There is nothing more exciting than seeing something new in scripture. But with every new discovery, we need to ask: is what I have ‘discovered’ really there, or is it a figment of my imagination? Was it in the mind or intention of the author – or is it my creation as a reader?

This is particularly important in numerology. In the world of the Bible, there was no separate number system, so letters served as numbers, and thus every word has a numerical value. Numbers were concrete, not abstract, so counting seven signs, seven churches, four Gospels and 14 letters of Paul (if you include Hebrews) mattered in a way that we find odd. To open the Bible is to travel to another country.

Jason Sobel, a messianic Jew, seeks to take us into this world. In his opening he notes that ‘leper’, the crossshaped letter tav, ‘grain’, ‘harvest’, ‘pour out’ and ‘compassion’ all have the numerical value 400. Therefore we can see that Jesus died (like grain) on the cross to reap a harvest so we (‘lepers’) would be healed and God in his compassion would not pour out judgement on us. The summary is true, but the numerical logic is fanciful – he mixes Greek and Hebrew, and offers no evidence that the biblical writers were making the connections in the way he suggests.

Every page of the book is like this. There are one or two nuggets – but they need careful sifting from the large quantity of fool’s gold.