After doing a Google search this evening, on another idea, I came across your Bible Wheel site and this post of yours. This is the first I’ve heard of the wheel and I found the concept of it very intriguing. I’ve not been able to read through all of the posts in this discussion but decided to add my thoughts after reading a few of them.
I grew up a Christian but no longer attend a church on any regular basis. Primarily, for me, it is a problem with the politicalization of thought that I seem to find in almost any “Christian” church, especially in the USA. And the current focus on “obedience”, which any autocrat also strives for. I am now one of those people that the Roman Catholic church seems to despise, one who has created their own “spirituality” to live by. Even though I have adopted some Roman Catholic traditions in my own spirituality.
Atheism is not my creed but I am trained in computer science, web site design, database development and similar skills. I say this in order to explain my response to a personal query that you made, paraphrasing – along the lines of “why is the pattern of the Bible Wheel there, is it divine?”
For me the Bible was written by human beings, organized by human beings, with the implied belief that it was divinely inspired. As such the “writers” would make every attempt to codify or collect or organize those words in patterns that they were taught to be, thought to be, divine. The most obvious one being the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In patterns that fit the nature of the material. The writers of the books of the Bible would have used what they believed to be appropriate ways of organizing Divine material. I say this as one who organizes information and ideas on a regular basis using computers.
Who’s to say that the books were not indeed organized in this way in the 3rd century, or some other time, with the idea that only those who organized the work would understand it and in so doing there was no need to bring attention to the method of organization? Until, perhaps, you finally stumbled upon the pattern. Perhaps I have only a superficial understanding of your Bible Wheel from only a cursory look at it and you see much more to the pattern. But such linguistic patterns seem quite natural and obvious to me in my line of work.
Nowadays we use charts, patterns, mind maps, memory peg systems, and many other ways of organizing, memorizing, communicating ideas. If nothing else your Bible Wheel has given me a simple way to visualize the Bible in a way I’ve never had. As to the content of that book, as we see here, the debate will go on for quite some time…
Thanks for a beautiful, informative, and well designed web site that sparks so much thought and discussion.
All the Best,
I am delighted with Bob’s question. It is exactly what an intelligent skeptic would assume as the “default explanation” of any authentic patterns found in the Bible. Obviously, any intelligently designed patterns found in a book written and organized by humans must be attributed to at least one of those humans! It seems like a no-brainer. But the situation is not so simple. To see this, we need only review the natural history of the Bible and the nature of the patterns we are seeking to explain.
The Bible Wheel is a simple two-dimensional representation of the traditional “Protestant” Bible consisting of 66 books. The patterns it displays are critically dependent upon the exact order, number, and content of the books. The content and the order of the books are identical to those found in the Latin Vulgate with the Apocryphal (Deutero-canonical) books removed. This was because the Reformers held to the Palestinian Canon of the Old Testament, which is identical in content to the Jewish Tanakh, though many of the books are in a different order (see my discussion of the relation between the two canons here). Thus, the Protestant Bible, and hence the Bible Wheel, is the product of largely independent efforts by three disparate groups who had contrary religious perspectives and competing motivations:
- The Jews established the content of the Protestant OT but with a different order.
- The Catholics established the order of the Protestant OT following the LXX which included the Apocrypha.
- The Reformers established the complete pattern of 66 books by simply removing the Apocrypha.
Therefore, the resulting pattern – the Bible Wheel – cannot be attributed to the Jews, the Catholics, or the Reformers. I really liked this argument when I was a Christian because I believed it showed how the “hidden hand of God” led these three groups to produce his book without their knowledge. I’m still convinced by the argument, though I’m now mystified by “who” really did it since I don’t believe in the traditional God of Christian theism. (And neither am I an atheist … but that’s a discussion for later.)
But does this argument eliminate the possibility that someone like Jerome (who had the opportunity as the translator the Vulgate) might have deliberately designed the pattern of 66 books to fit the Bible Wheel? It is well known that he supported the Palestinian Canon and opposed the Apocrypha, which some think he included in the Vulgate only under duress. And he wrote about the symbolic meaning of the Hebrew letters and called them the “alphabet of divine wisdom” and noted that the Jews had counted their books to conform to its twenty-two letters. So could he be the “secret designer” of the Bible Wheel? The answer is easy to find. It is “no” because the canon was already established in almost its complete form before Jerome began working as a translator. Here is what Cyril of Jerusalem wrote around the year 350 AD (note that he uses the Jewish count of twenty two, but follows mostly the Christian order):
Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.
OK – great! Maybe Cyril of Jerusalem designed the Bible Wheel? Nope. That’s impossible because his list is not exactly correct. It’s close, but no cigar. It even includes one book of the Apocrypha, Baruch, though Cyril explicitly warned his readers to “have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings.” Cyril’s list further amplifies the challenge for any naturalistic explanation because not only did he list the content of the OT, but also the categorical system that gives rise to the Canon Wheel. He received the books in groups – the five books of the Law, the twelve Historical books, the five Wisdom books (which he called “verse”), and the Twelve Minor Prophets. The are four of the seven divisions that define the perfect symmetry of the Canon Wheel, which also is isomorphic to the tri-radiant halo seen in traditional iconography of Christ! I discuss this in my article called The Tri-Radiant Halo as the Sign of Deity.
It is this kind of synergy that seems to imply that the Bible Wheel arose from someplace other than the deliberate design of any human or group of humans. Extremely profound symbolic meanings just “burst” from the Bible Wheel without any effort on my part. I experienced it as a process of pure scientific discovery that all followed from the “surprisingly simply act” of merely “rolling up” the list of books on a spindle wheel of twenty-two spokes. See my article What is the Bible Wheel for a brief explanation. The patterns exist on many levels from the very detailed relations between the books and the Hebrew letters on a given Spoke to the large-scale symmetry of the Canon Wheel. And they are made of “pieces” that existed before Christ was born so they could not have been “put there” to fit a pattern after the fact.
Now let’s focus now on the more detailed patterns that require explanation. There are a number of passages in the OT that are designed upon the pattern of the Hebrew alphabet. Many scholars see these as of little significance, as a mere mnemonic device or perhaps even a “degradation of style” because of the mechanical “A is for apple, B is for bat” format. But the Bible Wheel throws these passages into a whole new light. Indeed, they are the key to understanding the pattern of the entire Bible. The Alphabetic Verses establish the order of the alphabet as well as “key words” that are associated with each letter. I call these “Alphabetic KeyWords” and the amazing thing is that they correspond to the order and content of the books of the Bible. For example, the 18th letter is Tzaddi. The ancient Hebrew tradition says this letter is a symbol of “Righteousness” because in Hebrew the word “righteous” is Tzadik – it starts with a Tzaddi and sounds very much like the name of the letter. Thus it is little surprise that we find this word used frequently in the Alphabetic Verses corresponding to the 18th letter. For example:
- AV Ps 119:137 Righteous (Tzaddik) art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments.
- AV Ps 145:17 The LORD is righteous (tzaddik) in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
- AV Lam 1:18 The LORD is righteous (tzaddik); for I have rebelled against his commandment.
None of this is surprising in and of itself. The “surprise” comes when we look at Spoke 18 of the Bible Wheel, which is dominated by books with unique relations to the idea of “righteousness.” The first book on Spoke 18 is Job – its central question is “Why do bad things happen to the righteous?” or alternately, “How can God be righteous if he allows the innocent to suffer?” Technically, it is a theodicy – an attempt to explain how God can be righteous in light of the existence of evil. This is the first book on Spoke 18, correpsonding to Tzaddi, the symbol of Righteousness. I discuss this in my article Job’s Theodicy: The Justification of God.
Likewise, we see a similarly profound connection between Righteousness and the second book on Spoke 18, the Gospel of Matthew, which is rightly called the “Gospel of Righteousness” because it emphasizes the idea of righteousness to extreme degree relative to the other Gospels. Here’s a graph of the number of occurrences of the word “righteousness” in the four Gospels:
I discuss this in my article To Fulfill All Righteousness (title taken from the first words spoken by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel).
Finally, we see the same pattern in the third book on Spoken 18, 1 John, which also has an unusually strong emphasis upon righteousness and which is the only book in the Bible to refer to Christ by the title Jesus Christ the Righteous (which also is the title of my article on that book).
Now the really amazing thing about Matthew’s emphasis upon righteousness is that the Alphabetic KeyWord seems to have been “inserted” into his passages where it is missing the parallels in the other Gospels. For example:
- Matt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
- Luke 12:31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
We see similar patterns in the other Gospels. Mark on Spoke 19 has specific emphasis upon ideas relating to Quph KeyWords that are missing from the parallel passages, and Luke on Spoke 20 has specific emphasis relating Resh KeyWords that are missing from the others. I discuss this in my article audaciously called The Solution to the Synoptic Problem.
Likewise, we see a similar phenomena when comparing the parallel passages between Kings and Chronicles. The differences correspond to the Alphabetic KeyWords which were defined in the Alphabetic Verses in the OT hundreds of years before Christ or the NT or the Bible Wheel.
These kinds of patterns saturate the Bible Wheel, and there is absolutely no way in the world that they can be explained as the work of any human or group of humans. I could go on and on like this. The evidence of some sort of “supernatural design” seems as solid and incontrovertible to me now as it did when I was a Christian. And as far as I know, I am looking at the Bible Wheel with the same critical eye by which I judged the Bible itself to full of errors, contradictions, logical absurdities, and moral abominations attributed to God. And as yet, not one person has ever – after years of debate on internet forums with fierce opponents – found anything like a systematic error or fundamental flaw in the evidence I have presented. But what does it all mean? That’s the mystery … but one big clue is that the Bible Wheel looks like a mandala, which are “archetypes of wholeness” (Jung) and this suggests that the Bible Wheel could represent a new stage of growth of the planetary mind – the “individuation” of the planetary consciousness when we finally heal the internal divisions and enter in to our “birthright” as true “children of God” with a unified heart of goodness that arises from our souls rather than an external book of dogmas that can be endlessly debated and never understood. I discuss these ideas a bit in my post The Bible Wheel as a Cosmic Mandala of Archetypal Wholeness. Just thinking out loud … gotta love my new freedom!