Thursday, October 04, 2007

Language, number, and meaning

I feel a bit distracted by this playground of gematria. There is no reason why numbering letters should carry meaning. But the exercise has had a real impact while I am testing several software features in our diagramming tool, notably the automated setting of colour and text - and that is somewhat useful.

But I took it a bit further... I asked myself - what are the Hebrew words that I tend to translate as 'complete'. Complete is a word I associate with fulfillment, satisfaction, even the notion of peace if carried by the word Shalom. I am obviously biased towards the New Testament aspect of the sufficiency of the death of Christ as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. I am biased because I have found astonishing aspects of this gift. Unspeakable, they reframe the judgment of one who receives them. I feel instructed to 'find words'. They even can help with difficult passages of Scripture in ways that would not enter the mind of the flesh, but in ways that see the flesh not through the eyes of the flesh. The hints in other writers of equivalent knowledge suggest to me that gematria may be a way to dislocate our automatic assumptions about meaning. That makes it useful for things other than automated colouring!

So I did a diagram of all words that I have translated with the element 'complete' from the psalms, and I appended to the diagram all words that added up to the same gematria values as those words that translate as some form of 'complete'. Then I sorted these by colour.

I have a few places where there are extra words in the phrase - thus creating a gematria different from the word associated with 'complete' alone. These are marked with white foreground writing in the image, and the columns of references are marked without border, without gradient, and 50% opacity to distinguish them from the columns which contain at least one solo word rooted to completeness. And I could, but didn't, involve other themes related to cult terminology - terms of offering that in some sense involve aspects of completeness.

The Hebrew words which I start with are יִגְמָר(gmr, come to an end, nodes have a blue border),תָּמִים, (tmm, complete, red border) and אֲשַׁלֵּם (shlm, complete, be at peace, blue border) - About 3/4 of the words are related to the תָּמִים (tamim).

From this I get columns of words used in the psalms that have equivalent gematria values to תָּמִים with various enclitics. The diagram jpg is somewhat large (2M) but it has a few surprises. For instance, death has the same value as complete! There are links on the diagram to the specific psalm (if the psalm has been translated). You can tell if it has been translated since the words are English rather than a transcription.

I think I will go back to translation - but this has been an interesting exercise. If any of you have suggestions as to studies in word usage that might require imaging or computation, let me know and I will try and comply with the request.

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