Numbers in the Biblical text often have archetypal meanings. For instance, 40 is a cycle (40 days of the Flood to wipe out the world, 40 years traveling in the desert to wipe out the prior generation of Israelites, etc.). There is a word for these representative, archetypal numbers in the Bible but it is currently alluding me.

  • THE BIBLICAL EXPRESSION “40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS” JUST MEANS A “REALLY LONG TIME” todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/08/… – user121863 Apr 3 at 12:24
  • You may be thinking of the term "gematria," which is the study of the hidden meanings of Biblical numbers. – RobJarvis Apr 3 at 14:22
  • The common word is numerology, which is what most people would think of. But it's unclear if you are looking for a word that is specific only to the Bible and nothing else. (Incidentally, gematria seems to apply to Hebrew scriptures, not necessarily—or especially only—to the Bible.) – Jason Bassford Apr 15 at 22:53

After more searching, I believe the technical term is 'typological number', 'archetypal number', or 'formulaic number'. Though 'typological' has additional meaning when relating to Christian theology and the relationship of the New and Old Testaments.

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  • They're uncommon strings in Google searches. I'm not sure whether these terms merit 'standard' classification. – Edwin Ashworth May 24 at 14:57
  • The knowledge domain is relatively niche (Biblical literary analysis), so I wouldn't expect the general internet to accurately reflect the appropriateness of such specialized words. A search on Google Scholar returns ~100 results for each term which seems respectable. Would be glad to compare these terms to other potential candidates with similar usages. – ChaimKut May 25 at 16:02
  • Yes, they're better (and so is the question if it requests 'typological number') on say Christianity.SE (there is a 'terminology' tag there). – Edwin Ashworth May 25 at 16:21

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