgart 2003.
  10. Herbert Kölsch: The biblical numbers as a parable: their interpretation in the work of Em. Swedenborg. In: Open gates. 18.1974
  11. Georg Fohrer: Introduction to the Old Testament. 12th edition. Heidelberg 1979.
  12. ^ Ethelbert W. Bullinger: Number in Scripture. Kregel Publications.
  13. Christoph Dohmen: The Bible and its interpretation. CH Beck Verlag, 2011.
  14. GWUP website . Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  15. ^ U. Dudley: Numerology: Or, What Pythagoras Wrought. Mathematical Association of America. - a skeptical survey of the field through history. 1997.
  16. ^ I. Oepen, K. Federspiel, A. Sarma, J. Windeler (eds.): Lexicon of Para sciences. Lit-Verlag, Münster 1999.
  17. Cornelis de Jager: What is radosophy? In: Gero von Randow (ed.): My paranormal bike and other reasons for skepticism, discovered in the “Skeptical Inquirer”. Reinbek 1993, pp. 23-33.
  18. Philipp Vielhauer : History of early Christian literature. Berlin 1978, ISBN 3-11-007763-9 , p. 488.
  19. Philipp Vielhauer: History of early Christian literature. Berlin 1978, ISBN 3-11-007763-9 , p. 492.
  20. Philipp Vielhauer: History of early Christian literature. Berlin 1978, ISBN 3-11-007763-9 , p. 498.
  21. ^ RT France: The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Cambridge 2007, 129–130: "Forty days" is used in the Bible as an idiomatic expression for a significant but limited period (eg Gen 7: 4; Num 13:25; 1 Sam 17: 6; Jonah 3: 4; Acts 1: 3), but […] it is possible that he [Matthew] intends that phrase to recall more specifically either the period spent without food by Moses on Mount Sinai (Exod 24:18; 34:28; Deut 9: 9 etc .) [...] But in view of the clear background of this story in the pentateuchal narratives of Israel's wilderness experience [...] Jesus' "forty days and forty nights" more obviously serve as a reminder of Israel's "forty years" of privation and testing.
  22. For example, the Alfa Romeo 164 was offered in Japan as the 168.
  23. In Weihenstephan on the trail of a cultural asset. ( Memento from September 20, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In: Gießener Allgemeine.
  24. ↑ Site plan. of the lecture halls on the Weihenstephan campus