Jesus Christ, the Church And Quantifiable Indicators:
A New Methodology in Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
This volume is dedicated to my late father. Dr. Ernest L. Martin (1932-2002),
who coined and lived by the phrase:
Publish First, Talk Later.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:
for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink:
for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
--- Romans 12:17-21
This book was conceived on a short holiday in Egypt in the spring of 2011. It was actually a time to get away from my books and my computer and enjoy some family time, rest and relaxation. As usual, I did take my Ivan Panin New Testament with me (which is not unusual because I pretty much take my New Testament with me every where ever I go).
The Ivan Panin New Testament is a particularly important book in my library. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the primary one is that this small volume for many years was the only New Testament in print in English that positioned the New Testament books in the correct manuscript order, which is the order preserved in vast majority of ancient Greek versions of the New Testament. I will have more to say on this issue later because it will prove to be of prime importance in this book.
In addition, though, to the order of the books, the Panin version employs a numerical analysis of the New Testament with some very interesting conclusions. Some of his methodologies I think are not completely logical (like his use of the ‘neighborhood’ principle – see Panin’s appendix), but in general, Panin’s deep respect and reverence for Scripture is also something that draws me to his Bible version.
For more information on the correct order of the books of the New Testament see:
I have always been taught the importance of numerical analysis of Scripture and that there is information we can learn based upon numerical analysis. Being raised in a home where my father was a Biblical scholar with a strong astronomical bent reinforced the whole numerical interest. I myself have always been good with numbers, though not by any stretch of the imagination a mathematician. Having a good memory for numbers is one of my skills which I have always had.
The Bible is full of numerical relationships. For example, note the following verse from the book of Psalms: “I have set the Lord always before me: Surely he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” - Psalm 16:8
This passage is one that I want to bring to your attention from the inspired pen of David in this numerical context. There are many important aspects to this verse, but I wanted only to talk about one.
The book of Psalms is a very special book with lots of complexities and it is one that we need to look at closely and carefully because it is full of information if we are just willing to see it.
God gave the writers of Psalms inspiration and it comes out in many ways. Some of the important things that many have seen in Psalms are the various literary devices that are used to convey ideas and in some cases, we can note the numerical nature of these literary devices.
For example, many of us may know about acrostics. It is the idea that there are these 22 verse segments where each letter of the Hebrew alphabet begins the first word of the particular section. Psalm 119 is the prime example of several found in the Bible. They indicate a kind of literary completeness or perfection. There are others. We also have broken acrostics that show a sense of evil or incompleteness like in Psalm 9-10.
We also find that there are other numerical features that are very interesting in the Psalms whose meanings we are still trying to understand better.
One of them is found in this verse I have given here, Psalm 16:8. The first things about this verse right away is an association with the number 8. Note Psalm 16 and verse 8. This is not the only association with the number 8 for this verse.
In the original Hebrew, there are 32 letters to this verse. They are:
שויתי יהוה לנגדי תמיד כי מימיני בל אמוט
It is really interesting to see these relationships used with numbers because they have meaning; it is just there for us to find out the truth.
Note that this verse, written by David, has a three-fold relationship with the number eight to it being the 8th verse, of the 16th chapter with 32 letters. There are many similar things with number in Scripture, which we don’t need to go into now. However, note that we know that the number 888 is associated with Jesus Christ.
This is something I learned a long time ago about the name of Jesus. It has a numerical value that is quite remarkable. The name “Jesus” in English comes from the Greek name Ihsous (Iesous). In the Greek language, each of the letters possesses a numerical value. Here are the numerical values for Iesous (Note: Blogger did not take the Greek fonts):
I - 10
e - 8
s - 200
o - 70
u - 400
Total – 888
Sometimes simply counting things can yield important pieces of information. For example, in graduate school, I have been blessed to study under one of the most knowledgeable scholars dealing with everything Biblical: Dr. Stephen Pfann of the University of the Holy Land here in Jerusalem (www.uhl.ac). Studying under Dr. Pfann is such an amazing honour due to his immense knowledge, but one of the important things that I learned about numbers from Dr. Pfann is how often times simply counting things up can really help us in analyzing the factual situation of a biblical or historical question.
This is what occurred to him in his studies of ancient Qumran. In Qumran, archaeologists have found a large amount of intact kitchen material culture like cups, plates, bowls, etc. While many have focused on analyses of this material culture, Dr. Pfann has developed conclusions about the community of Qumran based upon how many cups their were present compared to known historical facts about eating habits from the first century found in other written texts! Simply counting the available material culture yielded very interesting hypotheses because once again, often the data sets we are counting yield those objectively verifiable indicators of some important piece of information.
Numbers are important and I think that we can use them to help better understand Bible truths. One of the things about numbers is that findings based upon them can become a type of objectively verifiable indicator of some other fact. This is what occurred to me in Egypt on my recent trip.
In the previous few months, I had also been reading an important book from Prof. Rodney Stark titled: “Cities of God: The Real Story of Hoy Christianity Became and Urban Movement and Conquered Rome.” In that book, Prof. Stark used some basic evidence concerning the geographical distribution of churches, temples, and heretical movements to support his historical research findings concerning how Christianity spread.
One of the tools Prof. Stark uses to prove his assertions and conclusions in his book is a type of numerical analysis and somehow on my trip I came to the conclusion that a similar approach could be used in our analysis of the New Testament. In this regard, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Prof. Stark and Dr. Pfann for their important work.
What follows in these pages is a hypothesis. I suggest that there are certain books in the New Testament which are more relevant for the Christian today than others. Here we take the prime text of II Timothy 2:15 given by St. Paul which demonstrates that the word of truth can be “rightly divided.” Truth is always truth, but the truth for one group of people may not be the truth for another group. This will become clearer I hope in course of this research study.
I believe this approach is urgently needed today. This is because the method that many Christians take today in attempting to understand the New Testament is one that somehow attempts to systematize all of the teachings in the New Testament into a composite whole which helps us arrive at the divinely inspired teaching of Christianity. People cannot imagine that one part of the New Testament can contradict or perhaps supplement another. Of course, the New Testament is inspired by God, so the teaching goes that everything must sort of meld together into one coherent doctrinal statement we call the true Christian faith. Of course, there is no agreement what this coherent doctrinal statement is because there are thousands of different interpretations of the same text all yielding different results.
Texts from all over the New Testament are utilized to develop doctrinal constructions which show us today what we need to believe. However, this approach has some serious problems with it because not all of the material found in the New Testament is relevant to the Christian today. All of the New Testament is truth, but it is true to those who it was directed to in the first place and what was true for them in their times may not be true for us today.
Here we are not going to entertain in depth systematic theological discussions, but we are going to focus on a four pronged approach in demonstrating our hypothesis. These are:
1. All of the Bible is the “truth”, to the person/peoples to whom it is directed
2. It is essential to read the Bible in the order, design and according to the proper divisions outlined in the New Testament itself and supported by the best scholarly authorities and preserved in the Hebrew versions of the Old Testament and the Greek versions of the New Testament.
3. The number of times that the names “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” appear in a book of the New Testament (outside of the Gospels, Acts and Revelation) helps to provide an indicator of the relevance and importance of that book to the Christian living today.
4. The number of times that the word “church” (Greek: ekklesia) appears in a book of the New Testament (outside of the Gospels, Acts and Revelation) helps to provide an indicator of the relevance and importance of that book to the Christian living today.
When we utilize these four tools in the development of our hypothesis, we will start to see a pattern developing which helps point us to the Scriptural texts which are the most relevant and applicable to us Christians living today. This is the goal of this book. It is a very simple hypothesis that is made up of several objectively verifiable indicators and as we have said these are: (1) Bible truth; (2) Reading Scripture in the correct order and according to the accurate divisions of the New Testament; (3) The number of times the name ‘Jesus’ appears in a particular context, book or division of books; and (4) The number of times the word ‘church’ appears in a particular context, book or division of books.
 We are here excluding these books from this discussion because the main body of material which makes up the exposition of Christianity’s main doctrinal statements of faith are found in the letters of James, Peter, John, Jude and Paul.