Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Devil's Wrong Number

Historians studying a newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament announced that the legendary "mark of the beast" is probably 616, rather than 666.

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.

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.

... 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.

Researcher Dr. Aitken said says this beastly number is found in the Bible's book of Revelation:

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."