The Answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything
“Behold my servant, I will uphold him: my elect, my soul delighteth in him: I have given my spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor have respect to person, neither shall his voice be heard abroad. The bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”–The beginning of Isaiah 42
During my high school and college years, three slapstick science fiction books known as the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, were very popular. The series contained the books The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; and Life, the Universe and Everything.
If you were a nerd like me, it was essential reading to understand the constant references being made to it within the nerd circle of friends. The books were written by Douglas Adams, a British humorist and satirist who began his career as a standup comic and went on to write for the BBC. He is credited with writing contributions to Monty Python and Doctor Who before becoming better known for his own novels.
One of the central themes of the trilogy is the satirical exploration of the meaning of life. A story is told that, in the distant past, an alien race created a planet-sized supercomputer named Deep Thought to determine the answer to the “Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything.” Seven and a half million years later, the calculation was completed. The distant ancestors of that alien race would finally learn the long-awaited answer computed by Deep Thought!
This highly anticipated revelation of The Answer was heralded and celebrated as the “Great and Hopefully Enlightening Day.” The master of ceremonies addressed the crowd at the announcement ceremony moments before the big reveal:
“Never again will we wake up in the morning and think ‘Who am I? What is my purpose in life?’… For today we will learn, once and for all, the plain and simple answer to all these nagging little problems of Life, the Universe and Everything.”–“The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Chapter 27
This massive and artificially intelligent computer was able to speak for itself. After much build-up and fanfare, Deep Thought was introduced. It began by warning the guardians of the computer that they might not like the answer. Finally, after some banter and stalling, the answer was revealed by its announcement:
“The Answer to the Great Question…Is..Is…(with several dramatic pauses)… ‘Forty-Two,’ said Deep Thought with infinite majesty and calm.”Ibid.
After uncomfortable and long period of tense quietness among the crowds, one the guardians finally spoke up, shouting:
“Forty-Two!” Is that all that you have to show for seven and a half million years of work!!!?”Ibid.
The computer responded matter-of-factly:
“I checked it quite thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer.”Ibid.
Deep Thought then tells its creators that the answer makes no sense to them because they didn’t fully understand what the “Ultimate Question” was in the first place! It then suggested that it would design a larger, even more powerful and fully organic computer to determine what the “Ultimate Question” was. That computer was to become the planet Earth!
THE RADICAL ATHEIST
Douglas Adams was a self-described radical atheist. He had an interest and enough knowledge of religion that enabled him to effectively satirize it in his novels. He also collaborated with the notorious evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins. His focus was always primarily slapstick humor and satire. It was hard to know if he ever truly desired to understand or pursue religious truth or just used it for a laugh. Many of his other works allude to a search for spiritual meaning even if just for a laugh such as The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, an obvious reference to the “Dark Night of the Soul.” Like many comic geniuses who used humor as a salve for their interior pain, his biographer accounts that he had a sad and troubled life that few saw behind all his success and acclaim.
He died unexpectedly at the age of 49 of a heart attack, apparently unrepentant of his lack of faith. Sadly, it seems he never came to know the true meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything.
COMPUTING THE CORRECT ANSWER QUICKER
Any Christian familiar with Sacred Scripture will understand the amazing beautiful and complex tapestry of symbols and “foreshadows” (types) that illustrate the continuity of 73 books written by a number of authors in different styles over a long period of time. According to biblestudy.org, on average, one in every five Bible verses contains a number. The frequently use of numbers in the Bible reveals a complex puzzle pertaining to the mind of God and His revelation to man.
The use of numbers as symbols figuring most prominently are 3, 7, 12, 14, 40 and 70. Much less obvious but no less important are the numbers 14 and 42. Let’s explore how the numbers 14 and 42 became significant numbers in the Bible by reviewing the use of its factors (remember that from third grade math?) as symbols.
LET’S PLAY SOME FORTNIGHT
Let’s begin with some understanding of the uses of the number “14.”
The Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ as described from Abraham to Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, spanning 2000 years. Verse 17 summarizes thus:
“So all the generations from Abraham to David, are fourteen generations. And from David to the transmigration of Babylon, are fourteen generations: and from the transmigration of Babylon to Christ are fourteen generations.”— Matthew 1:17
Matthew, being Jewish and wishing to defer to Moses, apparently relied on the accounts in Genesis to establish the genealogy of Jesus up until the time of Abraham.
What was the significance of the continuity of the number 14 in this verse? St. Ambrose explains:
“In the number fourteen, we have received man’s perfection; whence the Lord’s Passover received the form of its celebration, on the fourteenth day of the moon.”–from the Oration on the Death of Theodosius
The theologian Cornelius a Lapide goes deeper into the factors of 14 in his commentary on Matthew:
“… because it contains twice seven, by which the sevenfold grace of the Holy Ghost is signified, that denotes the gift of the same Holy Spirit in two-fold abundance to man, as it was in Christ, who, indeed, by a like symbol, having suffered on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, when the moon was full, redeemed us by His death, and merited abundance of graces for us.”The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide: St. Matthew’s Gospel
The contemporary theologian Edward Siri describes the additional significance that David’s name “adds up” to 14 in Hebrew:
In the Hebrew alphabet, letters are also given numeric value. The three Hebrew consonants in David’s name are dwd (d = 4, w = 6), adding up to 14. Thus, the very structure of Matthew’s genealogy centered around three sets of 14 generations subtly proclaims Jesus to be the “thrice-Davidic Son of David.”— Forty-two generations to Bring Us Closer to Christ this Advent, Edward Sri (Angelus News)
Matthew likely knew this numerology of the three Tesseradecades (a group of 14), would provide the Jews with additional convincing evidence that coming after this exact number of generations would help demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah.
The theologian Peter Bongus: observes:
That the number fourteen should be thrice repeated signifies true religion. For four plus ten (fourteen) indicate the New and Old Testament. For the way to Christ is preached through the Ten Commandments of the Law, and the four Gospels; so, however, that we should consecrate whatever is ascribed to the Trinity, that is, to God, because no commandment is fulfilled unless this number is preserved in the worship of God.–The Mysterious Meanings of Numbers, 1585, Num. XIV
Additional references to 14 years and 14 generations can be found in the Old Testament. For example, the prophet Ezekiel in Chapter 40 was given the figurative Messianic vision of Jesus as the new temple 14 years after the fall of Jerusalem. This would appear to prefigure the city and temple being rebuilt fourteenth generations after the destruction by the Babylonians.
THRICE IS NICE
The number three is a familiar biblical symbol representing divine wholeness, completeness and perfection. The number three was used to signify completion or fulfillment on the subject. No number is more significant from as represented by the number of gifts of the Magi, the number of crosses on Calvary, number of days in the tomb, days Jonah spent in the whale, the thrice denial of Peter etc. So it seems entirely unsurprising that the generational tesserdecades would be represented in a multiple of three. If you haven’t done the math yet, a total of the three sets of 14 generations equals 42! A 3x3x3 cubic array of rows of numbers is also possible that totals each row, if by magic…42.
Three sets of three indicate a further amplified use of the number 3 such as in the Kyrie or the number of books (33=27) of the New Testament.
ADDITIONAL FACTORS OF 42 TO CONSIDER
There are a number of biblical types and symbolic references pertaining to the number 42.
Church fathers such as Origen and St. Jerome remark that those forty-two generations that precede Christ correspond to the forty-two stations of the Israelites in the wilderness before they arrived at the promised land of Canaan (see Numbers 33).
By amusing coincidence or perhaps Divine appointment, this letter by Jerome was assigned paragraph numbers for scholarly study. This point just so happened to be presented in… what do you know… paragraph 42!!!
The Jews commemorated the significance of these 42 stations by writing 42 lines per column on the Torah scroll. This tradition was later (intentionally or unintentionally) echoed in the first printed Bible (The Gutenberg Bible), which had 42 lines per page!
The theologian Lapide further explains that:
Anagogically, the number forty-two is composed of six into seven, for six times seven makes forty-two. The six denotes the labors of this life, whereby we come to the seven, or the sabbath of rest and eternal felicity. For in the six first days of the world God made all things in heaven and earth; but in the seventh day, or the sabbath, He rested from all His work.—The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide: St. Matthew’s Gospel
Biblical historians have observed that Christ was born at an unusual period of relative peace, attributable to the rule of Emperor Augustus. According to historian Charles Davis, it was in the 42nd year of his reign that Jesus was born. For more information, refer to his article “God’s Signature of Authenticity.”
It is also observed by the author’s calculations that Jesus was born just over 70 multiples of 42 after the flood (approximately 2957 years from flood to birth). The reader may also be aware of the significance of the number 70 commonly recurring in the Bible such as the period of desolation of Jerusalem. Source.
God reminds us of His promise made to us after the flood with the rainbow, which of course (ahem) appears at a 42 degree angle above the horizon!
According to St. Ignatius of Antioch in Epistle 7, the early church of Asia Minor observed a time of Lent of six weeks equating to exactly 42 days (the extension of Lent to include Ash Wednesday followed centuries later).
Lastly, in the forty-second year after Christ’s Passion, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Emperor Vespasian. St. Jerome observes on the words of the Psalm 108:
“In the next generation, let his name be clean put out.”— Psalm 108:13
This Psalm predicts a curse upon the guilty of the Jewish people and divine retribution for the death of Christ seen by the sacking of the Temple.
Based on all these examples presented above, the reader should be unquestionably convinced that Jesus Christ is represented by the number 42!
We see the eternal Truths of God written throughout all of creation. Sometimes we find them in the most surprising places, including the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe!
HEY, WE DO FORTY-TWO, TOO!
The number 42 was significant in the extra-biblical aspects of the Jewish religion as well. In the Babylonian Talmud, God was given a “Forty-Two Lettered Name:”
“The Forty-Two Lettered Name entrusted only to him who is pious, meek, middle-aged, free from bad temper, sober, and not insistent on his rights”. The original Talmudic Forty-Two Lettered Name was perhaps composed of several combined divine names. The apparently unpronounceable Tetragrammaton provides the backdrop from the Twelve-Lettered Name and the Forty-Two Lettered Name of the Talmud.Talmud Kidduschin 71a, Translated by Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein
Hello, Jewish people? Yep. Jesus is God.
The number 42 figures in other religions as well such as Egyptian mythology, Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism.
The secular world pays cult tribute to Adams’s use of the number 42 using it as an “Easter Egg” in a number of ways:
- The office of Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt is called Building 42
- The default expiration of a Windows domain password is 42 days
- Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear’s spaceship is named 42.
- Large Hadron Collider scientists acquired office space and named their new complex Building 42.
- On the game show Jeopardy!, “Watson” the IBM supercomputer has 42 “threads” in its avatar
- In the TV show X-Files, Fox Mulder’s apartment number is 42.
If you search “the answer to life the universe and everything” on the Google, Bing, or Yahoo search engines, the result will of course be … 42. Yep!
One can only hope this article will someday rank on the first page of these searches so people searching for this will learn the real answer to The Question: JESUS CHRIST!
THE OTHER QUESTION ANSWERED
Based on the significance of the number 42 in science, math and religion, the basis for Adam’s use of that number was speculated for years. In a candid interview late in life, he finally gave the answer:
“The answer to this is very simple,” Adams said. “It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base 13, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat on my desk, stared in to the garden and thought 42 will do. I typed it out. End of story.”
Divine inspiration or coincidence? Did his guardian angel whisper something in his ear? Its impossible to know! What we DO KNOW is that Christ as symbolized by the number 42 is indeed the answer to The Question of the Life, the Universe and Everything! Adams was definitely on to something. The Earth is an organic computer where the children of God are part of this great mystical computing process. Ultimately our lives will testify to whether we have correctly computed “the answer.” Some day, after our death, we will have to face The Answer, give our “final answer,” and be judged by The Answer. If our life demonstrated that we understood The Question properly and came to The Answer correctly, we will enjoy perfect heavenly fellowship and bliss forever with The Answer!
Oh, … and I almost forgot…don’t forget your towel (you’ll have to read the book to get this!).
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