I can do Biblical Numerology too!

Every now and then, a meme will make the rounds that gets stuck in my craw. It’s happened to me a few times before. And rather than just brush it off and go about my life, I feel the urge to do something about it. Sometimes it’s as simple as me making a post here about why it bugs me. Other times, I respond by making memes of my own.

This time around, I decided to do both.

So what is it that made me take drastic action? This meme:

Edited to protect the not-so-innocent

So if I am to understand this correctly, there is some sort of correlation between the date of the recent solar eclipse, the dates that Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the United States, and the Bible. Somehow, those dates translate into a specific Bible verse that talks about signs in the heavens and the sea and waves roaring.

I’ll admit, it’s an interesting coincidence. But that’s all it is. There is no deeper meaning to be found in this meme.

For starters, let’s talk about why the person who started this trend picked the book of Luke. Why Luke? Is it just because this verse popped up? Small problem, though: there are thirteen other books of the Bible that have at least twenty-one chapters, and within those twenty-first chapters, a twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth verse.

How do I know that? Because I looked and decided to make a series of memes about it:

Why would I do that? Because none of those thirteen other readings have anything to do with eclipses or hurricanes or the current situation or anything else.

Again, why did the originator of this meme pick Luke’s gospel? There’s no reason for it at all! Now, if Harvey’s name had been Luke, I would have thought that was kind of eerie, but there’s no inherent reason to go with that one book and ignore the other thirteen. It’s gaming the system to get a “cool” end result and it cheapens the message (more on this in a bit).

Second, there’s the use of the chapter and verse numbers. Folks, Luke didn’t come up with those. None of the Biblical authors did. Those were added centuries later to make the Bible easier to reference. So to say that God encoded some sort of message into the Bible through arbitrary chapters and verse numbers (which, granted, the meme’s author is not directly claiming, but I think it’s a reasonable inference at this point) is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

And then there’s the real problem with this meme: it smacks of American Christianity’s tendency toward self-centeredness.

One of my friends had this interesting comment when I shared my little meme reaction project:

Jim has an important point that’s worth considering. Why is the date of an American eclipse so important? According to the good folks at NASA, there are 2-3 eclipses of varying types every year and a total eclipse every 2-3 years. So why zero in on this eclipse? Could it be because this is the first one that was visible in the United States for a while?

And why are we focused on the dates when Harvey hit the United States? I’m not trying to downplay the devastation that occurred in Houston at all, but I’ve noticed this trend: when something major happens somewhere else in the world, most American Christians kind of just go “Huh.” But when it happens here, we see these sorts of near apocalyptic freak outs.

So how should we respond to all of this?

Well, the person who made the original meme did have a semi-valid point. When we see signs in the heavens or disasters raging around us, we should turn our eyes forward and look for the day when Jesus returns. He did say that all these things would be reminders that He will return. But we should really just use them as memory aids, not as road signs that point to an imminent return. I mean, how many times have people predicted Jesus’ return in the last forty years? How many of them got it right?

Second, when we see disasters around us, they should prompt us to remember that we need God. That’s how Jesus used them in His ministry. Every moment that highlights our vulnerability and mortality or puts us in awe of the glories of creation are good reminders that we need God in our lives.

And third, seeing these sorts of things (especially the disasters) should spur us to action. Jesus calls on us to be His presence in a hurting world. When we see the destruction and devastation that occurs because we live in a broken world, we should be moved to do something about it. Prayer is good, but prayer followed up by monetary donations, physical service, and advocacy is better. Meme making? Maybe not so much.

Maybe we shouldn't try to find meaning in pseudo-spiritual Biblical numerology... Click To Tweet

That’s not helping anyone.


  1. Great blog, John. (Big surprise?)

    Allow me for the record state I’m a dispensationalist. And date setting gives me and the vast majority of dispys a bad name. Because the Bible says clearly no man knows the day. Many are immenists, believing that the rapture could occur at any minute, and has been that way since Jesus ascended – thus, it could happen today or it could happen in the time of the Starship Enterprise.

    There are some times when numbers have a symbolic meaning to them, like 666 in Revelation 13. Other times, like when one family returning from Bablyon in Ezra 2 had 666 members, it’s meaning is that there was one more than 665 and one less than 667.

    One person had the theory that if you put 19 in front of the number of a Psalm, you had a prophecy of what would happen that year. He thus predicted the rapture would take place in ’97, because in Psalm 96 it said, “He is coming, He is coming” (referring, according to him, to the rapture and the 2nd coming) and in Psalm 98 it merely says “He is coming” (hinting that the rapture had taken place. 🙁

    Thank you, John, for a well thought out blog on the follies of sensational numerology.

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