Saturday, August 19, 2006


Domitian and 666

Revelation 13.18:
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.

Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ.
The usual suspect is the Roman emperor Nero. But from David E. Aune's excellent commentary on Revelation (vol. 2, p. 771), I learned about another candidate, the Roman emperor Domitian. Ethelbert Stauffer made the identification in an article unavailable to me, "666," Coniectanea Neotestamentica 11 (1947) 237-244.

Stauffer apparently reasoned as follows:

1. If you combine Domitian's name with his Greek titles, you get:
ΑΥΤΟΚΑΤΩΡ (Autokrator)
ΚΑΙΣΑΡ (Kaisar)
ΔΟΜΕΤΙΑΝΟΣ (Dometianos)
ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΣ (Sebastos)
ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΟΣ (Germanikos)
2. Abbreviations for these words found on ancient coins are:
3. Greek letters double as numbers, and the numerical equivalents of these abbreviations are:
Α = 1
ΚΑΙ = 20 + 1 + 10
ΔΟΜΕΤ = 4 + 70 + 40 + 5 + 300
ΣΕΒ = 200 + 5 + 2
ΓΕ = 3 + 5
4. These numbers (1 + 31 + 419 + 207 + 8) total 666.

An ingenious theory, if a little far-fetched. But I tried to find a single ancient coin with exactly this combination of abbreviations on it and was unable to do so. I searched Wildwinds, admittedly not a complete collection. I wonder if Stauffer was able to cite an actual coin.

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