Revelation 13:18 "There is need for shrewdness here: anyone clever may interpret the number of the beast: it is the number of a human being, the number 666."

For a Jew this number was a fearful image. The Old Testament image that would immediately connect with Jews or Messianic Jews would be the fall of King Solomon, Israel's greatest ruler, as he led his people into apostasy. We'll discuss those passages at the end of this section.

As you will remember we discussed the concept of "Rome is Caesar and Caesar is Rome"; that a ruler and his empire is one and the same. John clearly shows us this connection in the riddle of the number of the Beast. In the ancient world there was no separate set of symbols representing number value. Letters of the alphabet carried numerical value. The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet all had number value just as the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet each had a number equivalent. But as for the Romans, only six letters carried number value: 1for the letter I, 5 for the letter V, 10 for the letter X, 50 for the letter L, 100 for the letter C, and 500 for the letter D. Contrary to popular belief there was no single letter value for 1000. That number was represented by back to back Ds and so resembled the letter M.

John warns us that to solve this puzzle takes shrewdness and cleverness! The Roman Emperor we know as Nero Caesar had two common spelling for his name in the first century. One form was Nero Kesar but the Hebrew spelling is Neron Kesar. This is important because some ancient MSS (handwritten manuscripts) instead of using the number 666 have the number 616. If you add up the letter values in Hebrew (that's why it takes shrewdness-most people did not know Hebrew) Neron Caesar (Neron Kaisar) adds up to 666. Neron Kaisar = Nrwn Q(K)sr in Hebrew which used no vowels, was the linguistically correct Hebrew form and is found in the Jewish Talmud, in the writings of the community at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and other rabbinical writings. No Jew would ever have thought of Nero except as rsq nwrn (Hebrew read left to right). But Nero Caesar (rsq nwr), the other spelling (alternate spellings were very common), adds up to 616, which is exactly the variant reading in a few New Testament Revelation manuscripts for the number of the Beast.

Examples of Gematria for Neron Caesar and Nero Caesar

Hebrew Hebrew Greek
Nrwn Qsr - Neron Caesar Nrw Qsr - Nero Caesar Iesous - Jesus
Q=100 Q=100 I=10
S=60 S=60 E=8
R=200 R=200 S=200
N=50 N=50 O=70
R=200 R=200 U=400
W=6 W=6 S=200
666 616 888

This is extremely strong evidence for the Beast representing the depraved Roman emperor Nero. It also cannot be overlooked that all the earliest Catholic Christian writers on the Apocalypse from St. Irenaeus Bishop of Lyon in the 2nd century down to St. Victorinus Bishop of Pettau martyred in AD 302 and Commodian in the 4th century, and Adreaeus in the 5th and St. Beatus in the 8th centuries connect Nero and/or Rome with the number of the Beast.

Question: Why is 6 the number of man and the number of the beast?

Answer: 6 is the number of man and the beasts because they were both created on the 6th day. There's an important connection to Christ and man here. Can you guess what it is? You'll find the answer in bold type as the lesson continues.

Question: But if Nero is the Beast isn't Rome also the Beast. After all, isn't this an illustration of the saying which was commonly expressed during the world domination of the Roman Empire "Caesar is Rome and Rome is Caesar"? If you add up the value of the numbers used by Rome for counting, what is the value of those numbers?

The Gematria of Roman numerals

I 1
V 5
X 10
L 50
C 100
D 500

666 is a trinity of 6s never to be a 7. 6 is the number of man, especially as man in rebellion against God. Goliath was 6 cubits and a span (see 1 Samuel 17:4). King Nebuchadnezzar erected a statue to himself to be worshipped. It was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits across (Daniel 3:1)

The answer of course i  666: The number of the Beast. Then too, Caesar claimed to be God. The word god in Greek is theos. Kaisar Theos is 616, the alternate number in some manuscripts:

K 20
A 1
I 10
S 200
A 1
R 100
T 9
E 5
O 70
S 200
Total 616

If you are interested in numbers, you may like to know that the square of 6 (6x6) is 36, and the triangular of 36 is 666. Triangulation is a method of computation that was popular in the ancient world and was very familiar to people in the first century. It is too complicated to explain here but the different computations of the triangulation of 666 will yield both the numbers 3 1/2 and 1260 which are numbers you recognize from John's prophecy of the period of time the Beast is powerful and able to inflict suffering on the Saints.

Another interesting aspect of this very mysterious number is that John wrote out the symbols. He didn't spell out the number. Therefore, the first number was the same first initial double letter (in Greek) as the name of Christ: x = CH. The last letter which looks like an s in Greek, was the first double-letter (st) of the word Cross = stauros. Between the two stood the symbol of the Serpent. The whole formed a triple repetition of 6, the number of man, and the number day that Jesus was crucified (Friday is the 6th day of the week with Saturday, the Sabbath, the 7th). Jesus died for man on the day man was created - Jesus died on the 6th day, Friday. Jesus was resurrected on the 8th day; which became the first day of the new creation. The gematria for Jesus (Iesous) in Greek, the language of the New Testament is 888. Eight  8) is the number of salvation and redemption. Jesus is a trinity of 8s.

Question: Can you find anywhere else in Scripture where the number 666 is mentioned? Hint: see 1 Kings 10:14 and 2 Chronicles 9:13.

Answer: It is found only in these two places. Both passages record that King Solomon received 666 talents of gold in one year. Solomon is both a Biblical type for Christ and for the Beast. The number 666 marks both the height of his reign and the beginning of his fall away from God and into apostasy. Solomon falls from his position of favor with God as he breaks the three  aws of godly kingship as recorded in Deuteronomy 17:16-17: the law against multiplying gold (1 Kings 10:14-25); the law against multiplying horses (1 Kings 10: 26-29); and the law against multiplying wives (1 Kings 11:1-8). As I already mentioned, for a Jew the number 666 was a fearful sign of apostasy and the mark of both a king and his kingdom that had failed to image God and so had fallen to the image of Satan.

John's message is that Satan, the great red Dragon, at his most powerful is just a 6, or a series of 6s. He will never be a seven = perfection. His plans for the world and the downfall of man will never be fulfilled. The Church will overcome and be victorious through Jesus, the 888, who conquered on the 8th Day! Praise and glory to the King!

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.