Beast Number
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Beast Number
(Revelation 13.17-18)
Page 193

"This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666." (Revelation 13.17-18)

Constantine Soldier

Charagma on Shield of 4th Century Constantine SoldierThe "Beast Number 666" was "humanity’s number" according to Revelation 13. In this passage, the beast tattooed or branded his adherents with the number "666." Human branding which was also called "stigmatizing," was widely practiced in the Roman Empire at the time of the Early Church. Branding was when a mark, symbol or ornamental pattern was burned into the skin of a person and the resulting scar made it permanent. Livestock branding was a similar technique used today on animals such as beef cattle. Human branding was performed with the consent of the person or as a mark of either punishment or enslavement. Another use was to mark the rite of passage of a person in a group with a tattoo. Slaves were often branded by their owners and in the Roman era a runaway slave was marked "FGV" for "fugitivus" as a fugitive. Sometimes soldiers branded themselves with the name of their general, if they were very devoted to him. This, to some extent, corresponds to our modern custom of tattooing upon one's person the name of someone especially dear like a husband, a girl friend, a wife or mother or the insignia of a regiment in which one has served.

Human Branding

Six Sixty SixIf the number "666" was connected with the beast, it meant that those who worshipped the Beast from the Sea were his devoted followers. This assigning of numerical value to a word or phrase was technically known as "gematria" from the Greek word meaning "geometry."✞

Contract Seal

Tattoo of Alpha OmegaIn the Roman Empire, every purchase or sale contract carried a "charagma" or imprinted mark or seal. Pottery jars of oil or wine were stamped with the emperor's seal. That item could then be easily traced back to its source. The seal bore the identity of the emperor and a date. Every jar of wine for example was marked in this way. "Charagma" or the "mark on his forehead" appeared nine times in the New Testament and can be found in other parts of Revelation particularly Revelation 14.9. The special mark "666" meant that those who worshipped the beast accepted his authority and were under his control and ownership. Jesus asked his disciples in Matthew 22.21 whose head was on the coin that he held. Jesus said, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." All coinage bore the head and inscription of the emperor stamped upon it showing that in the final analysis it was the Emperor's property. This custom came down to us today in our own coinage with the head of Queen Elizabeth 2nd for British or Canadian currency and the head of the President on American coins and bank notes. Technically, all our coins and bank notes belong to the person whose head is marked on it.

Certificate of Worship

Coin with Emperor's HeadThe "beast number 666" may also have meant that those who bore it were the property of the beast. When a person had burned his or her pinch of incense to the stone bust of Caesar in the town square, he or she was given a certificate to say that they had done so. The term, "the beast number 666", may therefore be a reference to the certificate of worship, which a Christian could only obtain at the cost of denying his or her faith. This certificate was necessary for anyone to do business in a town. Without it that person would receive no work and was made virtually destitute.

"Beast Number"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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