Beast Number
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Beast Number (Revelation 13.17-18)

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

Fourth Century Constantine Soldier

Charagma on Shield of 4th Century Constantine SoldierHuman branding also called "stigmatizing," was widely practiced in the Roman Empire at the time of the Early Church. A mark, symbol or ornamental pattern was burned into the skin of a person and the resulting scar made it permanent. Livestock branding is a similar technique used today on animals. Human branding may be performed with the consent of the person or as a mark of either punishment or enslavement. Another use is to mark the rite of passage of a person in a group. 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 the 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 SixIn this passage from Revelation 13, the beast tattoos or brands his adherents with the number "666." If the number 666 is connected with the beast, it means that those who worship the Beast from the Sea are his devoted followers. This assigning of numerical value to a word or phrase is technically known as "Gematria" from the Greek word meaning "geometry."

Contract Seal

Tattoo of Alpha OmegaIn the Roman Empire on every purchase or sale contract there was a "charagma" or imprinted mark or seal, that item could then be easily traced back to its source and on the seal the identity of the emperor and the date. Every jar of wine for example was marked in this way. "Charagma" or the "mark on his forehead" appears nine times in the New Testament and can be found in other parts of Revelation particularly Revelation 14.9. The particular mark "666" means that those who worship the beast accept his authority. All coinage bore the head and inscription of the emperor stamped upon it to show that it was the Emperor's property. This custom comes 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.

Certificate of Worship

Coin with Emperor's HeadThe "beast number 666" may also mean that those who bear it are 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.✞

"Beast Number"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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