Wednesday, May 04, 2005

666 or 616?

Is the number of the beast 666 or 616? Scholars have been deciphering some ancient manuscripts found in Egypt, including a copy of the Book of Revelation. It seems that this particular text has 616. Scholars who study these things (textual critics) compare ancient manuscripts to try and come up with the most accurate readings. While there are many variants in the New Testament manuscripts, very few are significant. But because the number 666 has been so widely known as the number of the beast, it will be interesting to see what the scholarly consensus on this text turns out to be.

1 comment:

J. Mark Thompson said...

I remember reading a secular commentary on Revelation back in high school, in the 1970s, which mentioned that there were manuscripts that gave the number as 616. This seems to support the theory that the number referred to the Emperor Nero, since by a popular numerological scheme of those days the name "Nero" comes to 616 and the alternative form of "Neron" comes to 666. Apparently the more visually interesting 666 won out in the end.

In any case, I hold that the sacred texts are the ones that the Church finally was guided to adopt. Even if there were earlier versions that said something different, it doesn't matter to a believer who considers the Divine act of inspiration to have covered the whole history of the text, and not just the original author who wrote it down. Still interesting historically, of course.