Ever wonder why the number 666 gets so much attention? This article will teach you all about the number of the beast.
If you’ve grown up in the West, odds are that at some point in your life you’ve heard someone mention 666 in relation to Hell or Satan. Most people are vaguely aware of the integer’s mystique, but don’t seem to do much investigating of their own. The following is the result of such an investigation.
In the New Testament, the Book of Revelation describes two beasts: one that comes “out of the sea,” (13:1-10) and another that comes “out of the earth” (13:11-18). That said, it is not necessarily the places from which these creatures emerge that is of particular importance, but rather the fact that they align themselves in opposition to God.
In the eighteenth line of Revelation 13, it is the second beast who is assigned the number 666.
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon… 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.
Note that the beast is described as having two horns, a physical trait that has since become one of the hallmarks of Satan’s appearance. And what’s more, the number is associated with the beast that comes out of the earth rather than the sea, a clear reference to Hell as a discrete, subterranean location.
Numerology, Isopsephy and Gematria
Naturally, the Book of Revelation has garnered attention from numerologists, isopsephists and practitioners of gematria (those who study the occult significance of numbers, and the Greek and Hebrew alphanumeric value systems, respectively).
As a result of these specialists’ work, numerous people throughout history have been suspected of being demonic, or at the very least, allied to Hell in one way or another.
Concerning the number of the beast, one of the most striking examples of gematria to have been discovered to this day is in relation to the Roman emperor Nero, who ruled from 54-68 CE. He is generally described as having been extravagant and tyrannical; and the possibility of Nero having been the perpetrator of the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE continues to be a topic of heated debate. (It is alleged that Nero was found singing and playing his lyre on the roof of his palace as he watched the city burn to the ground.) His Latin name and title, Nero Caesar, transliterates to the Hebrew Nron Qsr, which produces a numerical value of 666.
To provide a more modern example, a handful of numerologists have exposed the case of former president of the USA, Ronald Reagan. This is due to the fact that the constituents of his full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, each contain six letters—hence, 666. Ironically, after moving to a new residence in 1989, Reagan and his wife insisted that the address of their new property be changed from 666 to 668 St. Cloud Road.
The Symbolic Approach
Many of those who reject isopsephy and gematria view the number of the beast as a symbol rather than a code. Proponents of the symbolic approach claim that due to the abundance of non-literal and parabalistic content in the New Testament, the number should be interpreted non-literally (or in this case, non-mathematically).
Because the number seven is associated with God and wholeness, and the number six is one below seven, logic dictates that six represents incompleteness or a lack of divinity.
Others note that because the beast presents himself as a god and prophet, he nearly achieves an emulation of God, but ultimately falls short, just as six does of seven.
By Marco Passaretti
Marco obtained his Master's degree in philology from the University of Cagliari. He has always been fascinated by the supernatural and maintains a strong appreciation for historically accurate occult fiction.