Questions From Readers
● A footnote on page 138 of “New Heavens and a New Earth” refers to certain numbers as perfect numbers. One of them is the number “3.” In what sense is it a perfect number?—R. I., United States.
The number “3” is a number of perfect or complete emphasis. At different places in the Bible things were stated three times for the purpose of emphasis. For example, before the Jews were overthrown and taken captive by Babylon they were warned: “Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, are these.” The backsliding Jews had defiled the temple, yet came to it to be forgiven their abominations. Jehovah showed he would not preserve that defiled temple, any more than he preserved the tabernacle at Shiloh when it was defiled, and that to call it “the temple of Jehovah” was a lie. These lying words were stated three times for emphasis. Also by a threefold repetition Jehovah emphasized the overturning of the unfaithful kingdom: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it.”—Jer. 7:4-14; Ezek. 21:27, AS.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus was grieved and sorely troubled, and three times he prayed that if possible the cup he was to drink be taken away, yet Jehovah’s will was to be done. This gave complete emphasis to the prayer, just as after his death and resurrection his thrice-stated instruction to Peter to feed the sheep made the command perfectly emphatic. On another occasion Peter had a matter made emphatic to him by a threefold repetition of it, namely, when he was on the housetop and in a trance he saw animals considered unclean, but his objections to eating for that reason were overcome by the divine command to eat, and which command was perfectly emphasized by being stated three times. Emphasis and intensity of the superlative height of Paul’s rapture are indicated by his being caught away “to the third heaven.” Another illustration of perfection of emphasis by stating something three times is that of the four living creatures that say: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming.”—2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 4:8; Matt. 26:39-44; John 21:15-17; Acts 10:9-16, NW.
Additional information on perfect numbers can be found on pages 249 and 250 of the April 15, 1952, Watchtower.