Timeout: “And Its Number Is 666”

I have had wonderful mentors in biblical studies and medicine, the two arenas of work and study that I have been privileged to pursue. I wish I could invite them all — the many still alive — to a big banquet. At this stage in life, I have an even greater appreciation for what they gave me than I had when I was their student and mentee in person. One of the people I would be sure to invite is Richard J. Bauckham, one of my mentors at the University of St. Andrews. He is one of the leading biblical scholars of his generation, still writing prolifically in retirement near Cambridge University. It is not just that he has written many books. No matter which subject he has delved into throughout his long career, his work is imaginative, thorough, and trend-setting — on the non-canonical apocalypses, the Book of Revelation, the Gospel of John, gospel studies, the Bible and ecology, and most recently the large, Magdala of Galilee: a Jewish City in the Hellenistic and Roman Period (2018).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/sabbath-school/2019/timeout-and-its-number-666

“Here is a wake-up call for wisdom: whoever has a brain capable of understanding, let him or her figure out the number of the beast, for it is a human number, and its number is 666” (13:18).

What is now the correct meaning of “666,” “the number of his name” (13:17)? The temptation to convert it into someone’s name should be resisted. We need to linger longer inside the text, to internalize its striking conceptions and contrasts. If we manage to resist the urge to decipher “666” into someone’s name, should we have similar caveats with respect to the sea, the earth, and the “forty-two months”? Should space (geography) and time yield to theology and meaning to a greater extent that all schools of interpretation allow? What does “666” say about the beast if we leave it as “666”? It is Satan’s number — Mr. Wormwood, Mr. Darkness, and Mr. Destroyer in the trumpets — and here the master of “666.”

I advise against decoding the number “666.” My respect for “666” — to leave it as it is — is consistent with a reading that prioritizes imitation. A view that emphasizes the imitative aspirations of the two beasts safeguards all the concerns of those who are committed to historical prediction — without the risks. Let me state some risks as bullet points.

In revelation 13:18 John explicitly instructs us to figure out the meaning of the number of the beast “666”, through (counting, solving, calculating or reckoning)

The meaning of the greek word psēphizō

  1. to count with pebbles, to compute, calculate, reckon
  2. to give one’s vote by casting a pebble into the urn
  3. to decide by voting

Its translations in various English bible versions:

  1. Calculate: KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, CSB, NASB, NET, HNV,
  2. Solve:NLT
  3. Reckon: RSV
  4. Count:ASV, YLT, DBY, WEB

By advising us not to try to decode what John meant when he used 666, you are in a way advising us to ignore John’s instructions. If we take into consideration the context within which John wrote Revelation, we’ll get a better understanding of the message in Revelation.

Rome ruled over Judaea, but not all Jews were very happy about the arrangement: there were actual terrorist groups fighting to free Israel from their Roman oppressors. Apocalyptic literature was often written to encourage these efforts, so it was a dangerous thing to be caught with: for that reason it was written in religious metaphors as a kind of a code, so that to the Romans it would look like the incoherent ravings of a religious nutcase. Unfortunately, nearly 2,000 years later, most of these metaphors are lost on us.

This verse is basically saying, "If you can understand the code, you’ll figure out what the beast represents. Here’s a clue."

The text was written in Koine Greek, the “ordinary” Greek (spoken by ordinary people, not poets and philosophers) of the 1st century. Like Latin, Greek used letters to represent numbers. Most manuscripts that exist give the number as χξϛ, which represents 666; the oldest manuscripts, though, give it as χιϛ, which represents 616, and may be the original number of the beast. As it turns out, though, that may not be significant. Its also important to note that Irenaeus (2nd c., Against Heresies) speaks in favor of the 666 reading.

The best theory is that if you convert 616 into Hebrew – which also uses letters for numbers – you can get NRO QSR. Most vowels are not usually written in Hebrew (readers have to just know what the vowels are), so this represents “Nero Qaisar”, i.e. “Nero Caesar” in Latin. 666 also works, though: that gives you NRON QSR, for “Neron Qaisar”, which has “Nero” with an extra grammatical ending.

Revelation isn’t the only ancient jewish text that contains gematria, 3 Baruch has some gematria.
Historians have long known of a group of ancient Jewish books called the Sybilline Oracles, which predict that one of the most hated of the Roman Emperors, Caesar Nero, will return from the dead to wreak havoc on the earth — comparable to one who recovers from a death-inflicting wound. This popular belief may have something to do with the number of the beast. It should be recalled that Nero was seen as the archenemy of the Christians, whom he ruthlessly and unjustly persecuted for setting fire to the city of Rome.

As Richard J. Bauckham, states in his book “The Theology Of Revelation”:

Thus Revelation seems to be an apocalyptic prophecy
in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman
province of Asia. This is explicit in i: 11: what is revealed to
John (what he ‘sees’) he is to write and send to the seven
churches which are here named. This command applies to all
the visions and revelations which follow in the rest of the book.
The habit of referring to chapters 2- 3 as the seven ‘letters’ to
the churches is misleading. These are not as such letters but
prophetic messages to each church. It is really the whole book
of Revelation which is one circular letter to the seven churches.
The seven messages addressed individually to each church are
introductions to the rest of the book which is addressed to all
seven churches. Thus we must try to do justice to the three
categories of literature - apocalypse, prophecy and letter - into
which Revelation seems to fall. In considering each in turn it
will be appropriate to begin with prophecy.

Whatever meaning/interpretation we get from Revelation should not negate the meaning/interpretation of its original readers (the 7 churches that John addresses in his “letter”)


Thought provoking, but without impugning the intent of this author, I wish SDA cognoscenti would ease up on this dedication to academic speak. The literary style on this forum appears to embrace austerity, rather than reading pleasure. Simplicity does not mean unsophisticated.

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DRevelation is quite simple. It is at once historic and prophetic. From the war in heaven to the Cross to the world in John’s day to the end of time and the earth restored. To get caught up in its symbolic nature is lose the forest for the trees. Let us be like Martin Luther. here I stand I can do no other… Christ is Lord, Savior and coming King of Kings. my present and my future are save in Him. Praise God from Whom all blessing flow. Present Truth is the eternal covenant. Let us hold fast to what we know for sure. we are great sinners redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. If He was willing to shed His blood for me, should I be willing to shed my blood for Him? History gives us those who were willing. How about now. Note the end time the fate of those unwilling.


What is the worst thing the beast that has the number 666 could possibly do? I cannot think of anything worse than to continue promoting the original claim of Lucifer that the immanent Trinity is hierarchically ordered and that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. Lucifer made this claim, because he wanted to exalt himself relative to the Son for the purpose of the Creation. If the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, even just in the functional sense, then the Son does not possess all of the attributes of divinity the Father possesses, namely sovereignty and omnipotence, and is therefore not divine. If such is the case, then the Son is no more qualified and worthy to be a creator than Lucifer.

What is the worst thing that Seventh-day Adventists could possibly do? I cannot think of anything worse than to continue promoting the original claim of Lucifer that the immanent Trinity is hierarchically ordered and that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. Seventh-day Adventist neo-subordinationists make this claim, because they want to exalt men relative to women for the purpose of ordination. If the immanent Trinity is hierarchically ordered, then those created in the image of God are also hierarchically ordered. As argued by neo-subordinationists, because women are to men what the Son is to the Father, women are unqualified and unworthy to be ordained.

Ted Wilson and his colleague neo-subordinationists have fallen hook, line, and sinker in support of Lucifer’s claim. They have done so without affiliating themselves with the Whore of Babylon and her daughters. They have done so without being persecuted during the Great Tribulation. They have done so while exhibiting all of the gracious mannerisms and backhanded flattery of the Son that Lucifer no doubt exhibited. Indeed, they are so confused that they do not discern that they debase the Son. They have done so without noticeably displaying on their foreheads and hands the Mark of the Beast. From all appearances, these are good people.

The blessed Angel Rodriguez warns in his TOSC essay that neo-subordinationism is a denial of the divinity of the Son:

“If one of the three members of the Godhead has been the eternal leader of the other two, even at a functional level, we have introduced a fissure within the unity of the Godhead that brings us too close to polytheism. If one member of the Godhead has to tell the others what to do and when to do it, then, we have to conclude that the exercise of the divine attributes of the other two is being limited or that not all of them have the same divine attributes—they complement each other.”

But a majority of the delegates in San Antonio voted their expression of disagreement. Seventh-day Adventist opposition to women’s ordination remains monolithically neo-subordinationist; since this anti-Trinitarian heresy was first created in 1977 (as an attempted innocuous modification of Arianism), not one Seventh-day Adventist opponent of women’s ordination has ever publicly and unequivocally denounced the heresy.

What is the purpose of the Sabbath School Lessons on Revelation? Will there be widespread understanding and repentance as a result of the Lessons? Or will we see, as we so often see, gratuitous and congratulatory applause directed toward ourselves and our faith community? Will we see Revelation properly interpreted through the lens of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity or interpreted through the lens of neo-subordinationism? Revelation’s contrasts between good and evil are vivid, stark, and to our modern sensibilities, extreme. The question remains: Are we going to regard Lucifer’s claim with the horror that it deserves or are we going to remain casual and indifferent to his claim, as reiterated by our dear and deluded friends?


If one wants to assume it was a man and close to the time of the writer, then Nero is a reasonable guess.
And, all “following rulers” sharing the same traits/attitudes and persecuting the church.
Man in vs. 18 is anarthous. Rev.16:18 is also and infers the translation mankind. 666 is a number perhaps of mankinds imperfections created on the 6th day and mankinds natural animosities against the “perfect Christ 777” and His church…just a thought.
As usual for SDA commentators, and some others, these things tempted you to “date set” and relate to the present sitting President…or it seems. Not exegesis but driveby events applied as desired.

Before “America First,” there was “Roman Empire First” with the goal, as Paul Zanker puts it, “to project onto future generations the impression that they lived in the best of all possible worlds in the best of all times.” The take-home messages from the “parody camp” should not be ignored or dismissed. That time, like ours, was a great time for “alternative facts” and “fake news,” with the emperor and his enablers orchestrating the propaganda.<<

Hello, This article goes astray and complicates the traditional understanding of the SDA Church. Here is a video on the subject that upholds and solidifies the traditional understanding as applying to the Roman Church and the popes.

God Bless, LD

Curious why my name removed from “latest comments” on the subject

The 666 mark is simpler than most think. Take a listen to this… Art

Whatever interpretation we take to revelation it will serve to align us more with the lamb that was slain or with the dragon. I heard someone recently say perhaps asking if an interpretation is righteous is more important than wanting to know if it is accurate/factual/biblical. from what I see from revelation seminars it seems to me that the interpretations are far from righteous and they serve only to amaze the audience which ultimately has people coming from a revelation seminar worried about their own salvation rather than wowed by the victory of a lamb over vicious beasts. Yes we must, as a community, improve our interpretation and use of revelation.


I would like to introduce a view/opinion of the number of the beast/man - 666. I’m new here and english is not my first langue. I hope I can express myself understandably :grinning:

Six is the number of man/human. Their multiplication with numbers of ten in different powers (10, 100, 1000 etc) represent corresponding capacities, elevations (on exodus from Egypt there wer 60,000 men and the Pharaoh followed them with 600 chariots). Called six in three different stages (6, 60, 600) and taken together as a trinity, the number three implies the claim of divinity or similar divinity, of which in 2 Thess. 2,3.4 is written in relation to the Antichrist.

the numbers are to interpret, not to compute. The man of sin (of perdition, of the illegitimate legislation). No 10 is symbolic for law, fullness, wholeness.

600 - six hundred - 6x10x10 - man who demands the observance of his law by all the people

60-ty - 6x10 - man who sets his law above the divine law

six - 6x1 - man which alone claims the highest spiritual authority.

= number of a man in triple (perfect, trinitarian) power

The King of Babylon as a man of false worship, (Dan. 3)

  1. King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden picture, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and made it erect in the plain of Dura in the land of Babylon.

  2. And king Nebuchadnezzar sent to the princes, dignitaries, governors, judges, treasurers, councilors, officers, and all the mighty in the land, that they should come together to consecrate the image which the king Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

  3. And there came together the princes, dignitaries, governors, judges, treasurers, councilors, officers, and all the mighty ones in the land, to consecrate the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they had to stand before the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

  4. And the Herald cried aloud, "You are commanded, you people and people of so many different languages:

  5. When you hear the sound of the trumpets, trumpets, harps, zithers, flutes, lutes, and all other instruments, then you shall fall down and worship the golden image which King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.

  6. But if you do not fall down and worship, you should immediately throw it into the glowing furnace.

The similarity of the behaviors of the Babylonian king to that of the apocalyptic animal in Rev. 13 is noticeable. However, this rises to the third level of power (600). Also typical is the claim to absolute religious authority (cf. Dan. 3, 6 with Rev. 13, 15).


Certainly as legit a theory as Vicarius filii dei.
As I mentioned anarthus anthropon in 13:18 is understood as mankind in anthropos in 16:18.
Humanity certainly does have a history of wanting to be god…like, the tower of Babel. They even think they can control the environent now. :wink:

the numbers are to interpret, not to compute

John explicitly stated that the reader should compute, study the translation of John 13:18, I have given a short summary of its translation above


Thought provoking, but without impugning the intent of this author, I wish SDA cognoscenti would ease up on this dedication to academic speak. The literary style on this forum appears to embrace austerity, rather than reading pleasure. Simplicity does not mean unsophisticated.

I’ll second that! When I got done reading it, I’m left with an empty plate! “Where’s my dinner?” “Where’s my pasture?”!!


666 is a number perhaps of mankinds imperfections created on the 6th day and mankinds natural animosities against the “perfect Christ 777” and His Church…just a thought.

You are closer than you think.

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Thanks David, I say perhaps because to many are certain of their opinions.
Babel proceeds " Babylon." Same story different time.



What about «perfect christ333»? 3 is the symbol in Hebrew for perfection.
666 is the number, or attribute of the sea beast, and this sea beast is mankind? Sure there are many beastly humans around us, but just one horrific sea beast - at least I hope so! But what really matters: revelation is good news for humankind: Christ cares and is in control.

Maybe you’re right - greek is not my language, neither English. But just keep in mind that John was a Hebrew, and the book of revelation is not about counting. All numbers in revelation are symbols, not really meant to count (144,000). Counting, calculate, sort out, classify is really a very British tradition, it was not a hobby of John or the Hebrew I guess…….:wink: Luther 1545 - think about, Luther 2017 - find out

Hi Irene, I am not big on numerology. I am simply pointing out a simple possibility. Rev 17:15 points out waters as being peoples and nations or thus mankind/humanity the created as the “source” of the beasts seat of power.
Mankind was created on the 6th day.
Natural man rebels against all that is of God.
Works for me, even though simple. No call for anyone else to believe…
As I also said Babel is humanity rising against God to find their own salvation. God created the languages and divisions to keep mankind from mischief for a season.

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