The earliest extant Hebrew text of systematic,
speculative thought--the Sefer Yezirah, written
sometime in the sixth century--states that God created the world by means of
thirty-two secret paths of wisdom, ten Sefirot or numbers and twenty-two
letters. From the Sefirot were
created all abstract things; from the twenty-two letters were created all the
real beings in the three strata of the cosmos--the world, time and the human
body. This Kabbalistic
interpretation of the world's beginning reflects a general characteristic of
Western thought. The universe, in
the Judeo-Christian tradition, is conceived of as a written Book made from
numbers and letters; the key to understanding the universe lies in our ability
to read these properly and master their combination, and thereby learn to give
life to some part of that colossal text, in imitation of our Maker.
. . .
It is impossible to decide whether he’s joking or wholly
serious; he would probably regard the issue as irrelevant.
--Frank Kermode, reviewing Harold Bloom’s Jesus
and Yahweh: the Names Divine
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