Christian Myth Busting: 666

Let's bust a Christian myth. It is vital, in the search for truth, to question the facts that we take for granted. The book of Revelations is a fantastic source for misunderstandings, especially the parts that were addressing the problems Christians had in the time of its writing. Before we get started though, let's assess what you currently think 666 refers to.

Christian myth-busting: 666 edition.

Do you think the number of the beast refers to:
a. Satan.
b. The Anti-Christ.
c. A human from history.

If you are like most people, you chose option a or b. This post is a case for option C.

Revelation 13:18. - "This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666."

However, before you go around spreading myths, there are three main reasons why the number of the beast actually refers to option c rather than Satan or some theoretical Anti-Christ.

1. Calculating the number of people was a custom in the culture of the audience of Revelation.

When John of Patmos wrote Revelation, he was in a culture that used gematria to assign numbers to people. Gematria is essentially the process of using numbers to replace letters in a word, then adding all those numerals up. Most people in the culture John was writing to knew their number.

Numbers in that culture held a completely different meaning that numbers in our culture. Now, we use numbers to calculate complex equations and it holds almost no symbolic significance.

For them, however, numbers held a ton of symbolic and superstitious significance. 7, for instance, was the number of perfection. 3 was the number of divinity, 10 was the number of completion, and nearly all the numbers mentioned in Revelation had their own meaning to the people of that time.

Understandably, people in that culture held the numbers of famous figures to high, superstitious degrees. To us, if there was a famous person of that time who held 666 as their number, then THEY were likely exactly who Revelation was referring to.

2. Gematria doesn't make sense in our culture or the culture of the future.

If the Bible is truly the inspired word of God, wouldn't God know that we would no longer be using gematria in our culture today? We no longer assign numbers to people's names, and anybody who does so in hopes of finding a potential anti-Christ is paranoid.

Every US President, in today's society, has been called the anti-Christ by some wacko during their time in power. This is the sort of problem we run into when we assume Revelation was telling us to find someone who 666 refers to in our culture in our day and age.

The same God who is revealed in the Bible also happens to know what our culture is like. He knew that our culture would not hold numbers to a symbolic significance. Therefore, it would not make sense to write a passage that referred to someone in our culture or a future culture by their number. It does make sense, however, to write a passage that refers to someone by their number if that number was what they were identified by at that time.

3. Nero makes sense as the Beast

This Wikipedia article pretty much sums it up.

Not only did Christians in the time of John of Patmos fear Nero, the Caesar of Rome, but Nero represented everything that Christians are to fight against. He placed himself as a deity and tried to force Christians to bow down to him. He murder Christians who refused to worship the Imperial Cult and used their corpses for entertainment.

Another aspect of symbolism in the old testament was the word 'beast'. The word beast referred to an entity or a force of power, usually evil. The Beast of Nero was a beast of government corruption.

John wasn't necessarily saying that Nero would rise again in a literal sense (though his resurrection was a rumor to some of John's audience), but everything Nero represented did not die with him. In the future, John was saying, the beast of government corruption would rise again. False idols would rise again, and Christians will have to be diligent to fight against that exact beast up until the point when God would throw it into the pit of fire.

Give me your thoughts. Are you still convinced that 666 refers to Satan or the Anti-Christ? Why or why not?