A perfect six

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Kendall K. Down

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May 16, 2022, 1:49:52 AMMay 16
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One commonly hears preachers asserting that seven is the perfect number
- indeed, I have referred to that myself on occasion, not because I
believe it but because it is a commonly held opinion.

The trouble is that Scripture does not make that claim and although God
does seem to have a preference for the number seven, He nowhere says
that seven is the perfect number.

The claim has sometimes been supported by the "science" of numerology,
which assigns significance to certain numbers or engages in
pseudo-scientific operations on numbers. For example, if you add the
numbers up to seven

1+2+3+4+5+6+7=28 : 2+8=10 : 1+0=1

So seven points to the unity of God. (For the avoidance of doubt, this
is nonsense and entirely without significance.)

St Augustine would not have supported the claim about seven. For him, it
is six which is the perfect number:

========
These works are recorded to have been completed in six days (the same
day being six times repeated), because six is a perfect number, not
because God required a protracted time, as if He could not at once
create all things, which then should mark the course of time by the
movements proper to them, but because the perfection of the works was
signified by the number six. For the number six is the first which is
made up of its own parts, i.e., of its sixth, third, and half, which are
respectively one, two, and three, and which make a total of six.
Augustine, City of God, XI.xxx
=========

(What we today would call "factors" Augustine calls "aliquot parts".)

Mind you, he doesn't entirely ignore the number seven.

========
But, on the seventh day (i.e., the same day repeated seven times, which
number is also a perfect one, though for another reason) ... Much more
might be said about the perfection of the number seven, but this book is
already too long, and I fear lest I should seem to catch at an
opportunity of airing my little smattering of science more childishly
than profitably. I must speak, therefore, in moderation and with
dignity, lest, in too keenly following "number," I be accused of
forgetting "weight" and "measure." Suffice it here to say, that three is
the first whole number that is odd, four the first that is even, and of
these two, seven is composed. On this account it is often put for all
numbers together.
Augustine, City of God, XI.xxxi
=======

So next time you feel tempted to assert, as a God-given truth, that
"seven is the perfect number", I hope you will recall the rather dubious
basis for that claim and think again.

God bless,
Kendall K. Down


Mark Goodge

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May 16, 2022, 3:59:53 AMMay 16
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On Mon, 16 May 2022 06:49:03 +0100, "Kendall K. Down"
<kendal...@googlemail.com> wrote:


>St Augustine would not have supported the claim about seven. For him, it
>is six which is the perfect number:
>
>========
>These works are recorded to have been completed in six days (the same
>day being six times repeated), because six is a perfect number, not
>because God required a protracted time, as if He could not at once
>create all things, which then should mark the course of time by the
>movements proper to them, but because the perfection of the works was
>signified by the number six. For the number six is the first which is
>made up of its own parts, i.e., of its sixth, third, and half, which are
>respectively one, two, and three, and which make a total of six.
>Augustine, City of God, XI.xxx
>=========
>
>(What we today would call "factors" Augustine calls "aliquot parts".)

Actually, "aliquot sum" is still the mathematical term for the sum of
the divisors of an integer. And a "perfect number" is a mathematical
term for an integer which is equal to its aliquot sum. And six is the
lowest perfect number. So Augustine is aware of his maths (possibly more
so than the average preacher these days!). But I agree that he is being
fanciful in applying it to theology.

Mark


Kendall K. Down

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May 16, 2022, 2:39:52 PMMay 16
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On 16/05/2022 08:50, Mark Goodge wrote:

> Actually, "aliquot sum" is still the mathematical term for the sum of
> the divisors of an integer. And a "perfect number" is a mathematical
> term for an integer which is equal to its aliquot sum. And six is the
> lowest perfect number. So Augustine is aware of his maths (possibly more
> so than the average preacher these days!). But I agree that he is being
> fanciful in applying it to theology.

Thanks, Mark. The point is that there is no divine authority for calling
seven "the perfect number" and Augustine shows that other candidates exist.

Mike Davis

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May 28, 2022, 5:49:50 AMMay 28
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On 16/05/2022 06:49, Kendall K. Down wrote:
> One commonly hears preachers asserting that seven is the perfect number
> - indeed, I have referred to that myself on occasion, not because I
> believe it but because it is a commonly held opinion.
>
> The trouble is that Scripture does not make that claim and although God
> does seem to have a preference for the number seven, He nowhere says
> that seven is the perfect number.
>
> The claim has sometimes been supported by the "science" of numerology,
> which assigns significance to certain numbers or engages in
> pseudo-scientific operations on numbers. For example, if you add the
> numbers up to seven
>
> 1+2+3+4+5+6+7=28 : 2+8=10 : 1+0=1
>
> So seven points to the unity of God. (For the avoidance of doubt, this
> is nonsense and entirely without significance.)
>
> St Augustine would not have supported the claim about seven. For him,
> it is six which is the perfect number:

Indeed! 7, of course, is a convenient number that has helped man develop
the calendar.


However the question of Biblical numbers is intriguing. One that seems
unexplained is that in John 21:11 - the miraculous catch of fish.

Why 153, and even more surprising - who counted them?!!

But 153 is the sum of the cubes of its digits (1^3 + 3^3 + 5^3)!
Not a common relationship. But all numbers have something 'interesting'
about them. But what does 153 add to the history?

Mike
--
Mike Davis


--
Mike Davis


Timreason

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May 28, 2022, 10:59:52 AMMay 28
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Google it and you find several 'explanations'! Maybe this is plausible:-

"The 1910 Jewish Encyclopedia reports that a three-year Torah cycle used
in Palestine around the First Century had 153 Torah portions. “The 153
parts into which the Torah was divided in the cycle of three years,
which prevailed in Palestine till the exiles from Spain brought their
customs into the Holy Land, are known as ‘sedarim’.” (“Parashah,” Cyrus
Adler, Lewis N Dembitz)" [from:
https://taylormarshall.com/2010/01/why-153-fish-in-johns-gopsel-jewish.html
]

Tim.



Kendall K. Down

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May 28, 2022, 3:59:49 PMMay 28
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On 28/05/2022 10:43, Mike Davis wrote:

> Indeed! 7, of course, is a convenient number that has helped man develop
> the calendar.

Nonsense. It is the number which God apppointed for the weekly cycle.
There are various people groups who have adopted other "weeks", such as
the Khasis in Assam who had an 8-day week until Christianity arrived.
There is nothing in nature which supports a seven-day week - it doesn't
divide evenly into the year or the lunar month - apart from the fact
that, apparently, our bodies have a seven-day cycles, but that is not
something primitive man would have been aware of.

> However the question of Biblical numbers is intriguing. One that seems
> unexplained is that in John 21:11 - the miraculous catch of fish.
> Why 153, and even more surprising - who counted them?!!

Why 153? Because that's how many they caught. Who counted them? The
disciple/s who took them off to market afterwards. I should think that a
catch like that, and the resulting sum of money, would linger in the memory.

> But 153 is the sum of the cubes of its digits (1^3 + 3^3 + 5^3)!
> Not a common relationship. But all numbers have something 'interesting'
> about them.

Amusing. I wonder who worked that out?

> But what does 153 add to the history?

Nothing except to show that John, who was among those present, probably
had the job of counting the fish out and the money in. The youngest
always get the boring jobs.

Kendall K. Down

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May 28, 2022, 3:59:50 PMMay 28
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On 28/05/2022 15:55, Timreason wrote:

> Google it and you find several 'explanations'!  Maybe this is plausible:-

Funny that John didn't mention the Torah cycle nor, so far as I know,
was it ever alluded to in the church fathers.

If one must look for foolish explanations (rather than the simple
"that's what happened"), how about this from Wikipedia:

"The number 153 is associated with the geometric shape known as the
Vesica Piscis or Mandorla. Archimedes, in his Measurement of a Circle,
referred to this ratio (153/265), as constituting the "measure of the
fish", this ratio being an imperfect representation of 1/√3."

There you have it - the measure of the fish. What more do you want?

Timreason

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May 28, 2022, 4:09:50 PMMay 28
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LOL !!

Tim.

Mike Davis

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May 28, 2022, 4:59:49 PMMay 28
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On 28/05/2022 20:53, Kendall K. Down wrote:
> On 28/05/2022 10:43, Mike Davis wrote:
>
>> Indeed! 7, of course, is a convenient number that has helped man
>> develop the calendar.
>
> Nonsense. It is the number which God apppointed for the weekly cycle.
> There are various people groups who have adopted other "weeks", such as
> the Khasis in Assam who had an 8-day week until Christianity arrived.
> There is nothing in nature which supports a seven-day week - it doesn't
> divide evenly into the year or the lunar month - apart from the fact
> that, apparently, our bodies have a seven-day cycles, but that is not
> something primitive man would have been aware of.

Interesting - being a simple man, I was under the impression that the
lunar cycle has an approx. 28 day cycle (ie 4 x 7) and that female
(Human?) menstruation follows a similar cycle. So the calendar is made
up of 7 day weeks and 28 day (nominal*) months.

*nominal because the year needs some minor adjustments to keep the
calendar in time with the seasons.

>> However the question of Biblical numbers is intriguing. One that seems
>> unexplained is that in John 21:11 - the miraculous catch of fish.
>> Why 153, and even more surprising - who counted them?!!
>
> Why 153? Because that's how many they caught. Who counted them? The
> disciple/s who took them off to market afterwards. I should think that a
> catch like that, and the resulting sum of money, would linger in the
> memory.

Perhaps, but I would have thought that the appearance of Jesus was of
such significance that the exact number of fish was of no consequence to
the writer.
>
>> But 153 is the sum of the cubes of its digits (1^3 + 3^3 + 5^3)!
>> Not a common relationship. But all numbers have something
>> 'interesting' about them.
>
> Amusing. I wonder who worked that out?
Doesn't have to be 'worked out' - it's just there like the Fibonacci
series, or 'triangular' numbers.
>
>> But what does 153 add to the history?
>
> Nothing except to show that John, who was among those present, probably
> had the job of counting the fish out and the money in. The youngest
> always get the boring jobs.

See above.

Mike
--
Mike Davis


Kendall K. Down

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May 28, 2022, 11:59:49 PMMay 28
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On 28/05/2022 21:51, Mike Davis wrote:

> Interesting - being a simple man, I was under the impression that the
> lunar cycle has an approx. 28 day cycle (ie 4 x 7) and that female
> (Human?) menstruation follows a similar cycle. So the calendar is made
> up of 7 day weeks and 28 day (nominal*) months.

The key is in your word "approx". It doesn't take very long to realise
that in fact the moon doesn't take 28 days to cycle from new to full to
new again. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the lunar cycle is 29.53
days on average - the shortest recorded, apparently, was July 1978 when
it was 29.27 days.

> *nominal because the year needs some minor adjustments to keep the
> calendar in time with the seasons.

Minor? From an article on a Jewish website:

"A standard Jewish year has twelve months; six twenty-nine-day months,
and six thirty-day months, for a total of 354 days. This is because our
months follow the lunar orbit, which is approximately 29.5 days. Due to
variations in the Jewish calendar, however, the year could also be 353
or 355 days."

No sign of 28 day months there.

> Perhaps, but I would have thought that the appearance of Jesus was of
> such significance that the exact number of fish was of no consequence to
> the writer.

On the contrary, the appearance of Jesus made every detail of the day
memorable.

>> Amusing. I wonder who worked that out?

> Doesn't have to be 'worked out' - it's just there like the Fibonacci
> series, or 'triangular' numbers.

Well, yes, but I assure you that in my 70+ years I have never woken up
one morning and exclaimed "153! The sum of the cubes of its digits!"

Timreason

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May 29, 2022, 4:09:48 AMMay 29
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On 28/05/2022 21:51, Mike Davis wrote:
> On 28/05/2022 20:53, Kendall K. Down wrote:

>>> Why 153? Because that's how many they caught. Who counted them? The
>> disciple/s who took them off to market afterwards. I should think that
>> a catch like that, and the resulting sum of money, would linger in the
>> memory.
>
> Perhaps, but I would have thought that the appearance of Jesus was of
> such significance that the exact number of fish was of no consequence to
> the writer.

Yes, I don't attach any importance to the 153, except that they would
have considered it an exceptionally large catch, perhaps even a record,
in which case they would have remarked on, and recorded the exact number.

Tim.



Kendall K. Down

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May 29, 2022, 3:19:47 PMMay 29
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On 29/05/2022 08:59, Timreason wrote:

> Yes, I don't attach any importance to the 153, except that they would
> have considered it an exceptionally large catch, perhaps even a record,
> in which case they would have remarked on, and recorded the exact number.

Exactly - and Mike's clever juggling with cubes is merely a pleasing
coincidence.

Timreason

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May 30, 2022, 2:49:50 AMMay 30
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I don't think he was claiming it was relevant! What I think he was doing
was showing that ANY number can de demonstrated to be 'Special' in some
way if you look hard enough.

If I've misunderstood his position, I'm sure he will tell us. ISTM we
are all pretty much agreed that the number had no significance beyond it
being an exceptionally large catch.

Tim.

Mike Davis

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May 30, 2022, 2:29:49 PMMay 30
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On 29/05/2022 20:10, Kendall K. Down wrote:
Three points:-

1. I'm happy to go along with Tim.

2. Nothing 'clever' about the way numbers relate to one another.

3. Why do you always set one 'idea' against another? They can often
co-exist, you know!

Mike
--
Mike Davis


Kendall K. Down

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May 30, 2022, 4:09:50 PMMay 30
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On 30/05/2022 07:49, Timreason wrote:

> I don't think he was claiming it was relevant! What I think he was doing
> was showing that ANY number can de demonstrated to be 'Special' in some
> way if you look hard enough.

Whereas I understood him to be saying "Here's the reason why that number
was plucked out of thin air and why we shouldn't take it literally".

I apologise if I misunderstood him.

Kendall K. Down

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May 30, 2022, 4:09:50 PMMay 30
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On 30/05/2022 19:21, Mike Davis wrote:

> 2. Nothing 'clever' about the way numbers relate to one another.

No, but very clever to recognise the oddity you mentioned.
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