Is Gematria Legit?

I heard about it and tried it out by typing “Jesus” and “Messiah” into a gematria decoder and it shows that’s a “connection” between the two words and suggesting there is a relationship between the two words.

Here’s my question, Is Gematria a legitimate system of interpretation, and does it have roots in Christianity?

There’s a nice Wikipedia article about it here:

The development of writing had to seem absolutely magical to those who had never experienced anything like it ever before. Just staring at marks on a page revealed deep wisdom from the past OR a record of account – precisely what you contractually owe your neighbor - chilling. There is a good deal of esoterica associated with writing, I suspect for similar reasons.

Recycling some symbols for letters has a lot of useful applications, particularly, if your culture hasn’t developed a set of numerals. Recycle. Context will reveal that the combinations are different from regular words. But sometimes you would likely get a character combination for a number that also represents a word or an abbreviation. It’s going to happen. Or you could take a word and translate the letters to numerals. This is not magic. But it might appear to be, if people are looking for secret messages from the “other side”. The way the combinations fall out is entirely dependent on what assignment system you choose, though, so it’s possible to manipulate the meaning if that suits you. (Super for cryptologists!)

Humans love codes. Or to create codes. Stars, tea leaves, chicken bones, letters you name it. Anything could be attempting to tell an important message from the gods or universal powers. All available to the Knower, the one properly initiated in the rites and wisdom of “reading” the signs.

Codes are made up by people, though, and sometimes shared widely in a culture. Some of us know them and might understand what is meant by: uses of the numbers 13 or 666 in common speech. If you go to another country, you will be faced with codes you don’t know. Early Christians were probably very familiar with the number-letter codes that were already widely known and used them themselves - just like we do with ours. It’s cultural short hand, and also culture ties. It’s not magic or supernatural.


That gematria decoder also shows a connection between “gematria” and “crap”.

Gematria doesn’t have its roots in Christianity, and isn’t a legitimate means of finding connections.


Welcome to the forum, @biologist101. It is good to have you here and we look forward to your contributions, as well as getting to know you better.

While I think Kendel’s explanation is true and accurate, it does get confusing when there does seem to be meaning to some of the numbers in the Bible that is pretty much lost to most of us. I’m referring to the long ages of men in Genesis, etc. There have been some articles and discussions on Biologos on that, which you can do a search on.

I have seen people try to find hidden messages in the Bible using similar schemes to the gematria decoder, but as Kendel said, those sort of things can be manipulated to produce whatever you want. Sort of like playing records backwards, though I would guess by your name, that was a bit before your time. But vinyl is back I suppose, so maybe not.


If the writer intended to impart meaning via gematria, it’s legit. If you’re looking back and trying to fit meanings to words you think are important, it’s not. None of the Hebrew writers were putting codes into their work except for standard symbolic meanings for numbers, unless they say they are.

Yes, there were numerical methods applied to copy, but it wasn’t code, it was a check-sum for verifying the copy had been done correctly.


Dr. Richard Middleton thinks Matthew made use of gematria in his presentation of Jesus’ genealogy:

Why Does Matthew Spell Some of the Names Differently?

In the Abraham to David epoch, Matthew makes five changes. First, he replaces Israel with Jacob; this is understandable, since they are the same person and the former is found in the Hebrew of 1 Chronicles 1:34, while the latter is in the Greek Septuagint of the same verse. But Matthew also changes Ram to Aram, Salmah to Salmon, Boaz to Boas, and Obed to Yobed (all are plausible variant spellings).

For a long time scholars have puzzled over this, wondering what his motivation was. The answer to Matthew’s changes (you may have guessed it) is gematria. When the numerical values of the Hebrew consonants behind Matthew’s Greek spelling of the fourteen names from Abraham to David (Matthew 1:2-6a) are added up, their sum is 574. That turns out to be exactly the numerical value of Abraham (41), the first name in the list, multiplied by the numerical value of David (14), the last in the list. The numbers would have been different (and would not have matched) if Matthew had kept the original spelling. Matthew clearly wanted to emphasize the names Abraham and David for his readers at this point in the genealogy.

Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus: Part I

The Significance of Names and Numbers in Phase 2 (David to the Exile)

The sum of all the numerical values of the fourteen names—as Matthew spells them —in the list from David to the exile is 560. This is exactly the number we get when we multiply the numerical value of David (14) with Jeconiah (40), the last king listed; this accounts for Matthew’s variant spellings of the names, including Asaph and Amos. While this playing with numbers might seem to contemporary readers as an unnecessary quirk (he could make his points without it), it is another way in which Matthew reinforces his desire to keep the name David before us. If the genealogy of Abraham to David suggests great possibilities for Israel, the genealogy of “from David to the deportation to Babylon” (Matt 1:17) affirms that these possibilities were squandered by the monarchy, beginning with David himself. …

If we add up all the generations in the three phases of Israel’s history that Matthew lists—from Abraham to Jesus—there are only 41 generations (14+14+13), not 42 (14+14+14), as Matthew implies. Yet the number 41 is significant since 41 is the numerical value of the name Abraham. So having Jesus in forty-first place in the genealogy beginning with Abraham may be Matthew’s way of locating him as the definitive descendant of Abraham. Indeed, Matthew begins his Gospel by calling Jesus “the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1).

When we add up the numerical value of the thirteen names Matthew gives from the exile to Jesus, we get a sum of 546; but this number yields nothing special. However, it is important to note that Matthew ends phase 3 of his genealogy not simply with Jesus, but with “Jesus, who is called Messiah” (1:16); and he specifically said there were “fourteen generations from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah” (Matt 1:17).

So what happens if we treat Messiah as the fourteenth name in phase 3, even though it is a title, not technically a name (and certainly does not represent an extra generation)? Well, the numerical value of the Hebrew word Messiah is 42, and Messiah is in forty-second place in Matthew’s genealogy.27 Then, if we add 42 to the sum of the previous thirteen names, we get a total of 588. Now we do have an important number. It turns out that David (14) multiplied by Messiah (42) is exactly 588. This is one more way that Matthew keeps the name David before his readers—at least, those readers who understand Jewish gematria.

But that’s not the end of it. What is the numerical total of all the names (including Messiah) listed in Matthew’s genealogy? That would be 574 (phase 1) + 560 (phase 2) + 588 (phase 3), totaling 1,722. And 1,722 is the exact number we get when we multiply the numerical value of Abraham (41), who begins the entire genealogy, with the numerical value of Messiah (42), the climax and culmination of the genealogy.

Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus: Part II


So he analyzes the math, but to what purpose? Using it as a common cultural “code” or reference is different from the palmistry that makes it popular today.


Of course. The question is “is gematria legit?” So I gave an example of legitimate use. As @St.Roymond writes:

Nonetheless, although in some cases it is obvious that gematria is used (as in 666 or the manuscript variant 616, which both point to Nero), in Matthew’s case it is not that clear. So somebody had to try whether gematria makes sense of the genealogy’s idiosyncrasies.

Another example would be Abraham’s servant in Genesis 15:2. See this dictionary entry:

The name Eliezer may also have been invented out of Gen 14:14, a verse which mentions 318 servants of Abraham. The numerical value of the name Eliezer is exactly 318. According to Seebass, the original text of Gen 15:2–3 would have been “Abram said, ‘My Lord Yhwh, what will you give me? For I will pass childless, and so somebody born in my house is to be my heir.’” Later redactors and glossators would have tried to identify this servant.

Eliezer of Damascus

In this case, gematria can assist textual criticism.

But applying gematria to the English translation of the original language does not make sense, naturally.

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