Introduction to Book Numbers

The total of all numbers in a passage of scripture references a book with a related passage.

How it Works

The books of the Bible are numbered 1 through 66. When a total in a passage of scripture is 1 through 66 it simply points to the book by that number. When the total exceeds 66 it wraps to book 1 and continues counting. It cycles the list of 66 books as many times as necessary. The Book Number Calculator does the math and conversion.


There are a few things to keep in mind when trying this:

  1. Determine the count
  2. The count is made of all numbers in a given passage of scripture. Determining the count is easy provided you can determine the start and end of the passage, which isn't always so easy. Sometimes context runs across paragraph and chapter breaks, so numbers you may not think belong in the count actually do. Other times numbers in one paragraph form a count and numbers in the next paragraph form a separate count because the subject matter has changed. The advice here is to slow down and read around the passage in question to make sure you aren't leaving any numbers out of your count or including numbers that belong in a different count. If it's difficult to determine the context you may have to build and test more than one count or move onto a passage where the count is easy to see.

  3. Ignore units
  4. This system utterly disregards units. It does not care if there are 4 years, 10 cubits, 13 people, and it all happened in the 3rd hour. That just means 30.

  5. Beware of ones/1s
  6. There's a term in Hebrew and Aramaic that is translated "one" or "1" throughout the Bible. This word is sometimes the number 1 and sometimes the personal pronoun one. Knowing the difference in English is easy, but because the original language term means both things it's unclear whether you always include the word in the count or only when it's being used as a number in the English grammar, or never. Be aware of this issue if you are studying a passage with a one/1. You might consider building the count with and without the one/1 to see which works better.

  7. Beware of conversions
  8. Translations treat references to time on the clock differently. Biblically, there are only hours of the day, like the "3rd hour," but some translations attempt to convert these time references to a modern form, like "9 o'clock in the morning." Passages with such conversions are broke in two ways. First, the conversions are always off by 1 hour because the Bible was written on 1-based math, but translators convert using a modern, zero-based, understanding of the clock. The 3rd hour actually converts to 8am, not 9am. Second, even if the conversion is done correctly, a converted number still breaks the count because it's value is different than the original language number. The workaround is to avoid translations with conversions or correct the terms by hand using the original language. This problem is most common in the Gospels and Acts.

  9. Beware of missing terms
  10. Consult a Hebrew concordance and you'll see that many numbers are not translated into English (apparently to help the meaning ;-). That means passages missing some of their numbers will not work as intended. So if a passage doesn't work, you might check to make sure none of the original terms are missing. This problem seems to land disproportionately on passages with many small and repeating numbers. Sticking with passages with a limited number of medium-to-large numbers should get you around this generally, but even if you have success you should check the original language to prove you don't have an accidental success.

  11. Use the correct language
  12. If you do get into the original languages to audit a count, make sure you use reference works built upon the Hebrew for the Old Testament and the Aramaic for the New Testament. The Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC) is the single most used Hebrew Old Testament and quite accessible through various tools. Most of western scholarship assumes a Greek New Testament, which is wrong. The Greek is a translation of the Aramaic, so the Aramaic Peshitta should be consulted when working from the New Testament. Unfortunately this is an area of more recent study and fewer tools exist, but you can find enough online to be dangerous. Search "aramaic primacy" to learn more.

  13. Check the count
  14. Should go without saying, but you need to check your count even if you use a calculator. Allowing a calculator to do the math prevents math errors, but it's easy to build the count wrong by reading a number wrong or typing it into the calculator wrong or accidentally leaving a number out of your count. So double check your count before you spend a lot of time looking for that supposed correlation in the wrong book.

  15. Look for correlations
  16. Sometimes the high-level theme of the book clearly agrees with the originating passage, but normally you are looking for a specific passage in the referenced book that shares several correlations with the originating passage. The larger the set of correlations the stronger the match. You are also looking for the matching passage to reveal a dimension of the originating passage (and vice versa) that would not otherwise be known. The correlations make the match sure and the differences reveal new meaning.