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[Wheel] > A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12.1

Genesis: The Origin of All

Related Articles
+ A Great Cloud of Witnesses
+ The Eternal Circle
+ Symmetries of the Bible Wheel
+ The Sevenfold Canon
+ Derivation of the Sevenfold Canon
+ Fearful Symmetry
+ Probabilities: What are the Chances?
+ Answer Thou Me
+ The Canon Wheel

There is a vast array of reasons why God designed the Wheel as He did. I begin with Spoke 1, consisting of Genesis, Isaiah, and Romans. Little need be said to explain why the Bible begins in Genesis. Its very name signifies an origin, beginning, or birth. All the fundamental doctrines of Scripture find their root in this book; the sovereignty of God, the creation of man, the origin of sin and the consequent curse of death, God’s promise of the virgin-born Redeemer, and the great doctrine of God’s gift of righteousness through faith. No author, human or divine, could have begun in a more logical, intelligent, or skillful fashion.

Romans: The Cathedral of the Christian Faith

If the doctrines of the Bible find their root in Genesis, so they flower in Romans. Few books, if any, have received accolades quite like this "cathedral of the Christian faith" as it was called by Godet. His comments from the introduction to his Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans1 list but a few of the prominent Christian leaders who have recognized the unique significance of Romans (emphasis mine):

Coleridge calls the Epistle to the Romans 'the profoundest book in existence.' Chysostom had it read to him twice a week. Luther, in his famous preface, says 'This Epistle is the chief book of the New Testament, the purest Gospel. It deserves not only to be known word for word by every Christian, but to be the subject of his meditation day by day, the daily bread of his soul.' ... Melanchthon, in order to make it more perfectly his own, copied it twice with his own hand. It is the book which he expounded most frequently in his lectures. The Reformation was undoubtedly the work of the Epistle to the Romans, as well as the epistle to the Galatians; and the probability is that every great spiritual revival in the church will be associated as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.

Gleason Archer2 concurs, saying, "There is no more complete compendium of the Christian doctrine in the sixty-six books of the Bible than the Epistle to the Romans." John Phillips referred to it as "the Gospel according to Paul." John Wesley, who later would be called the "Apostle of England," had his heart "strangely warmed" when he heard Luther's preface read and went on to become "the true genius" of the eighteenth century revival in England.

Isaiah: The "Romans" of the Old Testament

The only other book of the Bible to approach the significance of Romans is Isaiah, called "the Mount Rushmore of biblical prophecy" by J. W. D. Watts, who went on to say:

Sculpted on its massive slopes are the major themes of Scripture: who God is, what he has done for his people, and how he expects us to serve him. ... No other part of the Bible gives us so panoramic a view of God's handiwork in Israel's history nor such clear prophecies of his lordship over the nations. If Beethoven's nine symphonies loom as landmarks on the horizon of classical music, Isaiah's sixty-six chapters mark the apex of prophetic vision.

The unity of the thematic river flowing through Isaiah and Romans, the two undisputed doctrinal masterpieces of the Bible, was succinctly expressed in the comments of Herbert Wolf (my emphasis):

The Book of Isaiah, one of the most important and best-loved books in the Bible, is sometimes called the Gospel of Isaiah because of the good news that characterizes its message. Indeed, no other Old Testament book contains as many references to the Messiah as does the Book of Isaiah. Its sixty-six chapters contain crucial passages that allude to Christ's incarnation, earthly ministry and atoning death and glorious world-wide rule. ... Isaiah also has been called the Romans of the Old Testament because like the Book of Romans, it sets forth God's case against sinners, unveils the wretchedness of the human heart, and reveals the way of salvation for Israel and the world. Under the hammer blows of Isaiah's message, God calls sinners to repentance and graciously promises forgiveness. It is no accident that in Romans Paul quoted Isaiah seventeen times - more than any other New Testament author. And, like Romans, Isaiah is a profoundly theological book that deals with a number of vital doctrines.

To behold Isaiah as the Romans of the Old Testament appears, in light of God's Wheel, to be nothing less than the purest prophecy. Likewise, to see them both identified as Gospels elevates these great doctrinal books to the highest level of biblical significance, the Gospel being the ultimate point of all Scripture.

The links amongst the three books constituting Spoke 1 are truly astounding. As a brief review quickly reveals, Romans is essentially the product of an intricate weaving of Genesis and Isaiah, supported primarily by a number of references from the Psalms. In the first nine chapters, Paul refers extensively to Genesis and in the ninth chapter he bridges to Isaiah, from which he then derives the dominant themes through to the end of the book, quoting Isaiah by name five times. In fact, of all Paul's writings - which constitute about a third of the New Testament - Romans is the only book in which he mentions Isaiah's name at all, and of the fifty-seven direct citations from the Old Testament found in this book, twenty-six, or slightly less than half, come either from Genesis or Isaiah. The links between these three books are profound and inextricable.

Genesis, Isaiah, Romans - there are simply no other books in all the Bible that can compete with their illustrious preeminence and graceful integration of all the primary doctrines of the Gospel, and so it is that the wisdom of God is greatly glorified beyond measure in the structure of His Wheel.

The Law and the Prophets

Perfect symmetry of the Christian Canon on the Wheel.

Broken symmetry of the Jewish Canon. OT colors indicate Torah, Former Prophets, Minor Prophets, Writings.

It must be kept in mind that this pattern is by no means necessitated by the "Law and Prophets" structure of the Old Testament. Although Genesis and Isaiah are distinguished from all other books in the Old Testament by virtue of being the first books of the Law and the Prophets, this fact in itself does not determine their position upon the Wheel. If, for example, the historic Christian church had chosen to follow the order of the Jewish Canon, the little book of Zephaniah would then hold the twenty-third position, displacing the magnificent all-encompassing Isaiah as the first book on Cycle Two. The chaos resulting from following such an order is displayed in the two figures on the right, wherein we witness the complete destruction of both the radial and the bilateral symmetry of the Canon Wheel. 

Alternately, the church could have placed the Gospels as the first books of the Bible since these teach about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, who is "the firstborn of every creature." This would have displaced Genesis, and probably Isaiah and Romans as well, from the first Spoke. Or the church could have noted the significant relations amongst Genesis, Isaiah, and Romans and placed these three first, as a kind of sacred triplet. In principle, history could have produced any order of these books whatsoever if history were in the hands of mere mortals. It is this that points so clearly to the work of God.

What are the Chances?

The total number of ways to arrange n things is called n factorial, denoted by "n!". It is calculated by forming the product of all numbers less than or equal to n.

n! = n x (n-1) x (n-2) x ... x 3 x 2 x 1

For example, the total number of ways to arrange the letters ABC is 3! = 3 x 2 x 1 = 6. This is easy to check by simply listing them:


The logic that gives rise to this formula is equally elementary. One simply notes that there are three choices for the first position, after which there remains two choices for the second position, and finally one for the last. Multiplying the number of choices yields the total number of ways one could arrange the three letters.

Precisely the same logic applies to the sixty-six books of the Bible. Although some configurations certainly seem more likely than others, blind chance could have left any one of the sixty-six books as the first book of Spoke 1, any one of the remaining sixty-five as the second book on Spoke 1, and any one of the remaining sixty-four as the third book on Spoke 1. There are, therefore 66 x 65 x 64, or 274,560 possible ways to construct the first Spoke. This is simply an indisputable mathematical fact; there is one chance in 274,560 that blind history would give us the first Spoke as we have it today. Viewing these remote odds in light of the testimony of the numerous witnesses cited above, who were obviously innocent of any bias towards the Wheel by reason of complete ignorance of it, establishes the divine origin of the Wheel, and therefore of the entire Bible, beyond all reasonable doubt. These arguments are greatly augmented in Probabilities: What are the Chances?

A Triplet of Triplets

Yet this is but the beginning. The libraries are filled with highly qualified unbiased witnesses who uniformly attest to the intelligent design of many aspects of God's Wheel. For example, in the year of our Lord 1909, the biblical commentator H. A. Ironside published the following words in the introduction to his book The Minor Prophets:

There are six books of the Old Testament that may be read together most profitably. I refer to Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, of the historical part of the Bible, coupled with the prophetic messages of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Turning to the Wheel, we see the books he spoke of are the very books comprising Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 of the 15th, 16th, and 17th Spokes. And Ironside was not alone in this insight. J. S. Baxter, in his massive six volume survey of the entire Bible called Exploring the Book, closely examined the symmetric structure inherent in the traditional order of the Christian Canon. Of all the authors I have read, he came closer than any other to discovering the pattern of the Wheel. He began by grouping the first two divisions of the Canon - the five books of the Torah and the twelve historical books - under the general heading of historical and noted that "the first stretch of our Old Testament consists of seventeen historical books, falling in a natural sub-division of five and twelve." He then grouped the Major and the Minor Prophets under the general category of prophetical and stated, in complete agreement with Ironside, that:

It should always be born in mind that the last three of the seventeen prophetical books (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) should be read with the last three of the seventeen historical books (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther), for in both cases the three books are post-exilic.

This geometric correlation amongst these books can be mathematically measured by examining the distribution of words throughout Scripture. As a case in point, the name Zerubbabel - the prophet who led the rebuilding of the Temple after the Exile - is distributed on Spokes 15 and 16 such that the cc attains a value of .91. Simply stated, it is extremely improbably that this value happened by chance. This one distribution - which is but one of 32 documented on this site - gives powerful evidence that of the intelligent design of Scripture in the form of the Wheel.

The exile referred to the Babylonian exile that lasted seventy years, ending with the repatriation of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, as prophesied in Haggai and Zechariah and recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. It forms a natural subdivision in both the historical and prophetical portions of the Old Testament, yielding the following correspondence amongst these six books:

Post-Exilic Minor Prophets: Haggai  Zechariah Malachi
Post-Exilic OT History: Ezra Nehemiah  Esther

Baxter went on to explain this relation in more detail, emphasizing the precise numerical correspondence between these portions of Scripture:

Moreover, as the last twelve of the seventeen historical books further sub-divide themselves into nine and three, the first nine being pre-exilic, and the remaining three (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) being post-exilic, so is it with these twelve ‘minor’ prophets, i.e. the first nine are all pre-exilic, while the remaining three (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) are post-exilic; and these two terminal trios, the last three historical books and the last three prophetical, have a reciprocal correspondence with each other. 

Note that Baxter perceived the "reciprocal correspondence" between the OT History and Minor Prophets which we now understand to be a manifestation of the Wheel’s radial symmetry, as discussed in The Canon Wheel

Finally, referring to the five Wisdom books found in the geometric center of the Old Testament as ‘Experiential,’ Baxter presented the results of his analysis in the following symmetric fashion:

Historical Experiential Prophetical
5 . 9 . 3 = 17 5 5 . 9 . 3 = 17

Thus, there is an additional line of radial symmetry dividing between the 14th and 15th Spokes on Cycle 1 and Cycle 2. 

Yet there is more. Accepting the Book of Hebrews as a Pauline Epistle, (whether in fact or just in character, there being a debate as to authorship), integrates these results with the New Testament Epistles that constitute Cycle 3:

Pauline Epistles: 14 Books, Romans – Hebrews
Major and Pre-Exilic Minor Prophets: 14 Books, Isaiah – Zephaniah
The Law and Pre-Exilic History: 14 Books, Genesis – II Chronicles

Thus, all three Cycles of the Wheel are naturally subdivided between the 14th and 15th Spokes, with the Babylonian exile punctuating the first two Cycles (cf. Symmetries for an image). Precisely the same pattern is found in the text of Holy Scripture which uses both this number and this event in the structure of Matthew's genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ:

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.

The relation between this and the structure of the Wheel is particularly intriguing in light of the Bible as "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." All of this is amplified yet more by Matthew's specific emphasis upon Christ as the Son of David coupled with the identity David = 14 (cf. GR 14 ).

The three books immediately following the Pauline Epistles – James, I and II Peter – form another natural subdivision of the third Cycle. These books are unique amongst the Epistles in that they alone are specifically addressed to those scattered abroad, as we read in the opening verses of James and I Peter:

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

The theme of Scattering also appears in Psalm 60, corresponding to I Peter (Book 60). It is also significant that Peter closes his first Epistle with explicit reference to Babylon, saying, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you." The opening verses of these Epistles perfectly cohere with the subject matter of the post-exilic history and prophets, as seen in the prayer that opens the book of Nehemiah:

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations. But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Likewise, this same theme is found in the opening chapter of Zechariah, where reference to the scattering of the tribes thrice occurs:

Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. ... Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. And the LORD shewed me four carpenters. Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.

This means that the line of radial symmetry dividing between the 17th and 18th Spokes of Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 naturally extends to divide Cycle 3, thereby symmetrically partitioning all three Cycles of the Wheel: 

Epistles to the Scattered: James 1 Peter 2 Peter
Post-Exilic Minor Prophets: Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Post-Exilic OT History:  Ezra Nehemiah Esther

This "triplet of triplets" further subdivides until each Spoke is uniquely distinguished from all others. Just as the specific content of Genesis, Isaiah, and Romans uniquely coheres to form the first Spoke, so also the specific content of each of these vertical triplets naturally distinguishes between the 15th, 16th, and 17th Spokes. An obvious example of this phenomenon is found in the distribution of the name of the prophet Haggai. Outside of his own book, the name Haggai appears only in the Book of Ezra. This means that his name forms a unique link, a KeyLink, between Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 on Spoke 15 (cf. The Prophet Haggai). Any other arrangement of these books would destroy this profound bond. Results such as this are neither rare nor anomalous. They are a manifestation of the incomparable degree of precision, so obviously the work of Almighty God, that characterizes each Spoke of His Wheel.

The entire Bible naturally divides into the symmetric structure of the Canon Wheel, the Canon Wheel naturally subdivides into groups based on the Babylonian Exile, and these groups naturally subdivide until the fine-structure of each Spoke manifests, and all of this is coherently integrated with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the everlasting Gospel story. Glory to the God who gave us his eternal Word!

Continuing along the circle of Cycle 3, we see that the three books immediately following the Epistles to the Scattered – 1, 2, and 3 John – form yet another natural subdivision. These three books, "synoptic" in the sense of being authored by a single individual, are perfectly aligned with the three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – found on Cycle 2. Note also that the five books written by the Apostle John occupy the last five Spokes of the Wheel, with four residing on Cycle 3 and one strategically placed in the open slot on Cycle 2. Truly, there is no end to the wonders of God’s Word!

Fine-structure of the Canon Wheel

Gathering, for now, the last five books of Cycle 3 under the heading "Other Epistles," we arrive at the following partition of God's Word which reveals the fine-structure of the Canon Wheel:

Spokes 1 – 5 Spokes 6 – 14 Spokes 15 – 17 Spokes 18 – 22
The Pauline Epistles Epistles to
the Scattered
Minor Prophets
Minor Prophets
NT History
The Law Pre-Exilic
OT History
OT History

This is the great "foundation of the apostles and prophets" upon which everything on this site is built, with "Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." It is the intrinsic geometric structure of God's eternal Word, hidden in plain view throughout the many centuries that have passed since the Lord first sealed the biblical Canon. This, and many other beautiful patterns found in the Bible Wheel are discussed in the next article, Symmetries on the Bible Wheel.

Coming Full Circle

Having therefore come full circle – having viewed the Wheel from Aleph to Tav – and finding ourselves "compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses," let us now return to the statistical analysis introduced above, and ask the simple question: What is the probability that the blind history would produce the exact structure of the Wheel as we have it today? Following the same logic as above, we calculate the total number of ways to arrange the sixty-six books of the Bible:

66! = 66 x 65 x 64 x 63 x ... x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 5.44 x 1092

Written is standard decimal notation (to three significant digits), this number appears as:


This number is so far beyond all human experience that I hardly know how to describe it. It is 5.44 times 1 followed by 92 zeros! This is the number of ways blind chance could have produced the biblical Canon, if indeed blind chance had fallen upon the correct number of books in the first place! The miracle of God is that one, and only one, of all these possibilities produces the highly detailed symmetric structure we have only just begun to explore. Compare this with the number of ways to arrange a deck of cards, which is 52! = 8.1 x 1067. This number is quite small compared with 66!, the latter being about 1024 times larger. This means that it is about a million trillion trillion times more likely that the next time you shuffle some old mixed up deck of cards you will find it sorted by Suits and arranged in order from Deuce to Ace, than that the order of the Canon came to be by random chance. Yet, for all this, we have only just begun.

Next article: Symmetries on the Bible Wheel

1) Introduction,  Commentary on St. Pauls Epistle to the Romans, F. Godot D.D. Professor of Theology, Neuchatel. Translated from the French by Rev a. Cusin, M.A. Edinburgh. NY, Funk & Wagnalls, 1885   

2) pg vii, Introduction. The Epistle to the Romans: A study Manual, Gleason L. Archer, Baker book House, 1959 Grand Rapids


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