Today’s Reading – Revelation 12-18
This calls for wisdom. Let the one who understands calculate the beast’s number, for it’s a human being’s number. Its number is six hundred sixty-six. Revelation 13:18 CEB
We can not address the mark of the beast without acknowledging the Number of the Beast. The number is 666 in most manuscripts of the New Testament, and in modern translations and critical editions of the Greek text. Although Irenaeus (second century) reported several scribal errors of the number, there is still doubt by some theologians about the original writing, as some recently discovered third century early manuscripts of Revelation read 616. This topic is a source of contention for many church groups and theologians. Most scholars contend that the number 666 is a numerical coded entry that refers to the Roman Emperor Nero. 616 was a coded entry for Nero as well but while derived from using his Latin name.
What does the number mean?
Futurist contend that the number would be a number that all currency would be based upon (and you thought the metric system was hard?). Exact interpretations vary widely and many now refer to more current technologies:
•Some interpret the mark as a requirement for all commerce to mean that the mark might actually be an object with the function of a credit card (e.g. implanted RFID tags)
•Some propose that the mark of the beast may refer to a social security number or card
•Others suppose the mark to be a microchip or a tattooed barcode on the human body
Some who take a contextual view of the Book of Revelation identify the Mark of the Beast with the stamped image of the emperor’s head on every coin of the Roman Empire: the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell. New Testament scholar Craig C. Hill, a Methodist, says, “It is far more probable that the mark symbolizes the all-embracing economic power of Rome, who’s very coinage bore the emperor’s image and conveyed his claims to divinity. It had become increasingly difficult for Christians to function in a world in which public life, including the economic life of the trade guilds, required participation in idolatry.”
The ‘mark’ is also seen as an ironic contrast with the Jewish institution of tefillin – bible texts worn bound to the arm and the forehead during daily prayer. Instead of binding their allegiance to God to their arm and head, these places are instead taken up with the people’s allegiance to the Beast.
Whatever the number and the beast represent it is important to understand that it is about choice – your choice – who will you choose to follow?
Who will have your allegiance?