A newly translated fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament seems to indicate that the number of the beast isn’t what we thought:
Instead of 666, it’s actually the far less ominous 616.
The new fragment from the Book of Revelation, written in ancient Greek and dating from the late third century, is part of a hoard of previously unintelligible manuscripts discovered in historic dumps outside Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. Now a team of expert classicists, using new photographic techniques, are finally deciphering the original writing.
Professor David Parker, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham, thinks that 616, although less memorable than 666, is the original. He said: “This is an example of gematria, where numbers are based on the numerical values of letters in people’s names. Early Christians would use numbers to hide the identity of people who they were attacking: 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula.”
No surprise that the professor interprets the text in a non-prophetic way.
I’ll wait to see what other experts have to say about it. The fact that Caligula reigned from A.D. 37 to 41 argues against Parker’s interpretation, since most scholars believe that John wrote Revelation in the 90s. I mean, Caligula was dead 50 years; why bother?
However, if Parker is right, does this mean he holds that the gospels, which are generally agreed to pre-date Revelation, were written in the 30s–within 5-10 years of Jesus’ death?
Probably not. And I doubt it will matter to skeptics anyway. Certainly the Satanists won’t care one way or the other:
Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, based in New York, said: “By using 666 we’re using something that the Christians fear. Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then we’ll start using that.”
Whatever, Pete. But we’re not afraid. “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”