Christian Longing for the Number Zero (0) ?

I am currently reading an interesting book by Charles Seife, Zero: The History of a Dangerous Idea. In the early chapters, the author reflects on why the Greeks and the Romans did not follow up on the Babylonian idea to use the number zero (0) and finds the reason in the incapacity to address the void and infinity, both deeply related to the number zero. It makes one wonder, of course, about how it has been possible that such philosophy became a favorite framework for Christian thought and theology? Indeed, in the Jewish Christian perspective the void (creation out of the void) and infinity (God as the infinitely other) are crucial ideas. I spoke about this with a fellow Jesuit, specialized in medieval Christian mysticism, and he pointed to the thirteenth century when the aristotelian framework really got hold and the more mystical approaches to Christian theology became confined to spirituality and some monasteries. He referred to Henri de Lubac who once wrote about the distinctiveness of the Christian religion as compared to the Greek and Roman religions. The latter emphasized the “know yourself”, in the sense of: know that reality is finite, that there is no infinity. This, of course, does not correspond to the Christian experience.

I am not sure whether all of this is correct, and it would certainly need more research to make the point that for Christians the number zero (0) is an important feature, not only of mathematics, but also of reality. It makes one wonder, indeed.


One response to “Christian Longing for the Number Zero (0) ?

  1. Beste Jacques – dank voor je constructieve bijdragen aan het debat, een bron van inspiratie. Ik ben ook mijn publicaties op mijn blog aan het zetten: Helaas kom ik niet naar Mexico voor grote SJ congres vanwege commitments in Amazon. Hartelijke groet uit Sao Paulo en hopelijk tot ziens in juni in ons geliefde Leuven voor Mexico debriefing, Johannes

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