Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Epistle of Barnabas and the Number 318

The Epistle of Barnabas and the Number 318





"Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit was far as Dan." Genesis 14:14


"Three hundred and eighteen" — If Abram could spare three hundred and eighteen slaves and leave a sufficient number to take care of the flocks, what a large establishment he must have had. From this number of men of an age for vigorous warfare, we can gauge the size of Abram's encampment, which could well have totalled a thousand people.

And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him. Genesis 17:27

318 = ע 1 + ל 30 + י 10 + א 70 + ז 7 + ר 200

The Hastings Bible Dictionary, Vol. III (T & T Clark. 1900): 566-567, “…the  number 318 is the equivalent of ‘Eliezer’ [Hebr. ’ly`zr], if the numerical values of the different letters of this name are added together: 1+30+10+70+7+200=318”. It  would be a coincidence if the number of Abraham’s ‘trained servants’ stood in such  a relation to ‘Eliezer,’ the only name known of a trained servant of Abraham”, but  the text does not mention Eliezer by name in Gen 14, and this rests on assumptions  about Hebrew letters having numerical values.

In the early church, in the late first and second centuries, some writers made use of 318 (made up of 300+10+8,) to signify Jesus on the cross. In Greek, which can also use the numerical=alphabetical system as it too is without numerals, Tau=300 and is equivalent to the Hebrew letter, Tau, both of which represent a cross in the shape of a capital 'T', which is closer to the shape of a crucifixion cross than a modern crucifix. The 18 comes from Eta plus Iota, which stood in the Greek alphabet order where ח cheth and י yodh stand in the Hebrew, thus they stood for 8 and 10 respectively, making the 18. Now, IH, in Greek is Iota-Eta, the first two letters of Jesus' name ΙΣΟΥΣiêsous, just as God's name, YHVH, could be represented by its shorter version YH (Yah). So the Epistle of Barnabas, written between 70-135 A.D. says:


Barnabas 9:6 Learn therefore, children of love, concerning all things abundantly, that Abraham, who first appointed circumcision, looked forward in the spirit unto Jesus, when he circumcised having received the ordinances of three letters.

Barnabas 9:7 For the scripture saith; And Abraham circumcised of his household eighteen males and three hundred. What then was the knowledge given unto him? Understand ye that He saith the eighteen first, and then after an interval three hundred In the eighteen 'I' stands for ten, 'H' for eight. Here thou hast JESUS (IHSOYS). And because the cross in the 'T' was to have grace, He saith also three hundred. So He revealeth Jesus in the two letters, and in the remaining one the cross.

The Epistle of Barnabas explains this number by the correspondence with Greek letters and sees there "the men saved by Jesus in cross". And that due to the fact that the number 318 is figured by the Greek letter T, "tau", which has the aspect of a cross, and by the group IH, Iota-Eta, composed of the first two letters of the name of Jesus, IHSOYS: T + IH = 300 + 10 + 8 = 318.


The number 318 represents for the Gnostics the value of the word "Christ

Writing later in the 3rd century, Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata, "Miscellanies", on 'The Mystical Meanings In The Proportions Of Numbers, Geometrical Ratios, And Music' says:

As then in astronomy we have Abraham as an instance, so also in arithmetic we have the same Abraham. For, hearing that Lot was taken captive, and having numbered his own servants, born in his house, 318, he defeats a very great number of the enemy. They say, then, that the character representing 300 is, as to shape, the type of the Lord's sign, and that the Iota and the Eta indicate the Saviour's name; that it was indicated, accordingly, that Abraham's domestics were in salvation, who having fled to the Sign and the Name became lords of the captives, and of the very many unbelieving nations that followed them. (Clement, Stromata, Book 6, Chapter 11)

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