# Gematria (Box 30.2)

The practice of “gematria” consists of assigning a numerical value to a word or phrase by adding together the values of the individual letters. This works in Hebrew and in Greek, where the letters of the alphabet can also serve as numerals. In Greek, the marks signifying 6 and 90 were not used as letters in New Testament times.

א = 1

ב = 2

ג = 3

ד = 4

ה = 5

ו = 6

ז = 7

ח = 8

ט = 9

י = 10

כ = 20

ל = 30

מ = 40

נ = 50

ס = 60

ע = 70

פ = 80

צ = 90

ק = 100

ר = 200

ש = 300

ת = 400

## Greek Letters

Α α = 1

Β β = 2

Γ γ = 3

Δ δ = 4

Ε ε = 5

Ϝ ϝ = 6

Ζ ζ = 7

Η η = 8

Θ θ = 9

Ι ι = 10

Κ κ = 20

Λ λ = 30

Μ μ = 40

Ν ν = 50

Ξ ξ = 60

Ο ο = 70

Π π = 80

Ϙ ϙ = 90

Ρ ρ = 100

Σ σ = 200

Τ τ = 300

Υ υ = 400

Φ φ = 500

Χ χ = 600

Ψ ψ = 700

Ω ω = 800

In the Roman world, gematria became a basis for riddles, jokes, and games.

• Graffiti on a wall in Pompeii reads, “I love her whose number is 545.”
• As a political joke, Suetonius (Nero 39) indicates that the name “Nero” (Νέρων) and the phrase “killed his own mother” (ἰδίαν μητέρα ἀπέκτεινε) have the same numerical value (1,005) when written in Greek. This was pertinent because the emperor was rumored to have murdered his mother.

In Christianity and Judaism, gematria could provide a basis for religious symbolism.

• Rabbis noted that “Eliezer” (אליעזר), the name of Abraham’s favored servant (Gen. 15:2), has a numerical value of 318, which is the total number of servants mentioned in Genesis 14:14. Thus Eliezer was the equal of all the rest of the servants combined.
• The Hebrew letters in the name “David” (דוד) add up to 14, so that number could be accorded messianic significance: the Messiah was to be the Son of David. This is probably why Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes that the genealogy of Jesus can be divided into three sets of fourteen generations (Matt. 1:17).
• The Greek letters in the name “Jesus” (Ἰησοῦς) add to 888, which some early Christians found significant: eight surpasses seven (the number for perfection) and heralds a “new creation” beyond what God did in the first seven days (Gen. 1:1–2:3).

Many scholars think that gematria holds the clue to resolving the puzzle of 666, the number attributed to the beast in Revelation 13:18.