Numbers of the Beast

I have heard of both 616 and 666 being referred to as “The Number of the Beast.” Why are there two different values? Is it due to different wording on two early transcripts? Is the transcript damaged?


From Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: The New Testament:
“Commentators have considered virtually every possible candidate for the beast and the one most frequently mentioned is Nero. If his name is written in the Greek form-Neron-and if his title Caesar is added and if Neron Caesar is written in Hebrew letters, then the total value [when letters are assigned the Hebraic numerical value] is indeed 666. If the final “n” is left out [Nero vs. Neron}, the total is 616, and some old manuscripts of Revelation have 616 rather than 666 as the number of the beast.”

Thanks, David. I have heard of the relation to Nero, but what I was most curious about is why the two? The quote you present is saying that there are different transcripts. I wonder if there is a difference between , say, the LXX (which is the Septanuget, right?) and another transcript. I don’t know if that’s just way too specific to find the answer without learning some ancient hebrew and greek.

I suppose it also brings up the question, if there are two transcripts with different numbers, why do those transcripts have those numbers. For instance, was Nero rutinely called “Neron” by a group of people?

I don’t know much about it. It is entirely possible that the number 666 or 616 had some extraneous evil connotation and people fiddled around with various possible names until they found a fit. The “Beast” isn’t identified by name in Revelation and it could be any one of a number of tormentors.

Don’t forget 668, the next-door neighbor of the beast.

Or they guy at 333; he’s only half as evil

It is rather likely that the 616 reference is simply a transcription error. Apocalyptic writing was a Jewish literary form. In Jewish numerology, 6 was the number of evil (since 7 was the divine number of perfection and 6 fell short of perfection). Tripling a word was a common method of expressing the best or most of something, so 666 would indicate the worst of evil. Associations with specific persons are possible, but may not be likely: in order to get “666” out of Nero, we actually have to render the Greek “Kaisar Neron” (Emperor Nero) into Hebrew, then drop those letters that had no numerical value in Hebrew (basically, the vowels) while counting the Greek letters using Hebrew values. It can be done, but it is quite forced, while simple Jewish numerology gives us “most evil” without any tortured efforts.

The earliest manuscript that actually says 616 instead of 666 is the Codex Ephraemi from the fifth century and every other manuscript that uses 616 can be traced to the same period and location. Every earlier manuscript as well as later manuscripts that depend upon the Antiochan and Byzantine traditions (such as the Textus Receptus) as well as translations into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic all use 666.

The Greek letters used to represent 666 are [symbol]CX[/symbol]F, while the Greek letters used to represent 616 are [symbol]CI[/symbol]F, so the change of a single stroke on the middle character from horizontal to vertical would result in a change of numeric value.
(For the Greek students who do not recognize the final character, the Greeks used the obsolete letter digamma, looking like a Roman “F,” to represent 6. The digamma could also be written to look like a distorted sigma, but I have no font that will reproduce it and that character is the same in all manuscripts in any case.)

Rather than looking for esoteric renderings of the names of Roman emperors (or Catholic popes) to wedge some specific name into some never identified symbolism, it would seem that the simpler explanations of an easily identified symbol of evil combined with a simple copyist’s error provide the best solutions.

LXX is one scholarly abbreviation for the Septuagint, but the Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew (Jewish) bible and does not include any New Testament works such as the Revelation of John, which is the only place where the “666” number is presented in Scripture.

I don’t even recognize the first one. I’m running through the Greek alphabet in my head, but I can’t remember a C in it. What am I missing?

I’m not sure what characters you’re seeing. From what I can see, the characters in **tomndebb’s ** post are:

For 666 - chi, xi, digamma
For 616 - chi, iota, digamma