What is it about the number 666 that makes it so special? It is the total of all the numbers on a Roulette wheel, which is quite cool. It’s a double triangular number for number nerds, which is cool, and it’s also equal to the sum of the squares of the first seven prime numbers – try it!
When most people hear the number 666, though, they do not immediately think of that. After all, not every number has a fear of its own. For most people, the number 666 has just one meaning: the Rapture, Apocalypse, or End of the World — whatever you want to call it, the number 666 is its precursor. “Let him that hath knowledge count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six,” says the Book of Revelation.
That sounds eerie! However, what is the true story here? Why would a beast need a number at all, let alone one as mundane as 666? Here is the thing: the Book of Revelation is a strange book. In addition, we do not mean this as a jab at Christianity; genuine religious academics have said the same thing. In a 2012 interview with NPR, Princeton’s Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion, Elaine Pagels, noted, “The Book of Revelation… [Is] completely different from anything else you find in the New Testament.” “There are no moral sermons, ethical ideals, or things that are encouraging. It is all a dream. That is why painters, musicians, and poets have flocked to it throughout the century.”
In addition, there is a reason for that: “its warfare literature,” according to Pagels, written by “John” – most likely a refugee from Jerusalem, which had just been demolished by the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War. “It comes out of that war, and it comes out of people who have been damaged by war,” Pagels explained.
When viewed through that lens, the piece begins to resemble something you would expect to find in a therapeutic writing class rather than a literal picture of the end of the world. A vast red beast with 7 heads and seven crowns, for example, is stated — not something you are likely to see in the actual world, but a thinly veiled reference to Julius Caesar’s dynasty, according to Pagels. “Most scholars believe John wrote about the year 90 in the first century. That would be 60 years after Jesus’ death, and Vesuvius’ eruption occurred in the year 79 “she stated.
“A lot of what we see in the Book of Revelation couched in wonderful imagery is descriptions of events that were very close to John’s heart – the war in Jerusalem, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the Roman Emperors who ruled at the time.” That last example, along with a little numerology, is crucial to comprehending the significance of the number 666. Remember that this was before the advent of Hindu-Arabic numerals, and readers would have been accustomed to a variety of alphabetical number representations.
“What this means is that every word has a number value,” explained Pete Watts of Numberphile in the channel’s “666” video. “It’s almost as if the text is saying, ‘I’m going to offer you a puzzle, you have to figure out the Beast’s number.'” Therefore, people, girls, and non-binary friends let us try to figure out who the mystery “Beast” is. Let us look at the evidence: the author of Revelations had been driven from his country by the Romans and would have recently witnessed a wave of state-sanctioned violence and enmity towards (what we now call) Christians at the hands of the Romans.
Emperor Nero was in charge of both of these disasters, and despite the fact that he was dead at the time Revelations was written, many people believed he was about to return at any moment, like a demonic Ancient Elvis. Is it possible that the “Beast” is Nero? Guess what: “Caesar Nero” is – or, to spell it out letter-by-letter, nun-resh-vav-nun qof-samek-resh in Hebrew. In Hebrew numbers, each of these letters has the following value:
When the values of the letters in “Caesar Nero” are added together, we get… 666. Pagels added, “John would have wanted his readers to recognize that.” “That number, encased in a secret code, would be deciphered by his readers as the name of one of the emperors who annihilated his people.” So it is not a genuine beast; it is not the antichrist; it is simply a particularly anti-Christian Emperor who messed up the writer of Revelations – and who may return at any time, so do not piss him off.
In the Numberphile video, Watts stated, “No one wants to publish a book amid imperial persecutions stating, ‘The origin of all evil is Nero Caesar.'” “You’re not going to say anything about it.” At the time of publication, fact-checkers confirmed that all “explainer” pieces were correct. To keep information current, text, images, and links can be modified, removed, or added to at any time.