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666 - Thomas Novotny

One of the most well-known symbols of Satanism is the infamous symbolic number 666. The aim of this article is not only to deal with its origins and meaning, but also to use it as an illustration for two basic hypotheses concerning Satanism.

The first of my hypotheses states that we can find the most typical feature of Satanism in the fact that it is by no means an independent, self-existent religion which would come up with new concepts and ideas. On the contrary I see the main characteristic feature of Satanism in the fact that Satanism only takes and perverts what it can learn from other religions, mainly Christianity. Thus Satanism becomes a "mirror religion" with an inability to originate or exist without parasitizing Christian doctrine and practice.

"Satanism only takes and perverts what it can learn from other religions, mainly Christianity. Thus Satanism becomes a "mirror religion" with an inability to originate or exist without parasitizing Christian doctrine and practice."

We can see this truth in respect to liturgy where we can encounter Christian prayers recited in reverse, the Christian Latin cross used upside down, Christian ethical norms taught in converse meaning etc.[1]

So it is not surprising that also the Satanistic symbol 666 has its origins in the Bible. In The Book of Revelation 13:18 we read: "This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666."
Gematria - an Occult Technique

There is no complete agreement among the commentators who is the man hidden behind the riddle. But most of them agree that so-called gematria is the tool we should use in attempts to decipher it [2].

Gematria is an old way of using numeric values of letters to find a hidden meaning of words. It is rooted in the fact that both classical Greek and Hebrew had no special symbols for numerals but instead of that they used the letters to represent them. So the first character of the alphabet also means I, the second one 2 etc. [3].

As a result of that any word in these two languages can be also seen as a group of numerals. By finding their total we come to a number which represents the word. In the case of names we get so-called "man’s number".

These numbers were subsequently used in cases where naming of the person was not appropriate or could be dangerous.

An inscription found in Pompeii is a fine example. It reads:

FILO HES ARITHMOS F.M.E. (fi,mu,epsilon = 545).
"I love her, whose number equals to 545"

This way the loved one could decipher that it applied to her, but for strangers it was almost impossible to find out which one out of the many Creek girls’ names was meant [4].
The Meaning of 666

A similar procedure is expected in the Biblical man’s number in Rev. 13:18. The author probably did not want the name of the person concerned to be known to outsiders and so he encrypted it. At the same time for his fellow Christians it was evidently possible to recognize who the person was.

But already Ireneus in the second century confessed that he did not know who the person represented by the number was. He himself suggested three solutions of which none is completely satisfactory in the light of today’s research. [5]

In the course of history many other more or less satisfactory suggestions were brought up. So the Pope, John Knox, Martin Luther, Napoleon and many others were associated with the beast 666. [6]

"In the course of history many other more or less satisfactory suggestions were brought up. So the Pope, John Knox, Martin Luther, Napoleon and many others were associated with the beast 666"

During World War II somebody even came with the idea that if we consider A as 100, B as 101 etc. the total of the name Hitler comes also to 666. [7] But one of the suggestions comes up as by far the most probable one: Emperor Nero.

If we write Emperor Nero in Hebrew (qsr nrwn) it gives the number of the beast 666. As a premium this solution is strongly supported by the fact that one of the most important manuscripts of the Bible (C - Ephraemi from the 5’th century) has 6 16 in the stead of 666. The support lies in the fact that this number equals to the Latin version of the name - Nero. Thus the two versions of the number correspond to the two versions of his name and the beast would stand for one of the most cruel persecutors of the primitive church. [8]

But at the moment it is not so important for us to decide which particular solution was the right one. Much more important is the fact that Satanism takes this number representing an arch-enemy of Christianity and makes it its own symbol. Here we see that can live only out of opposition to something positive. In this case it takes a Christian means of expression and reverses its meaning. Out of the negative, abhorrent symbol of evil, it makes the symbol of its own religion. In a word: it illustrates very well the Satanistic style of living out of the garbage can of Christianity.

Gematria itself was extensively developed later in all kinds of numerological magic. Already old Greek temples were built according to certain gematric figures. Some scholars find here the linguistic link to geomethria, because in fact it meant to measure the ground [9].

Later all kinds of speculation based on gematria were presented. Not only words of the same total were grouped together and used for philosophical conclusions [10], but even messages of spirits are checked by comparing numbers of their names with numbers of key words of their messages.
Strange Uses of 666

The second of my hypotheses concerning Satanism says that no single (religious) movement is subjected to such extremes of confabulation, paranoiac stories and speculations as Satanism.

For example, not only information relying on memories of childhood abuse "recovered" by therapists must be carefully checked, but also any "manifestations of Satanistic power" should be evaluated by all kinds of scientific means.

As another example we can use the number 666 again. In the recent years some of the religious groups "prove" the nearness of a coming rapture by the fact that all the products are marked by a bar code. They find the number 666 in it and they link it to the above quoted passage from the Book of Revelation.

The point is that each of the set of bars in the code represents a number. Reportedly two thin lines represent number 6. By chance the whole code is divided to sections by three double bars similar to the two thin lines in the code. The conclusion of those groups is that the three double bars are in fact the number of the beast and the usage of the bar-codes is a fulfilling of a passage from Revelation, saying that nobody will be able to buy or sell unless he has the mark which is the number of the beast Certainly we could reject it as a product of religious fantasy. But we can also consider if this speculation could be possible in some sense.

To do that we have to come back to the way the Greeks and Hebrews took down their numbers.

The Greeks and Hebrews, like us, used a decimal system but, unlike us, they did not use a zero number. Thus, although it was a decimal system, it was not a place-value system [i.e. that the value of the cipher is dependent of its position in the number, determining the cipher to count units, tens, hundreds etc. - ed.]. Therefore more symbols were needed than just the nine (plus zero) which we use. To represent the numbers up to our 999, they needed 27 different symbols: nine for the units (1-9); nine for the tens (10-90); and still another nine for the hundreds (100-900) [11]. As a result of not having zero they could not use (as we do) the same symbol for corresponding units, decimals and hundreds, changing their value only by using zero behind them or changing their position in the number. It means that they could not use the same character e.g. for 3, 30 and 300. Consequently, writing number 666 they could not use triple six but they rather had to use three different letters (chi, xi, vau/digamma).

It brings us to the conclusion that any speculation based on tripled six reflects only today’s way of writing it, and it has nothing to do with the real biblical number. And so, despite the fact that not only different charismatic and Satanistic groups, but even some of prestigious commentaries [12] meditate on the triple number 6, all the speculations must be, in the light of linguistic (scientific) research, rejected as evidently wrong.

"…any speculation based on tripled six reflects only today's way of writing it, and it has nothing to do with the real biblical number."

Also the above stated idea based on the use of bar codes is much less suggestive when it loses its triple six symbolism and it would require much more twisting of the evidence to retain it.

To conclude I would like to emphasize that the symbol 666 reveals again how Western Satanism is dependent on Christianity in its very existence, and how it would certainly collapse without this soil on which it grows and which it perverts. Secondly this article has shown how naive and unscholarly some of the easy exposés of Satanistic influence are.



[1] - E.g.: Sellers Sean, Web of Darkness, Victory House, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1990,(29, 54) And many personal testimonies

[2] - E.g.: Moffatt James, The Expositor's Greek Testament, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1979, (V,433-435) Haag Herbert, Bibellexicon, St.Benno, Leipzig, 1969, (1919-1920)

[3] Freedman Michael: Gematria: Magic/Magick - http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/8465/mf/gematria.htm

[4] Kittel Gerhard, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1976, (I, 462)

[5] Ibid, (463)

[6] E.g.: Barclay William, The Revelation of John, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1976, (II, 100)

[7] Ibid.

[8] Heussi Karl, Kompendium der Kirchengeschichte, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Berlin, 1965, (46)

[9] Opsopaus John, Some Notes on the History of Isopsephia (Gematria) -

[10] E.g.: Freedman Michael: Gematria: Magic/Magick - http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/8465/mf/gematria.htm

[11] Watkins Terry: Warning: 666 is coming - http://www.av1611.org/666.html

[12] Pothier Edward L: Six Hundred Sixty-Six But Not 666