YBD038 The Meaning of Numbers in the Torah, Part 26, Numr 666 continued

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In the last 3 articles we looked at the number 666 starting with its mathematical aspects, then took the prophesy in the book of Revelation and tried to see how it related to the dark years of Solomon. In the previous article we looked at 666 and tried to relate it to Balaam, Balak and Nebuchadrezzar. Earlier we looked at the meaning of 6, the number of Man. We will now continue the study of 666 by looking at a Gematria interpretation relating to the Apostolic Writings.

 

Returning to the Apostolic Writings (from YbD036), Revelation 13:18, Six hundred threescore and six in most manuscripts (including Textus Receptus) is written or represented by 3 Greek letters χξς. In the Novum Testamentum Graece spells out each letter as: ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ or "six hundred sixty-six. In other manuscripts such as Papyrus 115 and Codex Alexandrinus have the letters χις, giving a numerical value of 616. In addition Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus has 616 written out as ἑξακόσιοι δέκα ἕξ, (six hundred and sixteen). Why the differences? Are the Apostolic Writings in error? I think not.

During the Second Temple period the prominent languages in the Roman Empire were Greek (the Administration language) and Latin (the popular language of certain locals in the west and the nobility). Locals would transliterate foreign names into their own language. The Israelites spoke Aramaic but studied the Torah (written Law) in Hebrew (and the Oral Law in Aramaic). The Diaspora Jews knew Greek and studied in Hebrew. However some western Diaspora Jews knew Latin better than Greek.

Returning to the above questions my answer is that the Apostolic Writings were not in error. The simple and probable explanation is that copiers of the document understood the meaning of 666 in Rev 13:18. By understanding the meaning, they interpreted the text for the people they were copying for. They wanted to help these people in understanding the text. In some cases they wrote out the full number. This may be because the reader used a simplified or another numbering system and therefore would not recognise χξς. Unless you were a merchant, you did not need to count in large numbers, certainly not into hundreds.

Gematria was not uncommon. We, who use our modern languages with separate symbols for numbers and letters, do not see how games could be played using the numerical values of letters in a name or phrase. These 3 letters (χξς) together do not form a word and hence their number equivalent could have a meaning. The number 666 could be the Gematria of a Greek name or phrase. We shall see later that it is a numerical value of a person's Greek name that was transliterated into Hebrew.

In the Roman world, Greek was the administrative language of the Roman Empire, but Latin was also known. Therefore if you wrote 666 as a Hebrew Gematria of a Greek name, it meant little to a person who used Latin on a daily basis. In many cases the pronunciation would be different for the same name in Greek and Latin. Therefore 616 could be the Gematria of a Latin name of a person transliterated into Hebrew. The number 616 is found in some of the earliest known manuscript copies. We shall see below that this confirms that the early personalised copies were for people who preferred Latin and still remembered the person in question.

Let us look at the Greek and Latin variations of the name Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew. In Greek it is Nron Qsr, whilst in Latin it is Nro Qsr. The difference is that in Latin one "n" is not pronounced or used. The Greek transliteration into Hebrew is נרון קסר and for the Latin it is נרו קסר. The difference is a nun (note the different nun נ at the beginning of the word and the end nun ן). Therefore the tables below give the 2 variations showing the difference:

GREEK

Resh (ר)

Samekh (ס)

Qoph (ק)

Nun (נ)

Vav (ו)

Resh (ר)

Nun (נ)

Sum

Transliteration

200

60

100

50

6

200

50

666

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATIN

Resh (ר)

Samekh (ס)

Qoph (ק)

---------

Vav (ו)

Resh (ר)

Nun (נ)

Sum

Transliteration

200

60

100

---------

6

200

50

616

If it was not for the early copiers trying to help the readers of the document they were producing, we would not have certainty today that the transliteration into Hebrew of Nero's name was the correct way to decipher the code used by John. This, often considered apparent error in the documents, in fact resolves the problem of interpreting today something that was coded over 1,900 years ago. The copiers wrote to people of that day. The readers knew the meaning of the code. Knowing this, this allows us to use the two groups to confirm that we have the correct interpretation of the numbers 616 and 666.

Why would a people wish to use such a code in the Apostolic Writings? The Roman Emperor was god and nothing bad could be said about him or his predecessor gods. Therefore codes were used as a safeguard from persecution. What Roman Administrator could decipher the Greek or Latin name transliterated into Hebrew and then understand the resultant Hebrew Gematria written as Greek gibberish? The Romans counted using their numerical system (DCLXVI) even in the Greek world and generally did not understand Gematria.

In Rev 13:15-18 we have prophesy concerning the future. However we have, in verse 18, a character reference relating to the past to explain what the future image of the beast would be like: "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".

The word "to count" "ψηφισάτω" can also mean "to reckon", "to vote" or "to decide". That is, it can mean to calculate or interpret. Therefore let us interpret. The number of the beast is the number of a man. What man of the past could describe the future image of the beast? Nero was a beast. Nero was the fifth Roman Emperor from 54 to 68 CE. Nero was born on 15th December 37 CE and committed suicide on 6th June 68 CE. He had two faces, the compassionate in his early years and the despot in later years. The Gematria of his name transliterated from the Greek or Latin into Hebrew gives either 666 or 616.

He murdered his mother, wife, brother, aunt, and many others close to him. He was a torturer, a homosexual rapist, and a sodomite. He married two young boys, paraded them around as his wives and personally castrated one of them. He was bestial in his character, depravity, and actions. He covered himself with wild animal skins, letting himself loose from a cage attacked the private parts of men and women bound to stakes. Nero in 64 CE initiated the first Christian persecutions and massacres. Victims of Nero's persecutions included Saul (Paul) who was beheaded in 67 CE and Simon (Peter) who was crucified upside-down. He initiated the war against the Jews which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

But before continuing and drawing conclusions regarding Nero of why he is commonly known as the Beast of Revelation 13, we need to go back in history to Rome's founding Emperor Augustus and trace the steps leading to the demise of this Roman dynasty. You do not just become a Beast, there is usually a run up. This run up is important in describing what a beast is and how it relates to us in our day. The next article will look at the Roman Dynasty starting with Augustus and ending tragically with Nero.

 

יוסף בן דרגן     Yosef ben Dragan

 

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