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From the December 1910 issue of The Christian Science Journal

MUCH of the teaching of the Scriptures is of a symbolic character which served to make the truth more intelligible to the reader, and which may have protected it from the mockery of the scoffer. Our Leader writes in Science and Health (p. 575) that "spiritual teaching must always be by symbols." The name of a Bible character was sometimes changed to symbolize a change of thought; for example, as Jacob grew in spiritual understanding his name was changed to Israel. Saul became Paul when he was spiritually enlightened. The Master changed Simon's name to Peter, signifying a rock.

The parable is a characteristic oriental way of teaching spiritual truths, a very engaging, interesting, and impressive method; indeed, as Cruden tells us, "the parabolical, enigmatical, figurative, and sententious way of speaking was the language of the eastern sages and learned men." The prophets of the Old Testament made use of the parable, which reached perfection in the hand of the Master in the New Testament. The shepherd has ever been a favorite type of religious thought, and the word pastor means shepherd. Sheep are symbols of God's elect, and the relation between Christ Jesus and his followers is figuratively compared to the shepherd's relation to his flock. The shepherd's crook became a scepter or badge of authority in the hand of a ruler. The lamb has always been an emblem of purity, and the lamb slain for the Passover seems to have become a type of the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." Fire, as well as water, is used as a type of purification. Sea becomes a symbol of chaos, and the sea-serpent represents evil personified. In St. John's vision of the new heaven and new earth "there was no more sea."

Numbers had a special significance for the Hebrews and other oriental nations, which we do not in all cases understand. Certain numbers, as seven, ten, forty, one hundred, were types of completeness. The number three had peculiar significance, and was regarded as specially mystical; for instance, in its application to the Trinity, the threefold nature of God. Holy was repeated three times, and the form of the priestly blessing was threefold. Isaiah walked barefoot for three years, and Daniel prayed three times daily. Jonah was three days in the depths. The three temptations of Jesus correspond to the threefold temptation in Eden. Jesus' ministration lasted three years, and he was in the sepulcher three days, working out the great problem of life for all ages. Baptism was in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and there were three baptismal elements which typified purification, namely, water, fire, and wind. Faith, hope, and charity are the three great Christian virtues operating through Christian Science in leavening the three measures of meal, the conditions of mortal thought in this age.

Four is said by some to symbolize the world or humanity. There were four rivers in Eden. The four fiery creatures of Ezekiel's vision represented the archangels; they also are thought to have stood for the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The early Christians explained them as emblems of the four evangelists who wrote the four Gospels. The four "beasts" of the Apocrypha received the same explanation. In Daniel's vision there were four winds and four beasts. St. John saw in his vision the "holy city" which "lieth foursquare," and this is explained in our textbook as a spiritual city, having for its four sides "the Word, Christ, Christianity, and divine Science" (p. 575).

Five appears in the table of punishments and requirements, and in some cases of theft it was necessary to restore fivefold what had been stolen. Five sums up the material senses which can never recognize Spirit. David took five stones when he went against Goliath, who stood as a type of gross materialism. Five loaves fed the multitude, because Jesus knew that supply is really spiritual, even though to mortal sense it is manifested materially. The five wise virgins have been understood to typify those who have overcome the corporeal senses and are ready to enter the kingdom of God. The five foolish virgins may likewise symbolize those who are self-indulgent servants of the "law of sin and death." The five husbands of the Samaritan woman may stand for the five corporeal senses that had ruled her thought and conduct.

Seven is said to appear over five hundred times in the Bible. It may denote plurality or completeness, and implies perfection, perhaps because seven days completed the week. A great number of striking events are set forth by this number. We read that God rested on the seventh day, and blessed it. Noah waited seven days before sending out the dove. The dove has been used as a symbol of the Holy Ghost, of purity, of peace, and of innocence. Not only was the seventh day honored among the Jews, but the seventh year, and the seven times seven or forty-ninth year. Jacob served seven years for each of Laban's daughters. Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat oxen and seven lean ones, of seven full ears of corn and seven blasted ones. Seven priests bore seven trumpets seven days around the walls of Jericho. The walls fell when the trumpets were blown the seventh time on the seventh day. The result of this concerted action proved the strength of unity in thought and deed, and it should encourage us to become at-one with God, working together for the advancement of our great cause.

The Nazarite Samson had seven locks of hair, which were the supposed cause of his phenomenal strength. Seven loaves, blessed by the Master, fed the multitude on a second occasion, and seven baskets were left, proving that God could furnish a table in the wilderness. Seven devils were cast out of Mary Magdalene, which seems to imply that she was completely healed of her errors, and was made ready to discern the Master after his resurrection. St. John explains that the seven stars in the right hand of the Son of man were the angels of the seven churches; that is, they may represent the divine glory of God's messengers. The seven candlesticks were to symbolize the seven churches, the light of the world. It is recorded in Revelation that the voicing of Truth excited peal upon peal of the "seven thunders" of error. The great red dragon with its seven heads, and having seven crowns upon its heads as if to glory in its shame, seems to typify the raging carnal mind full of hate and depravity. The seven vials full of the seven last plagues seem to symbolize the highest form of mortal error, nevertheless neither dragon nor plagues can prevail against the manifestation of Truth which opens the seals and overcomes the dragon, thus ending the battle between flesh and Spirit. The Apocalyptic Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes,—"which are the seven Spirits of God."

Ten, the number of fingers on the two hands, is said to symbolize completeness, harmony. The commandments given by God to Moses were ten, and this number must have been significant to all Israel. Our Leader tells us that "the ten horns of the dragon typify the belief that matter has power of its own, and that by means of an evil mind in matter the Ten Commandments can be broken" (Science and Health, p. 563). The lie that evil had power was seen to be destroyed by the radiance of Truth.

Twelve, the multiple of three and four, is a very significant Bible number. The heads of the twelve tribes of Israel were with Moses on Mount Sinai to receive the commandments from God. The twelve tribes were represented by the twelve stones in the high priest's breastplate. Jesus was twelve years of age when he visited the temple, and Jairus' daughter was twelve when she was restored to life by the Master. The apostles were twelve in number, corresponding to the twelve tribes. The woman in Revelation who had upon her head a crown of twelve stars is of deepest interest to those who have felt the touch of healing in Christian Science, and the stars will shine for all who overcome the temptations that beset the Israelites and that are still tempting each one of us today.

Thirty, the multiple of three and ten, was the age prescribed by the Levites to serve in the temple. It was the age of David when he began to reign, and of Joseph when he stood before Pharaoh. John the Baptist and Jesus were also thirty when they began their ministry. It was for thirty pieces of silver that Judas betrayed the Saviour of mankind. Forty, four multiplied by ten, numbers the days spent by Moses on Mount Sinai, by Elijah on Mount Horeb, by the Master on the mount of temptation. The forty years of temptation, during Israel's wandering in the wilderness of doubt, are paralleled by the forty days of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. There were three periods of forty years each in Moses' life. The Philistine giant Goliath defied Israel for forty days; David and Solomon each reigned for forty years; Jesus spent forty days on the earth after his resurrection. Fifty, five multiplied by ten, measures the days from the deliverance from Egypt to the time when the law was given from Sinai. Pentecost means the fiftieth day, and was a period of thanksgiving celebrated fifty days after the Passover. The Christian Pentecost commemorated the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. This occurred on the Jewish Pentecostal day, just fifty days after Easter or the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. This influx of light enabled the disciples to do "many wonders."

Seventy is the multiple of the perfect numbers seven and ten. There were seventy elders of Israel called up into the mountain with Moses, and this seems to be the origin of the Sanhedrin or supreme council, consisting of seventy members, who were clothed with authority to regulate judicial proceedings. There is an analogy between this body and the seventy sent out by Jesus clothed with such power to heal and to preach the kingdom of heaven that they could say, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name." When we invoke the heavenly Father to forgive us, we do well to remember that the Master commanded that men should forgive seventy times seven. There is no forgiveness until we conquer all hate and return good for evil. When clothed with humility, the thought is opened to the inflowing of love and we judge no man.

The letter of symbolism may be very interesting, but it is profitable only as we lay hold upon the substance for which it stands, and the teaching of Christian Science is distinctive in this, that it always lays its emphasis upon the spiritual values of the spoken or written word, and it thus escapes that slough of contention into which literalists are forever falling.

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