5.4.2. John Napier and the subsequent evolution of numerology

5.4.2. John Napier and the subsequent evolution of numerology

Almost 50 years had to pass until mathematicians and numerologists such as the English John Napier of Merchistoun, the inventor of the logarithms, or the German Johannes Faulhaber of Ulm, who combined the real mathematical talent with the eschatological fervor, produced numerological contributions as valuable as Stifel’s.582

Napier’s A plaine discovery of the whole Revelation of St. John… from 1563 is a serious, laborious and anti-papal work created over a period of about five years, impelled by the sermon of the Scottish Reformist Christopher Goodman:

For in my tender yeares … being attentive to the Sermons of that worthie man of God, Maister Christopher Goodman, teaching vpon the Apocalyps, I was so mooved in admiration, against the blindnes of Papists, that could not most evidently see their seven-hilled citie Rome, painted out there so lively by Saint John, as the mother of all spirituall whoredome … I determined with myselfe (by the assistance of Gods spirit) to employ my studie and diligence to search out the remnant mysteries of that holy book.583

Written in English, the language of the many, instead of Latin, the language of the elites, the work aimed to properly prepare the general public for when it would have to oppose the evil one. Even though the book was dedicated to King James VI, Napier did not hesitate to warn him that justice would be done against all the enemies of God’s Church, and advised him to reform the monstrosities from his country, starting with his family, house and court.584

Napier excelled in mathematics, but A plaine discovery… is rather a book of theology than of numerology, within which Revelation suffers an ample interpretation. The fulfillment of the prophecy is observable, provable and precise. Unlike Stifel, in Napier’s case the calculations are much more limited, because he aims to unlock meanings and symbols depending on the types of the sentences. However, like a mathematical analysis, A plaine discovery… is formed of guiding sentences numbered like axioms or mathematical laws, each followed by an extensive analysis:

The First Proposition. In the propheticall dates of daies, weeks, moneths and years, euery common propheticall day is taken as a yeare.

2. Proposition. The seven Trumpets of the 8. and 9. chapters, and the seven Vials of the 16. Chapter, are all one.

3. Proposition. The star and locusts of the fifth trumpet, are not the greate Antichrist and his Cleargie, but the dominator of the turkes and his armie, who began their dominion, in anno Christi 1051.

4. Proposition. The Kinges of the east, or four Angels, specified in the sixt trumpet, or sixt vial. Cap. 9 & 16.are the four nations, Mahometanes beyond and about Euphrates, who began their empire by Ottoman, in the year of Christ, 1296. or thereabout.585

The determination of the years 1256 and 1051 was based on a comparison between the prophecies described in Revelation and historical events from that time. Because 1,296 – 1,051 = 245, then:

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An important contribution to the numerological Protestant effort came also from the German linguist Andreas Helwig, who in 1612 published Antichristus Romanus, in proprio suo nomine, numerum illum Apocalypticum (DCLXVI) continente proditus. Helwig took 15 titles in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and calculated their equivalent numbers until he reached the number 666. He mainly focused upon the Latin expression Vicarius Filii Dei because it satisfied all the conditions required by the cardinal Roberto Bellarmine. The expression Vicarius Filii Dei (the “Representative of the Son of God”) – a so-called title of the Papacy – appeared for the first time in the 8th century within the forged document Donatio Constantini: “as the Blessed Peter is seen to have been constituted vicar of the Son of God on the earth, so the Pontiffs.”590

In the 13th century the expression Vicarius Filii Dei reappeared in Corpus Juris Canonici of the Catholic Church, which paraphrased Donatio Constantini.591 Then, in the 14th century, at the order of Pope John XXII, Agostino Trionfo wrote Summa de potestate ecclesiastica, a work meant to defend and to legitimate the ecclesiastical and secular power of the Papacy. Within it, Trionfo used more than 80 variants of the expression vicarius dei when referring to the Papacy.592 Even nowadays different official documents from the Vatican contain strings of words such as “the vicar of the adored Son of God and Leader Who conferred the highest authority to the eternal and sacred Church.”593

According to Helwig’s analysis, VICarIVs fILII DeI = 5 + 1 + 100 + 1 + 5 + 1 + 50 + 1 + 1 + 500 + 1 = 666, where “U” is taken as “V.” Helwig suggested that the alleged title is an extension of the historical title Vicarius Christi (the “Representative of Christ”), rather than an official title used by the popes. Nevertheless, his interpretation became popular at the time of the French Revolution,594 when some Protestants claimed that Vicarius Filii Dei was an official title of the Papacy and it was engraved on the mitre or the tiara of the popes.

The expression Vicarius Filii Dei had different versions as well. In 1617 the English Puritan Richard Bernard published Key of knowledge for the opening of the secret mysteries of St John’s mystical Revelation in which he analyzed the Latin expression Generalis Dei Vicarius in Terris (the “Universal Representative of the Lord on Earth”). In 1625 the Puritan Thomas Beard analyzed the same expression, but with the order of the words changed: Vicarius Dei Generalis in Terris.595

Although it was denounced as a forgery since the time of Otto III, Donatio Constantini was officially rejected by the Catholic Church only about the time Helwig published Antichristus Romanus…. Ever since, the Catholic Church has denied the existence of a title Vicarius Filli Dei for the popes, the issue being categorized as an “anti-Catholic myth.” Nevertheless, the title and its numerical calculation have continued to be a controversial topic, being revived whenever different individuals or groups aimed to blame and demonize the pope and the Catholic Church. It has been used especially by groups from America who aimed to emphasize their purity in contrast to the uncleanness of Catholicism.

The Protestant “awakening” fueled for a long time the idea that there is a number of elected people (naturally, Protestants) who have access to prophetic secrets. Same as Stifel and Napier, the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, an enthusiast of apocalyptic prophecies, affirmed that “the prophecies are to be unintelligible to the wicked … but they are to be intelligible to those who are well informed.”596 The same image guided the German Johannes Faulhaber of Ulm as well, whose numerological work represents the apogee of using the science of mathematics in eschatological research. For Faulhaber numbers, as abstract concepts, represented the building blocks of the real world, some sort of atoms, the ultimate molecules. The entire Universe is ordered through numbers and nothing can exist outside numbers. Not even time could exist without numbers, time itself or the passing of time being in fact the changing of numbers.

Faulhaber considered that from the infinity of numbers which emanate from God, he gave man, through the Bible, the knowledge of only a couple of numerological clues: 2,300, 1,290, 1,335, 666, 1,260, 1,600 and 1,000. Through these numbers, those with faith and wisdom could unravel the secrets of the Universe. Given the fact that great mathematicians and philosophers of the Antiquity knew nothing about these biblical numbers, the German mathematician believed that God intended to hide them until …

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