Re: [sacredlandscapelist] Torah/Kabbalah
- mikebispham@... wrote:
> I tried to watch a tv programmme (UK) a couple of days ago on the six mostHere is my brief history of gematria, taken from my hidden wisdom in early
> important numbers. I missed the beginning, and had to deal with a family
> crisis in the middle, but I did catch a part where an Orthodox Jewish scholar
> was talking about the gematria of the Torah. Apparently gematria is a
> fundamental part of this tradition, and is therefore the presumably the
> source of the later kabbala. Can anyone elaborate on this at all?
You can find a page on the history of gematria at
Finally there is a new book just out called The Greek Qabalah by Kieren Barry
(Weiser, 1999) which covers the historical territory in some depth.
As to how (and if) Kabbalah emerged out of gematria, I am not sure. I think you
would have to review the place of the Sepher Yetzriah, the first Jewish book
about the esotericism of numbers and letters (300-600 ad) in the development of
Numbers were used to write words and syllables in cuneiform as early as c. 2300
B.C.E. There is evidence dating from the eighth century B.C.E. that a device
similar to gematria was known in cuneiform hermeneutics. There is also an
inscription dating from the same period stating that the Assyrian king Sargon II
built the wall of Khorsabad 16,283 cubits long to match the numerical value of
Greek letters came into official use as numbers in the third to second
centuries B.C.E., although the system of correspondences was invented earlier.
By the time of the first two centuries of the Common Era gematria using the Greek
alphabet was being practiced in a variety of ways. "I love her whose number is
545," is one of several examples found scribbled as graffiti on the walls of
Pompeii. Leonidas of Alexandria wrote poems in which the sum of the numerical
values of the letters is identical in each couplet. Artemidorus Daldianus
recommended its use in dream interpretation. For instance, if a sick man dreams
of an old woman, it is a symbol for death, since the letter values for 'old
woman' and 'corpse removal' both equal 704.
S. Lieberman has reviewed the evidence for when the Hebrew letters were first
used as numbers in a recent paper and has concluded that a date for this event
cannot as yet be determined. Archaeologically, the clearest early use was on
coins dating from the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.E.), though there
is a great deal of earlier evidence awaiting further clarification. The
conventional view is that Hebrew alphabetic numeration was taken over from Greek
usage during the Hellenization of Palestine sometime prior to the first century
B.C.E. Lieberman, however, thinks it reasonable to believe that Hebrew gematria
was derived from its Mesopotamian parallel and that it is possible that the
technique was employed in biblical texts.
C. Levias, writing in The Jewish Encyclopedia, argues that the existence of
atbash, the permutative cyphering of letters, in Jeremiah makes it likely that
gematria also exists in OT scripture, and cites Gen 14:14, Deut 31:1-6, and Ezek
5:2 as probable examples. A. G. Wright has suggested that examples of gematria
can be found in the Book of Qoheleth (c. 250 B.C.E.) and P. W. Skehan has
identified possible instances in Proverbs (c. 600 B.C.E.). Skehan's reply to
those who argue for a late assignment of numerical values to the Hebrew letters
"...which is more likely: that the Greeks established this system for their
borrowed alphabet by the 6th century B.C. (when digamma, or waw, and qoppa, or
qoph, ceased to be functional for them except as the numbers 6 and 90), and then
handed back their little invention to their Semitic neighbors at least three
centuries later; or that they found the Semitic alphabet, including waw and
qoph, already being used in this way when they borrowed it about 800 B.C.?"
Interpretations based on gematria were in use among the Tannaim of the second
century. As a method of interpreting the Torah it was listed as number 29 in the
Baraita of 32 Rules of Rabbi Eliezer b. Jose, the Galilean (c. 200 C.E.).
Gematria was a significant element in Kabbalistic thought from the 12th through
the 19th centuries, where it underwent a complex elaboration. Moses Cordovero
(1522-70 C.E.), the great systematic theologian of the Safed Kabbalah, lists nine
different types of gematria. For example, Gershom Scholem writes that one of
these variations mentioned by Cordovero was, "The addition of the number of
letters in the word to the numerical value of the word itself, or the addition of
the number "one" to the numerical value of the word."