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The number of the beast is described in Revelation 13:15-18. Several translations have been interpreted 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 (psephisato) is used. Possible translations include "to count", "to reckon" and also "to vote" or "to decide".
English: "17And 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. 18Here 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 666."
In several editions of the Greek Bible, the number is represented by the final three words, , hexakósioi hex?konta héx, meaning "six hundred [and] sixty-six":
17 ? ? ? ? ? ?, ? ? .18 ? · ? ? ? ? , ? · ? ? .English: "17And 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. 18Here 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 and sixty-six."
Although Irenaeus (2nd century AD) affirmed the number to be 666 and reported several scribal errors of the number, theologians have doubts about the traditional reading because of the appearance of the figure 616 in the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C; Paris--one of the four great uncial codices), as well as in the Latin version of Tyconius (DCXVI, ed. Souter in the Journal of Theology, SE, April 1913), and in an ancient Armenian version (ed. Conybeare, 1907). Irenaeus knew about the 616 reading, but did not adopt it (Haer. V, 30). In the 380s, correcting the existing Latin-language version of the New Testament (commonly referred to as the Vetus Latina), Jerome retained "666".
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 (). This fragment is the oldest manuscript (about 1,700 years old) of Revelation 13 found as of 2017[update].Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, known before the Papyrus 115 finding but dating to after it, has 616 written in full: ? , hexakosioi deka hex (lit. "six hundred and sixteen").
Papyrus 115 and Ephraemi Rescriptus have led some scholars to regard 616 as 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)".
The beast's identity and the beast's number are usually interpreted by applying one of three methods:
Using gematria to find the numbers that equate to the names of world leaders, to check for a match with the scriptural number.
Treating the number of the beast as a duration of time.
Linking the scriptural imagery and symbolism of the Antichrist with characteristics of world leaders who oppose Christianity.
Identification by gematria
In Greekisopsephy and Hebrew gematria, every letter has a corresponding numeric value. 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 interpretation that 666 is the numerical equivalent of the name and title NeroCaesar (Roman Emperor 54-68 AD). Written in Aramaic, this can be valued at 666 using the Hebrew numerology of gematria, and was used to secretly speak against the emperor. Additionally, "Nero Caesar" in the Hebrew alphabet is ? NRON QSR, which when interpreted numerically represents the numbers 50 200 6 50 100 60 200, which add up to 666.
The Greek term ? (charagma, "mark" in Revelation 13:16) was most commonly used for imprints on documents or coins. 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 identify 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 "Ner?n Kaisar"). In Latin it is Nro Qsr (pronounced "Ner? Kaisar").
The Greek version of the name and title transliterates into Hebrew as ? , and yields a numerical value of 666, as shown:
The Latin version of the name drops the second Nun (?), so that it appears as Nro and transliterates into Hebrew as , yielding 616:
Gematria has also been used with the word Maometis (Ancient Greek: ); which scholars[who?] have described as a dubiously obscure Latinisation of a Greek transliteration of the Arabic name ? (Muhammad). Kenneth Setton wrote that Muhammad was frequently defamed and made a subject of legends taught by preachers as fact. For example, in order to show that Muhammad was the anti-Christ, it was asserted that Muhammad died not in the year 632 but in the year 666. In another variation on the theme the number "666" was also used to represent the period of time Muslims would hold sway of the land. In Quia maior, the encyclical calling for the Fifth Crusade, Euthymius Zygabenus and Zonaras wrote the name as "Maometh" and Cedrenus wrote the name "Mouchoumet" none of which is the "Maometis" in question. A leading exponent of the Maometis interpretation was Charles Walmesley, the Roman Catholic bishop of Rama. Other proponents include 16-17th century Catholic theologians 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
Coin showing Nero distributing charity to a citizen, c. 64-66
The Classical Greek word charagma (?), translated as mark (of the beast) in Revelation 13:16 can also mean any mark engraved, imprinted, or branded; stamped money, document, or coin.
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 noted, "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."
Adela Yarbro Collins further denotes that the refusal to use Roman coins resulted in the condition where "no man might buy or sell" (Rev. 13:17).
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. Other scholars focus not on incompleteness but on the beast's ability to imitate perfection, that is, to appear authentic. Since the number six is one short of the perfect number seven, the beast's number bears "most of the hallmarks of truth, and so it can easily deceive". Another suggestion is that this number represents an individual's incomplete or immature spiritual state.
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 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 of Christ (Rev. 5:6,9,12); the Second Coming (Rev. 14:14-16; 19:11-16); the 1,000 years in heaven (Rev. 20:4-6); the third advent of Christ to earth along with his loyal followers and the destruction of Satan and those who refused Christ (20:7-15); and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth where death, sorrow, and sin cease and God dwells with His people (Rev. 21:1-8, 22-27; 22:1-5). The Book of Daniel is divided into two parts--the historical narrative of the captivity of Judah and the prophecies pointing to both promised Messiah and the events of the end of the world. Attention to the text of Revelation aids the student of Bible prophecy by showing how the Apostle John and Jesus intended us to interpret Bible apocalyptic literature as found in Daniel.
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-sacredness. "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."
The mark of the beast and microchips
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 second half of the Book of Revelation.
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 took office as Caliph in 661 AD. He opposed the Imamate, according to the beliefs of Shia Islam, who continued to pay the tax required of nonbelievers and were excluded from government and the military, and thus bore a social "mark". (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.)
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the beast identified by the number 666 represents the world's 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 symbolizing perfection.
In 2017 Jehovah's Witnesses said some Congolese churches made the claim that a World Wide Web (WWW) address printed on Jehovah's Witness literature is an indication that the literature is demonic, because WWW corresponds with 666.
In 1988, the address of Chicago's American Furniture Mart building was changed by its new owner from 666 to 680 N Lake Shore Drive, ostensibly to distance the new tenancy from the former owners' financial problems.
In 2003, U.S. Route 666 in New Mexico was changed to U.S. Route 491. A New Mexico spokesperson stated, "The devil's out of here, and we say goodbye and good riddance."
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.
In 2017, church leaders in Papua New Guinea were concerned by newspaper reports that the Governor-General had been requested to sign 666 writs for an upcoming election. They were reassured by the Electoral Commissioner that the number merely reflected 6 copies of each writ for 111 electorates.
In October 2017, flight AY666 from Copenhagen to Helsinki (HEL) departed for the last time before being renamed to AY954. Since 2006, the flight had been scheduled on a Friday the 13th on 21 occasions. A Finnair spokesperson said that the number had not been renamed due to superstitious passengers.
^Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle and Aland, 1991, footnote to verse 13:18 of Revelation, page 659: "-? ? " 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 ..."
^ abPaul Spilsbury (2002), The throne, the lamb & the dragon: A Reader's Guide to the Book of Revelation, InterVarsity Press; p. 99
^Craig C. Hill (2002), In God's Time: The Bible and the Future, Eerdmans; p. 124
^"Collins, 1984, p. 126: Adela Yarbro Collins: "The juxtaposition of buying and selling with the mark of the beast refers to the fact that Roman coins normally bore the image and name of the current emperor. "The inability to buy or sell would then be the result of the refusal to use Roman coins."
^Craig R. Koester (2001), Revelation and the End of All Things, Eerdmans; p. 132
^Christopher C. Rowland, "The Book of Revelation, Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections" in The New Interpreter's Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville: Abingdon, 1998), 12:501-743, at 659; James L. Resseguie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 191.
^Chang Soppe, Seok Lyun (2014). God's Mystery That Is Christ. Westbow Press. ISBN978-1490815947.
^Dybdahl, jon (2010). Andrews Study Bible. Berrien Springs: Sutherland House. p. 1659. LCCN2010924514.
^"THE REAGANS: First Family Easing into Private Life". Los Angeles Times. 19 November 1988.
^Ni, Ching-Ching (21 May 2011). "In Arcadia real estate, 4 is a negative number". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 2011. 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.'