Thursday, June 08, 2006

Blogger Down - A Sign of the Beast?

Blogger broke yesterday, probably because of 666, even though it came a day late.

But here's a thought: According to Revelation, a book in The IVP New Testament Commentary Series by J. Ramsey Michaels (found at BibleGateway):
The number 666 is commonly regarded as an example of gematria, an ancient numbers game in which each letter of the alphabet was assigned a numerical value. Any name could be encoded in a number representing the total of the letters in the name. John makes it clear that 666 is man's number, or "the number of a person" (NRSV). The problem is that with a bit of ingenuity many prominent names in every generation can be made to add up to 666. One commentator wrote that such identifications "lead to nothing just because they lead to everything" (Hendriksen 1939:273). The numbers work quite well, for example, with the name Adolf Hitler.

But in order to convey any meaning at all to John's original readers, 666 must have pointed to a name they recognized in their own time. The most common suggestion is Nero Caesar. But as Robert Mounce has pointed out (1977:264), "this solution asks us to calculate a Hebrew transliteration of the Greek form of a Latin name, and that with a defective spelling." When the Latin form of the name is transliterated directly into Hebrew, the result is 616, and sure enough, in the western Roman Empire where Latin was dominant, there were manuscripts in which the number was recorded as 616 (Irenaeus noticed this already in the late second century in his Against Heresies 5.30). Clearly, the scribes who copied the book of Revelation were familiar with gematria, and it may well have played a part in John's riddle. Yet because of its indeterminacy no solution based on that phenomenon alone is likely ever to be proven or to find general acceptance.
And the conclusion:
The most important thing for the modern reader to remember in connection with the celebrated 666 of verse 18 is that its purpose is to characterize, not identify, the beast. If the name Nero Caesar is somehow concealed here, the point is not that the beast from the sea is Nero, but that the beast is like Nero in its character and evil acts. Clearly the emperor Nero in the sixties was the major oppressor and persecutor of Christians within the historical memory of John's readers. If 666 is simply an expression of evil as anything that falls short of the good, then its purpose is to dramatize the point that the beast is evil and therefore to be resisted at all costs, and possibly also that it is doomed to "failure upon failure upon failure," as the next few chapters [in the Book of Revelation] will show.
The day - 06/06/06 - has come and gone. But the injuction to make "the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16) is still valid every day of the week.
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