Biblical Theory

The explanation of the evolution of tarot cards is very much a mystery, however one theory which stands out is the relationship to the New Testament and the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. Most people will be very familiar with the historical setting, the Romans occupied Judea and crucified Jesus around the year 30ce. Following that this remote outpost of the Roman Empire became more and more difficult to manage as the Jews were in rebellion ultimately resulting in the Jewish wars and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ce.

From that time onwards Jews were considered the enemies of Rome. The Christian movement which arose from this was also viewed with suspicion and ultimately led to the persecution of Christians within the Roman Empire.

The theory goes as follows:

1. The minor arcana cards represent the Roman Empire and the major arcana represent the power of God

2. The minor arcana were divided into 4 groups or suits representing the 4 streams of Roman society, (slaves, citizens, soldiers and senators)

3. The major arcana or trump cards are often said to represent the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet but as we shall see are more likely to represent the 22 chapters of the Book of Revelation

4. The purpose of the trump cards is always to defeat the minor cards, representing God defeating the mighty Roman Empire

The real question is, was this a game, ritual or some other form of secret code. This theory will hold more weight if we can relate the cards of the minor arcana to the Romans and also align the cards of the major arcana with chapters in the Book of Revelation.
Numerical Code
In chapter 13 of Revelation we see the famous number of the devil, 666. Can this be linked numerically with the 56 cards of the minor arcana? Well the answer is not directly, however here we are assuming that the number of cards in the minor arcana has always been 56. Many older sets of playing cards contain just 36 cards with 9 cards in each suit. If the original number of cards totalled 36 then we have a strong numerical link.

By adding all the numbers from 1 through to 36 guess what we get, 1+2+3+....+36 = 666, here we have the number relating to the Romans which is the number of the devil!
Book of Revelation
Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy authored by John of Patmos and distributed to the seven churches of Asia Minor. John sees himself as a Christian prophet and writes about his revelations or what has been revealed to him in visions. An important point to note is that these revelations are not about what has happened but what will happen. The book offers encouragement to persecuted Christians that their suffering will not be in vain and that God will ultimately defeat the Roman Empire. By relating each of the 22 chapters of this book to each of the 22 cards of the major arcana we can see how this theory becomes very powerful. Follow this link Link to Revelation to see how each card is related (some strongly, others less so).

So here we have it, a strong link to the described evil of the Roman Empire which is defeated by a strong link to God in the Book of Revelation.
Updated: 23/11/2023