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June 6, 2006: Some Observations on the Number of the Beast (666)

Today is June 6, 2006, or to those who think it is the day on which horrific events will unfold, it is 6-6-6!


The meaning of the number 666 has puzzled students of the Scriptures ever since John first wrote Revelation 13:18 – "This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666." There are essentially three schools of thought on how we should interpret this passage.


According to the chronological view, the number refers to the duration of the life of the beast or his kingdom. William Barclay explains:


“There are some few who have wished to take the number 666 chronologically. In a.d. 1213 Pope Innocent III called for a new crusade because he held that Muhammadan [Islamic] power was destined to last for six hundred and sixty-six years, and at that time that period was near to an end. Certain others have taken it to refer to the six hundred and sixty-six years between Seleucus in 311 b.c. and the emergence of Julian the Apostate in a.d. 355. Finally, it has been suggested that the reference is to the year a.d. 666, in which year, it is said, Pope Vitalian decreed that all public worship should be in Latin” (Evangelical Times, 70 [1958], 295).


Very few, if any, hold this view today.


According to the historical school of thought, the number is believed to refer to some historical individual, power, or kingdom. This is easily the most popular interpretation and is based on a practice in ancient times called Gematria (from the Greek "geomatria", from which we derive our English word “geometry”). This practice, found in both pagan and Jewish circles, assigns a numerical value to each letter of the alphabet. For example, using the English alphabet, the first 9 letters would stand for numbers 1 through 9 (A = 1; B = 2; C = 3; etc.), the next 9 letters for numbers 10 through 90 (J = 10; K = 20; L = 30; etc.) and so on.


If one wished to write the number “23”, for example, it would appear as “KC” (K = 20 + C = 3). There is a well-known and oft-cited example from a bit of graffiti found in the ancient city of Pompeii which reads: “I love the girl whose number is 545”. Apparently the initials of her name were ph = 500; mu = 40; epsilon = 5.


There is another method, less important to us, called Isopsephism that seeks to establish a connection between two different words or names by showing that their numerical values are the same. One such isopsephism concerns Nero in a verse taken from the historian Seutonius (Nero 39). It reads: "Neopsephon Neron idian metera apekteine" = “a new calculation: Nero killed his own mother.” The point is that the numerical value of the name “Nero” is the same as that of the phrase “killed his own mother”!


The name of the Son of God is said to be 888, the sum of the Greek letters of the name Jesus (Iesous). It has then been pointed out that 777 stands for completeness or perfection, 888 stands for more than perfection (i.e., Jesus), and thus 666 stands for imperfection, which is Antichrist. These conclusions, however, are more properly included under the Symbolic view yet to be discussed.


In case you were wondering, Charles Samuel Storms = 1303; Sam Storms = 740; C. Samuel Storms = 1069; Dr. Storms = 684 (we’re getting closer!), Pastor Sam = 662, and Pastor C. Sam = 665! Almost!


When gematria is used with Greek letters, we get the following results. Three names were suggested by Irenaeus (@ 200 a.d.), all of which have the numerical value of 666. "Euanthas" (but no one knows who or what "Euanthas" means), "Teitan" (this could refer either to the Titans who rebelled against the gods, of which the Antichrist is thus thought to be an antitype; or Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 a.d., notwithstanding the fact that Teitan is not the verbal equivalent of Titus), and "Lateinos," (which supposedly stands for the Roman or "Latin" empire itself, understood as collectively opposed to Christ and his Church).


Here are some other random suggestions, all of which add up to 666 – "Arnoume" (the problem again is that there is no such word as "arnoume", although it has been argued that it is somehow related to the verb "arneisthai" which means “to deny”, hence, “apostate”); "ho niketes" (which means “the conqueror” or “the victorious one”), "kakos odegos" (would be translated “evil leader”), and "amnos adikos" (translated “evil lamb”).


An interesting suggestion is "KSTGKNGO," which contains the initials of the Roman emperors’ names in Greek from Julius Caesar to Vespasian. K = 20, S = 200, T = 300, G = 3, K = 20, N = 50, G = 3, O = 70 = 666! But as G. B. Caird has pointed out, “This result . . . is attained by the curious and not obviously justifiable means of including Galba, but omitting Otho and Vitellius” (175).


Those who are inclined to identify the Antichrist and the apostate religious system with the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church have pointed out that "Italika ekklesia" or "Italian Church" = 666. But then the RCC has turned the tables on such reasoning with a suggestion of their own, reminding us that "Loutherana" (supposedly another form of the name "Luther") = 666. The word "Saxoneios" (allegedly the "Saxon") is also supposed to be a reference to Luther and has the numerical value of 666.


Two other attempts to identify the beast with a famous historical person are "Maometis" (supposedly a reference to Muhammad), and "Na Bonapartia" (a rather arbitrary form of Napoleon Bonaparte), again, both of which = 666.


When one uses Latin letters the following results are seen.


(1) A common title for the Pope was Vicarius Generalis Dei in Terris. The problem is that not all Latin letters have numerical equivalents; thus only certain letters can be counted: V = 5, I = 1, C = 100, I = 1, V = 5, L = 50, I = 1, D = 500, I = 1, I = 1, I = 1, = 666 total.  

(2) Diocletian, Roman Emperor from 284 to 305 a.d., when given the name Diocles Augustus, yields the following computation: D = 500, I = 1, C = 100, L = 50, V = 5, V = 5, V = 5, = 666 total.


Using English letters yields the following.


(1) If A = 100, B = 101, C = 102, and so on, we get one of the more popular candidates for the Antichrist, Hitler! H = 107, I = 108, T = 119, L = 111, E = 104, R = 117, = 666 total.


(2) If A = 6, B = 12 (i.e., 6x2), C = 18 (i.e., 6x3), and so on, we get Kissinger. K = 66, I = 54, S = 114, S = 114, I = 54, N = 84, G = 42, E = 30, R = 108, = 666 total.


(3) Someone has pointed out that there are six letters in former President Reagan’s first, middle, and last names (Ronald Wilson Reagan), hence 6 6 6! This same individual also points to the fact that when Reagan moved to Los Angeles the address of his home had to be changed from 666 to 668 St. Cloud Drive! I wonder, since Reagan and I share the same birthday (February 6), could I be the False Prophet?!


(4) Craig Keener points out that if one adds up the potential Roman numerals in “Cute Purple Dinosaur” (counting “U” as “V”, hence as 5), one ends up with 100 + 5 + 5 + 50 + 500 + 1 + 5, for a total of 666! Poor Barney!


(5) Others who have been singled out as potential candidates for Antichrist, even if their names did not add up to 666 include: Benito Mussolini, Anwar Sadat, Yasser Arafat, Ayatollah Khomeini, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Pope John Paul II, Saddam Hussein, Mu’ammar Gadhafi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, and other U.S. Presidents!


When one uses Hebrew letters there is an interesting result.


Nero’s name in Greek ("Neron Kaisar") yields 1005. But his name in Hebrew letters yields 666. It has been pointed out that if the final letter in "Neron" (n = 50) above is omitted to bring the word into conformity with its Latin form, "Nero", the resultant number is 616, which would explain the alternative reading in the Greek text of Rev. 13:18.


A major problem with this view is that the Hebrew equivalent of Caesar in the name “Nero Caesar” brings the total to 676, not 666. However, Richard Bauckham notes that the defective spelling was in fact used for Nero as seen in a papyrus document dated the second year of his reign. Others have objected to using Hebrew letters by insisting that John was writing in Greek for Greek-speaking readers in the cities of Asia who would not have done gematria in Hebrew. Says Bauckham, “to this it may be replied that he could count on having at least some readers (hearers) who knew some Hebrew in each of the churches, and that if John found special significance in the numerical value of a name he may well, as a Jewish Christian, have expected this significance to inhere in Hebrew rather than Greek letters” (388).


It should also be noted in this regard that the Greek word for “beast” ("therion"), when transliterated into Hebrew letters, yields the numerical equivalent of 666.


Recall that in Rev. 13:18 John said, “Let him who has intelligence calculate the number of the beast ("tou theriou"), for it is the number of a man.” It may be that John is telling us that the number of the "word" beast is also the number of a man. If so, says Bauckham, “the gematria does not merely assert that Nero is the beast: it demonstrates that he is. Nero’s very name identifies him by its numerical value as the apocalyptic beast of Daniel’s prophecy” (389).


The third and final view is the symbolic one. Greg Beale contends that “all the [other] numbers [in Revelation] have figurative significance and symbolize some spiritual reality and never involve any kind of literal gematria calculation” (721). Thus, according to this view, the number refers to the beast as the archetype man who falls short of perfection in every respect. Triple sixes are merely a contrast with the divine sevens in Revelation and signify incompleteness and imperfection. 777 is the number of deity and 666 falls short in every digit. Again, “three sixes are a parody of the divine trinity of three sevens. That is, though the beast attempts to mimic God, Christ, and the prophetic Spirit of truth, he falls short of succeeding” (722).


Thus the number does not identify the beast, but describes him. It refers to his character.


Furthermore, if a particular historical individual were in view, why didn’t John use the Greek "aner / andros" instead of "anthropos / anthropon"? The former means “man” as over against woman, child, etc. The latter, however, is generic, i.e., it speaks of “man” as a class over against, say, animals or angels. See also Rev. 21:17 for the use of the generic (“man’s measure” / “angel’s measure”).


Also, if a particular historical person were in view, John could have made that explicit by using "tinos" (a “certain” man) or "henos" (“one” man). If the symbolic view is correct (and I'm inclined to believe it is), we should translate: “for it is man’s number.” This stresses the character or quality of man as apart from Christ forever short of perfection, completely epitomized in the beast.


O.K. I'll end with this. I have no idea who sent this to me, so if you want to take credit for it you'll have to write me and state your claim.


666.0000: Number of the High Precision Beast


0.666: Number of the Millibeast


6, uh...what? : Number of the Blonde Beast


1-666: Area code of the Beast


00666: Zip code of the Beast


$665.95: Retail price of the Beast


$699.25: Price of the Beast plus 5% state sales tax


$769.95: Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul


$656.66: Wal-Mart price of the Beast


$646.66: Next week's Wal-Mart price of the Beast


Phillips 666: Gasoline of the Beast


Route 666: Way of the Beast


666 F: Oven temperature for roast Beast


666k: Retirement plan of the Beast


666 mg: Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast


6.66%: 5-year CD interest rate at First Beast of Hell National Bank, $666 minimum deposit


Lotus 6-6-6: Spreadsheet of the Beast


Word 6.66: Word Processor of the Beast


i66686: CPU of the Beast


666i: BMW of the Beast


DSM-666 (revised): Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Beast


668: Next door neighbor of the Beast


667: Prime Beast


999: Australian Beast