Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Hebrew 666?

"The number of the beast is 666" by William Blake

The prophecy of the number of the Beast (Rev 13:18) is presented to the reader in the form of a riddle. It is a number which refers to the name of a person. In the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages, people's names had easily ascertainable numerical values, because their numerical systems used the letters of the alphabet as numerals. The Hebrew version of this numerical word-play is known as gematria, and the Greek form is referred to as isopsephy.
The original meaning behind this prophecy is almost unanimously regarded to be a reference to the Greek version of the name "Caesar Nero", which adds up to 666 once transliterated into Hebrew. The word-play is doubly apt here, since the Greek word for "beast" - θηριον (therion) totals up to 666 once transliterated into Hebrew as תריון
. The sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter waw  (also known as vav to Jews of Eastern European descent), has the numerical value of 6, and transliterates into the modern Latin alphabet as the letter w. 

So the numerical value of the letters www in Hebrew is three sixes – six-six-six.  While these letters do not total up to the cardinal number 666 (six hundred and sixty six), they are each individually represented by the number six - which gives us three sixes.  The number of the beast is commonly spoken as six-six-six, because this is much easier to say than the mouthful "six hundred and sixty six". 
Although it wouldn't have been as obvious as it is in the Hindu-Arabic numeral system we use today, the number 666 would have been easily understood as three sixes in the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages.  We can see this from the repetition of the root word for "six" in both languages.  In Greek the number 666 was spoken as hexakosioi hexekonta hex - so there is a three-fold repetition of the Greek word for six which is hex.  Similarly this three-fold repetition occurs in the Hebrew spoken version of 666, which is shesh me’oth sheshim washesh - the Hebrew word for six (shesh) is also repeated three times.
The author of the Apocalypse saw the primary symbolic value of the number 666 as three sixes.  As G.K Beale states in his commentary (widely regarded as one of the best scholarly commentaries on the Apocalypse): “the triple sixes are intended to be a contrast with the divine sevens throughout the book and signify incompleteness and imperfection.” (Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation, Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999). Each six represents a member of the unholy trinity - the False Prophet, the Beast and the Dragon.  As it falls short of the Divine number 7, six represented the number of imperfection.  It was also the number of man, since man was created on the sixth day.  666 is an intended antithetical parallelism of the threefold repetition of sevens - 777, which represents the Holy Trinity.  Another threefold repetition of numbers can be found in the numerical value of Christ's name.  The Sibylline Oracles noted that when written in Greek the name Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ) adds up to 888.  (Ι = 10) + (Η = 8) + (Σ = 200) + (Ο = 70) + (Υ = 400) + (Σ = 200) = 888. (Sib. Or 1:395-400).
Beale further elaborates on the symbolic value of the three sixes:
"Charles contends that the symbolic view cannot explain why only one or even two sixes were not used instead of three, since one six would have achieved the sufficient symbolic idea of incompleteness.  But the triple repetition of sixes connotes the intensification of incompleteness and failure that is summed up in the beast more than anywhere else among fallen humanity.  In the Bible the number three signifies completeness, as, for example in the completeness of the Godhead in Rev. 1:4-5, which is parodied by the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet here in ch. 13 (and in 16:13). Therefore, six repeated three times indicates the completeness of sinful incompleteness found in the beast.  The beast epitomizes imperfection, while appearing to achieve divine perfection.  Three sixes are a parody of the divine trinity of three sevens.  That is, though the beast attempts to mimic God, Christ, and the prophetic Spirit of truth (cf.19:10), he falls short of succeeding." (Beale p722)

The fact that a triple letter acronym (www) intimately related to modern commerce transliterates into the original language of the author of the Book of Revelation as having a numerical value of three sixes (which for the author is the primary symbolic value of the number 666) cannot be put down to mere coincidence. But how does this explain how no one would be able to buy or sell without recieving this number as a "mark" on their hands or foreheads - as the prophecy suggests? When we analyse the original meaning of the “mark” of the beast, we find that it was intended to represent a diabolical inversion of the ancient Jewish practise of wearing phylacteries – box-shaped objects which are worn on the hand and forehead during prayer services. And when we look at the use of the Greek word “charagma”, usually translated as “mark”, we find that it can also mean “sculpted or graven image” (as is detailed by any good Greek lexicon) – an object rather than a brand or tatoo. So the “mark” of the beast is actually described in the Book of Revelation as a box-shaped object worn in the hand or forehead. When we take into consideration the fact that cell phones are now being advanced as the future replacement of credit cards, through cashless transactions via near field communication (NFC) payments, we can gain a sense of how no one will be able to “buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev 13:18). All electronic transactions made in this manner will be conducted over the worldwide web – the www.

See the articles: The Mark of the Beast?, NFC Technology and the Mark of the Beast, and Cell Phones versus RFID Implants as the "Mark" of the Beast for more information and related videos on this subject.


Daniel Brooks said...

Wow. Very intriguing.

Your post reminds me of ...

Emmett O'Regan said...

Hi Daniel,

Yeah, the future will very much be like that link - only easier. With NFC you can simply "bump" or tap phones against each other to pay. This technology is still in its infancy, but I believe that in the coming years we will only be able to buy and sell through it alone. I think it means we need to rethink what the "mark" of the beast is, and the spiritual implications of accepting it (since almost everyone already owns one).

Anonymous said...

Just reading this today - June 19, 2013, and all the recent news about Google glass has me realizing how this box may be located on the forehead.

Thank you, God bless and protect you,
Jennifer, USA

Emmett O'Regan said...

Hi Jennifer,

I attempted to explain how the "mark" might be worn on the forehead in the shape of computerized glasses in my book (published in 2011) - way before Google Glass came on the scene. It kind of blew me away when this technology became a reality.

Anonymous said...


Following the "translation":
Greek 666 -> Greek 6-6-6 -> Hebrew 6-6-6 -> Hebrew letters "waw-waw-waw" -> Latin "w-w-w"

First of all, this chain of reasoning is so long and so weak that one should almost immediately dismiss it as a rationalization argument rather than a rational argument. Nevertheless, let's look more closely.

Note that the argument only holds if each step in this process holds. If one fails, the conclusion no longer follows.

Problem with Step 1:
<<...we can see this from the repetition of the root word for "six" in both languages. In Greek the number 666 was spoken as hexakosioi hexekonta hex - so there is a three-fold repetition of the Greek word for six which is hex. Similarly this three-fold repetition occurs in the Hebrew spoken version of 666, which is shesh me’oth sheshim washesh - the Hebrew word for six (shesh) is also repeated three times. >>

This argument is in no way suggestive of a "666"->"6-6-6" interpretation since these numeric systems used base 10. It's like saying that because the word "six" appears three times when I say "SIX hundred and SIXty SIX", I really must mean six-six-six. This will be true of any number combination; there's nothing special here at all. Further, your argument is actually assuming that step 2 doesn't hold; namely, that you would actually translate the number as 666 and not 6-6-6, so the author is contradicting himself.

Assuming step 1 holds, there is nothing particularly wrong with step 2. But with Step 3, we see another problem. Namely, that one would not read the numerical "6-6-6" as "www" but rather as "waw-waw-waw". The pronunciation of those numbers would not be translated "www". Only if you take the letters individually and translate them as the letter "w", which no translater would ever do, does this interpretation make sense.

Finally, in Hebrew, the translation to "v" is closer than the translation to "w". Obviously, "w" is chosen because it fits what the author wants to think.

Now, if the conclusion seemed intuitive, you may be tempted to accept this rationalization. But the idea that the worldwide web is the beast is an even longer reach. It is simply reverse-engineered from the idea that you cannot "buy or sell unless he has the mark", and relating this to currency.

In summary, only an incredibly loose (and honestly inaccurate) interpretation could lead you to the conclusion that "666" translates to "www", and only an even looser connection points to the worldwide web. It's just not an argument to be taken seriously.

Emmett O'Regan said...

Hi Anon,

As regards your problem with "step one" (i.e. the Greek and Hebrew numeral systems use base ten, so the threefold repetition of sixes (6-6-6) would not be an obvious correlation to make from the number 666), even a completely impartial New Testament scholar recognizes the fact that this threefold repetition would be apparent to those who use the Greek and Hebrew numeral:
"Although the coincidence would not have been as obvious in ancient Mediterranean numeric systems as it is today, ancients using base ten would not miss the significance of the threefold repetition of sixes." (Keener, C.S. Revelation p355). Given that 6-6-6 would be readily apparent from the number 666 to someone writing in Greek or Hebrew, step one holds (as then does step 2). Moreover, as most theologians recognize, it is exactly in this threefold repetition of sixes that this number finds its primary symbolic value in the Book of Revelation. Just as 777 symbolizes the Holy Trinity and the work of creation in seven days, 666 falls short of this perfection and is the "number of man", since man was created on the sixth day. So the symbolism of the threefold repetition of sixes in this number is actually the primary focus of the author of the Apocalypse, rather than not being apparent at all as you suggest.
Your objection to step three is rather incoherent, but I think I understand what you are saying. You state that no translator would ever take each of the letters waw individually and translate them as "w". However if I was a first century Aramaic speaking Jewish Christian writing in Greek, and I was given a vision of the future in which all commerce was connected to the threefold repetition of letters www, I would have no choice but to translate this as "waw-waw-waw" in my mind. In turn, the numerical value of each of these letters would immediately stand out as being three sixes - 6-6-6. Given that this would not be a natural reading to a first century Jewish Christian, then the next logical step in this process would be to convert this threefold repetition of sixes into a cardinal number - 666 (shesh me’oth sheshim washesh) and translate this into the language of my Greek audience "hexakosioi hexekonta hex", in order to give the numerical value of the letters I was seeing. So step three also holds. Also note that literary form here is that of a riddle - one which calls for "wisdom" to interpret, by using gematria (the number of a name). So the author indicates to the audience that the interpretation of this number is not going to be straightforward, and that a series of algorithms would need to be applied. One of the first and most obvious steps in any series of algorithms relating to a code connected to the number hexakosioi hexekonta hex would be to break it down to its constituent parts - which lies in its primary symbolic value in a threefold repetition of sixes. Translating waw as "v" instead of "w" is only true of Jews of Eastern European descent (as we all know, Eastern European languages tend to pronounce "w" as "v". Sticking to its Semitic roots and first century AD Palestinian context, waw was originally sounded as "w" rather than "v".

Emmett O'Regan said...

I do not believe that the worldwide web is "the beast", as you suggest, but rather the "number of the beast" without which no one would be able to buy or sell. In a world which is progressively heading towards the direction of electronic commerce, the worldwide web is the central dynamic of this, without which no one will be able to buy or sell.
So these connections are not in any way loose, and the only honestly inaccurate claim would be to suggest that there is no relation at all between the letters www and their numerical equivalent in Hebrew gematria being 6-6-6. If Christians are to take this prophecy seriously, there is no way that this can be fulfilled any more closely without it being absolutely literal (which clearly isn't the original authorial intent).

Anonymous said...

I'll retract my earlier issue regarding the "v" and "w" since I haven't done a great deal of research in the pronunciation of ancient Hebrew. I'll apologize for making the statement if it's truly incorrect; I did of course bother to check, but made a perhaps faulty assumption that the modern translation is the same as the ancient. Anyway, this is the least of my concerns with your argument.

So let me be clearer. A rational argument is one that starts from some statements that you believe to be true (in this case, the book of Revelation) and gives some rational step-by-step reasoning to lead to most likely conclusion.

A rationalization is one that starts with a particular conclusion, and then tries to develop a means by which that that conclusion is possible.

The weakness of the argument is not that your explanation could be possible. If you work backwards, assuming the conclusion, then you've got something that might lead there. The problem is that, starting from the Greek "666", there is little reason to follow your line of reasoning because each step in the process leads nowhere until the last step, when you finally 'translate' into "www" and all the sudden you have a relevant connection to modern currency. People have made similar arguments about US currency being the mark of the beast along these same lines, and your argument follows the same form.