shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
#35 - What are the significances of 888 and 666?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Recently I was reading on the internet and discovered that the name Jesus in Hebrew adds up to 888. Do you think this means the number 666 adds up to a name? If so, what do you think it could be.
Obviously your question relates to Rev 13:18, which reads:
16 [The second beast] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six. [NRSV]
In modern times the significance of 888, 666, and 616 has been known since at least 1910, as described by R.H. Charles in his classic work, International Critical Commentary: The Revelation of St. John (see Volume 1, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, page 365-366.)
The literature on this subject is quite voluminous, but there is general agreement among scholars as to the following:
That Jesus' name in Greek adds up to 888 was mentioned in the Christian additions to the Sibylline Oracles at least as early as the Second Century.
J. Massyngberde Ford (Anchor Bible: Revelation, New York: Doubleday, 1975, page 226) writes:
Christian readers would have noticed the contrast between the number of the beast, 666, and the number of Jesus, 888... In 888 could be seen the superabundant perfection, the three-fold 7+1. On the other hand 666 indicates the three-fold failure to reach perfection, 7-1. This showed how precarious and how doomed to failure the reign of the beast must be.
The significance of the number 666 was obviously understood by the original Christian communities from which and to which the Revelation was sent. Bratcher and Hatton (A Handbook on the Revelation to John, New York: United Bible Societies, 1993, pages 204-205) provide a good summary of current conclusions:
There are many interpretations of the name represented by the number 666. The most widely accepted one is that it stands for the Roman Emperor Nero. Written in Hebrew letters, the numerical value of the letters of the (Latin) name "Neron Caesar" adds up to 666. Some commentators are of the opinion that no one specific person was in the writer's mind, but that by 666 the writer meant total imperfection. Number six is one short of the perfect seven, and three indicates completeness, so the imperfect number six given three times symbolizes "complete imperfection." But the way in which the writer states the matter makes it quite probable that he had some historical person in mind... As the RSV (Revised Standard Version) footnote shows, one Greek manuscript and a few ancient versions have 616, but 666 is the better attested text.
It might be worth noting that though Revelation was written in Greek, the author was very familiar with the the commerce, economy, and geography of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Werner Georg Kummel (Introduction to the New Testament, Revised Edition, translated by Howard Clark Kee, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1975, page 465) quotes J. Schmid, who wrote:
The author [of Revelation] thought in Hebrew but wrote in Greek.
The significance of the number 616 was known as early as Irenaeus in the Second Century.
One explanation of 616 is from a Hebrew numbering perpective. As stated by G.B. Caird, "A Hebraized version of the Latin form Nero Caesar would lack the second nun" -- which had a value of 50 in Hebrew.
Another explanation of 616 is from a Greek numbering perpective, and counts the Greek letters that spell out the Greek words, which are translated in English as "Caesar God." As represented by J. Massyngberde Ford (ibid.):
For further details, you can refer to:
Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer