... wherein I bloviate discursively

Brian Clapper,

Rapture Math

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What is it about fundamentalists? They seem to hate science and rationality–until, that is, they want to use them to lend some kind of silly credence to their own ridiculous conclusions.

If you believe Harold Camping, 89, of Family Radio, The Rapture is tomorrow, May 21, 2011, with the end of the world (cue R.E.M.) to follow in five months.

(Aside: Since when did family become synonymous with evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, anyway?)

Okay, so no halfway rational person buys into this kind of thinking. But, the twisted rationalizations behind the belief are interesting, if only as an illustration of how far we humans will go to support our existing belief systems.

Apparently, there’s some divine math behind Camping’s certainty about the exact date of The Rapture. Camping puts forth his mad math formula which explains it all. Let’s take a look at the math, shall we? Bear with me, now. This is complificated.


I cite Camping’s reasoning, as reported in Wikipedia.

According to Camping, the number 5 equals “atonement”, the number 10 equals “completeness”, and the number 17 equals “heaven.”

These must be Camping’s Axioms, to be accepted (appropriately) on faith.

Christ is said to have hung on the cross on April 1, 33 AD. The time between April 1, 33 AD, and April 1, 2011 is 1,978 years.

Say, does that account for Pope Gregory XIII’s adjustments to the Julian calendar, in 1582, when 11 days were lopped off September of that year?

If 1,978 is multiplied by 365.2422 days (the number of days in a solar year, not to be confused with the lunar year), the result is 722,449.

Hmm. I guess it doesn’t. Well, many evangelicals don’t like “those Catholics” anyway, so I guess it’s no big surprise.

The time between April 1 and May 21 is 51 days. 51 added to 722,449 is 722,500. (5 x 10 x 17) ^ (5 x 10 x 17) or (atonement x completeness x heaven)2 also equals 722,500.

Hey, I wonder what other equations equal that number?

People are forever looking for numerological truth in the Bible, and other places, never mind that numerology is just one more baseless superstition, one that carries with it an aura of science, merely because it nominally involves numbers.

For instance, one Bible-related site site, CARM, says:

  • 4 is the “number of creation”, because (among other reasons) there are four directions (North, South, East and West) and four seasons. The fourth commandment refers to the Earth. The fourth clause of the Lord’s Prayer refers to the Earth.
  • 5 is the “number of grace”, since Israel came out of Egypt in ranks of 5.
  • 10 is the “number of divine perfection” because, of course, of those Ten Commandments.

But wait! Another site, which borrows from some Bible numerology book, claims:

  • 4 refers to solidity and steadfastness.
  • 5 refers to Humanity, with its five senses.
  • 10 refers to God and humanity, father-mother-deity, completion.

If you dig through some of these sites, you find the same kind of hilarious silliness–though not always the exact same silliness.

Thus, Camping concludes that 5 x 10 x 17 is telling us a “story from the time Christ made payment for our sins until we’re completely saved.”

For someone who’s almost 90, Camping leaps yawning logical chasms with apparent ease, borne up, no doubt, by his faith.

That’s some Ph.D.-level math, right there. Why does this remind me of that old B. Kliban cartoon, Proving the Existence of Fish, or of those math tricks from childhood (“Start with your birth date. Add your age. Blah, blah, blah. OMG!”)?

It’s both amusing and deeply sad that so many people have bought into Camping’s ridiculous belief system and tortured, numerological illogic.

However, I must admit, it would be hilarious to get about 20 inflatable dolls, dress them in old clothes, fill them with hydrogen or helium, and surreptitiously release them in the vicinity of some True Believers…