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The Number of the Beast (Ἀριθμὸς τοῦ θηρίου, Arithmos tou Thēriou) is the numerical value of the name of the person symbolised by the beast from the sea,[1] the first of two symbolic beasts described in chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation.[2] In most manuscripts of the New Testament the number is 666, but the variant 616 is found in critical editions of the Greek text, such as the Novum Testamentum Graece.[3] Most scholars believe that the number of the beast (v.18) equates to Emperor Nero, whose name in Greek when transliterated into Hebrew, retains the value of 666, whereas his Latin name transliterated into Hebrew, is 616;[4] The "mark of the beast" (v.16,17) which the narrative does not identify, is used to distinguish the beast's followers. It has been speculated that the "mark" may be an Imperial Roman seal, or the Emperor's head on Roman coins.

Revelation 13:17-18[]


Revelation 13 concerns the vision of John of Patmos' vision of two beasts. The first beast emerges from the sea having seven heads, inscribed with blasphemous names, reflecting the titles given to Roman emperors ("Lord and Saviour", "Saviour of the World"), considered to be blasphemies in the eyes of Christians.[5] This is followed by a second beast who emerges from the earth and "spake as a dragon". He derives his authority from the first beast, and probably represents the emperor himself.[6] It is the duty of the second beast to ensure that everyone is required to bear the mark of the first beast on their right hand or forehead, "And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark or, the name of the beast or, the number of his name" (Revelation 13:17). The vision of the first beast concludes with a riddle[7] where John reveals the number of the Beast and its significance: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six."(Revelation 13:18).


The Number of the Beast is described in the passage of Revelation 13:15–18 and the actual number is only mentioned once, in verse 18. In the Greek manuscripts, the number is rendered in Greek numerical form as χξϛʹ,[8] or sometimes literally as ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, hexakósioi hexēkonta héx, "six hundred and sixty-six". There are several interpretations-translations for the meaning of the phrase "Here is Wisdom, Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast" where the peculiar Greek word ψηφισάτω (psefisato) is used. Possible translations include not only "to count", "to reckon" but also "to vote" or "to decide".[9]

In the Textus Receptus, derived from Byzantine text-type manuscripts, the number 666 is represented by the final 3 letters χξς:

17καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων τὸν νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου· ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛʹ.[10]

In the Novum Testamentum Graece, the number is represented by the final three words, ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, meaning "six hundred sixty-six":

17καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ.[11]


Other Revelation manuscripts such as Papyrus 115 and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C; Paris, one of the four great uncial codices) reads the number of the beast in (13:18) as 616.

P115 (P. Oxyrhynchus|Oxy. 4499), located at Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum, dates to around 300 CE. The manuscript is one of the oldest fragments of Revelation[12][13] containing Chapters 2-15. It agrees with both Codices Alexandrinus and Ephraemi Rescriptus, two of the best known witnesses to Revelation.[14] However, only Codex Ephraemi agrees with the number 616, which is argued to be the original reading of the Greek text,[15][16] [17] written out as: ἑξακόσιοι δέκα ἕξ, hexakosioi deka hex (lit. "six hundred and sixteen").[18]

Although Irenaeus (2nd century AD) affirmed the number to be 666 and reported several scribal errors of the number, he knew about the 616 reading, but did not adopt it (Haer. v.30,3). However, several centuries later, correcting the existing Latin language version of the New Testament, commonly referred to as the Vetus Latina, Jerome left 616 in.[19] "The number 666 has been substituted for 616 either by analogy with 888, the [Greek] number of Jesus (Deissmann), or because it is a triangular number, the sum of the first 36 numbers (1+2+3+4+5+6...+36 = 666)".[20] The number 616 can still be found in the Latin version of Tyconius[21] and an ancient Armenian version (ed. Conybaere, 1907).


Here is wisdom. Let him who hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Rev.13:18-KJV)

Interpreting the identity and the number of the Beast usually falls into three categories:[22]

  1. Using gematria to calculate the number of a world leader’s name, in order to match it with the number of the Beast.
  2. Associating the number of the Beast as the duration of the beast’s reign, in order to compare the length of reign to an entity, such as: a heathen state, Islam, or the Papacy.
  3. Corresponding symbolism for the Antichrist and antichristian power.

Numbers were represented by letters in Koine Greek and Ancient Hebrew. The practice of converting Greek letters into Greek numerals is known as isopsephy. In Hebrew, the practice is known as gematria, where every letter corresponds to a number. The sum of these numbers gives a numeric value to a word or name.[23]

Victorinus of Pettau (d. c. 303) gives the names Teitan, Antemos (opponent), Diclux (double-dealer) and Genserikos; the last he calls Gothic. As it is plainly Genseric, the Vandal king, who captured Rome in 455 AD, the passage as whole can not go back to Victorinus, who belonged to the 3rd century. It is not, however surprising that the commentary should be brought up to date, after Genseric became notorious through the sack of Carthage or of Rome. Of the other names in Victorinus only Diclux needs mention. It is said to be the Latin counterpart of Teitan and by reckoning each letter at its value in Roman numerals, the total of 666 is again given.[24]

Beatus of Liébana (c. 730 – c. 800), a Spanish monk, gives eight names among which are Damnatus (Damned), Antichristus (Antichrist), and Acxyme (for aichime or achine=666). The numerical interpretation of Antichristus is based on the order of letters in the Latin alphabet, a = 1 to x = 300, but the accusative must be taken and spelled Antechristum.[24]

Arethas of Caesarea (b. c. 860) in his Commentary on Revelation gives seven names: Lampetis (the lustrous one), o Niketes (victor), Teitan, Palai baskanos (ancient sorcerer), Kakos Odegos (bad guide), Alethes Blaberos (really harmful), and Amnos Adikos (unjust lamb) each of which gives a total of 666. Most of these names are repeated by Arethas of Caesarea, who in his Commentary adds Teitan from Irenaeus and O Niketes (the winner).[24]

Neron Caesar[]

It is widely accepted by many scholars that Roman Emperor Nero (ruling 54-68) is the first Beast of Revelation 13. This interpretation was received by enumerating his name and title Neron Caesar[25] to the Number of the Beast.[26][27][28] An Aramaic scroll from Murabba'at, dated to "the second year of Emperor Nero", refers to him by his name and title[29] where in Hebrew it is Nron Qsr (Pronounced "Nerōn Kaisar"), and in Latin it is Nro Qsr (Pronounced "Nerō Kaisar").[30]

Nron Qsr

The Greek version of the name and title transliterates into Hebrew as נרון קסר, and yields a numerical value of 666:[31][29]

Resh (ר) Samekh (ס) Qoph (ק) Nun (נ) Vav (ו) Resh (ר) Nun (נ) Sum
200 60 100 50 6 200 50 666
Nro Qsr

The Latin version of the name drops the second Nun (נ), so that it appears as Nro and transliterates into Hebrew as נרו קסר, yielding 616:[32]

Resh (ר) Samekh (ס) Qoph (ק) Vav (ו) Resh (ר) Nun (נ) Sum
200 60 100 6 200 50 616

In the Nero Redivivus legend, a belief that Nero returns to life is noted that "After Nero's suicide in AD 68, there was a widespread belief, especially in the eastern provinces, that he was not dead and somehow would return (Suetonius, LVII; Tacitus, Histories II.8; Dio, LXVI.19.3). Suetonius (XL) relates how court astrologers had predicted Nero's fall but that he would have power in the east. At least three false claimants did present themselves as Nero redivivus (resurrected)."[33] It has also been suggested that Nero's return to power[34] would be through emperor Domitian,[35][36] whose style of rulership resembled that of Nero and who put the people of Asia (Lydia) under heavy taxation.[37]

Mark of the Beast[]

Imperial seal[]

The mark A. Gk., charagma, χάραγμα, in Revelation 13:16 had been attributed to the imperial seal of the Roman Empire that was used on official documents during the 1st and 2nd centuries.[38] In the reign of Emperor Decius (249–251 AD), those who did not possess the certificate of sacrifice (libellus) to Caesar could not pursue trades, a prohibition that conceivably goes back to Nero. The significance of this imperial seal had been paralleled to verse 17.[39]


In 66, when Nero was emperor, about the time some scholars say Revelation was written, the Jews revolted against Rome and coined their own money. The Greek word translated as mark (of the beast), χάραγμα, also means stamped money, coin or the impress on the coin hence, "no one buys or sells without the money of the beast."[40]

New Testament scholar Craig C. Hill suggests that the mark symbolized the all-embracing economic power of Rome, whose very coinage bore the emperor's image and conveyed his claims to divinity (e.g., by including the sun's rays in the ruler's portrait).[41] Zealot Christians from the first century refused to carry, look at, or manufacture coins bearing any sort of idolatrous image.[42] Thus it had become increasingly difficult for Christians to function in a world in which public life, including the economic life of the trade guilds, required participation in idolatry.[41] Adela Yarbro Collins further denotes that the refusal to use Roman coins resulted in the condition where "no man might buy or sell" (Rev.13:17).[43]

A similar view is offered by Craig R. Koester, "As sales were made, people used coins that bore the images of Rome's gods and emperors. Thus each transaction that used such coins was a reminder that people were advancing themselves economically by relying on political powers that did not recognize the true God."[44]


The passage is also seen as an antithetical parallelism to the Jewish institution of tefillin which are Hebrew Bible texts worn bound to the arm and the forehead during daily prayer. Instead of binding their allegiance to God to their arm and head, the place is instead taken with people's allegiance to The Beast.[45]

Belief systems[]

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that The Beast for which 666 stands symbolizes many unified governments, harmonizing with the symbolic depiction of past governments (denoted as "kings") in the Book of Daniel as wild beasts. The Beast is said to have "a human number" in that the governments that the beast symbolizes are all of a human origin, they aren't made up of spirit or demon entities. Furthermore, the number 666 "itself all point to one unmistakable conclusion—gross shortcoming and failure in the eyes of Jehovah," thus imperfection (7 is used by God in many ways to indicate perfection such as days in the week, hence 6 is the number of imperfection, falling short of 7).[46]

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Mark of the Beast (but not the number 666) refers to a future, universal, legally enforced Sunday-worship. "Those who reject God's memorial of creatorship—the Bible Sabbath—choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full knowledge that it is not God's appointed day of worship, will receive the 'mark of the beast.[47] "The Sunday Sabbath is purely a child of the Papacy. It is the mark of the beast."[48]



  1. Garrow|1997|p=86
  2. Beale|1999|p=718: "the number is that of the first beast who is described in 13:1-8, not of the second beast described in vv 11-16"
  3. Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle and Aland, 1991, footnote to verse 13:18 of Revelation, page 659: "-σιοι δέκα ἕξ" as found in C [C=Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus]; for English see Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, note on verse 13:18 of Revelation, page 750: "the numeral 616 was also read ..."
  4. Cory|2006|p=61
  5. Cory|2006|p=57
  6. Cory|2006|p=59
  7. Cory|2006|p=58
  8. cite web|title=Revelation 13:18 |url=;&version=69; |publisher=Bible Gateway |work=Stephanus New Testament |accessdate=22 June 2006
  9. Samuel Fuller, The Revelation of St. John the Divine self-interpreted, page 226
  10. Textus Receptus Greek NT (edition Stephanus, 1550): Revelation 13:17 and 18
  11. Revelation in the 26th/27th edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece
  12. Stewart|2011|pp=40–1
  13. cite web|url= |archive= |title=Papyrus Reveals New Clues to Ancient World | |date= |accessdate=11 August 2010
  14. Comfort|2000|p=66
  15. Schnabel|2012|p=187
  16. Philip W Comfort and David P Barrett, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Incorporated, 2001)
  17. Cite news|first=Tom |last=Anderson |date=1 May 2005 |title=Revelation! 666 is not the number of the beast (it's a devilish 616) |url= |work=The Independent |accessdate=1 March 2009 | location=London
  18. cite book|last=Hoskier|first=Herman C.|author-link=Herman C. Hoskier|title=Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse: A complete conspectus of all authorities|edition=vol. 2|year=1929|publisher=|location=|isbn=|page=364|ref=harv
  19. De Monogramm., ed. Dom G Morin in the Rev. Benedictine, 1903
  20. Paul Lewes, A Key to Christian Origins (Watts & Co., London, 1932, p. 140
  21. (DCXVI, ed. Souter in the Journal of Theology, SE, April 1913)
  22. Beale|1999|p=718
  23. Garrow|1997|p=86
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Henry A. Sanders (1918) "The Number of the Beast in Revelation", Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 37, No. 1/2. (1918), pp. 95-99 (Subscription required for JSTOR link.)
  25. Garrow|1997|p=86: (Bauckham, 1993, p. 387)
  26. Cory|2006|p=61
  27. cite web|first=Felix |last=Just |url= |title=666: The Number of the Beast |date=2 February 2002 |accessdate=6 June 2006
  28. Some Recently Published NT Papyri from Oxyrhynchus: An Overview and Preliminary Assessment by Peter M. Head, Tyndale Bulletin 51 (2000), pp. 1–16
  29. 29.0 29.1 cite book|last=Hillers|first=D. R.|title=Revelation 13:18 and A Scroll from Murabba'at|year=1963|publisher=BASOR, 170|page=65
  30. Cite journal|last=Hillers |first=D.R. |title=Revelation 13:18 and a Scroll from Murabba'at |journal=Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research |volume=170 |year=1963 |page=65 |curly=yes |doi=10.2307/1355990|jstor=1355990|issue=170 Note: website requires subscription.The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990. 1009
  31. Cory|2006|p=61
  32. Cory|2006|p=61
  34. Harpers Bible Commentary, ed. James L. Mays (Harper Collins: San Francisco:1988), 1300
  35. An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity By Delbert Royce Burkett, p.510
  36. Encyclopedia of prophecy By Geoffrey Ashe, p.204
  37. From every people and nation: the book of Revelation in intercultural perspective, p.193
  38. harvnb|Elwell|1996|p=462
  39. harvnb|Haines|1995|pp=41–2
  40. Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1940.
  41. 41.0 41.1 Craig C. Hill (2002), In God's Time: The Bible and the Future, Eerdmans; p. 124
  42. Adela Yarbro Collins (1984), Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse, Westminster John Knox Press, p.126
  43. "Collins, 1984, p. 126: Adela Yarbro Collins: "The juxtaposition of buying and selling with the mark of the beast refers to the fact that Roman coins normally bore the image and name of the current emperor. "The inability to buy or sell would then be the result of the refusal to use Roman coins."
  44. Craig R. Koester (2001), Revelation and the End of All Things, Eerdmans; p. 132
  45. Paul Spilsbury (2002), The throne, the lamb & the dragon: A Reader's Guide to the Book of Revelation, InterVarsity Press; p. 99
  46. Cite journal|title=Identifying the Wild Beast and Its Mark |journal=The Watchtower |date=1 April 2004 |url= |accessdate=29 June 2006 |curly=yes
  47. Cite book|title=Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed) |publisher=Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists |year=2005 |page=196
  48. Advent Review, Vol. I, No. 2, August, 1850.