Ministerial Musings: The World Is Coming To An End

Apparently, Harold Camping was wrong. Family Radio’s president’s prediction did not come to fruition. The world did not end at 6:00 pm on May 21, 2011, just as it did not end in 1988 and 1994 as Camping previously surmised. This eschatological prognosticator has since said that a symbolic rapture took place on May 21; the physical one will occur on October 21.

At first, Camping claimed that he made a mathematical error. Now his error seems to lie between metaphorical and literal theology. In any event, someone who earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley should be better at addition and subtraction.

That said — I started to crunch the numbers myself. The world is going to come to an end, but not when Camping predicted. Here is what I came up with…

There are 66 books in the Bible: 39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New. Now the Catholic Bible contains more books (known as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocanonical Books), but since Camping and I are both Protestants, we won’t worry about Catholicism.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah…66 books.

Jesus was crucified when he was 33 years old. Double that number and you get 66. Hmmm… Many historians believe that Jesus was born around 6 B.C., so Jesus was born before he was born. That works well theologically, but we seem to be delving into a Terminator-esque time-quandary and we all know what happened to Arnold recently, so let’s skip the exact birthday argument since scholars do not even agree on this point.

Let’s just follow the Gregorian calendar and say that Jesus was born about 2011 years ago.

My friend from college named Jesus Martinez (pronounced “Hey, Seuss!”), who was named after “the big guy,” was born in 1968. If we add his birth year to the age of Jesus of Nazareth if he walked into Melt today to order a “Wake and Bacon” sandwich, we get 3979. If we add the number of books in the Bible (66) and Jesus’ age when he was crucified (33) to that number, we get 4078.

But then I realized that there are other important numbers in Scripture — the number twelve, for example. There were the twelve tribes of Israel and twelve disciples. If we add twelve to our above sum, we get 4090.

Three is also an important biblical number. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, the Seraphim sing “holy” three times in Isaiah 6:3, and what about the Trinity? Hello? Adding three gives us 4093.

But what is the luckiest number of all? That’s right: seven. Seven is also a pertinent number in the Bible. There are seven days of creation, all those dreams that Joseph had filled with the number seven, and the seven priests who blew seven trumpets as they marched around Jericho seven times on the seventh day. Come on! How can we forget lucky seven? If we did, Jacob would feel cheated. He served Laban seven years for Leah and seven more for Rachel!

Let’s do some subtraction as a change of pace.

Peter once asked Jesus, “’Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’” So, let’s make our seven seventy-seven and let’s deduct it from 4093. That gives us 4016.

Seven, as we just concluded, is very important, so we cannot just forget about it. Christianity and Judaism are both monotheistic religions: one God. If we add the number one to seven we get eight. If we add eight (I’m tired of subtraction) to our total we get 4024. Put that number on hold for a bit. We’ll get back to it in a second.

Another biblical biggie is the number forty. Remember the story of Noah’s ark? It rained for forty days and forty nights — just like in Lakewood. How many days did Jesus fast in the wilderness before he was tempted by Satan and began his public ministry? That’s right: forty. The band U2 has a great song called “40,” which is based on Psalm 40.

How many Gospel writers were there? Four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. That is one-tenth of forty. That sounds significant. If we deduct the four Gospel writers from forty (because I feel like subtracting again) we get 36.

Now, let’s add that to the number we put on hold: 4024. That would give us 402,436. I know it would actually be 4060, but I was never good at math. Then again, neither was Harold Camping. If we paste the 36 at the end of the number we put on hold (4024) we get 402,436.

That could be a date, but that is 400,425 years away. Isn’t the sun supposed to be gone by then anyway? Let’s divide the numbers into three pairs in honor of the Trinity and the three major branches of Christianity (Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox). That gives us 40-24-36.

That could be a locker combination, or maybe it is a biblical code. Matthew is the fortieth book in the Bible. If we turn to the thirty-sixth verse of chapter twenty-four (again Matthew=40, chapter 24, verse 36), we read, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Darn it! I guess I didn’t need all that math after all.

John Tamilio III, Ph.D. is the religion columnist for The Lakewood Observer and the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. JT3 lives in Lakewood with his wife and their three children.

John III Tamilio

John Tamilio III, Ph.D. is the religion columnist for The Lakewood Observer and the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland.  JT3 lives in Lakewood with his wife and their three children.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 2:53 PM, 06.01.2011