Ecclesiastical Math by Thomas S. Buchanan

Ecclesiastical Math

As the Lord commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness.
—Numbers 1:19

One might think that a faith that holds the book of Numbers in high esteem might be popular with mathematicians, but sadly this isn’t the case. With the accounts of the seven days of creation, forty years in the wilderness, and one hundred forty-four thousand sealed, one might think that experts in number theory would have felt at home with our faith from its very beginning. This is all the more true since the early Church read the book of Numbers from a translation known as The Seventy (i.e., the Septuagint or LXX).

One could postulate that mathematicians find the church teachings troublesome because the Church has its own rules for arithmetic. For example, Pentecost is the feast that follows 50 days after Easter (hence the name). But at exactly seven weeks later, it seems like it ought to be called “Fortynineocost.”

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Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.

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