Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The New Number of the Beast?

ancient papyrusIn a recent post the blog for St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, Georgia told of some cutting-edge scholarship suggesting the number of the beast in Revelation may be 616 instead of the dreaded 666. That blog linked to the the full story at Belief.Net. There is also a related article at the National Geographic website. The new discovery about the ancient text was made possible using digital imaging technology to read a previously illegible portion of the oldest existing manuscript of the Book of Revelation.

The manuscript was found in the 1890s in a garbage dump in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, together with a veritable treasure trove of other papyrus documents including. The papyri have been at Oxford University in England since that time.

So what does this change? In one sense nothing. If the number is now 616 instead of 666, it is unlikely to change God's plans at all. It could change the original meaning of the number. 666 was long interpreted as a coded reference to the Roman Emperor Nero. The article notes that 616 would instead point to the Emperor Caligula. However, prophecies are pregnant with meaning. That's part of why we retain them as scripture. This means that a prophecy once fulfilled may be awaiting its ultimate fulfillment in a later event.

However, an old joke may need updating. What joke? The additional numbers of the beast, of course:

$665.95—Retail price of the Beast
$656.66—Walmart price of the Beast
1010011010—Binary of the Beast
Route 666—Way of the Beast
666k—Retirement plan of the Beast
666i—BMW of the Beast
668—Next door neighbor of the Beast
6/6/66—The birthdate of the Beast
25.806975—The square root of the Beast

We'll take a more serious look at what all this means this fall as the Wednesday Bible Study dives in for a 13-week study of the Book of Revelation.


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