Number of the Beast
The Number of the Beast (Greek: Ἀριθμὸς τοῦ θηρίου, Arithmos tou Thēriou) is a term in the Book of Revelation, of the New Testament, that is associated with the Beast of Revelation in chapter 13. In most manuscripts of the New Testament and in English translations of the Bible, the number of the Beast is 666. In critical editions of the Greek text, such as the Novum Testamentum Graece, it is noted that 616 is a variant.
- 1 Revelation 13:18
- 2 Interpretations
- 3 Fear and superstition
- 4 See also
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 References
The Number of the beast is described in the passage of Revelation 13:15–18. The actual number is only mentioned once, in verse 18. In the Greek manuscripts, the Book of Revelation is titled the Apocalypse of John where this number is rendered in Greek numerical form as χξϛʹ, or sometimes literally as ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, hexakósioi hexēkonta héx, "six hundred and sixty-six". There are several interpretations-translations for the meaning of the phrase "Here is Wisdom, Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast" where the peculiar Greek word ψηφισάτω (psefisato) is used. Possible translations include not only "to count", "to reckon" but also "to vote" or "to decide".
17καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων τὸν νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου· ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛʹ.
In the Novum Testamentum Graece, the number is represented by the final three words, ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, meaning "six hundred sixty-six":
17καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ.
Although Irenaeus (2nd century AD) affirmed the number to be 666 and reported several scribal errors of the number, there is still a minority of theologians who have doubt about the original reading because of the figure 616 being given in the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C; Paris), one of the four great uncial codices, as well as by the Latin version of Tyconius (DCXVI, ed. Souter in the Journal of Theology, SE, April 1913), and by an ancient Armenian version (ed. Conybaere, 1907). Irenaeus knew about the 616 reading, but did not adopt it (Haer. v.30,3). However, several centuries later, correcting the existing Latin language version of the New Testament, commonly referred to as the Vetus Latina, Jerome left it in. (De Monogramm., ed. Dom G Morin in the Rev. Benedictine, 1903).
Around 2005, a fragment from Papyrus 115, taken from the Oxyrhynchus site, was discovered at the Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum. It gave the beast's number as 616 χιϛʹ. This fragment is the oldest manuscript (about 1,700 years old) of Revelation 13 to date.
The age of a manuscript is not an indicator of the date of its writing but refers to how old the physical material is. All original biblical manuscripts are non-existent today. As they were held and copied onto new materials, eventually the originals fell apart, leaving fragments for a period and then only the copies. So the oldest materials might actually be among the newest manuscripts. Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, known before the P115 finding but dating to after it, has 616 written in full: ἑξακόσιοι δέκα ἕξ, hexakosioi deka hex (lit. "six hundred and sixteen").
Papyrus 115 and Ephraemi Rescriptus has led some scholars to conclude that 616 is the original number of the beast. According to Paul Louis, "The number 666 has been substituted for 616 either by analogy with 888, the [Greek] number of Jesus (Gustav Adolf Deissmann), or because it is a triangular number, the sum of the first 36 numbers (1+2+3+4+5+6...+36 = 666)"
Interpreting the identity and the number of the Beast usually falls into three categories:
- Using gematria to calculate the number of a world leader’s name, in order to match it with the number of the Beast.
- Associating the number of the Beast as the duration of the beast’s reign, in order to compare the length of reign to an entity, such as: a heathen state, Islam, or the Papacy.
- Corresponding symbolism for the Antichrist and antichristian power.
Identification by gematria
In Greek isopsephy and Hebrew gematria, every letter has a corresponding number. Summing these numbers gives a numeric value to a word or name. The use of isopsephy to calculate "the number of the beast" is used in many of the below interpretations.
Preterist theologians typically support the numerical interpretation that 666 is the equivalent of the name and title, Nero Caesar (Roman Emperor from 54-68). Charagma is well attested to have been an imperial seal of the Roman Empire used on official documents during the 1st and 2nd centuries. In the reign of Emperor Decius (249–251 AD), those who did not possess the certificate of sacrifice (libellus) to Caesar could not pursue trades, a prohibition that conceivably goes back to Nero, reminding one of Revelation 13:17.
Preterists argue that Revelation was written before the destruction of the Temple, with Nero exiling John to Patmos. Most scholars, however, argue it was written after Nero committed suicide in AD 68. The Catholic Encyclopedia has noted that Revelation was "written during the latter part of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, probably in A.D. 95 or 96".
Additional Protestant scholars are in agreement. Because some believe Revelation 13 speaks of a future prophetic event, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8 NKJV), some have argued that the interpretation of Nero meeting the fulfillment is an impossibility if Revelation was written around 30 years after the death of Nero. However, rumors circulated that Nero had not really died and would return to power.
It has also been suggested that the numerical reference to Nero was a code to imply but not directly point out emperor Domitian, whose style of rulership resembled that of Nero and who put the people of Asia (Lydia), whom the Book of Revelation was primarily addressed to at the time, under heavy taxation. The popular Nero Redivivus legend stating that Nero would return to life can also be noted; "After Nero's suicide in AD 68, there was a widespread belief, especially in the eastern provinces, that he was not dead and somehow would return (Suetonius, LVII; Tacitus, Histories II.8; Dio, LXVI.19.3). Suetonius (XL) relates how court astrologers had predicted Nero's fall but that he would have power in the east. And, indeed, at least three false claimants did present themselves as Nero redivivus (resurrected)."
An Aramaic scroll from Wadi Murabba'at, dated to "the second year of Emperor Nero", refers to him by his name and title. In Hebrew it is Nron Qsr (Pronounced "Nerōn Kaisar"). In Latin it is Nro Qsr (Pronounced "Nerō Kaisar").
- Nron Qsr
|Resh (ר)||Samekh (ס)||Qoph (ק)||Nun (נ)||Vav (ו)||Resh (ר)||Nun (נ)||Sum|
- Nro Qsr
|Resh (ר)||Samekh (ס)||Qoph (ק)||Vav (ו)||Resh (ר)||Nun (נ)||Sum|
Gematria has also been used with the word Maometis (Greek: Μαομετις); which scholars have described as a dubiously obscure Latinisation of a Greek transliteration of an Arabic word. In Quia Maior, the encyclical calling for the Fifth Crusade, Pope Innocent III identifies Muhammad with the beast of Revelation, although later popes did not. A leading exponent of the Maometis interpretation was Charles Walmesley, the Roman Catholic bishop of Rama. He falsely claimed that the name Muhammad was spelled Maometis or Moametis by Euthymius Zygabenus and the Greek historians Zonaras and Cedrenus. Sources indicate that Euthymius Zygabenus and Zonaras wrote the name as Maometh and Cedrenus wrote the name Mouchoumet none of which is the "Maometis" in question. Other proponents include Charles Montagu,[who?] Gilbert Genebrard, Francois Feuardent, and Rene Massuet. Maometis in Greek numerals totals 666:
In the 1923 book The Number And Names Of The Apocalyptic Beasts, David Thom rejects "Maometis" as a valid translation, observing that "of the seven different ways in which Muhammad’s name is written in Euthymius and the Byzantine historians, not one is the orthography in question". None of the given spellings add up to 666 under Greek gematria.
Mark of the Beast
A common preterist view of the Mark of the Beast (focusing on the past) is the stamped image of the emperor's head on every coin of the Roman Empire: the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell. New Testament scholar Craig C. Hill says, "It is far more probable that the mark symbolizes the all-embracing economic power of Rome, whose very coinage bore the emperor's image and conveyed his claims to divinity (e.g., by including the sun's rays in the ruler's portrait). It had become increasingly difficult for Christians to function in a world in which public life, including the economic life of the trade guilds, required participation in idolatry."
A similar view is offered by Craig R. Koester. "As sales were made, people used coins that bore the images of Rome's gods and emperors. Thus each transaction that used such coins was a reminder that people were advancing themselves economically by relying on political powers that did not recognize the true God."
In 66, when Nero was emperor—about the time some scholars say Revelation was written—the Jews revolted against Rome and coined their own money.
The passage is also seen as an antithetical parallelism to the Jewish institution of tefillin – Hebrew Bible texts worn bound to the arm and the forehead during daily prayer. Instead of binding their allegiance to God to their arm and head, the place is instead taken with people's allegiance to The Beast.
The idealist perspective on the number of the beast rejects gematria, envisioning the number not as a code to be broken, but a symbol to be understood. Idealists would contend that because there are so many names that can come to 666 and that most systems require converting names to other languages or adding titles when convenient, it has been impossible to come to a consensus. Given that numbers are used figuratively throughout the book of Revelation, idealists interpret this number figuratively as well. The common suggestion is that because seven is a number of completeness and is associated with the divine, that six is incomplete and the three sixes are "inherently incomplete". The number is therefore suggestive that the Dragon and his beasts are completely inadequate. Another suggestion is that this number represents an individual's incomplete or immature spiritual state.
A futurist view of the Mark of the Beast is that the rise of a supranational currency could be a hallmark of the End Times and that the mark of the beast will be a sign on the forehead or on the right hand. Futurists (focused on the future) believe that the revelation addresses primarily the Second Coming (of Christ) and similar events at the time's end (1:7; 19:11-16; 22:11-12). Although many do find truth in these general assertions, this view does not bring to light many events others such as historicists claim precede the time of the end (Ch. 2-5; 12:5-16).
Religious difficulties with a world currency currently exist. According to the Futurist view, to overcome the extant difficulties the Antichrist will use forced religious syncretism (i.e. in the name of counterterrorism and world economic stability) to enable the creation of the supranational currency. Some interpret the mark as a requirement for all commerce to mean that the mark might actually be an object with the function of a credit card, such as RFID microchip implants. In Christianity, some believe the implantation of chips may be the imprinting of the Mark of the Beast, prophesied to be a requirement for all trade, and a precursor to the events of the Book of Revelation.
Historicists believe Revelation articulates a full range of the history of the Christian church, from John's day to the Second Coming of Christ. The author (John) alludes to Daniel 2:28 and 45; Daniel's vision (Daniel 2) uses symbols giving a sequence of future events in history, from the Babylonian empire, through Medo-Persian period, Greece and Rome continuing until the end of the current civilization. This apocalyptic volume builds on Daniel's approach focusing on major points of Christian history: the cross (Rev. 5:6,9,12); the Second Coming (19:11-19-16) and more (chap. 20). As parts of Daniel appear not to involve predictions of history (e.g., Dan. 3-6), attention to the text of Revelation to know just how John and Jesus intended us to apply each vision might be paid.
Seventh-day Adventists taking this view believe that the Mark of the Beast (but not the number 666) refers to a future, universal, legally enforced Sunday-worship. "Those who reject God's memorial of creatorship—the Bible Sabbath—choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full knowledge that it is not God's appointed day of worship, will receive the 'mark of the beast.'" "The Sunday Sabbath is purely a child of the Papacy. It is the mark of the beast."
In the writings of the Bahá'í Faith, `Abdu'l-Bahá states that the numerical value given to the beast referred to the year when the Umayyad ruler Muawiyah I, who opposed the Imamate, according to the beliefs of Shia Islam, took office as Caliph in 661 AD, (see also the scholarly accepted year of birth of Jesus about 666 years before as well as the concept of Mawali who were non-Arab Muslims but not treated as other Muslims) who continued to pay the tax required of nonbelievers and were excluded from government and the military, and thus bore a social "mark".
- Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Beast identified by the number 666 represents the worlds' unified governments in opposition to God. The Beast is said to have "a human number" in that the represented governments are of a human origin rather than spirit entities. The number 666 is said to identify "gross shortcoming and failure in the eyes of Jehovah," in contrast to the number 7, which is seen as symbolising perfection.
In Kabbalistic Judaism the number 666 represents the creation and perfection of the world. The world was created in 6 days, and there are 6 cardinal directions (North, South, East, West, Up, Down). 6 is also the numerical value of one of the letters of God's name.
Fear and superstition
Some avoid the number 666 out of superstition. Irrational fear of the number is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. This word is derived from Ancient Greek roots ἑξακόσιοι [hexakósioi, "six hundred"], ἑξήκοντα [hexékonta, "sixty"], and ἕξ [héx, "six"]; literally meaning "fear of six hundred sixty-six".
The phobia has been a motif in various horror films such as The Omen and its 2006 remake. The number of the beast also appears in other films such as Pulp Fiction, The Doom Generation and End of Days.
Some women expressed concern about giving birth on June 6, 2006 (06/06/06).
In November 2013, Codie Thacker, a cross-country runner at Whitley County High School in Williamsburg, Kentucky, refused to run in her Kentucky High School Athletic Association regional meet, forfeiting a chance at qualifying for the state championships, when her coach drew bib number 666.
In 2015, US Representative Joe Barton had the number of a legislative bill he had introduced changed from 666 to 702 because "the original bill number carried many different negative connotations", according to a spokesperson.
- Beale 1999, p. 718
- Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle and Aland, 1991, footnote to verse 13:18 of Revelation, page 659: "-σιοι δέκα ἕξ" as found in C [C=Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus]; for English see Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, note on verse 13:18 of Revelation, page 750: "the numeral 616 was also read ..."
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- (whose name, written in Aramaic, can be valued at 666, using the Hebrew numerology of gematria), a manner of speaking against the emperor without the Roman authorities knowing. Also "Nero Caesar" in the Hebrew alphabet is נרון קסר NRON QSR, which when used as numbers represent 50 200 6 50 100 60 200, which add to 666. The Greek term χάραγμα (charagma, "mark" in Revelation 13:16) was most commonly used for imprints on documents or coins.
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Supporters say changing building numbers isn't such an unusual thing. After all, they say, when President Reagan left office, he and Nancy took up residence at 666 St. Cloud Road in Bel-Air but had the address changed to 668 to avoid the 'number of the beast.'
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