“P” And The Number Of The Beast -- By: P. J. Williams

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 58:1 (NA 2007)
Article: “P” And The Number Of The Beast
Author: P. J. Williams

“P”115 And The Number Of The Beast

P. J. Williams


In Revelation 13:18 the occurrence of the number 616 in P115 has been taken as offering support to the view that the number refers to Nero. Here, an alternative or perhaps additional explanation of the number 616 is given by the suggestion that this number visually mimics designations of Jesus.

1. Introduction

The number of conjectures as to the significance of the number of the Beast in Revelation 13:18 almost seems to exceed 666. Scholars now generally agree that a solution to the question of its meaning will need to invoke some form of gematria, since the letters of both the Greek and Hebrew alphabets had numerical significance. Irenaeus records, with varying levels of approval,1 the suggestions that 666 corresponded to ευανθας, λατεινος and τειταν, but none of these commands modern support. Recent scholarship has more readily given attention to various possibilities based on the Hebrew alphabet.

One of the consistently popular proposals of the modern period – one which Charles attributes to four scholars independently – is that 666 stands for Nero Caesar = נרון קסר (2× נ [50], 2× ר [200], ו [6], ק [100], ס [60].2 This interpretation has gained support through the existence of a textual variant giving the number as 616 found in ms C and in

manuscripts known to Irenaeus.3 This reading has recently been bolstered by the publication of P115 (POxy 4499), dated by its editor J. Chapa to the late third or early fourth century. The manuscript is now the oldest surviving manuscript witness to this reading.4 Whether or not it is secondary, the reading 616 can be explained as a variant of Nero Caesar, spelling the name Nero (נרו) as in Latin rather than Neron (נרון = Νέρων) as in Greek. The omission of nun brings the total down by exactly 50 from 666 to 616.

However, conclusive support for this interpretation should not be taken from ...

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