616 or 666?

This is sort of on the periphery of PaleoBabble, but the 666 / antichrist thing fits just about every discussion of the old and strange.  A reader asked the “616” reading in one of the Greek Oxyrhyncus papyri in place of the famous “666” that occurs in Revelation 13:18.

Here’s a picture of the papyri in question, with the 616 underlined in red:

Basically, the issue is that in this papyrus, thenumber (which is abbreviated as ΧΙC (chi, iota, sigma), which are the letters used for the numerical total of 616. If we wrote out 616 longhand, the Greek would be hexakosiai deka hex (six hundred, ten, six). So is the number of the beast 666 or 616?

The short answer is that “666” has far greater manuscript support, and so it should be regarded as the better reading.

The longer answer is from Metzger’s textual commentary, where he notes a number of very early manuscripts that have 666 (my notes in brackets). 616 is also early, since Irenaeus knew of it, but 666 by far has the better textual argument. And besides, 616 and 666 are related, as Metzger notes.

Instead of ἑξήκοντα [60], which is strongly supported by P א A P 046 051 all extant minuscules (it vg syr, cop, arm al), δέκα [10] is read by C and some manuscripts known to Irenaeus (who, however, says that 666 is found “in all good and ancient copies,” and is “attested by those who had themselves seen John face to face”) and Tyconius. According to Tischendorf’s 8th ed., the numeral 616 was also read by two minuscule manuscripts that unfortunately are no longer extant (nos. 5 and 11; cf. C. R. Gregory, Prolegomena, p. 676). When Greek letters are used as numerals the difference between 666 and 616 is merely a change from ξ to ι (666 = χξς and 616 = χις). Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Nero Caesar written in Hebrew characters (‮נרון קסר‬) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (‮נרו קסר‬) is equivalent to 616.

Bruce Manning Metzger and United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 676.

Back to blogging…

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus. I’ve been asked to teach a sequence of ancient history courses at a local university, so I’ve been prepping. Classes start today, so I should be “in the flow” now and more able to budget my time.

Polydactylism in the Ancient World

Cam across an interesting article today on this subject. The article in PDF is here. The article points out that polydactylism (having more than the normal number of fingers or toes) is associated with giants in the Bible. Actually, this is only said of Goliath’s family (one of the sons of Rapha); it is not said of other giant clans, so there is no necessary association.

New Bible Codes on Barack Obama

Finally — a reason to remind readers why the Bible code is utter nonsense. My thanks to  “Pastor Harry” for some drivel that gives me a rationale for showing readers why the Bible code is DOA.

The Achilles Heel of the Bible code, of course, is the fact that there are tens of thousands of letter sequence differences in existing Hebrew manuscripts. Most of this concerns spelling and scribal corrections, but there are also clear scribal errors (some scribes even noted them in the margins of manuscripts). The historical commentary of the manuscript transmission process by the scribes themselves ALL unequivocally testify  that the preservation of the every-letter sequence of Hebrew letters is uncertain.

One Bible code supporter, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, psychiatrist and author of Cracking the Bible Code, has claimed that if 77 letters were lost from the text sequence upon which the Bible code is based, the code would statistically collapse. My book The Bible Code Myth DOUBLES this number through actual examples from manuscript disagreements and notes of the scribes themselves – all exclusively drawn from the Torah.  You don’t need to know how to read Hebrew either – just how to count!

  • Examples of the Torah’s Textual Uncertainty from The Bible Code Myth

Another problem for the Bible code are the Dead Sea Scrolls.  These texts, which are our closest textual witnesses to the actual composition of the Hebrew Old Testament, have a markedly different way of spelling.  In just a few verses there might therefore be dozens of letter differences.  The significance of this is illustrated in two ways.  First, we have no way of knowing WHICH text to use for a coded letter string.  Bible code proponents like Grant Jeffrey can’t seem to grasp this fact.  Jeffrey claims to have found dozens of coded names associated with Jesus in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the Old Testament prophecy of a suffering Messiah.  You hardly need a Bible code for this idea (uh, you could just read the Bible as it is). This nonsense is easily shown for what it is by comparing the letters in these these fifteen verses. There are 115 letter differences between the text Jeffrey and other Bible-coders use and the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll – the text closest to Isaiah’s own time.  Want proof?

  • Click HERE to see these texts laid side by side.

If anyone is interested in my book, The Bible Code Myth (Only in PDF), you can order it here ($6).

Back from a Short Hiatus

Sorry it’s been a while. I noted on my main blog that I’d be away for a bit.  Back now, so blogging will resume.

Here’s one item of interest right away – the Westminster Leningrad Codex is now available online. For all those who want free access to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, this is the place. Of course, it’s NOT an interlinear, but if you learn the alphabet (check out the PowerPoint files and videos for that over at my other blog, Scribal Practices), you can at least find the words behind the English and follow the discussions in academic commentaries and lexicons.