In modern society, people tend to group things in sets of three, for instance, the Rule of Three (Latin: omne trium perfectum) in which things, whether good or bad, come in threes. The number three has been considered by mathematicians to be a perfect numeral. When three is multiplied by any number, the sum of the resulting digits will also be a multiple of three. For instance, 3 x 24 = 72, (7 + 2 = 9), 9 is divisible by three; and 3 x 5446 = 16338, (1+6+3+3+8 = 21), 21 is divisible by three. This process only occurs with the number three.
Some sources claim the number three is used 467 times in the Bible and other sources claim there are more. There are 27 books in the New Testament, which, using the process mentioned above, is a number divisible by three. It is also the result of 3 x 3 x 3 or 3 to the power of three.
Many things in the Christian faith come in sets of three, for instance, the Holy Trinity (“tri” meaning three) that is an amalgamation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Also, God is considered to have three attributes: omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. There are considered to be three Patriarchs: Abel, Enoch and Noah, and after the Great Flood, three righteous Father’s: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel)
Most significant, perhaps, were the three days Christ lay dead until his Resurrection: “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’” (Matthew 27:63, NIV) Prior to this, Jesus had prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest (Matthew 26:36-46) and, during hiscrucifixion, darkness covered the land for three hours. Matthew 27:45 (NIV) “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.”
At Christmas time, our Nativity plays usually feature three Wise Men or Magi. The Bible, however, does not state how many of magi visited the infant Jesus, however, they brought with them three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Let’s take a look at the other examples of the number three I have found:
Do you have any other Biblical examples of the number three? What do you think the significance is if any?
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon