Thursday, August 9, 2007

What do the Bible and Math have in common? Greek!

A large percentage of common mathematical terms have their origin in the Greek language...which is also the language of the New Testament. (The remainder, including terms such as radius and milli-, are primarily Latin.) Reading John 6:1-15, the story of the feeding of the 5,000, brought this back to mind, for it contains the following "Greek" numbers (my spellings are very approximate attempts at how they might have been pronounced):

5 loaves and 2 fishes (vs. 9, 13): The Greek numbers are "pente" (think: pentagon) and "duo" (the "o" would have probably have a short sound, not a long one).

12 baskets (vs. 13): The Greek number is "dodeka" (long "o" sound this time). Not a familiar-sounding number to you? Just think of the dodecagon (a 12-sided polygon) or dodecahedron (a 12-sided polyhedron with 5-sided faces).

5,000 (vs. 10): Yes, it has the "penta" root in it. It also has a portion of the word that might be a "kilo" in it...but I'm not scholarly enough in Greek to know for certain. Kilo-, of course, means one thousand.

But also in vs. 10, it says that the men were "in number about five thousand." What is the Greek word used here for "number"? Try "arithmon": The same root as arithmetic.

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