Thursday, October 22, 2015

Greatest Gematriah Ever

Here's the best gematriah ever. In Lech Lecha, Abraham famously takes 318 men to go fight the four kings who have kidnapped his nephew. Our Rabbis were troubled by this for reasons I'll discuss in a different post, and some famously suggested that the 318 men were actually Eliezer alone.
What's less well known is the Church fathers also found the verse disturbing and their solution is no less astounding. They argued:
Tau (the Greek T) = 300 and looks like a cross
Etta and Iota = 18 and are the first two letters in Jesus.
Thus when it says Father Abraham went to war with 318 men it *really* means he took Jesus and the cross!
I say all this only to point out how malleable and flexible (and therefore useless) gematriah is, and also to remind you that it's originally a Greek system that we usurped.
If any of you wish to share this at your Shabbos table when your kid inevitably brings up Eliezer please say it in the name of the person who said it first: Barnabas
For [the Scripture] saith, "And Abraham circumcised ten, and eight, and three hundred men of his household." What, then, was the knowledge given to him in this? Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. The ten and the eight are thus denoted - Ten by I, and Eight by H. You have [the initials of the, name of] Jesus. And because the cross was to express the grace [of our redemption] by the letter T, he says also, "Three Hundred." He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. (Epistle of Barnabas 9.8

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