the number three

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the number three

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Oct 21, 2004 12:44 am

Is from mythology, or something else that seems to force us to number things in 3's? Examples: Father, Son and Holy Ghost; red, white and blue; rain, sleet or snow; room, bed and board and numerous others. Does it derive from revelations 666?
John
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the number three

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Oct 21, 2004 12:58 am

John, We number things in 1’s, 2’s, and 4’s a lot also. And don’t groups of 5 and above get a little hard to remember? Can you offhand name the Seven Seas, the Seven Sisters colleges, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Voyages of Sinbad, the Seven Dwarfs, the Watergate Seven, Seven Against Thebes, Seven Ages of Man, the Seven Heavens, Seven Hills of Rome, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, the Seven Joys of Mary, the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, Jesus’ Seven Words from the Cross, the Seven Senses (ancient), the 7 days of the week (I have trouble with that one) . . . . . Gee, there’s a lot of 7’s too, must be something up! Well, it’s because 7 = 4 + 3 and since 3 and 4 were mystic and sacred numbers to the ancient world, and so was their sum, 7.

And what about 2’s – there’s plenty of those also. It take two to tango, 2’s company, 2 for tea, 2 bits, two cents, 2-dinensional, 2-faced, 2-fisted, 2-legged, 2 shakes of a lambs tail, 2-ton, 2-way, 2-dog-night, 2-by-4, 2-timer, biathlon, bicameral, biennial, bifocal, bigamy, bilateral, bilingual, binary, biped, bisexual, couple, dipole, double date, doubleheader, double entendre, double feature, double jeopardy, double negative, double play, double pneumonia, double room, double whammy, double standard, double-talk, 2-2 train, toodle-oo, . . . .

And what about all those 4-somes. quadrangle, quadruped, quadrilateral, 4 cardinal directions, 4- on-the-floor, 4 corners of the earth, a 4-bagger, 4-eyes, 4-flusher, 4-H Club, 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 4-leaf clover, 4-letter words, 4-minute mile, 4-poster, the 4 questions, 4-square, 4-wheel drive, on all 4’s, 4 shame, 4 he’s a jolly good fellow, fortuitous, 4 cast, 4 sure, 4 swear, 4 sooth, 4 skin,. . . .wait, wait, wait, I’m getting carried away – but you get the idea. There are lots of 4’s around, and they’re mystic and sacred, so we should expect a large number

Three is what Pythagoras called ‘the perfect number, expressive of ‘beginning, middle, and end’ and he made it a symbol of deity. And many religions, cults, societies have adopted it in their mythology. But I suggest a simpler explanation than the mystic. Could it be that there are a lots of low numbered groups of things around because it is easy to remember them. One is a snap, 2 is giveaway, 3 things is easy but provides a sense of accomplishment, 4 is a bit harder, 5 is nearly impossible, 7 was an unfortunate ancient blunder, and 10, . . .well, if you can remember the Ten Commandments, you win a Kewpie doll!
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Ken G – January 29, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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the number three

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Oct 21, 2004 1:13 am

Ken, thanks for responding. You gave me a lot more insight into numbers.
John
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the number three

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Oct 21, 2004 1:27 am

Thou shalt not covet Ken's Kewpie doll.
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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the number three

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Oct 21, 2004 1:41 am

I feel I have to have a serious word. While Ken is quite right (he usually is!) to de-mystify our wrong veneration of certain numbers as often being blinkered - selective and/or arbitrary - there are some absolutes. Christians would claim the truth of there being a threeness (as well as a oneness) about God, while there is no corresponding twoness, fourness or seventy-sevenness. There are three obvious spatial dimensions. And past, present and future.
While the numerology of mythology is often contrived and confusing (deliberately?), the Bible does have a few simple associations - thus 6 is the number associated with man (We were created on the sixth day) - finite but not in itself evil, one short of perfection (symbolised by 7, the number of perfection, as Ken indicates). However, the plan is that we rise, with God's help, from 6 to 7. If we persist in trying to advance without God's input - correction, direction, assistance and encouragement - we condition ourselves to a stste below perfection - and our state becomes more and more evil as well as lacking as we refuse God's help - until finally we CAN'T improve. This final lost state is symbolised by the number 666 -six and out, to pinch a term from schoolboy cricket.
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Re: the number three

Post by tony h » Tue Oct 12, 2021 10:01 am

I know I am a bit slow in responding to this post.
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I do feel Ken sidestepped the question in making his answer.

The question refers to things that come in threes for fairly arbitrary reasons. The three muses could easily have been the four muses or seven muses.

Ken starts with the use of groups seven which he illustrates well. The seven dwarfs could easily have been eight or, more economically for the pantomime season, two.

However when he talks of twos and fours the majority of examples are things which could not be arbitrarily changed. A four poster bed could not usefully be altered to a three poster or seven poster. A four leafed clover is only a thing of mystery because of its comparative rarity. We also have 2, 3, 5 and 6 leafed clover.

Threes do seem to have special grip on people but whether that is learned culture, or something more weird, I don't know. I believe the threes, being a strong grouping, come to Christianity from the Greeks. It is also, I read, a favoured number in Chinese culture. I would be interested to know whether the group of three transcends cultures.
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I'm puzzled therefore I think.

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