FREDERICK BLIGH BOND, F.R.I.B.A
THOMAS SIMCOX LEA, D.D.
ANNOTATED AND TRANSCRIBED BY
PETER WAKEFIELD SAULT
GO TO CONTENTS | P.5 | P.6
THE METHOD OF GEMATRIA:
OR ASSOCIATION OF LETTER AND NUMBER.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION.
About the fifth century B.C. there begin to appear in the Syro-Phoenician centre east of the Mediterranean, traces of a mode of writing in which the letters of the alphabet serve also the purpose of numerals. Though coming from this centre, the origin of the method is not believed to be Phoenician but to be traceable to a more eastern source. From this parent influence two systems are derived. These are the Greek and the Hebrew. Both systems attained a high degree of development about the third century B.C.. Both languages are constructed with great skill, and are evidently the work of highly instructed men animated by a clear purpose. Though compiled from older and far less perfect material, they represent something far more than the natural evolution of that material. They shew system, but they also shew peculiarities, sometimes having the appearance of intention, for which no adequate reason has yet been offered. Their alphabets, which are also numerals, exhibit unexplained features, some of which may be described as mysterious. It is scarcely reasonable to suppose that the element
of chance has in any appreciable degree entered into their framing. And this is the more unlikely in that there is evidence of a contrary belief among these peoples, who shewed a peculiar reverence for their alphabets, ascribing to each letter its own mystical value, and, to the whole, a body of symbolic teaching in which the principles of Number, Sound, and also Form as connected with each letter, all played their part.
Both the Greek and Hebrew modes of numeration are based on a denary system: that is to say, one which divides into units, tens, hundreds, etc., but it must be borne in mind that the use of the 0 or Zero was not then known, but was introduced from an Arab source about the third century A.D.. Hence the Greek mode of calculation was far more clumsy and laborious.
The Greek Alphabet was perfected at Athens about 400 B.C., when several new signs were added and older compound letters superseded. Other old signs were retained as numerals only. The older Greek numeral system was like the Roman, but even more cumbersome. It is known as the Herodian. (Thompson, Latin and Greek Palaeography, 1906, p.104.)
For the convenience of readers, the Greek numeral alphabet is appended.1
* numerals only. For note on F - the Digamma, see end of Text.
|1.||The authors, in giving only the numeric values, are assuming some familiarity with the Greek alphabet on the part of their readers. For the benefit of those readers unfamiliar with it, the names and sounds of the Greek letters are listed below:-|
Creative Commons Licence
Save a copy
|Copyright © Peter Wakefield Sault 2003-2008|