666: The Number of Money

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006 @ 12:46 am | Current Events

Unless you’ve been living in a cave without a calendar, today is 06/06/06 – a date that is bringing on a mildly uncomfortable case of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia for some people.

A few have even been using it as a marketing tool. The remake of The Omen comes out today. New books by the authors of the Left Behind series and conservative she-beast Ann Coulter are hitting bookshelves. Several death metal bands – including Deicide, Gorgoroth and Behemoth – are taking advantage of the sinister associations of this date to promote their new releases. However, Slayer’s Unholy Alliance Tour, originally scheduled to begin today, has been delayed until June.

The cultural appeal of 666 comes primarily from popular Christian evangelical “end times” literature, such as the aforementioned Left Behind series, and the works of best-selling author Hal Lindsay. These authors and publishers have become millionaires peddling end times prophecies, and the genre has spawned a profitable industry.

The attention that 06/06/06 brings provides an ideal opportunity to examine the facts behind the “number of the beast.” First of all, the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation may not actually be 666. A recently examined early manuscript lists the number as 616, and the 666 vs. 616 debate has been waged by Biblical scholars for years.

The consensus among scholars is that the number of the beast actually refers to a Roman emperor, most likely Nero. The Book of Revelation – a series of letters by John of Patmos to the Christian churches of modern-day Turkey – was written during a time when Christians and Jews were being persecuted by the Roman Empire. Christian Jews were known to have used numerology and codes while communicating, likely to avoid punishment by authorities if the communications were intercepted.

Using the Hebrew numerological system of gematria, the letters in the Hebrew spelling of “Nero Caesar,” Nrwn Qsr, add up to 666. (There was no separate system of numbers – letters did double duty as numerals. There are also no vowels in Hebrew.) An alternate spelling based on the Latin form, Nrw Qsr adds up to 616, which could explain how both numbers ended up in different manuscripts.

The number of the beast is associated with the idea of the anti-christ in modern end times literature. Oddly enough, the word “anti-christ” does not appear in the Book of Revelation, nor was it ever used by Jesus – the only appearance of the word in the Bible is in letters from the apostle Paul. A wide variety of questionable numerological calculations and scriptural citations have been used to identify the anti-christ as everyone from the Pope to Hitler to George W. Bush.

Self-styled prophets have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of recorded history, and to date, all those who have attempted to have been exposed as fools. The current batch of end times literature is simply conspiracy theory masquerading as religious faith.

So, relax. Don’t freak out if your child is born today, or if your coffee and muffin add up to $6.66, or if the speedometer on your car goes three-sixes. Here’s a collection of 666 humor, and some neat mathematical facts about the number 666.

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