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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)

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 25 Feb 2010
Time: 14:22:01

Your Comments:

You and many other people have a mistake about sigma: the Ϛ is the Ionic Greek character "STIGMA" which was used as a mark on slaves. (hence the meaning of the word 'stigma of society'. It was used as a letter "s" at the end of words for a period of time. The other symbol of sigma "ó" was used anywhere else in the word except at the end.

In the name Jesus in Greek (Éçóïõϛ) the character stigma "Ϛ" is used as sigma at the end of the word (name) as the phonetic sound "sss" but it is not used in the middle of the word. Instead, the other symbol of sigma "ó" was used in the middle of the word (name) as the phonetic sound of "sss". On this case, the value is 200 and not 6.

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: 23 Aug 2011
Time: 12:58:52

Your Comments:

As it is written in the Book of Revelation, we are accursed if we take away from the words of the book, and it could be that just by bringing up comments as noted, we could suffer these consequences. Why even make comments if we don't even have the original manuscript and why then take a chance; for have you read the curses? And who knows if those in newer translations haven't themselves been added? I say we pray that the original translation is found and provided and taught in its original form. Thank you. Lourdes.

Date: 19 Oct 2011
Time: 17:39:07

Your Comments:

Yes I agree from my own research as well.May almighty bless you. I do believe that both are correct. I do not intend to receive the mark in my hand or my forehead, along with worshipping in the many false gods of the nations instead of the sacred original names of our father in heaven and son Yahshua Messiah...He came in His Fathers Name, as per scripture. Presented your references and evidences well. Dr. Rosebeth

Date: 24 Oct 2011
Time: 14:15:46

Your Comments:

That actually makes sense about the number 616 being the Devil's Number. Those three numbers when added up equal the number thirteen which is often associated with bad luck and evil anyways, but if you add the numbers 666 up you'll end up with the number 9 and some Hebrew scholars often debate whether the number 9 being the Devil's Number or God's Number because the digits of any multiple of 9 when added up always egual 9 making the use of the number 9 only for sacred purposes.
I'm not really quite sure what I think about the mark/number spelling out "Leviathan" but it is something to think about.

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