What number is more intriguing than 666; 13? Perhaps, but for those who like mental puzzles 666 is one of the best and almost universally known. Standing in line at the check-out one time, the cashier handed me a receipt that totaled $6.66. She handed it to me and said, “Good luck today.” Yet, this is not a game. Neither is it a vain pursuit. The book of Revelation instructs us: “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast” (13:18).
Sadly, when it comes to wild ideas, it may be difficult to surpass the absurdities finagled into the public domain as are solutions to the enigma of 666. Popular ultra-modern views include concepts of a cashless society, the universal use of bar codes, the implantation of computer chips and biochips in each individual for identification and control, and the most recent “face imaging” via those hidden cameras throughout society. It is easy to see how the anti-Christ might control commerce, even private lives through technology. We have television sets that are voice activated and don’t ever totally shut off. They are capable of recognizing voices in the room or house.
At the other extreme, many commentaries on Revelation assert that it is useless, foolish, or even dangerous to attempt to discover a specific name with a fulfillment of 666. They treat 666 and most items in Revelation as if they were parables devoid of specific predictions with only historical significance. Many even write articles that are well worded and convincing to those who are not founded in bible study; that Revelation has already played out and we are now in some type of ozone territory.
It was no one less than the Holy Spirit, the real author of Revelation, who directed John to write: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Rev. 13:18). We are instructed to “calculate” or “count,” as some translations translate it. We are dealing here with a mathematical computation. The Greek word means “count,” as illustrated in the only other text where it appears in the New Testament: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it”(Luke 14:28). This parable also has a spiritual application. It is talking about a man counting his money. This brings to mind the number of people who don’t count or budget what s/he has and then will have in disposable time, energy, or money before making a commitment or taking on a project. Seldom if ever do people when personal energies or ambition exceed what it will take to complete the race.
Seldom does Revelation directly tell us to apply understanding to grasp the meaning of a particular symbol. It does not tell us to try to figure out who the lamb-like beast is. It does not tell us that if we have wisdom we can figure out the meaning of the third trumpet or many other symbolic representations. It only hints at the identities of the beasts from the sea and earth. However, when it mentions 666, it specifically tells us to calculate or count.
There is a view that Rev. 13:18 should not be translated “the number of a man,” but rather “the number of man” (without the indefinite article “a”). The reason given is that the indefinite article “a” is missing in the original. Of course, it is missing; Greek has no indefinite article. For this reason, one must examine the context to determine if the translation into English should include the indefinite article or not; “a” versus “he, she or it.” Better yet, use a proper name when identifying a person, place or thing. Revelation 13:18 says to calculate this name, but not everyone will be able to.
Some theologians and I use this term liberally, Give distant historical dates when this all happened. This leaves us in a bible void time today. If one thinks this all happened in the distant past, then where are we biblically referenced in the here and now?
The following tables are included so the reader of this blog can venture down this trail of “calculating the name” of this man. It has already been done dozens if not hundreds of times and to little absolute avail. In Bible times primary languages included Greek, Latin (in Rome) and Hebrew as concerns commerce and common communication. On the table to the right, find the equivalent numeric number for Greek letters and their number value. On the right find an example of doing this. Caution: English was NOT a primary language at this time when John wrote Revelation. English does not have a numeric equivalence.
In order to include all possibilities, we would need to include the Hebrew letter-to-number equivalence and include the use of Roman (Latin) numerals. We can only deduce that John means to use the Greek since Revelation and most of the New Testament was written in Greek. However, Revelation 13:18 is after the Rapture of the church so perhaps it is intended to be “calculated” in Hebrew… those chosen as God’s special people. Remember or know for the first time that a sign was posted over the cross of Jesus that said “He was the King of the Jews.” It was written in Greek, Latin and Hebrew.