Stupid Question ™
Oct. 20, 2003
By John Ruch
Q: Who is the best modern candidate to be the Antichrist, based on the old “666” clue?
—Still Waiting, Columbus, Ohio
A: A few points: 666 in the Biblical Book of Revelation specifically identifies a bizarre “beast” that is not called “the Antichrist” (a generic term not used in the book), though it has the attributes we mean by the term today. Also, 666 was meant to be an obvious code, not a deep mystery or prediction. It quite possibly refers to no one in particular.
Revelation is a feverish apocalyptic vision probably written around A.D. 65-70. It describes two beasts. One, a perversity of Christ, will survive a fatal wound and temporarily rule the world. The other will be the first beast’s false prophet.
The main beast should not be easy to miss. He has the body of a leopard, the paws of a bear and the mouth of a lion, plus seven heads (all with blasphemies written on them) and 10 horns, each bearing a small crown.
One head will take a seemingly fatal wound but miraculously recover, resulting in his near-universal worship.
After describing all of this, Revelation 13:18 says, “[A]nyone clever may interpret the number of the [first] beast; it is the number of a human being, the number 666.” [New Jerusalem Bible version.]
Early Christians were big on numerology, and six was the number of imperfection; three sixes emphasize the beast’s flawed nature. (Six is one less than the “perfect” number seven—perfect for reasons too involved to go into here.)
Many scholars think 666 may also be a numerological code for the Roman Emperor Nero (A.D. 37-68), the infamous persecutor of Christians. He was “Kaisar Neron” in Revelation’s original Greek, which in Hebrew letters—which also serve as numerals—adds up to 666.
Also, Nero killed himself with a dagger to the throat, but was the subject of rumors and hoaxes that he wasn’t really dead. This could be the source of the “head wound” bit.
However, many scholars also point out that the number isn’t as important as that it stands for a person, not a god. The whole point is to beware false prophets and self-proclaimed messiahs.
A major theme of Christianity is that the world-ending good-vs.-evil battle is coming any minute now. During what has proven to be a very long wait, various Christians have applied, almost hopefully, the “666” identification to their enemy of the moment. Contrived numerology is usually the basis for the ID.
Nearly every modern world leader has proponents today, as does Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Some think bigger—and meaner—and say 666 is Jewish people (with their six-pointed Star of David) or even all of humanity.
Heads of rival Christian sects are also popular, including the all-time top contender: any or all of the popes, or the Roman Catholic Church itself.
This claim, originally made by Protestants as the Reformation got underway, involves some of the worst numerological acrobatics.
All of these claims are dwarfed by the mountain of evidence against Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff, as seen on the Web site www.esquilax.com/baywatch/index.shtml.