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Ancient Revelations: Papyrology
Oxyrhynchus Papyri

P. Oxy. LVI 4499
(Late Third / Early Fourth Century)

Earliest known witness to the "Number of the Beast"
The number (chi, iota, stigma - hexakosiai deka hex) in third line

Satanists, apocalypse watchers and heavy metal guitarists may have to adjust their demonic numerology after a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all.

A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist.

Ellen Aitken, a professor of early Christian history at McGill University, said the discovery appears to spell the end of 666 as the devil’s prime number.

“This is a very nice piece to find,” Dr. Aitken said. “Scholars have argued for a long time over this, and it now seems that 616 was the original number of the beast.”

The tiny fragment of 1,500-year-old papyrus is written in Greek, the original language of the New Testament, and contains a key passage from the Book of Revelation.

Where more conventional versions of the Bible give 666 as the “number of the beast,” or the sign of the anti-Christ whose coming is predicted in the book’s apocalyptic verses, the older version uses the Greek letters signifying 616.

“This is very early confirmation of that number, earlier than any other text we’ve found of that passage,” Dr. Aitken said. “It’s probably about 100 years before any other version.”

The fragment was part of a hoard of previously illegible manuscripts discovered in an ancient garbage dump outside the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. Although the papyrus was first excavated in 1895, it was badly discoloured and damaged. Classics scholars at Oxford University were only recently able to read it using new advanced imaging techniques.

Elijah Dann, a professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Toronto, said the new number is unlikely to make a dent in the popularity of 666.

“Otherwise, a lot of sermons would have to be changed and a lot of movies rewritten,” he said with a laugh. “There’s always someone with an active imagination who can put another interpretation on it.

“It just shows you that when you study something as cryptic and mystic as the Book of Revelation there’s an almost unlimited number of interpretations.”

The book is thought to have been written by the disciple John and according to the King James Bible, the traditional translation of the passage reads: “Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

But Dr. Aitken said that translation was drawn from much later versions of the New Testament than the fragment found in Oxyrhynchus. “When we’re talking about the early biblical texts, we’re always talking about copies and they are copies made, at best, 150 to 200 years after [the original] was written,” she said.

“They can have mistakes in the copying, changes for political or theological reasons … it’s like a detective story piecing it all together.”

Dr. Aitken said, however, that scholars now believe the number in question has very little to do the devil. It was actually a complicated numerical riddle in Greek, meant to represent someone’s name, she said.

“It’s a number puzzle — the majority opinion seems to be that it refers to [the Roman emperor] Nero.”

Revelation was actually a thinly disguised political tract, with the names of those being criticized changed to numbers to protect the authors and early Christians from reprisals. “It’s a very political document,” Dr. Aitken said. “It’s a critique of the politics and society of the Roman empire, but it’s written in coded language and riddles.”


  • 666 Wrong Number for Prophetic Beast? - WND "This adds weight to those who believe that it is a reference to Caligula's attempt to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem, by having his statue erected there as part of the cult of emperor worship.  "There may be a reference to it in Mark [13:14], where he refers to the 'the abomination of desolation.' But this was overlaid by the Neronian persecutions. People believed that you could get from '666' to Nero because in Greek he is the emperor Neron Caesar. And 666 is one number less than the perfect 777. The text [showing 616] is quite legible to the naked eye. It was published in 1999, but it has taken people time to catch up."

  • 666 Not So Evil? '616' Revelation Might Bedevil Metalheads - "Both Greek and Hebrew letters have numeric values that can be added up to arrive at a total. One common explanation of 666 is that it comes from the numerical value of "Nero" transliterated into Hebrew letters. A small change in the transliteration can result in 616."

  • AntiChrist Discounted - "So sorry to all the "666" tattoo wearers out there ... its 616 that's the goin' number. Time to head back to the parlor for an update." (Blog)

  • Revelation!  666 is not the Number of the Beast (It's a devilish 616) - "This is an example of gematria, where numbers are based on the numerical values of letters in people's names. Early Christians would use numbers to hide the identity of people who they were attacking: 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula."  | "satanists responded coolly to the new "Revelation". Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, based in New York, said: "By using 666 we're using something that the Christians fear. Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then we'll start using that."

  • Papyrus Reveals New Clues to Ancient World - National Geographic News "..the Oxyrhynchus collection holds a lot of information about the rise of Christianity during the Roman period. (Egypt became part of the Roman Empire after Cleopatra's fleet was defeated at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.). "[Christianity] starts out as a small social phenomenon, then just takes over everything," Obbink said. "You can see other cultural sea changes taking place—changes in taxes, changes in rule. It's all reflected in the papyrus."

  • Classical Holy Grail or Unholy Hype? "So as of right now, the rest of the papyrological community is waiting to hear Dirk Obbink at Oxford either back up for disavow the claims made in the article. At the very best, the Independent's reporters are covering some kind of new imaging breakthrough in an extremely hyperbolic fashion. And at the worst, they're trying to make a major story out of 20-year-old news. " |

  • Brautigan and Oxy - "I'm sure Brautigan wouldn't have wanted his spoof to be treated this seriously, but I like this idea of the fragments, and falling in love with the sound of them, and with the ghost of what was lost. In this case, and in that of the Oxyrhynchus materials, so little remained that the words could be nothing more than tantalizing. With the discovery of more text for things that were incomplete, some of that mystery will disappear, some of the possibilities will be closed off. "

  • 666 and Nero - "The preterist takes a relatively uncommon form of Nero's name, Nero Cæsar or Cæsar Nero, and adds an "n", resulting in Neron Cæsar. Next the Latin is transliterated into Aramaic, resulting in nrwn qsr, which when using the numeric equivalent of the letters, then adds up to 666 as follows:

Nun  50 
Resh  = 200 
Waw  =
Nun  50 
Qoph  100 
Samech  60 
Resh  200 

An example of this spelling has apparently been recently discovered in one of the Dead Sea scrolls. (If you use the same process, but without the added "n" the result is 616. Interestingly, some early manuscripts of the Bible have 616 rather than 666, but even scholars such as Irenæus attribute the 616 to only a copyist error.)

666, 616 and NERO
"The textual variant is Latin, and the Latinized version of Nero’s name is different than the Hebrew, which goes to 666, but the Latinized name goes to 616. The variant probably existed to keep consistent the meaning of Nero as the Beast. "


Edward Cook
"My copy of Nestle-Aland (27th ed.) at Revelation 13:18 lists for the variant reading "616" only "C; Ir mss" (the 5th century uncial manuscript C and some manuscripts cited by Irenaeus). A 3rd or 4th century papyrus containing this reading would be extremely significant, although probably not enough to outweigh the many witnesses for "666."

As Bruce Metzger points out in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1971), the numerical value of "666" is derived from the Hebrew/Aramaic values for the letters comprising the name נרון קסר, "Nero Caesar" (in Greek Νέρων Καῖσαρ) The variant "616" results from the alternate spelling נרו קסר.

For those of you unfamiliar with the numerical values of the Hebrew alphabet, the values in the above name are nun = 50, resh = 200, waw = 6, nun = 50, quph = 100, samekh = 60, resh = 200. Add 'em up!

The name "Nero Caesar" (נרון קסר) actually appears in a scroll from the Judean Desert, Murabbaat 18, dated to the "second year of Nero Caesar" (55/56 CE)." (Ralph the Sacred River)

The Oxyrhynchus Papyrus is the oldest known copy of the Book of Revelation.

Close examination of this fragment indicates the mark of the beast is 616, not 666.


With all the theories out there about who the Antichrist is, I wonder how this affects those theories.


Is this interpretation of this ancient fragment correct?



Sources # 1



Rather than interpreting the mark of the beast found in Revelation 13:18 as either Greek or Aramaic, consider the possibility that the mark was passed down from an even more remote time in the form of Proto-Sinaitic script, the original Hebrew alphabet.

By interpreting these as ancient Hebrew letters [ie, not Greek] we discover a complete message that gives a clear and unmistakable warning.

Each letter in the ancient Hebrew Proto-Sinaitic alphabet had a distinctive meaning; they not only gave a phonic sound to construct words, but also contained a conceptual meaning found in the symbol itself.

This part of the text has traditionally been interpreted as “666”, but in the original text we see it says “616” in Greek letters.

In the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus the symbols are similar to our letters X, I, and C, and if interpreted as Greek letters they give an ambiguous number, leading to endless speculation.


We need to find out what the symbols X, I, and C mean.

In the ancient Hebrew these letters are Tav, Vav, and Lamed, written with the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet.


This ancient form of Hebrew is the oldest written language, and the origin of all alphabetic languages used in the world today.

Hebrew tradition says that this language was used before the tower of Babel, and was used all the way back to the time of Adam.


The oldest Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions found so far date to 1900 BC. Here is what the Proto-Sinaitic letters represent:


X – Tav: is a mark or sign, also written as a cross +

I – Vav: means to attach, like a peg or nail, or fixed into like a hook in a fish.

C – Lamed: means to direct, as in giving instructions, like the goad used to herd oxen. The verb form of Lamed means to prick or puncture as in using a sharp object to pierce the skin.


The question at this point is why would there be letters from the ancient Hebrew language embedded in a Greek text.


The answer is at once shocking and quite logical; this was the mark known by the Ancients to be the mark of Cain, and the achronistic name of the beast

Leviathan, Lamed-Vav-Tau “Lavithaw.”


The following quotes found in the Bible and the ancient mystic book called the Zohar, provide the connection that associates the X and I symbols to the mark of Cain.

Gen 4:15 … ” And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.”


Remember X (Tav) means a mark or a sign in ancient Hebrew!

Remember the verb form of C “Lamed” means to puncture or pierce the skin!

This was not part of the mark per say, but the action taken to apply the mark.

The following chart shows the ancient Proto-Sinaitic alphabet in column 2.



Note the little circle at the top of the I and C in the fragment above.


The little circles at the top of the I and the C in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus are deliberate.

The symbols decipher to mean: A mark, attached like a peg or hook, as a means to direct or control, applied by a piercing of the skin.

The mark that protected Cain was the X (Tau), which is the cross… it will be for us as well.



Source # 2:



Papyrus 115 (in the Gregory-Aland numbering designated by clip_image009115, or P. Oxy. 4499) is a New Testament papyrus written in Greek.

It consists of 12 fragments of a papyrus codex which contains parts of the Book of Revelation.

It dates from the mid to late third century, around 225-275 CE.

This particular manuscript was not deciphered and published until the end of the twentieth century and is currently housed at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The text-type is Alexandrian. clip_image009[1]115 follows the text of Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C).

A curiosity of this text is that it gives “the number of the beast” as 616 (chi, iota, sigma (ΧΙϚ)), rather than the majority text — 666 (chi, xi, sigma (ΧΞϚ)).

If the letters are Hebrew, then the numeric value would be different from that if the numbers were in Greek.


Hebrew count:

Tav – vav – lamed =

lamed – vav- tav ( since it reads from right to left) =

30 + 6 + 400 = 436









We have certain choices here:

1. the mark/number is 666

2. the mark/number is 616

3. the mark/number spells out “Leviathan” in ancient Hebrew Proto-Sinaitic alphabet

4. if the mark is, cryptically, Hebrew letters, and not Greek, then the numeric value is 436

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 12 Apr 2009
Time: 05:10:15

Your Comments:

616 and 666 I believe are both correct.but I dont associate them with either Nero or any roman emporer. If it were popular belief why do we need wisdom to figure it out and The number needs to be associated with the end times not 1500+ YEARS ago. To understand the beast number we first need to understand the 2300 evenings and mornings of daniel the prophet. Most say that the 2300M&E were 2300 years but I think it was talking about the daily sacrifice and the morn and eve were added together to come up to 2300 so that puts the number at 1150 days or years that is. If this is true then the dates 538bc and 458bc (which are the decree to rebuild dates for the city and then the temple)are the start dates now add 1150 and come to 611ad and 692ad now if you subtract the beast numbers from the resultant years you will come to the years Jesus was born and the year He was baptized in the Jordon. John figured that people would always know these dates in Jesus's life here and wrapped those numbers in a riddle that those of wisdom (true believers)would understand. Now all we have about dates in Jesus life are educated guesses based on biblical facts but must remember that even John dealt with Jewish calendar not roman calendar. Jewish and roman calendars are enough different to throw off certain years and understandings. Now conecting it to the end times is simple. in revelations it says the prostitute on the Dragon has a cup and to fill here portion double which is with the beast so it is either 616 or 666 multiplied by 2 now add that to either date of 611 or 692 and se where it gets you also try now take those dates and research crefully and pray for guidance and understanding you will be mildly and ubelievably intrigued and will cause you to want more.

Date: 01 Aug 2009
Time: 06:51:53

Your Comments:

I have deciphered the number and will be plainly blunt with you. Since I have a bible in my possesion older than I am I have been privy to this 616 number as well as the 666 number for most of my life. The version if you would like to check is the revised standard version of the first presbyterian church. Here it is in simple. First the book says to reckon the number 666. Plainly this means to count the number, so, 6+6+6=18, and 1+8 = 9 also it says other ancient authorities read six hundred and sixteen at the bottom of the page so, 6+1+6=13, and 1+3=4 so 9 from the first number and 4 from the second 9+4=13, and 1+3=4 now look for yourself @ revelations 13:1 and then @ Daniel 7:3, notice the same animal representations for the leopard, bear and lion, only the book of Daniel tells of a fourth beast. Keep reading Daniel and see the rest. The last beast has 10 horns then another. The beasts are a kingdom with ten kings and an eleventh that is different but with the same power, just like the next beast in revelations 13. Your welcome and thank you for confirming what I knew. If you would like any more information, wisdom or understanding please feel free to e-mail me @, also don't forget to read mark 14:23 and mark 14:36.    The answer to the question, who has understanding?, Nehemiah 10:28.

Date: 23 Mar 2010
Time: 07:43:28

Your Comments:

I think, right path is --He who has KNOWLEDGE let him get the number of the beast---

Knowledge about what? Math? Languages? Chemistry?

Of course, not.

About beast. All people are exactly as - first trying to find beast (evil or famous man), after that beginning math, thinking that mathematics in the Bible is the supreme wisdom.

Wrong way.


Date: 18 Jul 2010
Time: 11:38:13

Your Comments:

The Scriptures including the New Testament. i.e. Renewed Covendent where written in Hebrew not Greek. In Revelaton we read that when the Messiah reveals himself to John i.e. Yohanan He refers himself as the Alef Tau not Alpha and omega. Yahoshua was Hebrew and when he spoke to Yohanan he didn't speak in Greek..

Date: 31 Dec 2010
Time: 19:57:15

Your Comments:


Date: 03 Jan 2011
Time: 15:15:45

Your Comments:

first name of the beast is " Tim" or "tim" which is a 't' written 45 degrees titled, followed by an Iota, then lastly followed by a capitalized sigma letter 'M'. please keep in mind that the "visions" of John the Revelator were just that: visual.

Date: 09 Oct 2012
Time: 23:19:41

Your Comments:

I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your posts to be exactly what I'm looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn't mind publishing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome site!

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