In her third book on Mary Magdalene, Margaret Starbird uses gematria to resurrect secrets hidden in the Koiné (Greek) New Testament about the union of Jesus of Nazareth with the “lost feminine.” Gematria is like numerology, except that in Greek each letter of the alphabet is a different number, whereas in the  modern numerology we’re familiar with, each number up to 9 has three letters assigned to it.


The authors of the New Testament used gematria—a literary device whereby the sums of certain phrases produce significant sacred numbers—to convey special concepts. The practice of assigning numerical values to words was apparently common in the ancient world. … Certain names, epithets, and phrases of Scripture, both Hebrew and Greek, were carefully constructed so that their gematria would be consistent with the sacred numbers of classical cosmology (pp. 2-3).


When Jerome and other early fathers of the church translated the scriptures into Latin, the gematria was lost, but now we have computers to do complex searches and find the sacred numbers again. (If you’ve heard of The Bible Code, it’s the same sort of occult detective work.)


After explaining the significance of the male fire triangle r and the female water triangle s, Starbird shows how they combine to form the hexagram sometimes called Solomon’s Seal, sometimes the Star of David Y. This hexagram is the symbol for “fusion,” or the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) a common concept and practice throughout the ancient world that was entirely rejected by the early Fathers of the Church as well as modern literal believers in the holy books. (If you’ve read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, you’ll recognize Starbird’s work as the source of Brown’s information. Brown and Starbird also appeared on an ABC television special in early November, 2003, that introduced the possible marriage of Jesus and Magdalene to a mainstream audience. One of the experts said there was no way the “John” in Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper could be a woman; other experts begged to differ.) Jesus was, Starbird says the  sacrificed king and Mary was his beloved. If known and celebrated, their sacred marriage would have led to a church from which metaphorical fresh water flowed to nourish the world. Instead, the sacred marriage was hidden and we got religions born and bred in deserts.


Significantly sacred phrases in the New Testament include “dove,” “the Word was made flesh,” Christos, the 153 fishes in the net in John 21, “the way,” the “grain of mustard seed,” and numerous others. The names Jesus (Ihsous—spelled this way for gematrical reasons) and John the Baptist, in fact, also have gematrical meanings, as does “Magdalene.” The town of Migdal (Magdala), where some scholars say Mary lived, was called Tarichaea in Jesus’ day. According to gematria, “the Magdelene” means “the elevated,” “great,” or “tower.” “Magdalene” is an epithet that equates Mary with Sophia and differentiates her from the mother of Jesus. Starbird says that if Magdalene meant Mary was “from Migdal,” the correct Greek spelling of her name would be “Magdalaios.” “This assumption—that Mary Magdalene was from ‘Magdala’—[is] a colossal error that, whether by accident or by design, obscures the true origin of her epithet…” (pp. 122-29).


Gematria also solves the puzzle of 666. As Starbird explains in chapter 7, the number appears in the Book of Revelation, written two generations after the death of Jesus by someone who called himself John (and was not the same John who wrote the Gospel) but was actually a very conservative and highly educated Jewish-Christian theologian who was writing in a mystical, apocalyptic style common at the end of the first century. The 666 is the number that “represents reason law, authority, and the generative power of the male, the power of the emperor…” (pp. 98-99). The New Testament author is in fact warning us about what can happen when such power is not linked to the feminine. It becomes a solar power, Starbird says, that blinds us and burns us:


When the power principle is honored as supreme, and its partner in consequence devalued, the feminine becomes a whore, bound in service to the solar principle. The community that is seduced and submits to the power principle 666, worshiping and serving the empowered male principle, is characterized in the Apocalypse as the harlot who rides the beast…. The monstrous tyranny of political, military, and economic power is historically evident in the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome, along with numerous more modern empires and dictatorships… (p. 100).


The 666 is thus Jesus himself as constructed in the Pauline theology adopted by the Fathers of the Church and held inalterably sacred for two millennia. This 666 theology is responsible for the disenfranchisement of women, enforced clerical celibacy, and the recent scandals of pedophile priests. “Balance will be restored to the contemporary Church,” Starbird concludes, “when full gender equality is embraced … and Mary the ‘Beloved’ is restored to her archetypal Bridegroom in Sacred Union” (p. 147).


~review by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

Author: Margaret Starbird

Bear & Company, 2003