NTTC Revelation 13:18 (666 or 616): Identifying the Beast of Revelation Chapter 13 and Its Mark – 666

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First, we will deal with the textual issue and then tackle what does the mark of the beast mean. If you find Metzger’s textual commentary difficult because you are new to the subject, drop down, he has an easier version. If that is still too difficult, scroll down a little more, Comfort is usually easier to understand. I recommend you read all three.

Bruce M. Metzger,

ἑξήκοντα ἕξ {A}

[ ἑξακόσιοιsix hundred ἑξήκονταsixty- ἕξ.six ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ [= χξς]
“666”]

* The letter {A} signifies that the text is certain. 

Instead of ἑξήκοντα, which is strongly supported by 𝔓47 א A P 046 051 all extant minuscules itgig vg syrph, copsa, arm al, δέκα is read by C some manuscripts known to Irenaeus (who, however, says that 666 is found “in all good and ancient copies,” and is “attested by those who had themselves seen John face to face”) and Tyconiuspt. According to Tischendorf’s 8th ed., the numeral 616 was also read by two minuscule manuscripts that unfortunately are no longer extant (nos. 5 and 11; cf. C. R. Gregory, Prolegomena, p. 676). When Greek letters are used as numerals, the difference between 666 and 616 is merely a change from ξ to ι (666 = χξς and 616 = χις). Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters (‮נרון קסר‬) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (‮נרו קסר‬) is equivalent to 616. — Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 676.

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ἑξήκοντα ἕξ (sixty-six) {A}

The number ἑξήκοντα (sixty) is strongly supported by several uncials, all existing minuscules, and the ancient versions. But the number δὲκα (ten) is read by manuscript C and some manuscripts known to the second century Church Father Irenaeus (who, however, says that 666 is found “in all good and ancient copies,” and is “attested by those who had themselves seen John face to face”) and Tyconius in the fourth century. According to Tischendorf’s 8th ed. of Novum Testamentum Graece, the numeral 616 was also read by two minuscule manuscripts that unfortunately no longer exist.

In languages of the ancient world, letters of the alphabet were used for numerals. Gematria was the practice of representing words and names by the sum total of their numerical equivalents (Beale, The Book of Revelation, pp. 718–19). When Greek letters are used as numerals, the difference between 666 and 616 is merely a change from ξ to ι (666 = χξϛ and 616 = χιϛ;). (The letter στίγμα [ϛ;], which stood for six, was a sign drawn from older forms of the alphabet.) Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Neron Caesar written in Hebrew characters (נרון קסר) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (נרו קסר) is equivalent to 616. (For a more thorough discussion of this textual problem and the significance of the number, see Aune, Revelation 6–16, pp. 722, 770–73; Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, pp. 384–407; and Smalley, The Revelation to John, pp. 350–53.) — Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006), 539.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

Philip W. Comfort,

TR WH NU ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ [= χξς]
“666”
𝔓47 (א) A P Maj Irenaeus Hippolytus

variant 1 εξακοσιοι δεκα εξ [= χις]
“616”
𝔓115 C (5 11—no longer extant) MSSaccording to Irenaeus

variant 2 εξακοσια εξηκοντα πεντε [= χξε]
“665”
2344

Fragment from Papyrus 115 (P115) of Revelation in the 66th vol. of the Oxyrhynchus series (P. Oxy. 4499). Has the number of the beast as χιϛ, 616.

Writing in the late second century, Irenaeus (Haer. 5.30) was aware of the reading “616” but denounced it as “heretical and deceptive.” He claimed that “666” was found in “all the good and ancient copies” and was “attested to by those who had seen John face to face.” Three significant witnesses (𝔓47 א A) must have their roots in those “good and ancient copies” because they read “666.” However, the recently published 𝔓115 reads “616,” as does Codex C. These are among the “good and ancient copies,” and the number they contain, “616,” is not heretical. Either “666” or “616” could be original inasmuch as both symbolize “Caesar Nero.” In ancient times, the letters of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets were used as numerals. The “number” of a name is the sum of its individual letters. The number “666,” abbreviated in ancient manuscripts as χξς (χ = 600, ξ = 60, ς = 6), came from a Hebrew transliteration of the Greek for “Neron Caesar.” The number “616,” abbreviated in ancient manuscripts as χις, is either a Latin equivalent of the name “Nero Caesar” by way of gematria (see Aune 1998, 770–771; NETmg) or a different spelling of Neron Caesar, which drops the final “n” (Metzger 2003, 308). Both convey the same signification of the same person. As of yet, not one English translation prints “616” in the text, even though several note it. The note in HCSB says that one Greek manuscript plus other ancient evidence read “616.” There are actually two ancient manuscripts, 𝔓 and C.—Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 846.

Papyrus 115 (P. Oxy. 4499, P115) Is a Fragmented Manuscript of the New Testament Containing Parts of the Book of Revelation

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS
 
The number of the beast is 666 by William Blake
Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored ninety-two books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

In our efforts to understand what is meant by the mark of the beast, the name, the number six hundred and sixty-six (666), we need to look for clues within the Scripture that will help us find the correct answer.

The Importance of Bible Names

If anyone has read much of Scripture, they will discover that Bible names play a significant importance, especially those handed out by God himself. On this Dr. Cornwall and Smith write, “Every Bible name has a meaning. So much so, that sometimes when God changed the nature of a person, He also changed his or her name. For example, when Abram believed God’s promise of a son, God changed his name to Abraham [“father of a multitude”] and changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah [“Princess”]. Years later, after the angel of the Lord had wrestled with him all night; Jacob’s name was changed to Israel [“Contender with God”]. In the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus, whose name meant, “demanded,” came to be known as Paul, which means “little.” And this is what the greatest apostle became in his own eyes as he looked increasingly upon the greatness of Christ. It’s amazing how often a Bible character lives up to the meaning of his or her name. Sometimes, as in the case of Paul, they deliberately took a name that meant what they wanted to be.” (Cornwall and Smith 1998, Page viii)

We find this to be the case from Genesis to Revelation; therefore, the mark of the beast, the name, the number six hundred and sixty-six (666) given by God has to be in relation to the nature of the beast. If we are to understand the nature of the beast, we must identify the beat itself so we can discover what we can about its undertakings.

The Beast Uncovered

We can actually discover much about the symbolic beast of Revelation by looking to the prophetic book of Daniel. In chapter 7 of Daniel, there are four beasts: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and “a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” (Daniel 7:2-7) If we look at verse 17 of chapter 7, Daniel tells us “These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.” In verse 23 of the same chapter, Daniel says, “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces.’” In other words, these symbolic beasts represent kingdoms that were to rule over the earth.

Regarding the beast of Revelation 13:1-2, the Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation states, “The monster appears even more royal than the dragon, wearing ten crowns (diadems) as compared to the dragon’s seven (12:3). The blasphemous name on each head suggests a claim to divine status (vv. 5–6). The body parts of this brute are a composite of three of the four creature of Daniel 7:1–6, but in reverse order: body of a leopard, feet of a bear, and mouth of a lion. In Daniel’s vision, these represented historical empires that opposed Judah, such as Babylon and Persia. Here they are all combined into one monster–raw political-military power. The Christians of John’s day immediately grasped that the form of the monster current in their day was Imperial Rome. Where did Rome’s power come from? The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. Although God has ordained that government be used for good (Rom. 13:1–7), clearly the devil has mastered the art of twisting what God means for good and turning it to evil.”– (Easley 1998, p. 227)

Revelation 13:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.

As we saw in the above, these symbolic beasts represent kingdoms that were to rule over the earth. However, what do these features denote? Regarding the characteristics of the beast of Revelation 13:1-2, the Baker New Testament Commentary: Revelation states, “The first portrayal is that of the leopard, noted for stalking its prey, its amazing speed in capturing prey, and its swiftness in dealing the deathblow. The second picture is that of a bear, who with its powerful paws is able to tear its victims apart. And third, the lion’s mouth symbolizes cruelty as it kills and devours wild animals. The three pictures of these beasts are a depiction of force, speed, and savagery.” (Kistemaker 2001, p. 379)

Revelation 13:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 And the dragon stood on the sand of the sea. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

What or who do these seven heads represent? The seven heads are seven world empires throughout Bible history that have had some kind of impact on God’s people, five of which were before John’s day: Egypt Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The sixth of those world empires was in existence during John’s day, Rome, with the seventh world empire, yet to come. Look at John’s reference again in the same book.

Revelation 17:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

9 Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen [Egypt, Assyrian, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece], one is [Rome], the other has not yet come [?];and when he comes, he must remain a little while.

We can conclude that the first wild beast from the sea (vss. 1-10) and the second wild beast from the earth (vss. 11-18) of Revelation 13 represent two governmental powers. The first wild beast “the dragon [Satan, Rev. 12:3, 9] gave it his power and his throne and great authority.” The second wild beast “exercises all the authority of the first beast on his behalf and compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast.” Therefore, these beasts or governmental powers are against Christ. Consequently, they are antichrists.

We must not overreact to this, believing that everyone within the government is somehow a tool, being possessed and used by Satan or his demons. We must realize that God uses the human governments for his own purposes as well. We have seen in the United States of late, what other countries have long known, without the law enforcement, a part of the government, there would be anarchy. Moreover, without the military might of the United States government, the world would be overrun by evil, such as Islam. If there were not legislatures, we would have no laws, which give structure to our human society. Some leaders and governments throughout human history have been used by Satan to try to stop pure worship, but others have protected the rights of its citizens, which include the freedom of worship. (Romans 13:3, 4; Ezra 7:11-27; Acts 13:7) Nevertheless, because of satanic influence and human imperfection, no human society has ever, nor will they ever bring true peace and security.[1]

The Number of a Man

Revelation 13:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 Here is 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 six hundred and sixty-six.[2]

Our next clue is in the fact that the meaning of six hundred and sixty-six (666) lies in the fact that it “is the number of a man.” “A man” is generic for humanity, i.e., a human number, and should not be taken as a reference to a specific man. (Luke 4:5-6; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 13:2, 18) What does the fact that it is a human number bring to the table? What do we know about humanity over the 6,000 plus years? Paul tells us, “all have sinned [missing the mark of perfection] and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) He also stated, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned [all are missing the mark of perfection, i.e., human imperfection].” The world power governments mentioned above, the ones reflective in these symbolic beasts are made up of imperfect humans, name, sin, human imperfection. Jeremiah the prophet tells us why, “I know, O Jehovah, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) The Hebrew at Genesis 6:5 and 8:21 tells us that fallen mankind is mentally bent toward evil.

THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

Biblical Numbers

Just as Bible names play a significant importance, this is also true of numbers. For example, the number seven is often associated with what is complete or perfect. On the number seven, the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says, “God’s work of creation was both complete and perfect, and it was completed in seven days. All of mankind’s existence was related to God’s creative activity. The seven-day week reflected God’s first creative activity. The Sabbath was that day of rest following the workweek, reflective of God’s rest (Gen. 1:1–2:4). Israelites were to remember the land also and give it a sabbath, permitting it to lie fallow in the seventh year (Lev. 25:2–7). Seven was also important in cultic matters beyond the Sabbath: major festivals such as Passover and Tabernacles lasted seven days, as did wedding festivals (Judg. 14:12, 17). In Pharaoh’s dream, the seven good years followed by seven years of famine (Gen. 41:1–36) represented a complete cycle of plenty and famine. Jacob worked a complete cycle of years for Rachel; then, when he was given Leah instead, he worked an additional cycle of seven (Gen. 29:15–30). A major Hebrew word for making an oath or swearing, shaba, was closely related to the word ‘seven,’ sheba. The original meaning of ‘swear an oath’ may have been ‘to declare seven times’ or ‘to bind oneself by seven things.’ A similar use of the number seven can be seen in the NT. The seven churches (Rev. 2–3) perhaps symbolized all the churches by their number. Jesus taught that forgiveness is not to be limited, even to a full number or complete number of instances. We are to forgive, not merely seven times (already a generous number of forgiveness) but 70 times seven (limitless forgiveness, beyond keeping count) (Matt. 18:21–22). As the last example shows, multiples of seven frequently had symbolic meaning. The year of Jubilee came after the completion of every 49 years. In the year of Jubilee, all Jewish bond slaves were released and land which had been sold reverted to its former owner (Lev. 25:8–55). Another multiple of seven used in the Bible is 70. Seventy elders are mentioned (Exod. 24:1, 9). Jesus sent out the 70 (Luke 10:1–17). Seventy years is specified as the length of the exile (Jer. 25:12, 29:10; Dan. 9:2). The messianic kingdom was to be inaugurated after a period of 70 weeks of years had passed (Dan. 9:24).” (Brand, Draper and Archie 2003, p. 1201)

Simply put, six is one short of seven. If seven represents perfection and completion, it only seems reasonable that six falls short of that. On this, The College Press NIV Commentary: Revelation says, “Six is one less than seven; it does not ‘measure up’ to seven or attain to the fullness of seven. Six, then, symbolizes ‘incompleteness,’ “imperfection,” and sometimes evil.” (Davis 2000, p. 21) This really ties in well with the fact that, the number of the beast is a human number, being that we are under human imperfection. In short, what do we know? We know that “man” (Gk., anthrōpos), often signifies the whole of humankind, i.e., humanity. We also know that the number six in the Bible, one less than seven (perfect) can denote imperfection. We also know that when something is mentioned three times, it is a way of intensifying what is being said. Therefore, six hundred and sixty-six (666) could be signifying gross human imperfection.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

[1] Because of Satan’s influence over human governments, while Christians are to be in subjection to superior authorities (Rom 13:1), this is only as long as they do not ask anything that is in opposition to God’s will and purpose. For example, if the government said, “no more evangelizing about the Bible,” we would obey God rather than man.–Acts 5:29.

[2] One early MS reads 616. Irenaeus in about 180 C.E. complained about the number 666 found in Revelation 13:18 being changed to 616. Irenaeus wrote, “Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies [of the Apocalypse], and those men who saw John face-to-face bearing their testimony [to it]; while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, [if reckoned] according to the Greek mode of calculation by [the value of] the letters contained in it, will amount to six hundred and sixty and six.”—Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus Against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 558.

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