02 November 2013

666 The Number of the Beast

The number of the beast is 666 by William Blake

In manuscripts of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation (13:17-18) cryptically asserts that 666 is the "number of a man," associated with the beast. This beast is an antagonistic creature that appears briefly about two-thirds into the apocalyptic vision. Some manuscripts of the original Greek use the symbols chi xi stigma (or digamma), while other manuscripts spell out the number in words.

The number was a way of identifying the beast without saying its name, but even saying the number 666 is reportedly a way to invoke Satan.

In much more modern popular culture, 666 has become a way of referencing the Antichrist or the Devil. In the Harry Potter book and film series, evil is represented by the character Voldemort. Almost no witch or wizard dares to speak that name. He is referred to as "You-Know-Who", "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" or "the Dark Lord".

In the ancient texts, the number of the beast identifies the beast from the sea, the first of two symbolic beasts described in the Book of Revelation's thirteenth chapter. In most New Testament manuscripts, the number is rendered as 666.

One interpretation is that the number has a symbolic correlation to the Emperor Nero, whose Greek name transliterated into Hebrew has the numeric value of 666. In Revelation's narrative, the "mark of the beast" is used to identify the beast's acolytes (a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession).

Some groups interpret Revelation to mean that the mark will take the form of a number or symbol that will be revealed only during the End Times.

Revelation 13 actually describes John's vision of two beasts. The first beast emerges from the sea having seven heads inscribed with blasphemous names (possibly reflecting the titles given to Roman emperors such as "Lord and Saviour", "Saviour of the World"  which would be blasphemies in the eyes of Christians).

A second beast emerges from the earth and "speaks like a dragon". The second beast will ensure that everyone is required to bear the mark of the first beast on their right hand or forehead, "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." [Revelation 13:17]

Catholic scholars' interpretation side with those who believe the Greek alphabet is an inaccurate way to interpret the meaning and prefer the using the Hebrew alphabet. When Nero Caesar is spelled in Hebrew letters it identifies the cipher 666. So, their conclusion is that Nero is the beast and it is not a prophesy for identifying a future Antichrist

The program Radiolab has an episode about the Oxyrhynchus Papyri which contains a fragmentary papyrus of Revelation which is considered the earliest known witness to some sections (late third / early fourth century). This papyrus assigns to the Beast 616, rather than the usual 666 and the variant 616 is found in critical editions of the Greek text, such as the Novum Testamentum Graece.

Is it strange that Emperor Nero's Latin name written into Hebrew is 616?


In the novel, The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, the Biblical number of the beast turns out to be, not 666, but (6^6)^6, or 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,949,056, which is the initial number of parallel universes accessible through a "continua device" in the book. It is later theorized by the character Jacob that the number may be merely the instantly accessible universes from a given location, and there is a larger structure that implies an infinite number of universes.

Engraving by Gustave Doré illustrating Canto XXXIV of Divine Comedy, Inferno,
by Dante Alighieri showing Lucifer, King of Hell

This is a cross-posting with Weekends in Paradelle

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3/31/2018

    All this is very interesting (& well written too), but I am more interested in exactly what Blake meant to convey; Now I know he was commissioned to paint a bunch of scenes from the bible (& more specifically Revelations I think), but what I mean is, for example, I know that "The Great Red Dragon & the Woman clothed with the Sun", Blake added his own symbology in that in that in the original verse, which I'm just going to paraphrase big time BTW, paints the picture of a woman heavy with child, tired & in pain, whereas Blake gives the woman a more confidant pose, & more significantly, the Dragon is not supposed to actually be there, at least in this painting, the Dragon/Antichrist figure is shown suspended over her as if flying. this is meant to convey that the Dragon, while there in a very real sense, physically it is not (i.e. its presence, whether simply mentally in the woman's head, or its 'Soul' perhaps). Being public domain, & more importantly seeing as how it makes me feel something, I think I am going to use this as the cover of the book I hope will do very well. I know what the painting means to me (in several ways, but notably how it connects to the over-theme I'm going for in my book), but I need to know exactly what it meant to him & what he means if I'm to fully understand it. Anyway, interesting site, bookmarked & I plan to come back, I like your style. Here's somethings you may or may not use (perhaps you already have): "The whole 9 yards": The US in WWII (I think, could have been WWI) had a fighter (or maybe interceptor) that had a .50 Caliber machine gun which took belt fed ammunition, which in the case of a specific war-bird was about 9 yards long when fully extended; Thus 'going the whole 9 yards' doesn't make sense, the original was "I gave it the whole 9 yards" (everything I could throw at it). "Hair of the dog": The ancient Greeks thought the cure to anything that ails you could be found IN that thing, & they were partially right, think antivenin, vaccines, & such. SO, if bitten by a rabid dog, you would catch the dog, cut off some of its fur (or maybe skin, I heard fur though), burn said fur then put the remnant ashes into wine & drink it. I'm just a wee bit dubious as to the effectiveness of this one. "Making money hand over fist": Ok this one dates back to the Visigoths, though it could be applied to many people who made coinage using the same technique. Which is, hammer precious metal into flat sheets of equal thickness, then using a hollow 'bladed' pipe (these have a name, I know a fair bit about metal working & I SHOULD know this...), they would punch out round circles of said metal; Now for the relevant bit, they would then take these circular blanks, put them in a mold & then using their one hand to hold the coin imprinter (held in a fist), & the other hand to pout the coin with its impression, thus literally "making money hand over fist". I used to know more, but there you are.
    -JKing

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