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Number of beast discounted

Posted by Richard on May 6, 2005

Thanks to Ann Althouse for pointing out this story:

Satanists, apocalypse watchers and heavy metal guitarists may have to adjust their demonic numerology after a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all.

A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist.

Can’t you just see the Wal-Mart "Roll Back" guy smacking a 666 sign until it "rolls back" to 616?

Actually, I thought this reinterpretation of the Book of Revelations was interesting:

Dr. Aitken said, however, that scholars now believe the number in question has very little to do the devil. It was actually a complicated numerical riddle in Greek, meant to represent someone’s name, she said.

"It’s a number puzzle — the majority opinion seems to be that it refers to [the Roman emperor] Nero."

Revelation was actually a thinly disguised political tract, with the names of those being criticized changed to numbers to protect the authors and early Christians from reprisals. "It’s a very political document," Dr. Aitken said. "It’s a critique of the politics and society of the Roman empire, but it’s written in coded language and riddles."

Coded language and riddles? Sounds like a Harper’s story.

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