Sacred Numbers in the New Testament: Part II

by Margaret L. Starbird

Graphic Provided by Abby Willowroot


Among the ancients, the feminine principle designed to off-set the solar/masculine was also expressed as a number, 1080, the "Yin" of the ancient world: the "shady side of the mountain." The gematria for the agia pneuma, the Holy Spirit in Greek, and its anagram, gaia pneuma, the Earth spirit, is 1080. This number represented feminine values, the "moist" or "lunar" principle of relatedness and intuition expressed in art, poetry, and dreams with their emotional rather than rational content. The Greek phrase phgh sophias, "fountain of wisdom" bears gematria of 1080. Peristera, "dove," a universal totem of the Goddess and of the Holy Spirit in Christian iconography, has gematria of 801, the anagram of 1080. These examples serve to illustrate the cross-referencing of the coded numbers and phrases by the authors of the New Testament.

When the sacred numbers representing the masculine and feminine, 666 and 1080, are added together, their sum is 1746, the number that Plato equates with "Fusion." This is the "sacred union" of the opposite energies, "wedded" or "fused" together in harmony, representing the "fertilized seed" or the "cosmic egg." And this same number occurs at the very heart of Christ's teaching. "The kingdom of God" said Jesus, "is like a grain of mustard seed, which when it is planted grows into a large bush and the birds come and nest in its branches." This parable occurs in the three synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke and also in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas found in Nag Hammadi based on an earlier copy written in Greek. There is consensus that Christ used these exact words for his teaching about the reign of God. Homilies on this Gospel passage tend to focus on the bush with the birds nesting in it and so invariably miss the point of the teaching. Hidden for two thousand years is the gematria of the "grain of mustard seed"--1746. What Jesus really said to those who had "ears to hear" was that God's reign is like the harmonious balance of masculine and feminine principles expressed in the Sacred Union of 666 and 1080--the hieros gamos of the ancients.

Armed with this doctrine of the "Sacred Marriage" found at the very heart of the Christian message, I searched for other traces of the lost "partnership model" and the feminine. What I found, carefully encoded in the Gospels themselves, is truly astonishing. The epithet of the Gospel Mary known as h Madalhnh, "the Magdalene," indicates that she was the acknowledged partner of Christ, the archetypal Bride as he is Bridegroom of the New Testament.

The holy name of Jesus, at which, according to Saint Paul, every knee must bend, has gematria of 888. While a close study of the Hebrew Scriptures shows the importance of 7 for their faith community, the most revered number among Christians was 8. On the seventh day, the Creator rested. Fields lie fallow during the seventh year, the jubilee or 50th year follows the seventh cycle of seven years. Seven seems to be intimately connected with end of a time cycle. But Christians, the number is 8 has utmost symbolic content. Christ was laid in his tomb on Friday and remained there through the Sabbath, the seventh day. But on the dawn of the eighth day, Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to the tomb to mourn him were amazed to find that the tomb was empty. In the symbolic system of the ancients, 8 was the number for regeneration, rebirth, and resurrection. Among earlier believers, Christ was called the Ogdoad, the "fullness of eights," and his name was spelled Ihsous in the Greek texts precisely because that spelling adds up to 888, while any other phonetic rendering of the Hebrew Yeshua does not! Jesus was deliberately identified with the number eight to reinforce the importance and unique significance of his incarnation. He was the embodiment of the "resurrection." the "dawn of the new era," and "bearer of the new age." The age dawning at the precise time these documents were being formed was the Age of the Fishes--Pisces. Jesus was its Lord.

The architects of Christianity deliberately styled Jesus as the bearer of the Age of the Fishes. They developed the well-known acronym for Jesus: ICHTHYS, based on the rather contrived Greek epithet "Jesus, Son of God, Savior." The Fish is ubiquitous as a symbol for Christ and for Christians who have since forgotten why the FISH was used as the symbol for the Christian faith in its infancy. But the people who coined the phrase knew and consciously contrived the acronym so that the letters matched the symbolic numbers of their sacred canon and their cosmology.

But the Greek name for Jesus was not the only important name encoded by symbolic number in the Gospels. Hidden for millennia in the gematria of her epithet, we find encoded the tremendous significance of Mary Magdalene in the community of the earliest Christians. The Greek h Magdalhnh has gematria of 153, the exact number of the "fishes in the net" found in Chapter 21 of John's Gospel. We know from centuries of Church doctrine that the apostles of Jesus were "fishermen" and that they were to be "fishers of men." The "fish" they caught became the members of the community, the Church itself. Early Christians were known as the "little fishes" and their baptismal fonts were called "little fish ponds." So the miraculous catch of the 153 fishes represented the "catch" of converts to Christianity--the ekklesia. From the dawn of Christianity, the earliest exegetes of Scripture equated Mary Magdalene with the ekklesia, the Church that Christ loved so much, he gave his life for her (Eph. 5:25).

In their respective works, both John Michell and David Fideler discuss this "geometry word-problem." Both mention the extreme importance of the number "153" in the sacred canon of the ancients. This number was universally called the "matrix" (mother) of all geometry and represented the Vesica Piscis, the "almond" shape formed when two circles intersect. Among the ancients, this shape bore the meaning of "the materialization of spirit" and was known as the "gateway" or "portal" of life--the "door." Because of its obvious feminine connotations, it was sometimes referred to as the "vulva" and even "the holy of holies," the inner sanctum. This Vesica Piscis was often called the "153," known as "the measure of the fish" since the time of Archimedes. It was used to reference the ratio 265/153, the fraction in Greek which is the mathematical equivalent to our square root of 3. It was the most important of all geometric numbers, the "mother" (matrix) of all geometric shapes. The number, the "153," was known and honored throughout the known world--the Vesica Piscis representing the vessel of the sacred feminine par excellence.

Was THIS perhaps the reason that the Church fathers of the second century tried to discredit the use of gematria for the interpretation of Scripture. Were they trying to blot out the memory of Mary h Magdalhnh as the "Goddess in the Gospels"? Were they trying to "lose" the feminine counterpart of Jesus when they repudiated the analysis of the numbers encoded in the Gospel texts? There are other surprises in these symbolic numbers, the 8 identified with Jesus and the 153 of the Magdalene. When 153 is multiplied by 8 the result is 1224, the gematria for the Greek word diktuon, "the net," and also for ichthues, "fishes." Are these number accidental? Or was the Gospel of John deliberately encoding the formula for the "sacred marriage" of Jesus and the Magdalene in these significant numbers. Was he the Lord, was she the Lady of the Age to Come--The FISHES? The symbolic numbers encoded by gematria provide direct and irrefutable evidence for the "Sacred Marriage" at the heart of Christianity, evidence carefully hidden for nearly two millennia in the Gospels themselves. In restoring Magdalene to the paradigm of sacred union indigenous to Christian doctrine, we are restoring the feminine principle to a place of honor at all levels of existence. Together the archetypal Bride and Bridegroom stand at the threshold of the new millennium--MM.

Margaret Starbird holds BA and MA degrees from the University of Maryland where she concentrated on German, comparative literature and medieval studies, interests she pursued on a Fulbright Student grant at the Christian Albrechts Universitat in Kiel, Germany. She attended classes at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN, and has taught numerous classes in Scripture and spirituality. She has lived and traveled extensively in Europe including recent pilgrimages to Black Madonna and Mary Magdalene shrines and Cathar citadels in Provenše. She and her husband now reside in the Puget Sound area of Washington State where she teaches and gives seminars and retreats honoring the sacred union at the heart of Christianity. They have five grown children.

Margaret Starbird is the Author of Three Books:

  • The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Was Jesus Married?

  • The Tarot Trumps and the Holy Grail: Great Secrets of the Middle Ages

  • The Goddess in the Gospels: A Quest for the Sacred Feminine in Christianity


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