Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Number of the Beast: 616?

Aside from the reference to the Book of "RevelationS," this paragraph in a National Geographic article on the Oxyrhynchus Papyri is quite interesting:

So far 65 volumes of transcripts and translations have been published by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which owns the collection.

The latest volume includes details of fragments showing third- and fourth-century versions of the Book of Revelations. Intriguingly, the number assigned to "the Beast" of Revelations isn't the usual 666, but 616.

My copy of Nestle-Aland (27th ed.) at Revelation 13:18 lists for the variant reading "616" only "C; Ir mss" (the 5th century uncial manuscript C and some manuscripts cited by Irenaeus). A 3rd or 4th century papyrus containing this reading would be extremely significant, although probably not enough to outweigh the many witnesses for "666."

As Bruce Metzger points out in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1971), the numerical value of "666" is derived from the Hebrew/Aramaic values for the letters comprising the name נרון קסר, "Nero Caesar" (in Greek Νέρων Καῖσαρ) The variant "616" results from the alternate spelling נרו קסר.

For those of you unfamiliar with the numerical values of the Hebrew alphabet, the values in the above name are nun = 50, resh = 200, waw = 6, nun = 50, quph = 100, samekh = 60, resh = 200. Add 'em up!

The name "Nero Caesar" (נרון קסר) actually appears in a scroll from the Judean Desert, Murabbaat 18, dated to the "second year of Nero Caesar" (55/56 CE).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Delbert Hillers, "Revelation 13:18 and a Scroll from Murabbaat," BASOR 170 (1963), p. 65.

UPDATE: The fragment (P.Oxy. LVI 4499) can be viewed here. Although it is pointed out that the numerology does not work with the Greek letters, the Hebrew values are not discussed.

UPDATE (5/4): I note that this post is getting, for me, a lot of hits. For laypeople, I want to emphasize these points: (1) the most likely reading of the number in Revelation 13:18 is still "666"; (2) the reading "616" has in fact been known for many years, and even the new papyrus has been known since the 1990's; (3) the variation between "666" and "616" does not materially affect the interpretation of the book of Revelation. In short, the reading "616" is mainly interesting to textual critics of the New Testament and is unlikely to make a change in anyone's Bible or beliefs.

UPDATE (5/5): See also these posts from Jim Davila, Mark Goodacre, and Stephen Carlson, each with valuable comments and links.


Alcibiades said...

Thanks for your helpful explanation. I never translated any parts of Revelations, so I guess I missed Metzger's commentary on that.

It's interesting, and just a bit appalling, that the people working on the project never thought to use the Hebrew numerical values of Nero's name.

Jeff said...

This entry from Dan Wallace may also be of interest.

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Anonymous said...

616 is the Law in Hebrew.

Anonymous said...

The number of the beast actually has a scriptual answer, we don't have to guess as its meaning.

For an in-depth study, take a look at Ray Smith's paper at which is one part of now over 16 papers dealing with the Lake of Fire and other biblical mysteries.

for those with eyes to see and ears to hear...

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the spelling of Nero in transliterated Hebrew letters uses a final-nun, not a nun. The value of final-nun is 700, leading to a gematria value of 1316, not 666. But if the final nun disappears, the value is 616, the textual variant that may be a result of trying to make Nero fit.

Anonymous said...

קיסר נרו (Hebrew Gematria)

Caesar Nero

370 + 256 = 626 (If you drop the Yud from קיסר then you would have 616, but that's not how Caesar is spelled in Hebrew)

I've made Hebrew and Greek Gematria calculators for all to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick reply to the previous two posters: In traditional Hebrew Gematria, the value of the final characters is not used. The values of the final characters are used in Kabbalah, but not traditional Judaism. The Zohar, the primary writing of Kabbalah, explains the use of final characters in numerology, but this was not written until the second century at the earliest, and most likely much, much later. So the 1316/616 numbers would not likely have occurred to readers in the first century.

Anonymous said...

The Key to the Number of the Beast
Is the Number Six(6)
the Number Just Below
Gods Holy Number Seven(7)
Compare with
Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetics
On the other side just over 7 the
Number Eight is the King of Numbers
Compare Henry the Eight of England
also Compare
1789 The Year of the French Revolution
The Prime Factors 89 and 97
Urban Avierfjard
Gråbo,Visby,Gotland,The Baltic Sea,

Unknown said...

Thanks. Looks valuable.


Anonymous said...

If the 5 finals were not used in Hebrew gematria, then how did the Hebrews calculate such numbers as 500, 600, 700 etc.?

Anonymous said...

The Bible is the Astrological Language of the SUN through the Zodiac

Year and is self-contained book that conceals the name of Rev 13:18

through a cryptic riddle to indicate the name of a Bible character.

The Bible provides the clues if one takes the time to do a little

research. The Four Living Creatures of Rev 4:7 are the Zodiac

Signs: Leo the Lion, Taurus the Ox, Aquarius the man, and Scorpio the

flying eagle, which marked the seasons of the year at creation. Each

Creature had 6 wings times 4 equals 24 hours so that everyone who

underatands Astrology or Solar time knows that Lord God of Revelation

is the SUN and 666 is the magic Square of the SUN, a sacred number in

Astrology. The SUN-god of the Pisces Solar age is Jesus Christ and

the Book of Revelation is titled the "Revelation of Jesus Christ" who

sums up his revelation with "I (Jesus) am the Root and Off-spring of

David, and the bright Morning Star. (SUN)" - Rev 22:16... The Life of

Jesus Christ is nothing more than a parody of the SUN through the 12

signs of the Zodiac. For example, the Gospels tell how The SUN is

Born-again every December 25 and the SUN is RESSURRECTED every spring

after winter darkness...This is why Pagans and Christians alike

celebrate these two HIGH Holy days of the Year... All religion can be

traced to SUN worship devised most likely by a 666 (SUN-centered)

system of man or was it the serpent (another ancient symbol of the

SUN) in the garden? So why is everyone looking for a 666 man-beast

outside the Bible of Astro-theology?

Anonymous said...

You need to get more information before you make improper statements like that. Nero Caesar is 666 is Hebrew, while it's 616 in Latin. Simple. No magic, No weirdness. Nothing like that. Also, VERY IMPORTANT: 666 or 616 does NOT tell us the beast was Nero. The line of Kings and other things tell us it was Nero. 666 and 616 *ONLY* helps confirm. No court of law in the universe would allow a numerical system to TELL us a name. It can only be used to confirm. In other words, we start with the name Nero and we can GET 666/616 from that, simply to verify what the line of Kings and other things already told us.

Also, while John wrote in Greek (well, we THINK he did!), he was a Hebrew (Jew) and thought and BREATHED Hebrew. A Jewish Messiah, talking to a Jewish Apostle, in Jewish Apocalyptic language... would not render Greek philosophy. So, while he wrote in Greek, there's not a person in his or her right might that would deny that he thought in Hebrew.

Anonymous said...

If John chose numbers that SOUNDED like the name of the beast, what would it be?

Anonymous said...

This article at Covenant Theology discusses the 1316 issue in relation to Hebrew Gematria.