The Way It Happened

Revelation 13:18, The Number of the Beast, Part II

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is a man’s number. His number is 616.

//No, this isn’t a repeat. No, this isn’t a typo.

Two days ago, I introduced the beastly number 666, and why first-century Christians immediately recognized it as referring to Nero Caesar. But if you look in the margin of your Bible, you may find something interesting: many early manuscripts of Revelation record the number of the beast as 616, not 666! Why?

Yes, John’s puzzle was easily cracked, and Nero’s role in Revelation was well-known in the first and second century (and actually, well into the fifth century). But as more and more Latin speaking Christians entered the fold, the puzzle no longer made sense. Neron Caesar, written in Hebrew, is spelled NRWN QSR. But the Latin pronunciation is Nero Caesar, NRW QSR. A 50-point letter is dropped, and the sum becomes 616. So what did the copyists do? They began changing scripture from 666 to 616!

Luckily, it didn’t take, and we’re back to the original 666. I’m glad; 666 just looks and sounds so much more … appropriately evil.

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