Threesology Research Journal
Examples of "Threes"-oriented Web Pages
page 11

~ The Study of Threes ~

The following are references culled from other websites regarding patterns-of-three that may or may not explicitly nor specifically reference the number 3 as the primary objective with respect to the information presented. Please give all respective authors their due credits. Links to their websites are provided following each section.

Are the many triads in the Bible and in our experience
pointing us toward the ultimate
Triad of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Numbers in the Bible
By Edward Kalinowski

Numbers in the Bible have interested, even fascinated people through the ages. One prominent Catholic theologian, St. Augustine, showed more than just a curiosity about biblical numbers.

At least 15 numbers stand out in the Bible: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 30, 40, 50 and 70. In order to strengthen this statement, one or two biblical examples are given.

  • The number "one" signifies absolute singleness. (Eph. 4:4-6. I cite one source here and presume the reader need no more as most of the biblical information is common knowledge.)
  • The number "two" indicates witness and support. The Ten Commandments were written on two stones. Jesus’ disciples were sent out in twos.
  • The number "three" is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. It is the number of unity, of accomplishment, and of the universe. The human race is traced to Noah’s three sons. Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted three years; he rose from the dead on the third day; and the Trinity is three Divine Persons in one God.
  • The number "four" is more of an earth-related number: four directions; four seasons; and four horsemen of the Tribulation.
  • The number "five" is the number of grace. There were five wise virgins; and five barley loaves used by Jesus to feed the 5000.
  • "Six" is the number pertaining to man. The world was created in six days. Israel marched around Jericho six times.
  • "Seven" is considered God’s number or the number of divine perfection because after the creation, God rested on the seventh day. Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 times 7.
  • "Eight" is the new beginning number. Eight were saved from the flood. Circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day.
  • "Nine" is the fullness of blessings number. The fruit of the Spirit is ninefold.
  • "Ten" is said to be the human government number. The northern kingdom had ten tribes. The revived Roman Empire will consist of ten nations.
  • "Twelve" is the divine government number. There were 12 tribes of Israel. Christ chose 12 apostles.
  • "Thirty" is associated with sorrow and mourning. Israel mourned for Moses for 30 days.
  • "Forty" is the number for trial and testing. It rained for 40 days during the flood. Moses spent 40 years in the desert. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Lent has 40 days.
  • "Fifty" is connected to celebration. Pentecost occurred 50 days after Christ’s resurrection.
  • "Seventy" is the number associated with human committees and judgment. Moses appointed 70 elders. The Sanhedrin was made up of 70 men. Jesus chose 70 disciples. Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 times 7.

All these numbers, as important and interesting as they are, are not—in my opinion—as intriguing as the number "three.

Why are there so many "threes" in the Bible? Is the dynamic of the universe triadic? Do the natural and supernatural worlds contain a triadic dynamism that emulates the Creator of both worlds?

Over the centuries, outstanding thinkers such as Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, George W.F. Hegel, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx (more notorious than outstanding), Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber, David Foster, and others have emphasized triadic entelechies in their writings. The power of their theories contains a structure of triads.

Aristotle pondered and expounded the three main distinctions of act and potentiality, matter and form, substance and accident in his philosophy. Some 1600 years later, Thomas Aquinas elaborated further on these entities in his extensive treatise, Summa Theologica.

Augustine wrote copiously on the Trinity in philosophy and theology. His De Trinitate is replete with triads. One of Augustine’s principal ideas concerns Trinitarian vestiges and images existing in man and other creatures.

Dante’s fascination for the number three appears repeatedly in his magnum opus, La Divina Commedia. This Christian allegorical poem has three main sections and three main characters: Dante, Virgil and Beatrice. The plot is timed from Good Friday to Easter —three days. Dante visits three places —hell, purgatory and heaven. Lucifer has three mouths with which he chews the heads of the three traitors, namely, Judas, Cassius and Brutus.

The idealist philosopher, Hegel, theorized that the world’s dynamic was actually a notion of contradiction: a dialectic consisting of thesis, antithesis, and a synthesis evolving from the destruction of the first two—in short —a dynamic triad.

Kierkegaard, the existentialist theological thinker, viewed human existence in three stages: the aesthetic stage exemplified by hedonism and abstract intellectualism (this would include the Hollywood types and atheistic professors); the ethical stage which encompasses duty, work and citizenship but lacks moral involvement (quite a few politicians belong to this group); and the religious stage which fulfills the self. People who devote their lives to God are in the religious stage.

The Communist, Marx, borrowed ("purloined" is a better word) the Hegelian triad of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; coupled it with Ludwig Feurbach’s materialism (Marx was not really original), and produced dialectical materialism, also known as Marxism.

Freud also thought in triplets. He was convinced that the human psyche was composed of id, ego and superego. He believed that the mind was the battleground of conflicting impulses coming from those three theoretical factions. The id is the mind’s animal pleasure-seeking principle; the superego is similar to conscience; and the ego is like a referee trying to mediate between the two and at the same time dealing with external realities. (Why does that smack of Catholic doctrine?)

Buber in his writings and especially in this book, I and Thou (Ich und Du) examines three spheres of life, namely, our life with nature, our life with men, and our life with intelligible forms.

The atheist, the agnostic, and the man from Missouri may admit these writers, philosophers, and theologians posit interesting points, but might it be just theory, supposition, and hypothesis? They want to be shown. The scientific consultant, David Foster, proves that "threes" exist in areas other than the abstract. He writes in his book, The Philosophical Scientists (Dorset Press): "The evidence appears to be that the basic DNA code (the letters C, A, G, T, taken three at a time to make syllables) has never changed in the history of the Earth. Nature uses the same code system whether it wishes to make a single cell organism or an elephant. This could suggest that the code is innate in nature. What the molecular biologists have shown is that although the vocabulary has four letters (C, A, G, T), these group in threes to form ‘codons’ or what I have called syllables. Thus, typical syllables are: CAG, TGA, ACT, GAT, etc."

Dr. Foster claims no philosophical, religious, or theological connection. His conclusions have been reached by purely scientific and mathematical investigation. The most significant feature about Dr. Foster’s findings show that at the core of every living cell—the basic DNA code—a triadic structure exists. Did God leave his logo, his trademark, his signature to show that the universe was designed by him?

Can we posit that the codon triplets in the DNA code suggest that all of nature down to our basic genetic code reflects the Trinity? Are they facsimiles of a greater reality? Did God superimpose threeness on nature when he said: "Let us make man in our image after our likeness?" (Gen. 1:26).

The existence of Three Divine Persons in one God is a ponderous question that will never be answered on this side of the veil. The concept of the Trinity is beyond human understanding. The central mystery of the Christian Faith is that in one God there are three Persons: one in nature, co-equal, uncreated and existing with no beginning and no end.

If the Trinity is a mystery beyond human understanding, why then even try proving it? As Catholics we have to take a stand for the Trinity. If the Trinity exists and we disbelieve that Jesus is God, then we degrade him, to say the least, and may cast our soul into hell, to say the worst. On the other hand, if the Trinity is false, we degrade Almighty God to call another his equal, to say the least, and we would be worshiping a false god to say the worst. The latter is what non-Christians stumble over.

Non-Christians repudiate the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit smacks to them of three separate gods, which of course no intelligent Christian could accept. We abide by the First Commandment: "I, the Lord, am your God, you shall have no other gods besides me."

Our limited intelligence prohibits an understanding of the Trinity. Three Divine Persons in one God is heavy stuff. The best we can come up with are analogies. One that comes to mind is the three forms of H2O, namely, liquid (water), solid (ice), and gas (steam). The nature, the essence—that which makes a thing what it is—of all three states is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen even though appearing in the forms of water, ice, and steam.

But a somewhat deeper explanation of the logic behind the Trinity is posited when the Bible tells us that God is love. Love needs an object to love, therefore, without the Son and the Holy Spirit, who would be the object of God’s love before the Creation? From St. Augustine’s frame of reference, we can point out that God the Father spoke of Jesus as his Beloved Son in whom he was well pleased (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).

We can focus on the Triad of the Father being the Lover, the Son being the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of Love. The Supreme Lover sends his Beloved to save man from his corrupt aesthetic and ethical stages—to use Kierkegaardian terms; and man in his aesthetic and ethical stages kills the Beloved of God, who then asks the Lover to "forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Then 50 days (Pentecost) after the resurrection of the Beloved of God, the Holy Spirit is sent to console man in the hope of raising him to the religious stage—to interject another Kierkegaardian term.

The word "Trinity" does not show up in the Bible as Unitarians, especially Jehovah Witnesses, are quick to tell you. If the Bible—and that includes the Old and New Testaments —is from God, then every word, every sentence, every paragraph, yea, and every nuance are to be read as a message from him. Consequently, when the number three occurs and recurs throughout Holy Scripture, serious biblical students ask the question: What is it about the number three that the Holy Spirit is telling us?

Our curiosity if first piqued when reading Gen. 1:26, wherein God said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." In Gen. 3:22, God again uses the plural pronoun: "See! The man has become like one of us."

Why did God use the plural pronouns "us" and "our"? Did these words refer to the Trinity? Or was God speaking to Jesus, who, certain religions claim, was created millenniums before God created man? According to some Jehovah Witnesses with whom I spar from time to time, that would account for God’s use of the plural pronouns. That hypothesis lacks true scholarly biblical exegesis.

Sacred Scripture and creation abound in numbers. To believers, material things are symbols of spiritual realities and relationships. Might this be why so many threes are contained in the Bible? If all things—great and small—are created in the "image and likeness of God," that is, the Trinity, then it would follow that the Trinity would show itself symbolically in a triadic manner in creation. Call it coincidental, but might it be that the number three is God’s "chosen" number? God indeed makes choices. He chose Abel’s offerings over Cain’s. He chose the Jews over the other people of the world to be his "Chosen People." He chose Saul— a known Pharisee who was initially anti-Christ to be his apostle to the Gentiles. And so on.

To believing Christians, the history of the world is divided into three periods: the Old Covenant, the New Covenant and that period which will begin with the return of Christ.

Reference to threes, which begins in Genesis, continues on into the New Testament. In Gen. 22:4, Abraham "got sight of the place" to sacrifice Isaac after a three-day journey. So what’s so special about a three-day journey? Nothing in itself, but as we shall see many occurrences come in threes in the Bible inducing the biblical student to wonder why.

  • In Gen. 15:9, the Lord requests "a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat and a three-year-old ram."
  • Noah had three sons—Shem, Japheth and Ham—according to Genesis, and all the peoples of the world are traced back to them.
  • In the third month after departing Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the Sinai desert (Exod. 19:1). God instructed Moses to tell the people to wash their clothes "and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people" (Exod. 19:11).
  • In Exod. 23:14, God says: "Three times every year you shall celebrate feasts to me. In Exod. 23:17, God says: "Thrice a year shall all your men appear before the Lord God."
  • Samson lied to Delilah three times before he revealed to her the source of his strength (Jud. 16:15).
  • The Jews observe three great feast days: Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of the Tabernacles.
  • The biblical use of the three in number continues to intrigue us as we read in Dan. 2:49, "And Daniel requested of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the work of the province of Babylon." When these three Israelites refused to bow down to the Chaldean gods, they— Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego— were thrown into a furnace of fire. "Then these three as one mouth praised and glorified the blessed God in the furnace" (Dan. 3:51). Does that quote ring a bell? Especially, the phrase, "these three as one."

  • Isaiah mentions three times that the wicked will have no peace (Isa. 48:22, 57:21, 59:8).
  • God told Joshua three times to be courageous.
  • Daniel faithfully prayed to God three times a day. Three men appeared at Abraham’s tent. Jonah was in the belly of a whale for three days.
  • Significance to the number three continues more manifest as we go into the New Testament. The Bible is a serious book wherein God speaks through the prophets and apostles. Therefore, the use of triplets concerning events aroused my curiosity to check further.
  • Tradition asserts that three wise men—kings, if you wish— Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior, brought three gifts— gold, frankincense and myrrh— to present to the newborn Jesus. As they were reportedly kings from the Orient, why did they come as a trio without an entourage as kings usually do? Why only three gifts instead of a dozen?

  • It took Mary and Joseph three days to find Jesus in the temple. The Holy Family was composed of three: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Christ was tempted by the devil three times.
  • Three apostles—Peter, James and John—accompanied Jesus at the Transfiguration. Elijah and Moses appeared with Christ, making it three.
  • On the road to Calvary, Jesus fell three times. Although Jesus lived 33 years on earth, he lived only three of them publicly. Jesus asked the Father in prayer three times to spare him the agony of the cross. Three Marys were at the crucification: Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
  • In the Agony in the Garden, Christ returned three times to find his apostles asleep.
  • The Romans, who usually crucified law-breakers five, seven and more at a time, chose on that solemn, momentous day to hand three: Jesus and two thieves. Jesus died after three hours of agony on the cross. According to Romans in charge of crucifixions, crucified persons did not die so soon. Some lingered for days. Was Jesus’ three-hour agony a further sign of the "threeness" that filled his life?
  • Jesus arose from the dead on the third day; not the second or the fourth, but the third. Peter denied Jesus three times; not twice, but thrice. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Why ask three times? Jesus was not coincidental nor incidental, therefore, we assume he had reason for asking three times. The words of Jesus had and have meaning. When God speaks, it behooves us to listen, repetition notwithstanding.

  • At the risk of impacting this article with triadic events, occasions, and other happenings, the list continues.
  • When Jesus was crucified, Pilate insisted —much to the chagrin of the Pharisees— that the epithet on the cross be inscribed in three languages: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Isn’t it interesting that the main languages of that period of history in that particular part of the world were three in number— Latin, Greek and Hebrew?
  • After he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul could not see for three days, and he neither ate or drank.
  • The books of the Bible were originally written in one of the three following languages: Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.
  • Three archangels are mentioned by name in the Bible: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
  • Dionysius writes that the celestial hierarchy, the community of angels, is divided into three hierarchies, and in each hierarchy are the three choirs or orders of angels. In the uppermost hierarchy are the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. In the second hierarchy are Dominions, Virtues and Powers. In the third hierarchy are Principalities, Archangels and Angels. St. Thomas mentions these hierarchies in his "Divine Government" in the Summa.

  • Moving on we find triads still appearing. Reportedly, as St. Francis lay prostrate in prayer in the Church at San Damiano, Jesus, from the crucifix, commanded him three times to repair the Church that was being ruined from within and without: "Francis, go and build up My house which as thou seest, is falling into ruin."
  • When our Blessed Lady directed Bernadette: "Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself," at Lourdes on February 25, 1858, Bernadette obeyed. She states: "The water was so dirty that three times I threw it away. The fourth time, I was able to drink it."
  • The message of Fatima has Trinitarian symbolism. The angel appeared three times. The angel repeated prayers three times. The spinning sun reportedly descended in a zigzag motion toward the earth three times, then resumed its normal position. Three children received three messages.
  • Karol Joseph Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) was the third child of Karol (Sr.) and Emilia Wojtyla.
  • The three theological virtues are faith, hope and charity. There are three types of love: agape, philia and eros. Plato spoke of man’s tripartite soul consisting of reason, desire and spirit. Three preternatural gifts are infused knowledge, absence of concupiscence, and bodily immortality. The three Western religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Even in Greek and Roman mythology the fates are three in number.

  • Language is composed of three degrees: positive, comparative and superlative. There are three genders: feminine, masculine and neuter. Three states exist in equilibrium: liquid, vapor and solid. Measurement has three modes: length, width and thickness. Time is past, present and future. The planet which we know contains life and to which God seems to pay special attention, namely, Earth, happens to be in the third orbit from the sun.

  • The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, reminds us that "the world is charged with the grandeur of God." Are these "triads" in our experience pointing us toward the ultimate Triad of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

--- Numbers in the Bible ---

Latest Updated Posting: Saturday, 17-June-2007... 4:08 PM
Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland