The Number Three is symbolic in the Bible with a number of different meanings and interpretations. Throughout the stories and spiritual texts of the Bible, the Number Three appears regularly, symbolically signifying an important spiritual message. In some cases the Number Three is thought to represent resurrection, the Trinity, and wholeness; while in others it is representative of completeness, stability, and divine perfection.
The most recognizable instance of the Number Three being associated with resurrection is found in the gospel accounts and stories of Jesus. The gospel writers each record three separate occasions of Jesus raising people from the dead: the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow of Nain in Luke; the resurrection of Lazarus in John; and the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter in Matthew. By thoroughly studying the gospel accounts and considering the symbolism of the Number Three, theologians and Biblical scholars have connected this Number to the greater spiritual theme of resurrection.
lso, the New Testament does not mention Jesus appearing only once after his resurrection; instead he appears three times. The Gospels of Luke and John record Jesus appears to his disciples by the Sea of Galilee on three separate occasions, and then Jesus commissions the disciples to spread the Good News of the gospel and to baptize new believers.
The Number Three is commonly used in the Bible to express the sacredness and holiness of the Holy Trinity. The concept of the Trinity is not described explicitly in the Bible; however, theologian and Biblical scholars have pieced together references from both the Old Testament and New Testament to arrive at results that point to the existence of a triad of persons in one God. Notable trinities include three angels, who visited the patriarch Abraham; Three Magi, or wise men; and the three young men whom were thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.
Additionally, Christian dogma states all three persons of the Trinity took part in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus: his father decided upon the sacrifice, the Holy Spirit provided the power, and Jesus submitted to the ultimate sacrifice. Through this, Jesus was able to overcome death, defeat the Devil, and bring salvation to mankind. For Christians, the Number Three is symbolic of the Trinity, and of Jesus’ defeat over death.
Stability and Divine Perfection
The Hebrew language, unlike modern English, expresses small numerical distinctions which lend to the scriptural study of the Number Three. Old Testament references to the Number Three are always completing a whole, signifying stability and completeness. A few examples of this include the dimensions of the Tabernacle (30x10x10 cubits): three widths, three circles, three pillars, and the division of the Levites into three groupings. Also, the Number Three is used to indicate one hundred percent completion or total perfection. The most well-known instance of this is found in the biblical book of Genesis, where God notes with satisfaction each step of creation on the third day: “And God saw that it was good.”
The Number Three is profoundly symbolic in the Bible. Its most notable uses are revealing resurrection, expressing the holiness of the Holy Trinity, and signifying stability and divine perfection. Although the references to the Number Three in the Bible are not explicitly stated, theologians and Biblical scholars have been able to narrow in on the importance of this sacred symbol. By studying its occurrences in the Bible, each person can gain greater insight into their faith and the messages of the sacred texts.
The Figurative Representation of the Number Three
The Number Three is also often used figuratively throughout the text of the Bible. It is used to describe a group that is distinct from the masses or from the larger groups of the world. For example, in the parable of the three servants the master entrusts the talents or goods to his servants in a three-fold manner. In this parable, the three servants represent either the wise or foolish variant. In this way, the Number Three is used for distinction and comparison.
The Number Three is also symbolic of Biblical Questing. The questing motif is ubiquitous in the Bible and is used to reveal the spiritual path. It references a life devoted to active pursuit of the spiritual meaning of life through faith, acceptance, and perseverance. A good example of this search is found in the Book of Exodus, where Moses is commanded three times by God to challenge Pharaoh. By faith, perseverance, and trust in God, Moses eventually succeeds in having Pharaoh release the Israelites from Egypt.
Sacrament of Baptism
The Number Three also finds expression in the Sacrament of Baptism. Through this sacrament, a person submits to a complete transformation. It is a statement of faith; a transition from an old life to a new one. Significant biblical references to this include the three baptisms of Christ and the three-fold ritual of baptism, during which a person is baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Pyramid Model of Growth
Finally, the Number Three is used to indicate growth and spiritual formation. The Bible often references the importance of spiritual growth in groups, which by its nature is a multi-faceted, multi-level concept. The Pyramid Model of Growth is a graphical representation of this concept, structured in three layers. The Number Three provides a basis for this structure, with each layer containing three categories pertinent to spiritual formation: foundation, pillars and ministry. By following this model of spiritual growth a person can build a strong foundation in the faith and become an effective minister of the Gospel.