666: Reckoning the Number of the Beast

By Rob Vest

     “Woe to you O earth and sea, for the Devil sends the Beast with wrath, because he knows the time is short.  Let him who hath understanding reckon the Number of the Beast, for it is a human number.  Its number is six-hundred and sixty-six.”1

     For centuries, man has been mystified and fascinated by the above passage from the Book of Revelation.  “The Beast” refers to the Antichrist, who during Earth’s last days, will unite the world in peace and harmony.  However, in order to take part in this prosperity, everyone is required to receive the “Mark of the Beast,” presumably the number 666, on their forehead or right hand, in order to engage in commerce.2  All of this is actually a plot to convert everyone to the worship of Satan, so that he may triumph over God in the battle between good and evil.  To make a long and complicated story short and sweet, Jesus comes down with a horde of angels, a great battle takes place, and Good wins the day.  Satan and the Beast are cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity, and all their followers are slain.3
     Just what is so intriguing about the number 666, and who could the author of Revelation have been referring to?  This paper is not intended to be a treatise on either the Antichrist or the Book of Revelation, nor will it attempt to convince the reader that the Antichrist is coming tomorrow and the end of the world is imminent.  However, what this paper will do is examine some of the interesting mathematical properties of the Number of the Beast, as well as take a look at some of those people who have been identified as the Beast, and how their identities were deduced.

Beastly Mathematics

     Despite its association with numerologists, evangelists, psychics, and the like, the number 666 has many interesting mathematical qualities that are firmly rooted in science, rather than superstition.
    First off, the number 666 contains three sixes.  Numerologists consider six to be the first “perfect” number, as it is equal to the sum of its divisors other than itself (1 + 2 + 3 = 6).4  The Bible mentions that man was created on the sixth day.5  Perhaps the Antichrist is meant to be seen as a “perfect man?”
    Next, we see a relation between the Number of the Beast and primes.  The Beast is described in Revelation as having seven heads.6  Curiously, the squares of the first seven prime numbers - 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17, when added together, total 666!7
     The most famous Biblical quotation regarding the Number of the Beast is Revelation 13:18.8  Revelation, in most versions of the Bible, is the twenty-first book of the New Testament.  Oddly enough, one looking in the right places can find many examples of 13, 18, and 21 hidden in 666. For example: 666 is equal to 18 multiplied by 37, and 3 multiplied by 7 is equal to 21.  Also, 1 divided by 37 is equal to .021021021... and -(1 * 8) + (3 * 7) = 13!9
     The following verse, Revelation 14:1, mentions the number 144,000.10  When 144,000 is divided by the Number of the Beast, the resulting number is 216.216.216....  As luck would have it, 216 also happens to be the cube of six -- 6 * 6 * 6!11
     In addition, 666 =  63 + 63 + 63 + 6 + 6 + 6.  The Number of the Beast is one of only six integers which are equal to the sum of their digits and the cubes of their digits.  The other five are 12, 30, 870, 960, and 1998.  Interestingly, 1998 is equal to 666 + 666 + 666!12  Oddly enough, 1998 came and went without any kind of apocalyptic happenings.  But it’s possible that 1998 was the year of the Antichrist’s birth.  Just to be on the safe side, it would probably be best for anyone with a two year old to check their child for strange birthmarks!
     Another interesting coincidence takes place when six is used as an exponent: 16 - 26 + 36  = 666!  Furthermore, 1 + 2 +3 = 6, 1 * 2 * 3 = 6, and the square root of the sum of the cubes of one, two, and three is also equal to six!  There’s even a curious connection between the Number of the Beast and pi, in that the 666th, 667th, and 668th digits after the decimal point of pi are 343 - which is equal to 7 * 7 * 7!13
     But wait!  There’s more!  1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 567 + 89 = 123 + 456 + 78 + 9 = 9 + 87 + 6 + 543 + 21 = 666!14
     Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of mathematics is the concept of the magic square, the simplest of which looks like this:

4  9  2
3  5  7
8  1  6

     The “magic” in this square is that the sum of numbers in every row, column, and along the two main diagonals is fifteen.15  Let’s look at one where the sum is 666:

232  313  121
111  222  333
323  131  212

     This one, credited to Rudolf Ondrejka, is interesting because the only numbers used in the square are combinations of one, two, and three.  However, this square is not near as fascinating as this four-by-four example, also attributed to Ondrejka:

  320       169       138        39
   26         151       208       281
   195       294        13        164
  125        52        307       182

     As we can see here, the rows, columns, and two main diagonals all add up to 666.  In addition, so do all the broken diagonals (169 + 26 + 164 + 307), each of the nine two-by-two subsquares (151 + 208 + 13 + 294), and the four corners of the three-by-three subsquares (320 + 138 + 13 + 195), of the four-by-two rectangles (195 + 164 + 182 +125), and of the four-by-four square itself (320 + 39 + 182 + 125)!16  This is one magic square that definitely lives up to the name!
     Lastly, if we create a six-by-six magic square, with entries of one through thirty-six, we find that the sum of all its entries is equal to - that’s right - 666!17

Building the Perfect Beast

     As fun as Beastly squares are, identifying the Antichrist can be even more entertaining.  People can be quite creative when determining the Beast’s identity.  By simply manipulating a few numbers and making a few adjustments and associations, anyone can be an Antichrist.  (Warning: The following identifications are provided solely as entertainment, and are under no circumstances meant to be taken seriously.)
     Ronald Reagan.  This former US president’s full name is RONALD WILSON REAGAN.  Each of his names has six letters, thus three sixes = 666!18
     Nero Caesar, fifth emperor of Rome.  Nero is one of the more popular suspects, as many Bible scholars believe that Revelation was written sometime during or after Nero’s reign (54-68 CE), and many Christians believed he had faked his death and would return to continue his religious persecution.19  However, in order to derive 666 from Nero’s name, we must first convert the Greek version of his name, “NERON KAISAR,” into its Hebrew (or Aramaic) equivalent, which reads something like “NRWN QSR.”  Now, if we take the Hebrew numeric values for each letter20 - N = 50, R = 200, W = 6, Q = 100, and S = 60, the result is 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 + 100 + 60 + 200 = 666!21
     Let’s try another notorious tyrant - Adolph Hitler.  If we assign an increasing numerical value to each letter of the alphabet, such as A = 100, B = 101, ... Z = 125, and assign those numbers to “HITLER,” we get 107 + 108 + 119 + 111 + 104 + 117 = 666!  Curiously, if we use the first twenty-six primes instead (A = 2, B = 3, C = 5, etc), the result is 19 +23 +71 + 37+ 11 + 61 = 222!22
     William Henry Gates III.  By converting the letters of “BILL GATES” into ASCII (A = 65, B = 66, etc) values, we get the following: 66 + 73 + 76 + 76 + 71 + 65 + 84 + 69 + 83 = 663.  Almost, but not quite enough.  However, by adding the suffix “III” (3), we get the desired result of 666!23
     Barney the Dinosaur.  Everyone knows Barney is a cute purple dinosaur.  However, by converting “CUte pUrpLe DInosaUr,” to Roman numerals (making sure to convert “U” to “V,” as Romans had no “U” in their alphabet), we get C + V + V + L + D + I + V = 100 + 5 + 5 + 50 + 500 + 1 + 5 = 666!24
     The Pope. We can use the same method to “prove” that the Pope is the Beast.  The Pope’s official title is “VICarIUs fILII DeI,” or “vicar of the Son of God.”  The Roman numerals of this title are 5 + 1 + 100 + 1 + 5 + 1 + 50 + 1 + 1 + 500 + 1 = 666!25
     But the Catholics aren’t the only religion with an Antichrist.  Take fundamentalist televangelist Pat Robertson.  His organization is called the “700 Club.”  By using a system of A = 0, B = 1, etc, “CLUB” = 2 + 11 + 20 + 1 = 34, and 700 - 34 = 666!26
     I’d like to close with a few Beastly calculations of my own: via the system of A = 202, B = 203, etc, my initials, “RWV” are equal to 219 + 224 + 223 = 666.  Furthermore, I discovered that by using the first twenty-six even numbers (A = 2, B = 4, C = 6, etc) my entire name - ROBERT WASHINGTON VEST (the) THIRD = 36 + 30 + 4 + 10 + 36 + 40 + 46 + 2 + 38 + 16 + 18 + 28 + 14 + 40 + 30 + 28 + 44 + 10 + 38 + 40 + 40 + 16 + 18 + 36 + 8 = 666!
     I also thought it would be fun to see if the person who told me about this class in the first place, IUS history professor Dr Frank W Thackeray, was the Antichrist.  I found that if A = 120, B = 121, etc, then Dr Thackeray’s title and initals, “DR FWT” = 123 + 137 + 125 + 142 + 139 = 666!
     Finally, I found that if A = 37, B = 38, etc, then 666 = 40 + 54 + 46 + 37 + 49 + 41 + 55 + 59 + 51 + 41 + 52 + 52 + 41 + 48 = DR JAMES WOEPPEL!
 
 

Endnotes:

1Steve Harris, “The Number of the Beast,” The Number of the Beast: Music of Iron Maiden, (Hollywood: EMI, 1982) CD.  The quote is paraphrased from the Biblical Book of Revelation, 12:12 and 13:18.

2 “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.” [Holy Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1984) Rev 13:16-17]

3 A very simplified account of the Book of Revelation, which has been confounding even learned scholars for centuries!

4 Richard Cavendish, “Numerology,” Man, Myth, and Magic, the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion, and the Unknown,  Ed. Richard Cavendish  (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1995), 1894.

5 Gen 1:27-31.

6 “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads...” [Rev 13:1]

7 Underwood Dudley, Numerology or, What Pythagoras Wrought (Washington: Mathematical Association of America, 1997), 70.

8 “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number.  His number is 666.” [Holy Bible, NIV]

9 Dudley, 71.

10  “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.” [Holy Bible, NIV]

11 Dudley, 71.

12 Ibid, 71-72.

13 Ibid, 71-72.

14 Jeff Berkeley, “Mathematics Fun, Fact, Fiction, Function, Fantasy,” n.d.,  <http://www.lifesmith.com/mathfun.html> (19 April 2000).

15 Dudley, 67.

16 Ibid, 68.

17 Ibid, 69.

18 Ibid, 59.

19 Cavendish, “Great Beast,” Man, Myth, and Magic, (1985), 1157.

20 The ancient Hebrews did not have separate characters for numbers.  Like the Romans, they would assign numerical values to letters of their alphabet.

21 Dudley, 56; Michael Scheifler, “666, the Number of the Beast,” n. d., <http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/666.htm> (18 April 2000).

22 Dudley, 70.

23 Ibid, 55.

24 “Scientific Proof That Barney is Satan,” n.d., <http://www.mwm.org/barney.html> (20 April 2000).

25 Scheifler; Dudley, 62.

26 Dudley, 60.
 
 

BEASTLY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berkeley, Jeff.  “Mathematics Fun, Fact, Fiction, Function, Fantasy,” N.d.  <http://www.lifesmith.com/mathfun.html> (19 April
    2000).
Cavendish, Richard, ed.  Man, Myth, and Magic, the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion, and the Unknown.  1985 ed.
    New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1985.
Cavendish, Richard, ed.  Man, Myth, and Magic, the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion, and the Unknown.  1995 ed.
    New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1995.
Dudley, Underwood.   Numerology or, What Pythagoras Wrought. Washington: Mathematical Association of America, 1997.
The Holy Bible.  New International Version.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1984.
Iron Maiden.  The Number of the Beast.  Hollywood: EMI, 1982.  Compact disc.
Scheifler, Michael.  “666, the Number of the Beast.” N. d. <http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/666.htm> (18 April 2000).
“Scientific Proof That Barney is Satan.”  N.d. <http://www.mwm.org/barney.html> (20 April 2000)

Related Links:
Book of Revelation
Dr Frank Thackeray's Home Page
Dr James Woeppel's Home Page


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