Number of the Beast

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The number of the beast is 666 by William Blake
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The Number of the Beast is a concept from the Book of Revelation of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The number is 666 in most manuscripts of the New Testament, and in modern translations and critical editions of the Greek text. Although Irenaeus (second century) reported several scribal errors of the number, there is still doubt by some theologians about the original reading, as some recently discovered third century early manuscripts of Revelation read 616. This topic is a source of contention for many church groups and theologians.[1] Some scholars contend that the number 666 is a code for the Roman Emperor Nero,[2][3] others that 616 is a code for the Roman Emperor Caligula.[4]


[edit] Bible

[edit] 666

The Number of the Beast is described in the Book of Revelation 13:17-18. The original Greek reads:

καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου· ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛʹ.

The King James translates:[5]

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

In the Greek manuscripts, the Number is rendered in Greek numerical form as χξϛʹ,[6] or sometimes literally as ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, hexakósioi hexēkonta héx, “six hundred and sixty-six".[7][8]

Scholars such as Dr. Ellen Aitken, Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University, have speculated that the reference to this passage was a way of speaking in code about then contemporary figures whom it would have been politically dangerous to criticize openly.

Many scholars believe that 666 refers to a Roman Emperor such as Nero[9] (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.

Some commentators, not only the contemporary but also some ancient ones like Andreas of Caesarea or Origen, reflect an alternative attitude on textual matters of Revelation, in that they accept more than one reading when they know more.[10] For example the Greek νοείν, as in "ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω", has been suggested to mean "read between the lines", "penetrate below the surface" by Cuthbert Hamilton Turner as a means to indirectly reference Roman power.[11]

[edit] 616

The early Church father Irenaeus knew several occurrences of the 616-variant but regarded them as a scribal error and affirmed that the number 666 stood "in all the most approved and ancient copies" and is attested by "those men who saw John face to face".[12]

Red arrow points to χιϛʹ (616) in P115 deciphered in May 2005.

In May 2005, it was reported that scholars at Oxford University using advanced imaging techniques[13] had been able to read previously illegible portions of the earliest known record of the Book of Revelation(a 1,700 year old papyrus), from the Oxyrhynchus site, Papyrus 115 or P115, dating one century after Irenaeus. The fragment gives the Number of the Beast as 616 (chi, iota, stigma), rather than the majority text 666 (chi, xi, stigma).[1] The other early witness Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) has it written in full: hexakosiai deka hex (lit. six hundred sixteen).[14]

Significantly, P115 aligns with Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) which are generally regarded as providing the best testimony to Revelation. Thus, P115 has superior testimony to that of P47 which aligns with Codex Sinaiticus and together form the second-best witness to the Book of Revelation. This has led some scholars to conclude that 616 is the original number of the beast.[15][16]

Dr. Paul Lewes in his book, A Key to Christian Origins (1932) wrote:

"The figure 616 is given in one of the two best manuscripts, C (Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, Paris), 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 it [the 616 reading], but did not adopt it (Haer. v.30,3), Jerome adopted it (De Monogramm., ed. Dom G Morin in the Rev. Benedictine, 1903). It is probably original. The number 666 has been substituted for 616 either by analogy with 888, the [Greek] number of Jesus (Deissmann), or because it is a triangular number, the sum of the first 36 numbers (1+2+3+4+5+6...+36 = 666)".[17]

Professor David C. Parker, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham, thinks that 616, although less memorable than 666, is the original.[18] Dr. Ellen Aitken said: “Scholars have argued for a long time over this, and it now seems that 616 was the original number of the beast. It's probably about 100 years before any other version."[19]

[edit] Interpretations

[edit] Name

One interpretation is that 666 encodes the letters of someone’s name and/or title, identifying the Antichrist.


Scholars who believe that the Book of Revelation refers to historical people and events argue that the number represents Nero. In Hebrew gematria, every letter has a corresponding number. Summing these numbers gives a numeric value to a word or name. The Greek spelling, “Nerōn Kaisar,” transliterates into Hebrew as “נרון קסר” or “nrvn qsr”. Adding the corresponding values yields 666, as shown:

Resh (ר) Samekh (ס) Koof (ק) Noon (נ) Vav (ו) Resh (ר) Noon (נ) TOTAL
200 60 100 50 6 200 50 666

By contrast, the Latin title for Nero is spelled simply “Nerō Caesar,” which transliterates to “נרו קסר” or “nrv qsr” and has a value of 616, which may explain that variation.[20]

Resh(ר) Samekh (ס) Koof (ק) vav (ו) Resh (ר) Noon (נ) TOTAL
200 60 100 6 200 50 616

The hypothesis that 666 or 616 is a code for a Roman emperor seems to have historical support. The emperors were noted for their oppression of both Jews and Christians. Both communities were known to use numerology, codes and symbols (such as the Ichthys) when living under Roman rule to avoid persecution.


David C. Parker, professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham said that the correct number, 616, refers to the emperor Caligula[1]. Caligula's attempt to erect his statue in the Temple in Jerusalem may have inspired the author of Revelation to speak against the Roman Emperor.[4] In Hebrew, Gaius Caligula Caesar is גסקלגסקסר (gsqlgs qsr). Adding the values yields 616.

Resh Samekh Koof Samekh Gimel Lamed Koof Samekh Gimel TOTAL
200 60 100 60 3 30 100 60 3 616

In Greek, "Gaios Kaisar" also yields 616

Γ α ι ο σς Κ α ι σς α ρ TOTAL
3 1 10 70 200 20 1 10 200 1 100 616

The German Protestant theologian Ethelbert Stauffer, arguing that gematria had been the most popular form of numerology not only among Jews but also in the Graeco-Roman world (Pergamon, Pompeii)[21], conceived a Greek gematrical procedure to explain the number 666. Judging from the precise information that the Book of Revelation gives about the person behind the number 666[22], Stauffer concluded that the "beast" can in general only refer to a Roman emperor and argued that this Emperor must be Domitian, because he had reigned during the proposed time of origin of the Apocalypse and supposedly was called "The Beast" as a "secret derisive nickname" by Romans, Greek, Christians and Jews.[23] Stauffer computed the Number of the Beast using the short form of Domitian's five titles and names A KAI ΔOMET ΣEB ΓE, as derived from the abbreviations on coins and inscriptions.[24] Domitian's official title in Latin was Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus. This was rendered as Autokrator Kaisar Dometianos Sebastos Germanikos for his Greek-speaking subjects. And in turn, for their coins, this abbreviated to A.KAI.DOMET.SEB.GE which totals 666 in Greek Gematria.

1 20 1 10 4 70 40 5 300 200 5 2 3 5 666

Robert Graves suggested that DCLXVI, 666 in Roman numerals, is an abbreviation for the Latin sentence “Domitianus Caesar Legatos Xti Violenter Interfecit”, or “The Emperor Domitian violently killed the envoys of Christ”.[25]


Some Protestant Bible commentators have equated the "beast" of Revelation chapter 13 with the Papacy.[26] To this end, the letters of an alleged title of the Pope, Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of The Son of God), are summed to total 666 in Roman numerals. The earliest extant record of a Protestant writer on this subject is that of Professor Andreas Helwig in 1612 in his work Antichristus Romanus. The title was contained in the Donation of Constantine, a forged document falsely claiming to come from the Emperor Constantine the Great, by which large privileges and rich possessions were conferred on the pope and the Roman Church.[27] However, this title was never an official title of the Pope. This interpretation also requires the use of letters that had no numerical value for the Romans (such as the AR and S in Vicarivs).

5 1 100 0 0 1 5 0 0 1 50 1 1 500 0 1 666

Seventh-day Adventists 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.’”[28] "The Sunday Sabbath is purely a child of the Papacy. It is the mark of the beast."[29]

Some fundamentalists believe that the mark of the beast refers to the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross. [30]

Martin Luther held that the mark of the beast was the tonsured haircut worn by Roman Catholic clergy.[31]

He also wrote in a footnote to Rev 13:15-18: "Spirit means / that it is active / and not a dead image / but that it has its rights and offices in its womb. These are six hundred and sixty and six years. So long the earthly papacy remains." During the Reformation, Martin Luther noted that "Benediktos" added up to 666 in Greek gematria, and he thought it might refer to a Pope named Benedict or to Benedictine monks.

Β ε ν ε δ ι κ τ ο σς TOTAL
2 5 50 5 4 10 20 300 70 200 666

Luther has many comments and theories against the papacy in the footnotes to his translation of the Book of Revelation.

[edit] Lateinos, Euanthas, Teitan

Irenaeus suggested that the number indicates that the beast is the sum of all apostasy committed over the course of six thousand years.[32] Irenaeus suggested that 666 might refer to Lateinos (The ancient Greek word for "Latin man"), Euanthas or Teitan. Irenaeus wrote:

It is not through a want of names containing the number of that name that I say this, but on account of the fear of God, and zeal for the truth: for the name Evanthas (ΕΥΑΝΘΑΣ) contains the required number, but I make no allegation regarding it. Then also Lateinos (ΛΑΤΕΙΝΟΣ) has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence]. Teitan too, (ΤΕΙΤΑΝ, the first syllable being written with the two Greek vowels ε and ι, among all the names which are found among us, is rather worthy of credit. For it has in itself the predicted number, and is composed of six letters, each syllable containing three letters; and [the word itself] is ancient, and removed from ordinary use; for among our kings we find none bearing this name Titan, nor have any of the idols which are worshiped in public among the Greeks and barbarians this appellation. Among many persons, too, this name is accounted divine, so that even the sun is termed "Titan" by those who do now possess [the rule]. This word, too, contains a certain outward appearance of vengeance, and of one inflicting merited punishment because he (Antichrist) pretends that he vindicates the oppressed. And besides this, it is an ancient name, one worthy of credit, of royal dignity, and still further, a name belonging to a tyrant. Inasmuch, then, as this name "Titan" has so much to recommend it, there is a strong degree of probability, that from among the many [names suggested], we infer, that perchance he who is to come shall be called "Titan."[33]

30 1 300 5 10 50 70 200 666
300 5 10 300 1 50 666
5 400 1 50 9 1 200 666

[edit] Other suggested names

  • Andrew of Caesarea in his Commentary on Revelation gives seven names: Lampetis (the lustrous one), Teitan, Palaibaskanos (an ancient sorcerer), Benediktos (blue bastard), Kakos Odegos (bad guide), Alethes Blaberos (really harmful), and Amnos Adikos (unjust lamb) each of which gives a total of 666. Most of these names are repeated by Arethas of Caesarea, who in his Commentary adds Teitan from Irenaeus and O Niketes (the winner).[34]
  • Victorinus of Pettau gives the names Teitan, Antemos (opponent), Diclux (double-dealer) and Genserikos; the last he calls Gothic. As it is plainly Genseric, the Vandal king, who captured Rome in 455 AD., the passage as a whole can not go back to Victorinus, who belonged to the third century. It is not, however surprising that the commentary should be brought up to date, after Genseric became notorious through the sack of Carthage or of Rome. Of the other names in Victorinus only Diclux needs mention. It is said to be the Latin counterpart of Teitan and by reckoning each letter at its value in Roman numerals, the total of 666 is again given.[34]
  • Venerable Bede gives three names: Teitan, Antemos (opponent), and Arnoyme (I deny).
  • Beatus, a Spanish monk, gives eight names among which are Damnatus (Damned), Antichristus (Antichrist), and Acxyme (for aichime or achine=666). The numerical interpretation of Antichristus is based on the order of letters in the Latin alphabet, a=1 to x =300, but the accusative must be taken and spelled Antechristum.[34]

[edit] Mark of commerce

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Rev. 13:16-17 (NIV)

Futurist Christian eschatology typically holds that the Mark of the Beast is one way in which the Antichrist will exercise power over the Earth during the period of Tribulation, because of the prophetic statement in Revelation 13:16-17 that "the Beast" (θηριον) will require all people to receive the mark (χάραγμα "branded mark or character") in their right hands or foreheads in order to buy or sell, making survival for those on the run much more difficult. A possible translation of the meaning of the number 666 may be: the number 666 will be the number that all currency will be based upon. Exact interpretations of this vary widely. For example:

  • Some Christians 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 (eg. RFID).[35]
  • Steven D. Miller proposes that the mark of the beast may refer to a social security number or card.[36]
  • Terry Watkins supposes the mark to be a microchip and or barcode on the human body.[37]

Alternatively, some who take a historical view of the Book of Revelation identify the Mark of the Beast with 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.[38]

[edit] Other interpretations

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Beast for which 666 stands symbolizes many governments, harmonizing with the symbolic depiction of past governments (denoted as "kings") in the Book of Daniel as wild beasts. The Beast is said to have "a human number" in that the governments that the beast symbolizes are all of a human origin, they aren't made up of spirit or demon entities. [39]

Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) claimed that he was the Beast prophesised in the Book of Revelation and took the name “Το μεγα θηριον” ("To Mega Therion"), Greek for “The Great Beast”, which adds up to 666 by isopsephy, the Greek form of gematria.[40][41]

In the writings of the Bahá'í Faith, `Abdu'l-Bahá states that the numerical value given to the beast referred to the year[42] when the Umayyad ruler Muawiyah I, who opposed the Imamate, 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".[43]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c "The Other Number of the Beast". Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents. Retrieved on 2006-06-23. 
  2. ^ Hillers, D. R. (1963). "Revelation 13:18 and a Scroll from Murabba’at". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 170: 65. doi:10.2307/1355990. Retrieved on 2006-08-07.  Note: website requires subscription.The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990. 1009
  3. ^ Just, Felix (2002-02-02). "666: The Number of the Beast". Retrieved on 2006-06-06. 
  4. ^ a b 666 wrong number of prophetic beast?
  5. ^ "Revelation 13:17-18". King James Version of the Bible. Bible Gateway.;&version=9;. Retrieved on 2006-06-22. 
  6. ^ "Revelation 13:18". Stephanus New Testament. Bible Gateway.;&version=69;. Retrieved on 2006-06-22. 
  7. ^ "Revelation 13:18". Westcott-Hort New Testament. Bible Gateway.;&version=68;. Retrieved on 2006-06-22. 
  8. ^ "Revelation 13:18" (JPEG). Codex Alexandrinus. Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Retrieved on 2006-06-22. 
  9. ^ Some Recently Published NT Papyri from Oxyrhynchus: An Overview and Preliminary Assessment by Peter M. Head, Tyndale Bulletin 51 (2000), pp. 1-16
  10. ^ SBL Boston, Hernández on Andrew of Caesarea as Textual-Critic [1]
  11. ^ Elliott, James Keith. The Language and Style of the Gospel of Mark: An Edition of C.H. Turner's "Notes on Marcan Usage" Together with Other Comparable Studies, Cuthbert Hamilton TurnerPublished by BRILL, 1993ISBN 9004097678 9789004097674[2]
  12. ^ Irenaeus. "Book V, Chapter XXX.". Adversus Haereses. 
  13. ^ Papyrus Reveals New Clues to Ancient World [3]
  14. ^ Hoskier, Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse, vol. 2, p. 364.
  15. ^ Philip W Comfort and David P Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts,(Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Incorporated, 2001)
  16. ^ CJO - Abstract - A new Oxyrhynchus Papyrus of Revelation: P115 (P. Oxy. 4499)
  17. ^ Dr. Paul Lewes, A Key to Christian Origins (Watts & Co., London, 1932, p.140
  18. ^ Anderson, Tom (2005-05-01). "Revelation! 666 is not the number of the beast (it's a devilish 616)". The Independent. Retrieved on 2009-03-01. 
  19. ^ Beast’s real mark devalued to ‘616′[4]
  20. ^ Nero as the Antichrist[5]
  21. ^ According to Stauffer (1947) the terminus technicus ψηφίζειν clearly emphasizes the gematrical interpretation. Gematria was also used in an "often-cited old-Christian Apocalypse that is doubtlessly connected with Apocalypse 13,18 and that probably goes back to a secret sign in Johannean times, Orac. Sibyll. I, 324-331."
  22. ^ 1. He has power over all nations, 2. his likeness is worshipped all over the world, 3. his name appears on official signatures, 4. he prosecutes Christianity for its denial to worship his likeness and accept the signing with his name.
  23. ^ E. Stauffer. Coniectanea Neotestamentica XI in honorem Antonii Fridrichsen sexagenarii. Lund 1947.
  24. ^ Aυτοκράτωρ (A = 1); KAIσαρ (KAI = 20 + 1 + 10 = 31); ΔOMETιανός ( ΔOMET = 4 + 70 + 40 + 5 + 300 = 419); ΣEBαστός (ΣEB = 200 + 5 + 2 = 207); ΓEρμανικός (ΓE = 3 + 5 = 8). This results in A KAI ΔOMET ΣEB ΓE (gematrially: 1 + 31 + 419 + 207 + 8 = 666), making Domitian the Beast. In: E. Stauffer. Christus und die Caesaren. Historische Skizzen. 6th extended edition. Hamburg 1964.
  25. ^ Graves, Robert (1948). The White Goddess. 
  26. ^ Halley, H. H., Halley's Bible Handbook, Zondervan Publishing house, 1978, p726
  27. ^ Donation of Constantine, New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia
  28. ^ Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed). Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 2005. pp. 196. 
  29. ^ Advent Review, Vol. I, No. 2, August, 1850.
  30. ^ The Mark of the Beast[6]
  31. ^ Plass, Ewald Martin. What Luther Says: An Anthology‎, St. Louis: Concordia. p. 1141.
  32. ^ Irenaeus. "Book V, Chapter XXIX.". 'Adversus Haereses'. 
  33. ^ Against Heresies, by Irenæus, Book 5, chapter 30, paragraph 3[7]
  34. ^ a b c Henry A. Sanders (1918) "The Number of the Beast in Revelation", Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 37, No. 1/2. (1918), pp. 95-99 (Subscription required for JSTOR link.)
  35. ^ Scheeres, Julia (2003). "When Cash Is Only Skin Deep". Wired News.,1282,61357,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_2. Retrieved on 2003-11-25. 
  36. ^ Miller, Steven D. (August 2001). "Is your social security card the Mark of the Beast?". Retrieved on 2006-06-22. 
  37. ^ Watkins, Terry (1999). "What about barcodes and 666: The Mark of the Beast?". Retrieved on 2006-06-22. 
  38. ^ eg Tony Robinson, The Doomsday Code, Channel 4, 16 September 2006
  39. ^ "Identifying the Wild Beast and Its Mark". The Watchtower. 2004-04-01. Retrieved on 2006-06-29. 
  40. ^ Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary (Aleister Crowley). Wiley. ISBN 0-471-27242-6
  41. ^ Crowley, Aleister. The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley (Tunisia 1923), Skinner, Stephan (editor). Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0-87728-856-9
  42. ^ Research Department of the Universal House of Justice (1986-01-07). "Interpretation of Biblical Verses". Bahá'í Library. Retrieved on 2007-05-16. 
  43. ^ Student Resources, Chapter 12: The First Global Civilization: The Rise and Spread of Islam, The Arab Empire of the Umayyads - Converts and "People of the Book"
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