Posts Tagged “616”

The End is Not NearI’ve already blogged a couple of times about Christian crank David Meade, who claims a “Biblical prophecy” (bolstered by numerology, pseudoastronomy, solar eclipses, the Egyptian pyramids, Bible codes, and conspiratorialism) predicts “the End of the World” will start this coming Saturday, September 23, 2017. Initially these stories were found only in Rupert Murdoch’s outlets, but many others have picked up this story. Some relay it as breathlessly as Murdoch’s papers, channels, and sites, but others treat it more dismissively (recognizing it as the bullshit it is).

One outlet that dismisses it is Christianity Today, which protested this kind of crap (Archive.Is cached article):

Again, we must deal with fake news. I’ve written on this numerous times before here and here and, undoubtedly, this won’t be the last time.

In this case, it’s making Christians look silly.

Again.

But there it is on the front page of Fox News, “Christian doomsdayers claim world will end next week.”

It’s under the heading “Science.” When you click on it, the article headline proclaims, “Biblical prophecy claims the world will end on Sept. 23, Christian numerologists claim.”

Note, first of all, that CT‘s chief objection to this “Biblical prophecy” is not that it’s all bullshit, predicated on distortions and lies. Oh no. Their initial objection is “it’s making Christians look silly.” Well, duh. Of course it is! It’s making Christians look silly, because this sort of bullshit is entirely consistent with Christianity’s long history of trotting out “prophecies” which are dire scenarios of death and destruction. Arguably, Christianity itself was clearly inspired by 1st century CE apocalyptic Judaism … so the propounding of apocalyptic doom is entirely within its wheelhouse! If Christians don’t want to look silly, they need to alter their religion so it doesn’t lead to this kind of doomsaying, and they need to shut down — and shut up — anyone in their religion who does so.

Yeah I know, good luck with that. Clearly Christians have no desire to do this … hence, if those crankish doomsayers make them look bad, they have no one to blame but themselves for allowing those doomsayers to run amok for the last two millennia.

But on top of that “boo hoo hoo, this crank makes us look bad” whine, CT goes on to explain:

No, the world won’t end on September 23rd and, Fox News, believe it or not, there is no such thing as a ‘Christian numerologist.’

Note the claim at the end of this sentence: “There is no such thing as a ‘Christian numerologist.’” That, unfortunately for CT, is simply not true. There absolutely are “Christian numerologists” because numerology is embedded within the religion.

Consider the significance of certain numbers, in Christian scripture: The numbers 3, 7, and 12 (for example) figure in repeatedly. Adam and Eve had 3 sons, and so did Noah; Jesus was accompanied by 3 apostles in the Transfiguration; Peter denied him 3 times; Jesus was dead 3 days; the world was created in 7 days; the book of Revelation begins with 7 letters to 7 churches of Asia; later in it, there are 7 seals and 7 trumpets; Jacob/Israel had 12 sons who founded 12 tribes; Jesus had 12 apostles; 144,000 (or 12×12) “sons of Israel” appear in Revelation; and on and on it goes. Numbers clearly matter in the Bible. They have metaphorical and metaphysical meaning, on many levels. This inevitably leads to numerological analysis.

What’s more, there’s actually explicit numerology in scripture. Specifically, it’s found in Revelation:

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Revelation 13:18)

But some early manuscripts say “the number of the Beast” is 616, not 666 (fortunately, some modern Bible translations indicate this). This is hard to make sense of, if one assumes (as many Christians do) that Revelation’s Beast is some future person; but if one is looking for historical figures whom the author of Revelation knew about (it was probably composed in the 90s CE), there’s one obvious candidate that could explain this coincidence. That infamous person’s name, in Greek, when transliterated into Hebrew and rendered using Hebrew gematria, is 666, but his Latin name (also transliterated into Hebrew) becomes 616. That infamous person is none other than the Roman emperor Nero. Nero was said to have persecuted Christians (both Christian and non-Christian authors report it). He is also said to have martyred the apostle Peter. He was, to put it briefly, a common bogeyman among Christians (not wholly unreasonably, it seems). So it makes sense for him to have inspired the figure of “the Beast.”

At any rate, to say there’s no such thing as a Christian numerologist is to assert there was no special use of numbers within Christian tradition, and especially in the Bible — which on its face is foolish. All by itself, “the number of the Beast” is numerology. Period.

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The number of the Beast … 666 … or, is it 616 instead? (cf. Revelation 13:18) / PsiCop originalThe whole thing about 666 being “the Number of ‘the Beast'” and Christians, especially of the fundamentalist sort, being terrified of it for no rational reason, continues to be a problem. WLEX-TV in Lexington, KY reports on a runner who refused to enter a race because she’d been assigned the number “666” (WebCite cached article):

A Whitley County student athlete says it would have gone against her religious beliefs to run with the race number ‘6-6-6’. She and her coach tried to get her a different number, and were told they could not.

Nerves over the race turned to frustration for Whitley County High School junior Codie Thacker because of a different number. It would have been her third time running this race. “I’ve trained since June for this race,” she said.…

“666” is, according the the bible, the mark of the beast. Thacker couldn’t bring herself to run while wearing “666” because of her faith. So, she and her coach tried to get a different number. They asked three different officials. They were told no three different times.

“I didn’t want to risk my relationship with God and try to take that number,” said Thacker.

I honestly wonder about this kind of reasoning. How can this girl’s supposedly-deep relationship with an omnipotent being can truly be put at “risk,” because she’d been randomly assigned a “666” bib? Is her deity stupid and unaware this wasn’t her choice? Is he so powerless that his relations with people can be demolished over mere symbology?

Give me a fucking break already!

I’ve commented before on this particular idiotic controversy, and as I’ve mentioned, it’s not even clear that 666 is truly the Number of the Beast in Revelation: While most manuscripts have 666, some have 616. This is a curious coincidence, because as it happens there’s someone whose Greek name written in Hebrew letters is “666” while his Latin name transliterated into Hebrew is 616. That someone is the infamous Emperor Nero. It’s difficult to find any other person whose name happens to fit this dual numerology. Since Revelation had been written near the end of the 1st century CE, this means its author wasn’t predicting the future; instead, s/he had been describing the past.

It’s time for Christians to get over this whole “Beast of Revelation” business already and move on with their lives. Putting on a number isn’t going to kill anyone.

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

Hat tip: PSENEX at General Philosophy on Delphi Forums.

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The number of the Beast … 666 … or, is it 616 instead? (cf. Revelation 13:18) / PsiCop originalReligion makes people do really nutty, if not detrimental, things sometimes, even to themselves. Religionistic fear of the number 666 recently caused a devout Christian quit his job, as The Town Talk of Alexandria, LA reports (WebCite cached article):

A Clarksville, Tenn., man says he quit his job last week in order to save his soul.

Walter Slonopas, 52, resigned as a maintenance worker at Contech Casting LLC in Clarksville after his W-2 tax form was stamped with the number 666.

The Bible calls 666 the “number of the beast,” and it’s often used as a symbol of the devil. Slonopas said that after getting the W-2, he could either go to work or go to hell.

“If you accept that number, you sell your soul to the devil,” he said.

The article explains this is actually the third time Slonopas has run into this problem. Twice before he’d been assigned the clock number of 666, and on one of those occasions he quit, only to get his job back right away. It’s not clear if he’ll be rehired this time.

The Town Talk also describes the reason why 666 evokes such terror on the part of some Christians:

The number 666 first appears in Chapter 13 of the New Testament book of Revelation, which describes a Satanic figure called the beast or Antichrist who takes over the world and stamps everyone with a mark bearing the number 666. According to Revelation, no one will be able to buy or sell anything without that number stamped on them.

That has caused people to fear anytime that number pops up, said Jay Phelan, senior professor of theological studies at North Park University in Chicago. …

Amy-Jill Levine, professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, said the writer of Revelation was using a technique called “gematria” — in which letters have numerical values — to refer to a Roman emperor as the beast.

She said that over the past 2,000 years, readers of Revelation have tried to use 666 to figure out who the Antichrist is. Among the candidates were political figures like Hitler, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama and corporations like Proctor & Gamble and IBM.

“The number of the Beast” is mentioned in Revelation 13:18, and in most manuscripts it’s 666, but some have 616 instead. These two variations have led most scholars to conclude that the author of Revelation had been alluding to the Emperor Nero, because when his Greek name was transliterated into Hebrew, it added up to 666, but when starting with Latin, it became 616. This particular coincidence doesn’t work with anything else. And if it’s the case that either 666 or 616 is a reference to Nero, then Revelation … written as it was during the latter half of the 1st century CE … couldn’t have been intended to describe the future prophetically; it was, instead, a description of past history.

At any rate, it looks as though Mr Slonopas’s metaphysics will leave him unemployed. Well done. I’m sure his Jesus is just so proud of him for being so stupid.

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

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YOU'RE NEXTThere are certain Bible passages which have caused much more mayhem than others. Exodus 22:18, for example, has directly caused the deaths of many women over the centuries. Matthew 28:18-20 led to forced conversions and uncountable violence in order to “spread the Gospel.” These days, Leviticus 18:22 is making life difficult for gays.

Another passage that appears to have inordinate control over many — especially of the Protestant-fundamentalist “end times” type of Christian — is Revelation 13:11-18, which is as follows:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.

He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.

He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.

And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.

And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead,

and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom: Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

This has spawned vast amounts of speculation as to who “the Beast” will be: Among the foolish speculations was that it was the assassinated Anwar Sadat, who defied this prediction by refusing to rise from the dead; then speculation was that “the Beast” would be whoever headed the European Common Market once it had ten member countries, although this too is now out of the question since it morphed into the European Union with many more members than 10); and many more guesses have been made … all of which have failed utterly. I will set aside the fact that, while most believers generally speak of “the Beast of Revelation,” the text actually talks about two separate “Beasts.”

At any rate, in addition to the bilge and kerfluffle that have erupted over the years concerning the identity and nature of “the Beast,” another matter of speculation has been exactly what would be “the Mark of the Beast,” and central to that is that it will be required for commerce under “the Beast’s” rule. That standard UPC codes appear to contain three 6s in their sequencing has been a source of continuing talk among the “Armageddon-worshipping” Christians. Of course, this is not actually the case, but when you’re obsessing over Armageddon, appearances are more than enough. I’m not sure what barcodes on products have to do with “the Mark of the Beast” which supposedly will be placed on people, but that too appears not to be a concern.

At any rate, we finally arrive at the point of this blog post, which is that there is a fundamentalist Christian who believes she has figured out what “the Mark of the Beast” is, and her contention has spawned a lawsuit. Wired Threat Level reports on this bizarre development, which apparently is less unique than I had thought:

A 22-year veteran kindergarten teacher in the Texas Bible Belt could lose her job for refusing, on religious grounds, to give fingerprints under a state law requiring them.

The evangelical Christian, Pam McLaurin, is fighting a looming suspension, claiming that fingerprinting amounts to the “Mark of the Beast,” and hence is a violation of her First Amendment right to practice her religion. Her case is similar to a lawsuit by a group of Michigan farmers, some of them Amish, challenging rules requiring the tagging of livestock with RFID chips, saying the devices are also the devil’s mark. …

McLaurin’s lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency cites various passages of Revelation, the final book of The Bible:

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand and on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.… Then a third angel followed them saying with a loud voice — if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God.… He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Her attorney, Scott Skelton, said his client believes that the computerized fingerprinting, in which her fingerprints will be stored in a database, is the mark addressed in Revelation. The teacher does not believe that it is merely coincidence that Revelation says only those with the ‘mark on his forehead or on his hand’ will be able to buy or sell, since only those teachers who comply with fingerprinting requirements will keep their jobs, he said.

I wasn’t aware that anyone could opt to have their fingerprints on their foreheads instead of their fingertips, but hey … once again, those Armageddon-worshippers never let little things like facts get in the way of their paranoid thinking.

Despite the lawsuit, the school district still thinks highly of Ms McLaurin:

The Big Sandy Independent School District, where the woman teaches, is located about 100 miles northeast of Houston. Wayne Haglund, the school district’s lawyer, described McLaurin is a “valued member of the faculty and one of the best teachers we have.”

The problem with this “fingerprints are ‘the Mark of the Beast'” scenario, of course, is that it doesn’t work, in the face of what the Bible says about “the Mark,” which is that “no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast” (Rev 13:17). Clearly the implication is that “the Mark” — whatever it’s supposed to have been — will be optional. People may choose to get it — and then be able to buy and sell — or not get it, and not be allowed to buy and sell. Fingerprints, however, are not “optional.” Every human being has fingerprints. (Except maybe the men in black, at least, according to the movie.)

Is it really a good idea to allow someone this fact-deprived and rationality-challenged to teach children? I think not.

Hat tip: The Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds.

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