The Hidden Bible


Who is 666?

Revelation 13.18 identifies a beastly man using the number 666.  However, did you know that many early copies of Revelation say that the beast’s number is 616 (not 666)?  Some copies have 666, and others say 616.  Scholars concur that 666 was the original number, but it was later changed to 616 during the late first century.  Why is this so?

In the Roman Empire, Jewish contracts were originally written in Aramaic.  This is important for two reasons:

  • Aramaic symbols represented both letters and numbers.
  • All contracts were required to have the reigning emperor on them.

Consider the following first-century Aramaic contract discovered in Murabbat:

The year two of ר ס ק נ ו ר נ [Aramaic: Nero/666]

At Siwaya, Absalom (son of Hannin from Siwaya) has declared in my presence that there is on account with me — me Zechariah (son of Yohannan, son of {illegible}) living at Cheaslon, the sum of twenty zuzin.  The sum I am to repay by {illegible}.  But if I have not paid by time, I will reimburse you with interest of a fifth and will settle in entirety, even if this is the Year of Release.  And if I do not do so, indemnity for you will be from my possessions, and whatever I acquire will be at your disposal.

Zechariah, son of Yohannan, for himself. Joseph, son of {illegible}, wrote this, witness. Jonathan, son of John, witness.
Joseph, son of Judan, Judan, witness.

This Aramaic contract has Nero/666 written on it:

נ = 50
ר = 200
ו = 6
נ = 50
ק = 100
ס = 60
ר = 200

Total = 666
Also, ר ס ק נ ו ר נ = nrwn qsr [Nero Caeser].

In archaeological circles, this contract is referred to as “MUR 18.” MUR 18 used 666 to identify the reigning emperor (Nero) to Jewish readers. And John (the author of Revelation) also used 666 to identify Nero to his Jewish audience.  (Nero was torturing and killing Christians en masse at the time Revelation was written.)

So why was the number changed to 616 later in the first century?  Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE.  The registering of Aramaic contracts fell into disuse.  Therefore, after 70 CE, many copyists started using the Hebrew number of Nero’s name (616) to help the Jewish reader understand who the text was referring to.  This is why some early manuscripts have 666, whereas others have 616.

Coins and Contracts

There were only two ways that a person could engage in buying and selling: through the use of either coins and/or contracts. In Jewish communities, this meant that they couldn’t buy or sell without either the 666 number of Nero (on the Aramaic contracts) or Nero’s name (on the coins) — coins such as the following below:

It was literally impossible to buy or sell without either the 666 number of Nero’s name (on the contracts) or his name (on the coins). This is why John wrote “and the beast makes it so that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” This, too, was already part of their present day reality.


Revelation 13.18 refers to Nero as “666.” Yet Revelation 17.8 refers to Nero as “an eighth.” What’s the relationship between “666” and “an eighth”? And why did John expect all of his first-century readers to know the relationship between them? The relationship between “666” and “an eighth” is much better explained visually, rather than with mere words. The following video series fully explains this relationship.

Note: While the following video series was made very early in my studies (and therefore suffers from pronunciation issues and poor production quality), the information is 100% accurate, and greatly helps to understand Revelation 13.18 and 17.8 (the two numerical references to Nero):

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

The Making of a Mystery

Thanks to the two Jewish numbers (666 and 616), we can know with certainty who the beast was: Nero. For there was only one person in all of history whose number is 666 in one Jewish language (Aramaic) and 616 in the other (Hebrew). Thus, identifying Nero as the beast is simple, straightforward, and unequivocal. So how did the simple identity of 666 turn into a great mystery?

The Jesus Movement originally began as a denomination in Judaism.  But it didn’t take long for Gentiles to dominate the Faith, and transform it into a self-standing, non-Jewish religion.  As early as the second century CE, Irenaeus addressed the question over which was the correct number: 666 vs. 616. Unfortunately, Irenaeus believed that these numbers were derived from Greek symbology:

this number [i.e., 666] being found in all the most approved and ancient copies [of Revelation]… while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, according to the Greek mode of calculation by the letters contained in it… I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech, and have vitiated the middle number in the name, deducting the amount of fifty from it, so that instead of six decads they will have it that there is but one [i.e., 616].—Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 5.30.1)

By the second century, Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians didn’t know that the numbers were Aramaic and Hebrew respectively, and they applied the wrong language symbols in their attempts solve the number (in vain). For example, the names ‘Evanthas,’ ‘Lateinos,’ and ‘Teitan’ all add up to 666 in their Greek spellings:

for the name Evanthas contains the required number, but I make no allegation regarding it. Then also Lateinos has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the LATINS are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence].

Teitan too, the first syllable being written with the two Greek vowels e and i, among all the names which are found among us, is rather worthy of credit.—Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 5.29).

In vain, Ireneaus offered various names based on Greek symbology.

Gentile Christians were applying the numeric values of their native Greek language, quickly causing the identity of the Aramaic/Hebrew meaning (Nero) to be lost to the sands of time. It didn’t take long for 666 to be (wrongly) applied to the notion of a forthcoming Antichrist. And the (wrong) notion became a firm part of Christian tradition ever since.

Tip of the Iceberg

The lost identity of 666 was only one issue caused by Gentiles who little understood first-century Jewish writings.  It is a shining example of the need to go back to the first-century Jewish roots of the Faith in order to properly understand what was written in the New Testament.  Another great example is the Gentile misunderstanding of Jewish Law.  This has resulted in a number of misunderstandings regarding the writings of the Apostle Paul, as Paul related all of his significant teachings to law itself.

“when Paul’s letters came to be read by Gentiles who little understood Judaism, the misinterpretation became almost inevitable.”–WD Davies

Just as Gentiles sorely misunderstood 666 for many centuries, so too they have misunderstood the Jew named Paul. For more details on the early Gentile misunderstanding of Paul (and the solution to the numerous problems this misunderstanding has caused): click here.