Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why is the number of the beast 666?

Greg Beale responds.


  1. This is a fascinating piece, and worth reading even though I'm going to issue a complaint now :-)

    There are some problems with the triple 6 aspect in that Greek and Hebrew didn't write numbers that way. Nor Latin (Roman numerals), for that matter. It wasn't until Arabic numerals that six hundred sixty-six would look like 666.

    In Greek, it's χξς (Chi, Xi, Sigma). In Roman numerals, DCLXVI. In Hebrew, there are numerous ways to display the value, but three vavs (standing for 6) would not work.

    In short, I have doubts that many people reading that number before Arabic numerals became standard would have seen "six hundred sixty six" as a threefold repetition of sixes. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I just find it unlikely.

    1. It appears that objection doesn't hold. For the greek is, "ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ." That translates to "six-hundred sixty six." Or perhaps I miss something?

    2. Hello Nate. Actually, it does depend on which version you're looking at. The version you quoted seems to be the Westcott-Hort translation. But the Scrivener New Testament has the final phrase: "και ο αριθμος αυτου χξς" (literally, "and the number of him χξς", which gives the numerical equivalent to "ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ").

      So basically, my objection would by that the Greek mind thinking of the number represented by "χξς" or even "ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ" is probably not going to view each digit of that number as equivalent to each other and conclude "there is a three-fold repetition of six here." We do that automatically since we represent the number as 666.

      In other words, we see the repetition of 6s because the symbol for each digit is the same and the value is determined by the location only. But in Greek, whether represented by the letter with its numeric value, or the actual spelled out words, each symbol is different from one another. In fact, because the symbol represented the value, you could rearrange them (although I doubt this was done) and still know what the number meant. It's like how we can say 145 can be represented as "5 ones, 1 hundred, and 4 tens." It's out of order, but the meaning can be determined. But obviously you can't rearrange 145 into 514 and get the same value because location matters (in Arabic numbers) whereas the symbol value matters in Greek. (As an aside, location and symbol value matters in Roman numerals, as evidenced by the difference between IV and VI, and so there probably is some importance in the Greek too, but I haven't studied Greek math enough yet.)

      In any case, putting myself into what I know of Greek, it would seem to require a higher abstract level of thought to interpret the number given as "three sixes" (which comes naturally to an Arabic numeral user).

      That said, like I pointed out above, I'm not claiming it's impossible for them to have come to that conclusion. For example, they could have seen that each word in "ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ" begins with "ἕξ". Likewise, there could have been some part of numerology that the Greeks were familiar with that let them view that. My point is just that it's trivial for us to view 666 as three sixes, but that is only because of the symbolic notation that we use, and we have to guard against eisegeting something we interpret from a symbolic manipulation as if it was the thinking of a person using a completely different number system that we are not familiar with.