The Fathers of the Church have regarded numbers in Scripture as full of mystical meaning. Three, four, and their compounds, as well as seven, eight, and forty have a special spiritual signification. Three refers to God. He is past, present, and future. He is thrice holy; three times His name is pronounced in the priest’s blessing to the people (Numbers 6). Four is the symbol of the material world, of man, of God’s kingdom on earth. Seven (3 + 4) symbolizes the union of God with man. The seventh day, seventh year, the forty-ninth, (7 X 7) year were holy. Eight denotes perfection and completi,on. Twelve (3 X 4) is the number of the chosen people of God, represented by the twelve loaves of proposition. Saint Augustine, commenting on the twelve Apostles, claims great mystery in the signification of the number twelve. Twelve were chosen because there are twelve gates through which we enter the kingdom of God. Christ is the door, Christ is all the twelve, because He is in all twelve. The Apostles will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This signifies that they will judge all men, for there are four quarters of the world, East, West, North, and South. From the four winds shall the elect be gathered, for they are called in the Trinity, being baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Four multiplied by three is twelve. Pope Saint Gregory the Great, in his Lenten Hymn of the Divine Office, attaches a mystical significance to the numbers ten and four:
Ex more docti mystico
Servemus hoc iejunium
Deno dierum circulo
Ducto quater notissimo.
(Taught by mystic use, let us observe this fast which is completed in the well-known tenfold round of days taken four times.)
He compares the two and five talents mentioned in the Gospels to the two mental faculties, intellect and will; and the five senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, i.e., outward knowledge; all gifts of God, given to merit eternal reward. Saint Ambrose says that Saint Luke gives four of Our Lord’s Beatitudes (Luke 6), Saint Matthew eight (Matthew 5), but in those eight are contained these four, and in these four, those eight. In the four are embraced the cardinal virtues, and in those eight, they are set forth in a number full of mystery.
- “mystical numbers”. . CatholicSaints.Info. 9 August 2013. Web. 1 October 2016. <>