The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
666: The Number of the Beast
The Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine

"No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or name of the beast, or the number of his name, and his number is 666" ~The Book of Revelation 13:17-18

Some versions of Christian eschatology holds that this prophecy refers to future events, typically that the Mark of the Beast is one way in which the antichrist will exercise power over the earth, during the period known as the Tribulation in the book of Revelation. Opinions as to what form it will take are varied. The literal interpretation is that the number 666 will be imprinted on the skin, but with recent technological developments the possibilities of universal control are limitless.

The notion that the mark is required for all commerce implies that the mark might actually be a special card, or that we might have to have our fingerprints scanned into a worldwide database in order to be recognized in business. Or, the mark might be some kind of smart chip implanted into the body.

In Revelation 14:9-12, the third angel warns of wrath and retribution to all those who bear this mark on their heads or hands.

The number 666, which supposedly represents the name of the Antichrist, is another source of controversy. There are various theories about the meaning of this verse, and there have been many attempts to show that a person is the Antichrist by relating his name to the number 666.

One interpretation is simply that 666 represents humankind in general because of the special significance that the number has in the Bible. Six is known as an "imperfect number" because it is one short of seven, the "perfect number" (seven days in the week, seven tongues of flame, seven spiritual gifts...). So three (the number of the Trinity) sixes is seen as extremely imperfect. Therefore, 666 represents imperfect man, while 777 represents God.

Another interpretation is that 666 is actually some kind of code based on the letters of someone's name. This sparks great public interest since it seems to provide some way to identify the antichrist.

The Death of Pope John Paul II and 666

Since the "Church" interprets 666 to refer to the Beast in the book of Revelation and taught that it was the sign of an "evil" being, perhaps that is how it should be interpreted as it applies to members of  "The Church."

The date and time of death of pope John Paul II was 9:37 PM. April 2, 2005 (April being the 4th month)  Run the numbers and we get: 9 x 37 x 4/2 = 666. Of course this ignores the year, 2005. However, it also works with the year added: 9 x 37 x 4/2 x 200 x 5 = 666,000. Now the questions is, what does "666" mean in this case? Perhaps these coded and/or numerical signs should be left to the individual to interpret.

The Exact Location of the City of Jerusalem

Latitude is shown as a horizontal line and is the angular distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds of a point north or south of the Equator. Lines of latitude are often referred to as parallels.
Longitude is shown as a vertical line and is the angular distance, in degrees, minutes, and seconds, of a point east or west of the Prime (Greenwich) Meridian. Lines of longitude are often referred to as meridians.
dotDistance between Lines If you divide the circumference of the earth (approximately 25,000 miles) by 360 degrees, the distance on the earth's surface for each one degree of latitude or longitude is just over 69 miles, or 111 km.
dotMinutes and Seconds For precision purposes, degrees of longitude and latitude have been divided into minutes (') and seconds ("). There are 60 minutes in each degree. Each minute is divided into 60 seconds. Seconds can be further divided into tenths, hundredths, or even thousandths.

The exact center of the city of Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) is 31° 47' 00 N by 35° 13' 00 E. If we add the numbers we get:

   31° 47' 00 N
+35° 13' 00 E
6 6 6 . 00

This, of course, may simply be a coincidence, but the probability of this happening is over 99,999,999 to one. You can check to location yourself at: MapQuest : Latitude/Longitude Map Search

Buying, Selling and Making Purchases
"No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or name of the beast, or the number of his name, and his number is 666" ~Revelation 13:17-18

UPC bar codes were instituted in the 1970s. Today, nearly every product we buy has a UPC or Universal Product Code imprinted on it. All UPC codes have the number 666 encoded within them. Bar codes, in general, are made up of lines of various widths and distances apart. Each numeral has a two-line code. The code for the number six is two thin lines, a short distance apart.  The "Control Codes" on the far left, middle, and right of all UPC codes are two thin lines. Because of this, all UPC codes contain the number 666. Look at any UPC code in your own home.  The interpretation of the Book of Revelation which indicates that the Number of the Beast is required for all business transactions seems to fit when considering this application.  

In addition, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is "waw" (or "vav"). Its closest approximation in English is the letter "w". Thus the ubiquitous acronym "www" as in, could also be interpreted as the Number of the Beast.

The VISA Card is also interesting when considering the number 666. Within the word VISA,  three previous world empires are represented by the number 6. "VI" is the number 6 in the Roman numerals, "S" is the Stigma in the Greek culture whose value is 6, and lastly the "A" in the Babylonian culture is 6. i.e, VISA = 666

The other major credit card is called "Master", MasterCard. Their official policy and corporate goal is to replace currency. As the slogan goes, "What's in Your wallet?" -  Be it prophesy fulfilled, conspiracy theory or coincidence, if any kind of transaction is made in today's markets, chances are the number 666 will have to be used in some way in order to complete it.

The Book of Revelation

The Revelation of St. John the Divine, popularly known as the Book of Revelation or The Apocalypse (apocalypse is from the Greek for "revelation"), is the final book and the only prophetical book of the New Testament in the Bible. 

The book is addressed to seven churches, at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. 

It contains an account of the author, named John in the text, who saw a vision describing future events at the end of the world--involving the final rebellion by Satan at Armageddon, God's final defeat of Satan, and the restoration of peace to the world. 

It is definitely one of the most controversial, and hardest to understand, books of the Bible, with many ranging interpretations of the meanings of the various names and events in the account. The identity of the author John is not completely clear. A traditional view is that the author of this book was John the Apostle, but other scholars doubt that. The traditional Christian view is that this John was the same as the author of the Gospel of John and 1, 2, and 3 John. 

In the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom and other bishops argued against including this book in the New Testament canon, chiefly because of the difficulties of interpreting it and the danger for abuse. Christians in Syria also rejected it for a time because of the Montanists' heavy reliance on it. In the 9th century it was included, with the Apocalypse of Peter among "disputed" books in the Stichometry of Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople. In the end, it was included in the accepted canon, although it remains the only book of the New Testament that is not read within the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Traditionally the date of the writing of this book has generally been fixed at the year 96, in the reign of Domitian. Others contend for an earlier date, 68 or 69, in the reign of Nero. Those who are in favour of the later date appeal to the testimony of the Christian father Irenaeus (died 185), who received information relative to this book from those who had seen John face to face. He says that the Apocalypse "was seen no long time ago." Other evidence for the later date is internal: the book alludes to significant persecution, affecting the Christians of Asia Minor. This is a better historical fit for Domitian's reign than Nero's; Nero's persecution was mostly confined to the territories around Rome, while Domitian's persecution was indeed vigorously carried out in Asia Minor. 

Major Schools of Interpretation

There are three main schools of thought in how the symbolism, imagery, and contents of the Book of Revelation should be interpreted. 

The Biblical prophecy school of thought holds that the contents of Revelation, especially when interpreted in conjunction with the Book of Daniel and other eschatological sections of the Bible, constitute a prophecy of the end times. This school can be further subdivided into the preterite view, which sees the book concerned with 1st century events, the futurist view, which applies all the events in the book into the end times; and the historicist view, which regards the book as spanning history from the first century through the second coming. 

The historical-critical approach, which became dominant among critical scholars of religion since the end of the 18th century, attempts to understand Revelation within the genre of apocalyptic literature, which was popular in both Jewish and Christian tradition since the Babylonian diaspora, following the pattern of the Book of Daniel. There is further information on these topics in the entries on higher criticism and apocalyptic literature. 

Recently, aesthetic and literary modes of interpretation focus on Revelation as a work of art and imagination, viewing the imagery as symbolic depictions of timeless truths and the victory of good over evil. 

The interpretation facing most denial is that John was an aging preacher, facing his own death and indulging in a hallucinogenic drug called Wormwood. His outlook facing his own death creates the darkness of his vision. Since this is a very attractive view to those selling on the urgency of Christianization, it found support for the book's canonization in the otherwise hope-inspiring and uplifting outlook introduced by the central figure of the New Testament, Jesus. 

Interpretative Views of Revelation as Biblical Prophecy

The Preterite View

The preterite view holds that the contents of Revelation constitute a prophecy of events that were fulfilled in the 1st century. This view depends critically on an early date of Revelation, c. 68, since any later date makes the "prophecy" post-date the events prophesied. Even accepting that date leaves a narrow margin of 1-2 years before the fulfilment occurs. 

Preterite interpretations generally identify Jerusalem as "the beast", the persecutor of the Church, "Babylon", the "Mother of Harlots", etc. They see Armageddon as God's judgment on the Jews, carried out by the Roman army. 

There appear to be few adherents of this view today. 

The Futurist View

The futurist view assigns all of the prophecy to some future time, shortly before the second coming. Futurist interpretations generally predict a 3 1/2 year period of intense persecution, after (or before) which the "Antichrist" (Satan) proclaims himself the Messiah and sets up a kingdom in Jerusalem, from which he conducts a campaign to take over the world and stamp out Christianity. Some variants of this interpretation portray Israeli Jews as collaborators with the Antichrist; Pat Robertson was sharply criticized for actually stating that "The Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today." 

The futurist view, as such, was first proposed by two Catholic writers, Lacunza and Ribera. Lacunza wrote under the pen name "Ben Ezra", and his work was banned by the Catholic church. It has grown in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries, so that today it is probably most readily recognized. Books about the "rapture" by authors like Hal Lindsey, and the more recent Left Behind novels and movies, have done much to popularize this school of thought. 

The Historicist View 

The historicist view regards the prophecy as spanning the time from the end of the first century through the second coming of Christ. 

Politically, historicist interpretations apply the symbols of Revelation to the gradual division and collapse of the Roman Empire, the emergence of a divided Europe in the West and a Muslim empire in the East, and the collapse of the Eastern Empire while Europe attempts to re-unite and re-create the Roman Empire. 

Ecclesiastically, historicist interpretations see Revelation as teaching that the Church would expand, despite persecution, until it "conquered" the whole world--but, in the process, would gradually evolve into an apostate system within which true Christians would be a persecuted minority. The apostate Church is associated with the symbols of the "Mother of Harlots" and with "Babylon". It is seen as an "Antichrist system" which exists for much of history, rather than expecting a single "Antichrist" in the last days, as futurist interpretations do. 

According to historicist interpretations, the second coming of Christ occurs about the time that a partly-reunited Europe starts to wage war against Israel. This view is held mainly by conservative Protestant Christians. The exact constitution of this confederacy differs between interpretations: in some it is mainly composed of Eastern European countries, notably Russia; in others, Western European; some include England, while others suggest that England and former Commonwealth nations will oppose the confederacy. In all historicist interpretations, Christ defeats this confederacy, rescues Israel from certain destruction, judges apostate Christianity and vindicates the true believers, and sets up a kingdom on earth. 

The earliest Christian writers adopted a historicist viewpoint, though at such an early date the distinction between historicist and futurist views was less pronounced. Historicist interpretations tend to be millenarian, emphasizing the literal reign of Christ on earth, and as that doctrine receded in importance, so too did the historicist focus in interpretation. Today, historicist interpretations are favored in the most ardently millenarian sects. 

Some Protestant writers today use this school of interpretation as the foundation for an anti-Catholic polemic, but it should be noted that such is not an inherent property of historical interpretations. Many Catholic writers in the fourth and fifth centuries applied the notion of future apostasy to their own church, in various ways. Some argued that an apostasy would arise within the church. Others argued that this had already happened, and cited one or another sect which arose over some theological dispute. What differs between interpretations is the identity of the apostasy. 

The Eastern Orthodox View

Eastern Orthodoxy has an interpretation that does not fit well into any of the above classifications. It treats the text as simultaneously describing contemporaneous events and as prophesy of events to come, for which the contemporaneous events were a form of foreshadow. It rejects attempts to determine, before the fact, if the events of Revelation are occurring by mapping them onto present-day events, taking to heart the Scriptural warning against those who proclaim "He is here!" prematurely. Instead, the book is seen as a warning to be spiritually and morally ready for the end times, whenever they may come ("as a thief in the night"), but they will come at the time of God's choosing, not something that can be precipitated nor trivially deduced by mortals. 

Historical-Critical Interpretation 

The historical-critical interpretation takes as axiomatic some qualities that would be considered commonplaces in a non-Christian context, first of all that Revelation is a text, which is embodied and transmitted in manuscripts, which have their own histories. Such texts are subject to changes, such as miscopying, repetition of lines already entered, excision, interpolation or emendation. Motivations for such changes run the whole gamut of human motivations, and need also to be assessed in their historical context. 

The acceptance of Revelation into the canon is itself the result of a historical process, essentially no different from the career of other texts. The eventual exclusion of other contemporary apocalyptic literature from the canon may throw light on the unfolding historical processes of what was officially considered orthodox, what was heterodox, what was even heretical. 

The historical-critical interpretation cannot address two aspects of Revelation. It is not prepared to discuss aspects of divine inspiration of the original text, nor can it assess the book's relevance to the modern world. Interpretation of meanings and imagery are limited to what the historical author intended and what his contemporary audience inferred.

Thus, in the historical-critcial approach, the symbolism of Revelation is to be understood entirely within its historical literary and social context. Critics study the conventions of apocalyptic literature and events of the 1st century to make sense of what the author may have intended. Nevertheless, many interpretative questions remain. Is the structure of the book linear, resumptive, or thematic? How does the imagery relate to historical events? Did the author intend one or multiple meanings in the text? 

These various schools of thought are not mutually exclusive, and many Christians adopt a combination of these approaches in a manner they find most meaningful. However, certain tendencies may be observed. The biblical prophecy school of thought is popular today among many American Protestant fundamentalists (nearly exclusively so) and among evangelicals, who also find value in the other approaches. Members of more mainline and liberal churches, on the other hand, tend to prefer the historical-critical and aesthetic approaches. Moreover, Catholic and Orthodox churches have delimited their own specific positions on Revelation. (see Vicarius Filii Dei)

Vicarius Filii Dei: The Vicar of the Son of God 

Vicar of the Son of God, or Vicarius Filii Dei in Latin, is a title mentioned in the Donation of Constantine as belonging to Saint Peter. It is said that this is the official title possessed by the Pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church. 

When numerised, the words Vicarius Filii Dei produces the total of 666, the number described as the number of the beast. Some claim that this is evidence that the Pope is the antichrist and that such a title is written on the Papal Tiara, the papal crown.

The Papal Tiara

This claim has been made by fundamentalist protestant sects who believe that the Pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church is the antichrist. It is believed that the antichrist would 'wear' a triple crown similar to a Papal Tiara.

It is claimed that all popes are crowned with the tiara containing the words Vicarius Filii Dei on it. When a Roman Catholic Church denial was issued, it was suggested that the words might have appeared on some mitre rather than a crown, or on some crown deliberately hidden from view, but numerous sources claim otherwise.
  • In 1832, a protestant woman visiting Rome witnessed Pope Gregory XVI wearing the crown.
  • Pope Gregory XVI had worn the papal tiara with these words clearly visible on it at a Pontifical High Mass during Easter 1845.
  • The existence of a photograph of a papal funeral at the start of the twentieth century (which probably means the funeral of Pope Leo XIII in 1903 but could possibly be Pope Pius X's in 1914) showing the words on a papal tiara.
  • The tiara (with the words mentioned) is always used to crown popes, but specifically was used in 1939 to crown Eugenio Pacelli as Pope Pius XII.

Sometime after 1845, the pope received a new tiara, which does not contain any writing.


Pope Pius X (1903-1914)
Pictured in 1904 wearing the 1834 Triple Tiara

In 1978, one of Pope John Paul I's first decisions on his election was to dispense with the millennium-old papal coronation and the use of a papal tiara. Though perhaps understandable, given Pope Paul's gesture a decade earlier (Paul VI never wore a Triple Tiara again) it still caused some surprise.

The new pope was instead installed in a new low key inauguration ceremony, so low key indeed that he had it moved to the morning. (Inauguration ceremonies are normally shown in the afternoon.)

After Pope John Paul I's sudden death less than a month later, the new pope, John Paul II, opted to continue with John Paul I's precedent of replacing the papal coronation with a low key inauguration.

Though unworn, the tiara remains the symbol of the papacy, and is still featured on the coat of arms of popes, including the uncrowned popes John Paul I and John Paul II.

Do The Math

Numerologists can devise clever ways of assigning numbers to letters. Letters of a name will sometimes add up to this symbolic number. Probably the best-known is A=100, B=101, and so on. With this code, the name "HITLER" adds up to 666.

Scholars who believe the Book of Revelation refers to real people and events argue that the number represents the value of Nero or Neron Caesar (נרון קסר, Nrwn Qsr) in Hebrew letters, which also have numerical values (note that Hebrew is written from right to left):

                 r    S    q     n   w    r    n 
         666 = 200 + 60 + 100 + 50 + 6 + 200 + 50

Some early texts of the Book of Revelation use 616 instead, which would represent the alternative Hebrew spelling נרו קסר, Nrw Qsr:

                 r    S    q    w    r    n 
         616 = 200 + 60 + 100 + 6 + 200 + 50

In Roman numerals 666 represents all the numbers from 1 to 500 in descending order, namely D (500) + C (100) + L (50) + X (10) + V (5) + I (1), or DCLXVI. Robert Graves suggests in his study of pagan symbolism The White Goddess that this is an acronym for the Latin sentence Domitianus Caesar Legatos Xti Violenter Interfecit, or "The Emperor Domitian violently killed the envoys of Christ".

In an alternate style of Greek notation for numerals, 6 + 60 + 600 can be expressed as digamma koppa kappa which when superposed into a monogram, form the graffito form of the labrys very common on roman walls of the time, which is interesting considering what some characterize as misogynist tendencies in Revelations.

Culture and Psychology

The number 666 retains a peculiar significance in the culture and psychology of Western societies. Just as many people try to avoid the "unlucky" number 13 (sometimes going to the extent of having a floor "12A" in multi-story buildings, or even to skip the 13th floor entirely so that a 20 story building will possess a 21st floor), so people find ways to avoid the "Devil's number", even in contexts that would seem on first sight to be far removed from superstition.

For example, when the giant CPU manufacturer Intel introduced the 666 MHz Pentium III in 1999, they chose to market it as the Pentium III 667 on the pretext that, since the actual clock speed was 666.666 MHz, 667 was the more accurate approximation—conveniently ignoring their own usual rounding practice: as examples, consider the earlier 66.666 MHz 486-66, the 466.666 MHz Celeron 466, or the later 866.666 MHz Pentium III 866.

In another instance, U.S. Highway 666 was renumbered in 2003 after controversy over the supposed reference to the Biblical beast. 


Naturally enough, 666 also has many mathematical properties, some more interesting than other.

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The sum of the digits 1 through 146 of this number is 666, as is the sum of its digits 2 through 148 and its digits 2 through 149.
Cardinal Six hundred and sixty-six
Ordinal 666th
Factorization <math>2 \cdot 3^2 \cdot 37<math>
Roman Numeral DCLXVI
Binary 1010011010
Hexadecimal 29A

Other Speculations

Former U.S. president Ronald Wilson Reagan had six letters in his first, middle, and last name.

In ancient Dacia, 666 was the number of those who returned to the right faith.

The first Apple Computer, the Apple I was sold for $666.66.

Stanley Kubrick died 666 days before January 1 2001.

Most recently, the development of RFIDs could eventually necessitate consumers to implant RFID-based credit or debit devices to purchase goods and services. RFIDs are already replacing UPCs in some products, and the use of RFIDs as a human tracking and identification instrument has begun.

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666: The Number of the Beast