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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.
The Number of the Beast is described in the passage of Revelation 13:15–18 and the actual number is only mentioned once, in verse 18. In the Greek manuscripts, the 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.
1 Kings 10:14 (KJV) Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, 2 Chronicles 9:13 (KJV) Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and threescore and six talents of gold;
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 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). "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)"
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 happens to be the oldest manuscript (about 1,700 years old) of Revelation 13 to date.
Papyrus 115 and Ephraemi Rescriptus has led some scholars to conclude that 616 is the original number of the beast. If this variant is the original number of the Beast, it would be catastrophic to existing dispensational literature.
Interpreting the identity and the number of the Beast usually falls into three categories:
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Rev.13:18-NKJV)
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 (with others) 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.
An Aramaic scroll from 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").
|Resh (ר)||Samekh (ס)||Qoph (ק)||Nun (נ)||Vav (ו)||Resh (ר)||Nun (נ)||Sum|
|Resh (ר)||Samekh (ס)||Qoph (ק)||Vav (ו)||Resh (ר)||Nun (נ)||Sum|
Protestant Reformers and historicist expositors have equated the Beast of the earth, of Revelation chapter 13, with the Papacy. Using Hebraic gematria, the letters for a 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 Andreas Helwig in 1612 in his work Antichristus Romanus. The title was contained in the (forged) Donation of Constantine, by which large privileges and rich possessions were conferred on the pope and the Roman Church.
Various documents from the Vatican contain wording such as "Adorandi Dei Filii Vicarius et Procurator quibus numen æternum summam Ecclesiæ sanctæ dedit", translated as "As the Vicar and Caretaker of the worshipful Son of God, to whom the eternal divine will has given the highest rank of the Holy Church".
The Seventh-day Adventist view is that the Papacy is the Beast of Revelation, and the Mark of the Beast is Sunday worship. Adventists teach that Roman Catholicism, in coalition with other churches, will perpetrate religious oppression during the final end time crisis, and that the Sabbath will be a key issue.
Seventh-day Adventists are convinced of the validity of our prophetic views, according to which humanity now lives close to the end of time. Adventists believe, on the basis of biblical predictions, that just prior to the second coming of Christ this earth will experience a period of unprecedented turmoil, with the seventh-day Sabbath as a focal point. In that context, we expect that world religions—including the major Christian bodies as key players—will align themselves with the forces in opposition to God and to the Sabbath. Once again the union of church and state will result in widespread religious oppression.
— How Seventh-day Adventists View Roman Catholicism (official statement)
Seventh-day Adventists also hold the belief the Anti-Christ is the office of the Papacy, which was so widely held by Protestants that they became known as the "Protestant view" of prophetic interpretation. Adventists teach that exile of the Pope in 1798, which took away all his authority, was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Beast of Revelation. Adventists have attributed the wounding (taking away of all authority) and resurgence in Revelation 13:3 to the papacy, referring to General Louis Berthier's capture of Pope Pius VI in 1798 and the pope's subsequent death in 1799.
In 1866, Uriah Smith was the first to propose the interpretation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. See Review and Herald 28:196, 20 November 1866. In The United States in the Light of Prophecy he wrote
Samuele Bacchiocchi, an Adventist scholar, and only Adventist to be awarded a gold medal by Pope Paul VI for the distinction of summa cum laude (Latin for "with highest praise")  has documented the pope using such a title.
We noted that contrary to some Catholic sources who deny the use of Vicarius Filii Dei as a papal title, we have found this title to have been used in official Catholic documents to support the ecclesiastical authority and temporal sovereignty of the pope. Thus the charge that Adventists fabricated the title to support their prophetic interpretation of 666, is unfair and untrue.
— ' Samuele Bacchiocchi, http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/endtimeissues/et_196.htm slide 116
But Bacchiocchi concedes, "It has been wise for our Adventist church to abandon the traditional numeric interpretation of VICARIUS FILII DEI which lacks both exegetical and historical support."
Adventists teach there will be a time before the Second Advent in which those who follow this false day of worship and the Beast will receive the Mark of the Beast. In reference to the creation of an Image to the Beast Revelation 13-17, Ellen G. White stated:
"When the leading churches of the United States, uniting on such points of doctrines as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions; then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result." -Great Controversy p. 445
Gematria has also been used with the Greek word Maometis; which scholars have described as a dubiously obscure Latinsation of a Greek translation 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, Gilbert Genebrard, Francois Feuardent, and Rene Massuet. Maometis in Greek gematria 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.
A preterist view of the Mark of the Beast 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."
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 mean completely incomplete. The number is therefore suggestive that the Dragon and his beasts are completely inadequate.
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 upper side of the right hand.
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.
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.'" "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 the Shi'ites, 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 believe that The Beast for which 666 stands symbolizes many unified 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. Furthermore, the number 666 "itself all point to one unmistakable conclusion—gross shortcoming and failure in the eyes of Jehovah," thus imperfection (7 is used by God in many ways to indicate perfection such as days in the week, hence 6 is the number of imperfection, falling short of 7).
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.