Here is wisdom.

He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.

Revelation 13:18 ASV

Here is wisdom

This remark seems to indicate that no little study will be required in order to understand it!

The number of the beast … the number of a man Six hundred and sixty and six

More people probably know about this verse than of any other verse in the whole book; and the theories of what it means are almost unlimited.

This writer is not at all certain of what it means, beyond the cautious conclusion given under the preceding verse. Its identification with the second beast is certain, and probably also with the first beast as represented in his “image.”

The ancient science of numerology seems to have influenced a number of passages in this prophecy; and perhaps the most probable meaning relates to the symbolic value of the number itself.

Seven is the number of perfection. Six is the number of imperfection, of falling short, of forever being below what is perfect. The number 777 is said to be “the number of God, Christ, grace and salvation for men.”

The number 666 is therefore the crowding out of perfection “in Christ,” and the contradiction of all that is indicated in 777.

Many scholars have stressed this line of thought. Our own conviction is that this “number” is not a literal number at all, but the symbol standing for a “spiritual likeness.”

We note some of the “explanations” that are offered:

The position of the Seventh Day Adventist religion is that Sunday, or the observance of it as a day of worship, is the mark of the beast. As Pieters said, “For vicious denominationalism, this is unsurpassed.”

“Preston and Hausen suggest that the mark of the beast was a parody of the practice of making the sign of the cross on the forehead of the new Christian.”

The making of the “sign of the cross” by “crossing one’s self” was once thought to be the mark; and this accounts for the omission of that practice in the Protestant Reformation. In some ways, this seems to fit, but not in others.

The interpretation of the number by gematria has yielded all kinds of answers.

Gematria is the assignment of numerical values to certain letters of the alphabet, as for example: M, D, C, X, L, and I have commonly recognized values as used on clocks.

Both the Greek and Hebrew languages, as perhaps also others, used similar systems; and these were diverse, the same letter having one value in one language and another value in another language.

This, of course, led to many names having a numerical value; and the attention granted to this type of thing was evidently extensive when John wrote; and this could have caused him to adopt this reference to it as a symbol of the reality depicted.

Roberson believed that it was actually this gematria calculation that John had in mind, but that it is now impossible for us to know what it was, or to whom he referred. He pointed out, for example, that it is simply unknown what specific values were assigned to certain letters in that period.

As we have the number, and following the common values often assigned, “There are an indefinite number of names that will yield it; and there are too many which are plausible for any one to be the probable meaning.”

Earle, like so many others, called attention to the imperfect “six” as related to the perfect “seven,” and identified 666 as the full symbol of imperfect, fallible, and sinful man. “This 666 indicates that this age will end in the worship of man, instead of the worship of God.”

The 666 might not mean this, but it appears to be true anyway.

Nero was not the beast; he was not the wounded head; he did not rise from the dead; and it is absolutely untenable to interpret this prophecy as predicting any such thing as that!

The device of getting “Nero” out of this number is as devious and illogical as anything ever resorted to in order to bolster a false theory.

How do they do it? “They start with the hypothesis that Nero is the name.”

This derives from their conviction that a myth is the basis of this chapter. “The name Nero in Greek (the language in which John wrote) adds up to 1005!

So they translate it into Latin, and that does not work either, so they transliterate it into Hebrew (leaving out the vowels because Hebrew has no vowels); and then, by leaving out a lot of the letters and throwing in Nero’s title of Caesar, and misspelling that, they force it to yield 666!

It is truly amazing that any Christian scholar could be brainwashed into receiving any such alleged explanation. That’s certainly going a long way around to get the wrong answer. Bruce’s comment on this shenanigan was:

The three rules for making any name yield the desired 666 are:

(1) if the proper name itself will not yield it, add a title;

(2) if the sum cannot be found in Greek, try Latin, or Hebrew;

(3) if that does not work, misspell it!

The number of Jesus in Greek in 888, and the meaning is that the beast falls so far short of seven (perfection and holiness) as Jesus goes beyond it.

The number 666 represents worldliness at its zenith, “expressing all that is possible for human wisdom and power, when directed by an evil spirit, to achieve.” This man cannot be identified as an individual, but as a type, a kind.

The scholars, of whom there are a large number, who worked “Nero” out of this number should take a look at two or three other “solutions” which are quite natural, unforced, open, and plainly demonstrable.

We include them here because, at least, they do apply to the beast, which is what the number is said to identify:

1. Stauffer took the full title of one of the emperors (Domitian) in Greek: AUTOKRATOR KAISAR DOMETIANUS GERMANICUS, as abbreviated on Roman coins; and it duly yields 666.

However, no single coin has ever been discovered on which the entire abbreviation occurs, although coins with each part of it have been found.

2. The Latin expression VICARIUS FILII DEI, meaning “in place of the Son of God” and said to be one of the titles used by certain popes, was cited by Ray Summer:



It will be noted that U is counted as V, after the archaic manner, as it is still used in inscriptions.

For example, over many Court Houses, the title reads: COVRT HOUSE. Summers stated that “It is reported that this expression encrusted in jeweled letters on the pope’s crown is used in his ceremony of coronation.”

3. A third explanation was first proposed by Irenaeus, being the oldest calculation on this subject that has come down through history.

He used the letter-values assigned in Greek, which explains the difference from those cited in 2, above.

It is based on a word which means “The Latin Kingdom”:



This is a favorite explanation by the historical school of interpreters, and fits well the Catholic apostasy idea of this group.

It must be admitted that “the Latin kingdom” describes a salient feature of the apostasy; namely, the public services in Latin all over the world throughout the ages.

These three “explanations” cited here are a hundred times more logical and reasonable than the contrived application of the 666 to Nero; but our reluctance to affirm any certainty on this point derives from the inherent difficulty of the verse itself.

John intended it to be “something of an enigma”; and so it has remained whether or not John so intended it.

Affixing the meaning of this 666 to any man is wrong, for it is primarily the number of the beast (Revelation 13:17).

The notion that Nero, or any man, is meant could not possibly be correct.

The number has been confidently assigned by scholars to literally dozens of historical persons, by far the most reasonable of such assignments being the three cited above, because they, at least, have the quality of being connected with the beast.

However, any confidence that even these, or any one of them, is “the answer” fails because of the problem involved in every person following the beast also having the number in his forehead or his right hand.

For awhile, in his early ministry, this writer accepted number 2, above, as the true explanation; but while true enough that it applies to a prominent feature of the apostasy; namely, the blasphemous title of the popes, nevertheless, that was not a number or title worn by all of his followers in either head or hand.

Furthermore, there is the additional light on what is meant here which comes from the truth that the very next verse in this prophecy (Revelation 14:1) speaks of God’s name being written on the foreheads of his followers.

Can that be a literal number?

No! Therefore this is not a literal number.

What must be meant is “a spiritual likeness” to the beast in his followers and a “spiritual likeness” to God among his followers. Any thought of absolute certainty on this question is disclaimed.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.
Mark 16:16 ASV
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