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Ancient Creation Stories told by the Numbers

by H. Peter Aleff
(Click here for German translation -- deutsche Übersetzung)







 The mathematics of Genesis 1  


 in the layout of the Jerusalem Temple   




Quasi- equations of constants with symbolic values describe creation

A scholar of Hebrew discussing the King James translation of the Bible said that the stately cadences and juxtaposition of phrases in the creation account of Genesis 1 reflect the nature of reality:

"all is harmonious; being emerges as a sequence of distinct oppositions firmly divided by the Creator and aptly mirrored textually in the balanced progression of parallel clauses."1

This description applies not only to that account in languages such as Hebrew or English but that balanced progression appears even more purely when it is read as a series of equations formed with four of the most basic mathematical constants. These constants are used not only for their numerical values that yield the equations as well as the major dimensions of the Jerusalem Temple but also for the symbolic values here attributed to them that translate accurately into the sequence of Genesis 1.

Postulate, for this example of computing with symbolic values, that the four constants discussed in the preceding pages had symbolic equivalences that can be reasonably inferred from their numerical properties and behavior, as in this list of identities and correspondences on different levels or layers of symbolic meaning:

Suggested ancient symbolic associations of four mathematical constants



World Body



phi = 1.618033988...

Mirror & Alternation




e = 2.718281828...

Growth & Renewal



Life & Human

pi = 3.141592654...

Cyclical Order




C = 8.700036625...

Outermost Limit





Consider further as given these reported ancient definitions and other conventions:


“One is the breath of the living God”, as stated in the Sefer Yetzira, or “Book of Creation”1a . This book is the oldest of the Jewish texts that led to the teachings of the Kabbalah. It explains that the “Ten Sefirot”, or numbers, plus the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, were the “32 mystical paths of Wisdom” with which God had created the world.


The “Ten Sefirot of Nothingness” are the first ten numbers, and they also represent all the other numbers. In the Hebrew tradition, they were each endowed with important symbolic qualities; together, they were also the fingers of God, the tools he used to create and maintain the world. The Sefirot were further identified with Wisdom, and thereby, according to Ecclesiasticus 24 and in the Kabbalah, also with water.


Cubing a number makes it into a volume and so gives it a body, or brings its symbolic equivalent into existence2.


=  the same as measuring one quantity with another.


In the Egyptian and early Hebrew way of writing numbers, the denominator of the then used unit fractions was not written because it was simply 1. The divisor was identified by a mouth or horizontal bar above it, so it is “below” or “under” that fraction sign, comparable to the modern convention.


The rhymes in the poem of quasi- equations below follow the pattern  a b a b c c a a.  The parallelism at their beginning is a literary device which was “the primary stylistic feature of Hebrew and Ugaritic poetry3, and the arrangement of the whole would fit well into many compositions from that corpus.

Now we permute those four constants and basic numbers to find the group of quasi- equations between their various combinations listed below.  Please note that such quasi- equations are very rare, particularly those with results like those below that are also close to integers.  They cannot be made up to suit but only found.  

Then we replace the numerical values in those unique quasi- equations with the property- matching symbolic equivalences above and obtain an accurate translation of the creation story in Genesis 1.

In addition, the results of these quasi- equations match the principal dimensions in the ground plan of the Jerusalem Temple, as transmitted in a Rabbinic tractate from around 200 CE. Despite its late date, this layout appears to describe that of the First Temple, as discussed on the page about those Temple dimensions

Now watch how well the constants and their proposed meanings fit the story and the architectural plan, as well as the 32 Paths of Wisdom which God had used in the Kabbalistic tradition to make the world and which included one path that was exalted high above the 31 others:

The quasi-equations for Genesis 1 in the layout of the Jerusalem Temple

Light and land: Altar base in open Temple Court   =  32 Cubit

Temple Court length open to sky

= 87 Cubit

  10 C

1  +  pi3   =   32.00628  

10 C / e  = 32.00565

D= 0.001968%

One ( = the breath of God), and
Light raised to the third power,
or brought into existence.

Ten = Wisdom = water remains “above” with heaven but is replaced “below” by earth.

First Day: “The breath of God swept over the waters”, and God said “Let there be light.”

Third Day: God gathered the waters under heaven into one place and made dry land appear.

World : East- west length of Temple Court  = 187 cubit

Court separation: Temple and open to sky

100 + 87

    10 ( 10 + C )

Outside length of Temple / inside length

100 / 61

1.6393 phi

Width of Porch / Sanctuary width

100 / 32

3.1250   pi

Court length open to sky / Altar base in Court

   87 / 32

2.7187   e

( 10 + C ) = 1.8700036625 


phi x pi  =



D= 0.0001321%

The Ten = Wisdom = water is added to heaven and divided by that “below”.

Moon times Sun, divided or “measured” by earth “below” to establish their cycles “above” it.

Second Day: God made the vault of heaven and divided the water under the vault from that above it.

Fourth Day: “Let there be lights in the vault of heaven to separate day from night, and let them serve as signs for festivals and seasons and years.”


Life :  Square Altar in Court, and cubical Holy of Holies =  20 cubit

( phi x C / pi )2 = 20.0778 

e3    =      20.08554

D = 0.03820%

Water times sky divided by order, the result multiplied with itself.

Earth (= adamah) raised to third power to bring Adam into existence, more self- multiplication than fish and birds.

Fifth Day: God made the fish in the water and the birds flying across the sky, then ordered them to be fruitful.

Sixth Day: After land animals, God made humans (from earth) in his own image, then ordered them to be fruitful and to rule over all living things.


Rest : Outside width of Sanctuary, and again the
Altar base on which the Altar rests as symbol for God   = 
32 cubit         


  = 32.02051

D = 0.03121%

Everything worldly, in its large and small forms, is removed from the greatness of heaven.  The lesser expressions of heaven are also taken away from the realm reserved entirely to it in the eighth equation. 

Both equations begin with the highest expressions of heaven from which lesser amounts are deducted, so both are balanced and at rest.  Moreover, the result at the end returns to the beginning, so the cycle of creation can start again.

Seventh Day: God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on that day, he rested.

Eighth Equation:  The eighth term refers to heaven alone which is so far removed from earth and its cycles that this exclusively divine domain is not related to the making of the world and its seven- day week.  The distilled essence of this heaven, after deduction of its lesser forms, is still more than twice as great as all of Creation and the 32 Paths of Wisdom used to make it.

The perfect fit of these quasi- equations with the ancient traditions suggests that the imagined symbolic values we plugged in above for the constants may not be so imaginary after all.  They match not only the timeless mathematical properties of each constant but also the transmitted texts and dimensions so well that random coincidence seems excluded.  

It appears more likely that the ancient number researchers and cosmologists were convinced that creation was based on mathematics, and that those mysterious numbers were behind the making of the world.   This belief still reverberates among some modern practitioners of those ancient crafts, although the specific numbers in the perceived toolbox of creation may change from time to time.  

For instance, the modern cosmologist Martin Rees explains in his book "Just Six Numbers"4 that the universe in which we live could not exist without the fine- tuning of six physical constants, such as the strength of the electrical bonds between atoms and other ratios of fundamental energies which he calls in his subtitle "the deep forces that shape the universe" 

Similarly, the Newsweek science writer Steven Levy described Stephen Wolfram's new book "A New Kind of Science" as a quest for "the few lines of computer code that run the universe"5.  Indeed, Wolfram constructed cellular automata from simple mathematical rules and watched them generate many complex patterns found also in nature. Then he asked:

"Are there ever cases in which patterns generated by such systems seem complex to the eye but can in fact be described by simple mathematical formulas?"6

It appears that the writers of Genesis One had found their answer to this ongoing quest for the few simple mathematical formulas behind creation.  Their results reflect a world which taught Pythagoras that All is made from Number, the same idea that you find already expressed in the Egyptian hieroglyphic numeral system.  That teaching may be obsolete in its original form, but the quest of the ancient number researchers and cosmologists was quite modern, and almost as timeless as the numbers themselves.

And if by now you have not yet ditched those old school tales about the primitive level of ancient Near Eastern mathematicians which I asked you earlier to merely set aside, then prepare yourself to do so as you read about additional agreements between the equations, the narratives, and their architectural expressions.

(That Temple layout appears further to have included echoes from an ancient diagram of the northern night sky, as you can examine in the pages on  Solomon's Labyrinth  in our Board Games section.)


Footnotes :

1 Robert Alter: "Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible", Princeton University Press, 2010, as excerpted in Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2011, page 24.

1a  Aryeh Kaplan, translator and editor: “Sefer Yetzira: The Book of Creation”, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1993, stanza 1:9 on page 68.
As suggested in Robert Lawlor: “Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice”, Thames and Hudson, London, 1982, see 4th page of Workbook 2.
3  Dennis Pardee: “Ugaritic and Hebrew Metrics”, pages 113 to 130 in Gordon Douglas Young, editor: “Ugarit in Retrospect: Fifty Years of Ugarit and Ugaritic”, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, Indiana, 1981, quote on page 113.
Martin Rees: "Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe", Basic Books, New York, 2000.
5 Steven Levy: "Great Minds, Great Ideas", Newsweek, May 27, 2002, pages 56 to 59, quote on page 59.
6 Stephen Wolfram: "A New Kind of Science", Wolfram Media, May 2002, quote on page 613.



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