What in the world does that mean? Well, you know it – it’s a fear of Friday, the 13th! And since today is Friday, the 13th of May, you guessed it, I decided to write about numbers! The definition comes from the word “Frigga”, a free-spirited Norse goddess of love and fertility after whom the day Friday was named, and “triskaidekaphobia” which means “fear of the number 13.” The word also has Greek roots and according to Wikipedia,
The actual origin of the superstition, though, appears also to be a tale in Norse mythology…. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil — a gathering of thirteen — and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as “Witches’ Sabbath.”
So, as you see in the entry above, even this word possibly has it’s roots in a conversion to Christianity. And to look at another tale associated with Friday, the 13th – Fridays were thought to be unlucky days because Christ was crucified on a Friday, and according to legend, when 13 people ate dinner together, at least one of them was expected to die. So, think about the Last Supper, and the death of Christ, and also Judas. It is amazing how numerology has impacted every area of our lives – even the Bible.
And, there are various numbers that seem to be repeated in the Bible. For example, the number 7. There were 7 days of creation, priests and unclean people had to be separated in many instances for 7 days to become ceremonially clean, Noah and his family were separated for 7 days in the ark before the Flood, there are 7 days in a week, every 7 years the land had to lie fallow, every 49 years (7 x 7), there was an entire Year of Jubilee, and many other instances of the number seven – too numerous to mention. And with all these examples, some people today believe that the number 7 signifies a work of completion – a complete creation in 7 days, a complete week in 7 days, etc. But there is nothing in the Bible that leads us to believe that God has ordained that the number 7 has any particular importance.
Another number, 40, seems to get quite a bit of exposure in the Bible as well. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights during the Flood, and both David and his son, Solomon, considered to be almost perfect kings, ruled for 40 years. Interestingly, some people believe that because Christ ascended when he was supposedly 33 years old, He will return to rule on earth another 7 years (33+7), because He is the perfect king. Again, there is no biblical proof that the number 40 carries any sort of special meaning. As you can tell from the above examples, 40 has also been interpreted to be a number of completion – complete flooding of the earth, Jesus’s completion of the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, perfect reign of King David, etc., and of course, the perfect earthly reign of Christ (at least according to some people).
Amazingly, it was one of the early Church Fathers, Origen, who first put forth the widespread notion that certain numbers had special meaning. In fact, he believed that each verse of Scripture had 3 meanings; one literal, one numerological and one mystical. Therefore, according to him, each verse could have three different interpretations. Of course, this led to confusion, and eventually at the Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D., which was called to discuss the deity of Christ, Origen was credited with having been the architect of the positions of both sides! And that was exactly the case. Depending on when you looked at Origen’s theology, he changed positions several times and so both fiercely entrenched opposing sides could legitimately claim Origen as the person who crafted their argument.
This leads me to an observation about Scripture; and that is that I believe that each verse of Scripture has only one correct interpretation, but many possible applications. In other words, depending on where you are in your life, different verses can impact you differently during different seasons of your life. But I do not believe that the meaning of the Bible changes. In all honesty, many people would disagree with this, but I am admittedly conservative in my thinking and so I cling to the idea that the Holy Spirit can cause us to look at Scriptures differently as we change and grow in our faith. But that does not mean that we can “change” the Bible – no way. Just trust God.
So my verse tonight is very straightforward – Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Because sometime, somewhere, it is important for each of us to trust God’s word as authentic, genuine and constant – just like God’s love for us.
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that you can trust the Bible – not all the manmade hype that we have invented to interpret it, but God’s word which was written by men, through the Holy Spirit. And my prayer is that when you study the Bible, you will pray that God will direct your time, and that He will reveal to you the true meaning of His Holy Bible. That’s all we need – and when you sit in a Bible study, make sure that you only listen to the real deal – including the deity of Christ. Because it is easy to get let astray – just look at friggatriskaidekaphobia, and how many people are afraid of it!