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Is the Number of the Beast 666 or 616?

Source: Text of The Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts” (Comfort and Barrett)

616 or 666?

P 115 (P.Oxy 4499) showing Revelation 13:18-14:7
Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society, London, England. Note the number of the beast = 616, in the third line.

P115 (P. Oxy. 4499)

Contents: Rev. 2:1-3, 13-15, 27-29; 3:10-12; 5:8-9; 6:5-6; 8:3-8, 11-13; 9: 1-5, 7-16, 18-21; 10: 1-4, 8-11; 11:1-5, 8-15, 18-19; 12: 1-5, 8-10, 12-17;-13:1-3, 6-16, 18; 14:1-3, 5-7, 10-11, 14-15, 18-20; 15:1, 4-7

Date: middle to late third century; the handwriting resembles two manuscripts from the Heroninus Archive (which must predate 256, according to documentary texts in the collection), namely P. Flor, 108 and P. Flor. 259. sp115 also resembles P. Oxy. 1016 (which must predate 234, according to a land register on the other side).

Provenance: Oxyrhynchus, Egypt

Housing location: Oxford, England: Ashmolean Museum

Bibliography: Juan Chapa, Oxy. Pap., 66: 11-39, no. 4499.

Physical features: This manuscript contains 26 fragments of a codex containing the book of Revelation (and probably nothing more). Each sheet originally measured about 15.5 cm x 23.5 cm, with 33-36 lines per page. It is likely that the scribe used a coder that was already bound before he began to his work, inasmuch as the width of the writing on the pages with binding to the right-hand side (i,e., the even-numbered pages) tends to be narrower than those with binding to the left-hand side (i.e., the odd-numbered pages). The difficulty of writing on the right side of the left page thereby can be explained if the pages were already bound.

Textual character: Significantly, P115 aligns with A and C in its textual witness, which are generally regarded as providing the best testimony to the original text of Revelation. Thus, P115 has superior testimony to that of P47 which aligns with tC and together form the second-best witness to the book of Revelation.

[recto3 Location of upper margin is uncertain]

Revelation! 666 is not the number of the beast (itʼs a devilish 616)

By Tom Anderson
01 May 2005

A newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament indicates that, as far as the Antichrist goes, theologians, scholars, heavy metal groups, and television evangelists have got the wrong number. Instead of 666, itʼs actually the far less ominous 616.

The new fragment from the Book of Revelation, written in ancient Greek and dating from the late third century, is part of a hoard of previously unintelligible manuscripts discovered in historic dumps outside Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. Now a team of expert classicists, using new photographic techniques, are finally deciphering the original writing.

Professor David Parker, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham, thinks that 616, although less memorable than 666, is the original. He said: “This is an example of gematria, where numbers are based on the numerical values of letters in peopleʼs names. Early Christians would use numbers to hide the identity of people who they were attacking: 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula.”

The Book of Revelation is traditionally considered to be written by John, a disciple of Jesus; it identifies 666 as the mark of the Antichrist. In America, the fundamentalist Christian right often use the number in sermons about the coming Apocalypse.

They and satanists responded coolly to the new “Revelation”. Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, based in New York, said: “By using 666 weʼre using something that the Christians fear. Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then weʼll start using that.”

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