A close-up photo capturing three well-worn Bibles, their pages opened to different verses, highlighting the repetition within the scriptures.

Why Are Things Repeated Three Times In The Bible?

The number three holds special significance in the Bible. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Things are often repeated three times in the Bible to emphasize their importance, show completeness, and signify God’s divine nature.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the spiritual meaning and significance behind the frequent use of the number three throughout the Bible. We will look at some of the most notable ‘threefold’ patterns and explanations offered by theologians and Bible scholars over the centuries.

Significance of the Number Three in the Bible

Completeness and Perfection

The number three is commonly associated with completeness, perfection, and solidity in the Bible (source). This sacred number signifies the divine perfection, as seen in the Holy Trinity. Biblical events related in threes emphasize the completeness of God’s purposes.

For instance, Christ’s resurrection occurred after three days in the tomb (reference), demonstrating the completeness of his sacrificial work on the cross.

Emphasis and Importance

Things repeated three times in Scripture also stress emphasis and significance. The Bible declares “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8), highlighting God’s supreme holiness. When Peter denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:34), it underscored this devastating failure.

Triplication in the Bible magnifies the essential points for readers.

The Trinity

The number three models the Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This central doctrine teaches that the one God eternally exists in three distinct persons (source). The Father, Son, and Spirit worked cooperatively in creation (Genesis 1) and redemption (Romans 8:1-2).

Their dynamic, close relationship models completeness in unity and diversity.

So in Scripture, three signifies fullness, emphasis, and the Trinity. When things are presented three times in the Bible, pay attention! It stresses these key spiritual themes.

Notable Examples of Threefold Patterns

Repeated Phrases

The Bible contains many examples of phrases that are repeated three times for emphasis. This rhetorical device is sometimes called the “rule of three.” Here are some examples:

  • “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3). This threefold description of God’s holiness appears again in Revelation 4:8.
  • “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). The three-part statement emphasizes God’s complete ownership and sovereignty over all creation.
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The well-known verse uses three clauses to highlight the depth of God’s love in sending Jesus.

By repeating words and phrases three times, the biblical writers drew attention to key themes and attributes of God. The triple repetition created a sense of completion, focus, and confirmation.

Groups of Three

The number three shows up frequently in groups and lists throughout the Bible. Here are some examples:

  • The three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  • The three components of the Tabernacle: the Courtyard, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place
  • Three annual feast times for Israelites: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles
  • The three gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense, and myrrh
  • Jesus’ inner circle: Peter, James, and John
  • The three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness
  • The three prayers of Jesus in Gethsemane
  • The three denials of Jesus by Peter

Groupings of three are found throughout Scripture, highlighting key people, places, and events. Sets of three seem to represent something complete and whole in God’s design.

Triplets in Prophecy and Visions

The number three frequently occurs in prophetic books and apocalyptic visions of the Bible. Here are some examples:

  • In Isaiah 6, the prophet has a vision of seraphim calling “Holy, holy, holy” before God’s throne. The triple declaration points to the superlative holiness of God.
  • The mysterious four living creatures in Revelation 4:8 each have six wings and are “covered with eyes all around, even under their wings.” Their threefold cry of “Holy, holy, holy” echoes Isaiah’s vision of God.
  • In Ezekiel 1, the prophet has an elaborate vision of God’s divine chariot or throne with four living creatures. Each creature has four faces – the face of a man, lion, ox, and eagle – pointing in four directions.
  • In Zechariah 4, the prophet sees a solid gold lampstand with seven lamps fed by two olive trees. An angel explains a symbolic meaning related to Zerubbabel, saying, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” This phrase is repeated three times for emphasis.
  • In Daniel 7, the prophet receives a vision of four beasts representing kingdoms, followed by the “Ancient of Days” on his fiery throne. Then one “like a son of man” is given authority over all nations and peoples – symbolic of Jesus, the Messiah.

Visions and prophecies employ threefold patterns and repetition to convey theological truths about God’s sovereignty, holiness, and redemptive plan. The techniques add literary emphasis and mystique.

Theological Explanations

Symbolizing the Trinity

One common explanation for the repeated use of three in the Bible is that it represents and symbolizes the Trinity – the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. This is a central doctrine in Christianity that God exists as three persons within one Godhead.

Some examples of the number three in Scripture that relate to the Trinity include:

  • Jesus praying three times in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46)
  • Jesus being resurrected on the third day after his death (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
  • The baptismal formula invoking the three persons of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19)

By repeating the number three, the biblical authors may have been reinforcing the concept of the triune nature of God. This emphasis on three highlights its theological significance.

Literary Technique for Emphasis

Another common explanation is that the repetition of three in the Bible serves as an effective literary technique for emphasis. According to Dr. Michael Heiser, a biblical scholar, “The number three stands out” and “is used over and over again in the biblical narrative” as a method to highlight important ideas, events, or people (source).

Some examples include:

  • The holy, holy, holy refrain in Isaiah 6:3 emphasizing God’s supreme holiness
  • Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him, reinforcing Peter’s special role (John 21:15-17)
  • Three magi visiting the newborn Jesus, bearing three gifts (Matthew 2:1-11)

By repeating words or phrases three times, biblical writers were able to creatively stress certain themes and communicate more effectively. The number three stands out against other numbers, helping drive home key points.

Connection to Spiritual Meanings

Some Bible scholars suggest the prevalence of three may be due to biblical authors intentionally using numbers to convey symbolic or spiritual meanings. In biblical times, numbers were thought to signify spiritual truths. The number three signified completeness or perfection, a sacred number.

According to Bible scholar E.W. Bullinger, three denotes “perfection of testimony, for where there are three witnesses, there is complete legal testimony” (source).

By repeating things three times, biblical writers were drawing on number symbolism to teach profound spiritual lessons. Examples include:

  • Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane symbolizing his complete surrender to God’s will
  • The Holy Spirit appearing at Jesus’ baptism as three visible signs – the voice of the Father, the descent of a dove, and the Son being baptized
  • The apostle Paul praying three times for God to remove his affliction, representing complete submission (2 Corinthians 12:8)

In this view, the recurrence of three connects back to its symbolic meaning of divine perfection, emphasizing sacred truths.


In summary, the frequent use of threefold patterns and repetition in the Bible is rich with theological symbolism. On one level, it emphasizes key themes, adds literary flair, and aids memorization. On a deeper level, patterns of three point toward the divine nature of God expressed through the Holy Trinity.

While we may never know the full reasons behind every instance, it is clear that the symbolic power of the number three runs throughout the fabric of the biblical texts.

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