Wednesday, April 12, 2006

6 6 6 or 6 1 6 ??

The Oxyrhynchus guys still have not figured out that it was a reference to RONALD (6) WILSON (6) REAGAN (6). They have however put up a picture of the earliest 616 reading for Rev. 13:18, and a discussion of the numerology involved.

They did not mention the possibility of Hebrew gematria in the interpretation of the verse. Any takes on 666? (I do not really think it is Reagan.)


  1. I have a forthcoming article on this subject some time in the Tyndale Bulletin. I'll let you know details when I know when it's due to appear (the excellent editors have suggested some revisions!).

  2. Some time ago I wrote about 666; the resultant article -- which could probably use some touching up -- is online at
    (just type in all together).

    And there's a pretty good essay from a Reformed perspective at

    Revelation42.pdf (again, just type the URL all together) .

    Happy reading, and Happy Easter!

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  3. I suspect that the possibility of Hebrew gematria is being ignored because this passage could be the earliest approximately datable example of the practice. Greek examples seem much better attested.

    However, attributions in Jewish texts to second-century sages suggest that it could well have been known considerably earlier; perhaps as soon as the use of the Hebrew letters instead of Greek ones as numerals had become a general practice among Jews, rather than a conscious patriotic/religious gesture.

  4. aylchanan,

    Got any bib on Greek gematria?

  5. Kieren Barry's "The Greek Qabala: Alphabetic Mysticism and Numerology in the Ancient World" (Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1999) has a lot of out-of-the-way information on Greek material, some of which I have managed to confirm. I am a little cautious about the rest.

    Unfortunately the author has some extremely vague notions on the relationship between Gematria (an exegetical device originally used for a variety of homiletic, mnemonic, and rhetorical purposes) and Kabbalah, a branch of mysticism belonging to the High Middle Ages, which used it as one among many other established practices.

    The confusion goes back the Renaissance, when Christian scholars encountered it in the specific Jewish texts they deigned to actually read. As a leading modern authority, Joseph Dan, put it" "There is nothing 'kabbalistic' in the use of gematria, and the identification of kabbalah with numerology is wholly erroneous. Some kabbalists liked this methodology. Others did not." ("Christian Kabbbalah: From Mysticism to Esotericism," 1998; included in "Jewish Mysticism: Volume III: The Modern Period," Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, New Jersey and Jerusalem, 1999.)

  6. For some reason, I seem to be able to log in as myself today, but showed up as "aylchanan" in an earlier posting; sorry if this has caused any confusion about who is answering J.B. Hood's question!