Kieren Barry has some interesting "facts" to offer about gematria. First of all, he claims that gematria came from Greek tradition, not Jewish. It is interesting that the word "gematria" itself is a Greek word. I never thought of it before, but it does sound decidedly Greek (and Wikipedia verifies it).
From pg. 152
It is plainly evident that Christianity, under the influence of Gnosticism and contemporary Hellenistic philosophy and theurgy, absorbed and adapted the techniques of Greek Qabalah, as did its parent, Judaism. It would be fanciful to suggest that the Bible contains an inner code of numerology on the basis of the evidence we have, though recent evidence suggests a contrary conclusion would have made this book a best-seller. The Old Testament cannot do so, because its Hebrew writings predate use of alphabetical numerals. Likewise, examples of Greek isopsephy extracted from the New Testament by recent authors cannot be safely or objectively regarded as any more than coincidence. However, we have seen that there are a few examples of the use of Greek Qabalah to be found in those texts included in the New Testament (in Revelation), and in contemporaneous Christian writings that were rejected (such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Epistle of Barnabas).
In the preface, he does point out that the term "Qabalah" is Jewish, not Greek, and that the use of his term "Greek Qabalah" is anachronistic but nevertheless accurate (according to him) term based on the historical facts (according to him) that Greek Gnosticism impacted Jewish mysticism so greatly that most of what is now known as Qabalah of a Jewish tradition is actually Greek.
from p. xiii
It was, in fact, the Greeks who, as early as the eighth century B.C.E., invented alphabetic numerals, the very essence of Qabalistic numerology. They introduced the idea to the Middle East only after the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E. Examples of Greek Qabalah can also be found outside of mainland Greece well before the third century C.E. in Egyptian amulets, Roman graffiti, Gnostic philosophy, and early Christian writings. This is the earliest likely date of the first known work in Hebrew Qabalah, the Sefer Yetzira, or Book of Formation. This early work was essentially a product of the impact of Greek gnosticism on Jewish mysticism, and shows the influence of numerous concepts, such as the Gnostic theory of creation by emanations, the Pythagorean decad, Platonic philosophy, Ptolemaic astrology, and the four elements of Empedocles, all of which were already part of the existing Greek alphabetical symbolism. It is this earlier Greek gnosis, anachronistically called here by the later Hebrew term Qabalah, that is investigated and presented in this book.
So, now I'm all confused. I thought gnosticism was a development of Christianity, but apparently I'm wrong. Apparently it came before even the Old Testament?
Now there's another interesting book to read is called Not Out Of Greece
, but it doesn't present itself in so scholarly a fashion as Kieren Barry's does, with footnotes and dozens of references at the end of each chapter (that's, like, supposed to be "proof" for numbskulls like me who surely won't buy those books). But, Not Out Of Greece has just as controversial a claim, probably, if you find this sort of thing controversial:
Were it not for the contributions of Egyptians and Sumerians to mathematics we would definitely not have progressed to the present level of science. We would still be in the dark age Europe of 2000 years ago. In other words, the origin of logic, science and mathematics is NOT OUT OF GREECE.
This is what I had thought, anyway, but after reading Kieren Barry's "facts" presently so neatly and researched so thoroughly, I was wondering where the evidence is in favor of Egyptian gematria/Qabalah/Etc. Barry does point out repeatedly that the Greeks took different letters and ideas from Egyptians, including Gods. But, he never goes as far as to say the Egyptians invented the Qabalah or gematria. There must be some reason for this. As Barry was attempting to present a factual, historical timeline as opposed to esoteric conjecture (the book is dry), maybe the "paper trail" of artifactual evidence stops with the Greeks??
But, how could the paper trail really stop there? Much of Barry's work is logical and reserved conjecture such as, "neighboring cultures believed [x] for hundreds of years and it is likely that one culture surrounded by these cultures would be familiar with such an idea" so, if we analyze Egyptian culture and find similar ideas, isn't it just as logical that the "paper trail" would pick back up and lead us there? And, if that's the case, then why couldn't there have been just as much gematria and Qabalah in Hebew culture as in Greek, if both received it from Egypt?
Here is one review of "Not Out Of Greece"
Many of us are familiar with George G.M. James seminal work, Stolen Legacy in which James irrefutably proves the Greeks were not the creators of philosophy or metaphysics the West credits them with being, but rather were students of and in many cases plagiarists who took credit for African and Asian discoveries, ideas and bodies of knowledge that pre-dated Greece by thousands of years.
I will stop right there. This reviewer goes on to give Not Out of Greece a glowing review, but he has begun his review by mentioning G.M. James' "Stolen Legacy," which appears to be a load of crap. (Check the Amazon reviews which explain some of this false history).
I have one book of Ra Un Nefer Amen's called "Tree of Life Meditation System." It seemed logical and made a lot of sense, but as soon as I tried to explain it to people well-oriented in traditional Western Traditional Qabalah, I ran into problems. People wanted to place the Egyptian gods on different sephiroth, they didn't like the idea that the pillars "crossed over" at the top (theoretically, not diagrammatically) and, frankly, I think some just didn't like the idea that someone was trying to suggest there was an Egyptian Qabalah that is somehow more "authoritative" than the Jewish Qabalah... and who can blame them?
I don't think there's really any evidence out there to support Ra Un Nefer Amen's ideas otherwise we probably would have several books describing the Egyptian Qabalah, complete with ancient Tree of Life diagrams made by Egyptians.
What's my point? Who said I had a point?
These are just some interesting and confusing opinions regarding gematria/Qabalah I thought I'd share. Reading Kieren Barry's book has really put the whole thing into perspective... kind of a Picasso perspective, if you know what I mean.