The Secret Meaning Behind ‘666’: Devil… or the Emperor of Rome?

Photographer Leo Reynolds snapped a picture of this "666" in 2013.

It’s impossible to not know what the infamous ‘666’ means. Though it had many names, it has always been referred to as the Devil, the Antichrist, and most especially ‘the number of the beast’ in the New Testament. Aside from Tom Ellis’ Lucifer, devilish pop culture sure is getting more interesting nowadays. 

Made up of only three numbers, ‘666’ is but a symmetrical series (at least at first sight) of numerical figures that’s been giving people around the world, especially those who believe in the bible, the shiver down the spine for two millenniums. Is it just a number or does it really have the history of the Devil? Guess it’s time to find out.

History of ‘666’

Mathematically, it makes sense. It’s the number that comes after 665 and before 667. It doesn’t boast particularly any amazing properties. However, if you look at it in a more historical way, it unearths how the Bible wasn’t written like how we perceive it today. As expected, a piece of literature that has lived since 1200 BC wasn’t written in flawless English. This time, ‘lost in translation’ would be the best phrase to describe it. 

It turns out that the Book of Revelation sought more than just 666 being an apocalyptic means of the banishment of the world. To say the least, it wasn’t that entirely. 666 was a code, and it wasn’t some sneaky James Bond one. Come to think of it, it wasn’t really as subtle as you think it’d be. If you were to be alive and fortunate enough to be literate during the time of the New Testament (45 AD to 95 AD), then you might have gotten the glory of deciphering this series of numbers. 

Revealing the Hidden Meaning of ‘666’

Originally, the text was written in ancient Greek where numbers are just as regarded as letters. The other main language for the Bible was Hebrew, but more on that later. 

Alpha, beta, gamma––the same words you hear and see when games are being tested––are actually the first letters of the Greek alphabet, representing 1, 2, and 3. On the other hand, Roman numerals are represented by letters: 1 being I, 5 being V, 10 being X, 50 being L, 100 being C, 500 being D, 1000 being M, and so on and so forth. 

Basically, every letter has a corresponding numerical value. The weirder the combination of letters, the bigger the number, so I would say if I were to be a math teacher which thankfully I’m not. 

Going back to the Bible, Chapter 13 of The Book of Revelation reads: 

Let the one with understanding reckon the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.

This raised some eyebrows. Why? Because “reckon,” according to the Greek language, means “solve.” Was the chapter telling you to solve a riddle? Was it supposed to let the people know that the ‘number of the beast’ is no different from ‘the number of man’? 

What does the ‘666’ really entail? Well, if you translate it using the Greek alphabet, it shows a very intriguing story. During the time of the Roman Empire, the people hated its leader, Nero Caesar. Unsurprisingly, most people perceived him to be evil and many historians have been all over the Biblical text to search for references as it was a product of its time. If there was any piece of literature to show the madness of Nero Caesar, one of them would be the bible. 

Looking at the original text, you’ll see that 666 was actually written in letters in Hebrew. Unlike in Greek where numbers and letters are equal, Hebrew puts higher regard towards numbers. Without any question, the writer definitely had something to tell. 

And there it is. Codes decoded, secrets unraveled, if you translate the spelling of ‘666,’ you actually spell out Neron Kesar. Sounds familiar? Because that’s the Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar. There was another case when they found an alternative spelling to the ‘number of the beast’ as 616––which can then be translated to Nero Cesar. 

It looks as if whatever the case may be, Nero Caesar isn’t going to come out clean. However, the Bible isn’t going to criticize the leader of the Roman Empire. People aren’t going to believe that the root of all evil is Nero Caesar. If people were interested in that, they would’ve turned to literature about the history of Rome. 

People have been horrified by the mere presence of the number. I mean, who wouldn’t be scared of the Devil, am I right? But what if the Devil had a personification––what if it came to life not just by biblical stories, but in imperial leader form. Would people still be afraid? 

Written by Lucas Beaumont

Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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