Birth by the Numbers: A Study of Gospel Symbolism, Birth, and Numbers
One of my favorite videos to show in my childbirth classes is Birth by the Numbers. It is a very informative short movie by Eugene Declercq, PhD, Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the Boston University School of Public Health, on the statistics surrounding birth and how important they are. If you have not seen it already, take some time to watch it after reading this post. He also has a great website called Birth by the Numbers. But this post really is not about birth statistics. It is about numbers and their symbolism within the gospel and birth.
So I am pregnant, in the second trimester. Being pregnant often brings me to ponder more deeply gospel principles and how they relate to birth and to me. I have really enjoyed reading The Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo Gaskill. As I have re-read the chapter on numbers I thought of the significance that numbers represent throughout the process of giving life.
To begin the entire process of life unity or becoming “one” is required. In fact, “applicable to all married couples is this command to Adam and Eve: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife. And they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24, Abraham 5:18)” (Gaskill, 113). This coming together is symbolic of spiritual unity (Gaskill, 114). We are asked to become one in spirit like the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
For the oneness of intimacy to take place two different people are brought together. One meaning of the use of the number two in scripture is symbolic of opposition and separation (Gaskill, 114). When man and wife are in opposition or separated they are unable to progress. They need the complementary natures of the other to progress and to create life. There is a second meaning relating to the law of witnesses (Gaskill, 114). Is it coincidence that there are two necessary and different biologic contributions (sperm and egg) or “witnesses” to create life? It doesn’t seem too far-fetched when reading an additional meaning that the number two has as, “the image of ‘reproduction,’ or ‘life force’ or ‘creative power.’ The symbol is employed in the creation and preservation of the two sexes (see Genesis 1:27; 7:2)” (Gaskill, 115).
The Godhead is comprised of three members: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. “When the number [three] is used in scripture, it frequently serves to emphasize divine involvement, backing or influence” (Gaskill, 115). I am surely not the only one to feel divine involvement in my birth experiences. I feel like God influenced me in many ways as I went to Him for guidance. There are many examples in the scriptures, “Jesus served a three year ministry, he was tempted three times by Satan, raised three people from the dead, he took three disciples who represented the Godhead into the Garden of Gethsemane with him, he was crucified at the third hour, on Golgotha there were three crosses, darkness reigned for some three hours while he was on the cross, his body lay for three days in a tomb. The repetitive presence of the number three in relation to the Atonement implies that God was behind this most sacred of events” (Gaskill, 116). Birth is also a sacred event underscored by a three-fold marriage covenant between husband, wife, and God, three trimesters, and three stages of birth. We also see the number three used frequently in temple worship and its ordinances denoting the idea that they typify or symbolize God (Gaskill, 117). This thought causes me to ponder its significance as we are constantly reminded that our bodies are temples. It is likely that many of the processes within our bodies typify or symbolize God. For more on temple symbolism and birth see these posts: If Birth Were a Temple, Mirrors by Rocky Cordray, and Holiness to the Lord The House of the Lord also by Rocky Cordray.
Heather points out in her “Two Veils” essay that “the way in which life is created is a four step process beginning with sexual intimacy, followed by conception, then pregnancy, culminating in the birth of a new human soul” (The Gift of Giving Life, 58). This four step process is deeply symbolic, “the number four symbolizes geographic completeness or totality. In other words, if the number four is associated with an event or thing, the indication is that it will affect the entire earth and its inhabitants” (Gaskill, 119). Some examples would be: four regions on the earth of north, south, east, and west; four seasons in the year of spring, summer, fall, winter; four great elements of earth, wind, fire, and water; four is the first square number. Every time life is created (or destroyed) I believe that it alters the earth. Creating life is miraculous and life altering for sure.
Oh, and there is more. Tune in Friday for Part 2 of this post!