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Hebrew Alphabet And Letters

Why in the the Hebrew alphabet do the letters and characters have a numerical value? Is this so the copyists of the sacred scriptures could be ever more accurate in their copies? Did the scriptures have a numerical value?

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 ---David on 5/3/06
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Part 2. Also an interesting thing in this usage is there are certain number combinations that you can't use because in character usage they would be a name of God and Jews will not write them so an alternative combination of characters must be used that would equal the same numeric value.
In original Hebrew texts words and numbers are not separated; the are concatenated strings which makes original document translation interesting.
---notlaw99 on 11/4/07

In the Hebrew Alphabet the letters also serve as numerals. Their alphabet contains 22 characters and their numerical uses is a follows: the first 9 characters represents a units position 1-9. The next 9 characters represent Tens position 10 - 90. The last 4 characters represent Hundreds position 100 - 400. You can only tell when numbers are being used in a string from surrounding context. For higher numbers you would have to use combinations of the hundreds value characters to get the magnatude desired.
---notlaw99 on 3/30/07

Jack: You didn't read far enough down the thread; nor all of my comments it seems! I said that they *did* do so later, but only (it seems) AFTER they became familiar with the practice from Greeks who took control of their land AFTER the Hebrew Scriptures were completed. My point in stating that was to show the prophets had no interest in 'adding up values' of their writings. The Masoretes may have done so, but I'm unaware of it; have you found any documentation that they did?
---Daniel on 5/11/06

While numbers might be spelled out in the text of the Hebrew scriptures, it does not follow that they did not use letters for digits. This was a stadard practice in many languages. Where do you think Roman numerals came from? Greek, especially liturgical Greek uses something similar, as does Church Slavonic.
---Jack on 5/10/06

David & Not:
Both of you need to take a course in Biblical Hebrew before you post any more.

That will add to your credibility regarding Hebrew.

---John_T on 5/4/06

David, RE: Use of letters to represent numbers in relation to the Hebrew Text, O.T. Scripture ALWAYS used words for numbers; NEVER letters! E.g., the text of Nehemiah 7:37 has four 'words' which translate to: 'seven' 'hundred' 'and twenty' 'and one'. It wasn't until Maccabean times (AFTER Hebrew Scripture was completed!) that Hebrew letters first appeared on coins to represent numbers! The Jews were most likely following the Greeks when doing this.
---Daniel on 5/4/06

Most of us have had enough of this 'bible code' and numerology many times over! To see just one previous blog:

where I def. agree with Elder that the meaning in Scripture is more than proof enough about its truth! And as Nellah said, it's 'hogwash'-almost always used by someone to make money off the gullible.
---Daniel on 5/4/06

[2] For example, the 21st letter had two different ways it could be pronounced (as 'sin' or 'shin'), but the Masoretes added a small dot above either side of the letter to differentiate between the two ways! They also added about a dozen 'vowel points' and many accent marks too; but none are considered as new Hebrew letters.
---danie9374 on 5/4/06

[1] David: There really are ONLY 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. I would assume from your count of 27 "characters" that you're including the 5 which take a different form when written at the end of a word, but those are not separate letters. Six of them can also take a 'hardening dot' which changes the pronunciation, but they're still the same letter! Changes like these were made when the Masoretes added all sorts of 'accents' to the Hebrew Text. [Cont.]
---danie9374 on 5/4/06

One of the evidences for the Bibles inspiration is numerology 'within' the scriptures. (outside of it is rather occultic) Letters have numerical values. 6 is the number of Man. & is completeness and so on. How these numbers interplay is too complex for here, but no modern computer program can duplicate what is already in scripture.
---MikeM on 5/4/06

In this case, it is better to learn the language first before saying something from a website.
---John_T on 5/4/06

I thought their alphabet consisted of 27 letters/characters.
I got that from a web site. Regarding numbers they would have to be extreemly accurate. No margin for error. Consider the name of the fourth book of Moses.
---David on 5/4/06

It's a real shame that copyists of the Greek New Testament didn't treat their texts with as much care as the Masoretes did of the Hebrew Text! Too many NT copyists believed they knew better than what they were reading and decided to 'correct' the words. This is why God allowed us to have so many NT copies compared to fewer OT copies, so the errors of individual copyists have been much easier to see and arrive at an overall better NT text than any single copy.
---danie9374 on 5/4/06

As to possibly using the Hebrew letters to arrive at values in some way to make more accurate copies, I don't believe they ever did so, but can't say for sure. There was no need for doing that though, since copyists had many elaborate schemes for keeping them accurate. The Masoretic Text essentially became 'set in stone' so to speak, so any word which they believed was even an error had to be noted in the margin and could no longer be changed in the Text! [Cont.]
---danie9374 on 5/4/06

David: Just as 'notlaw99' wrote about the Hebrew numbers, the same is true for Greek (and other early languages) as well! Apart from that, these languages had many words (what we call 'ordinals') for certain quantities. It took a long time before any society began to use separate (non-alphabetic) symbols for numbers; even Roman numerals were made from their letters for I, V, X, etc. [Cont.]
---danie9374 on 5/4/06

Where did you study your Hebrew?
---John_T on 5/3/06

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