The Number of the Beast is a concept from the Book of Revelation of the New Testament of the Christian Bible.
And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Many scholars believe that 666 refers to a Roman Emperor such as Nero (whose name, written in Aramaic can be valued at 666, using the Hebrew numerology of gematria), a manner of speaking against the emperor without the Roman authorities knowing.
Some commentators, not only the contemporary but also some ancient ones like Andreas of Caesarea or Origen, reflect an alternative attitude on textual matters of Revelation, in that they accept more than one reading when they know more. The early Church father Irenaeus knew several occurrences of the 616-variant but regarded them as a scribal error and affirmed that the number 666 stood "in all the most approved and ancient copies" and is attested by "those men who saw John face to face". In May 2005, it was reported that scholars at Oxford University using advanced imaging techniques had been able to read previously illegible portions of the earliest known record of the Book of Revelation(a 1,700 year old papyrus), from the Oxyrhynchus site, Papyrus 115 or P115, dating one century after Irenaeus.


Significantly, P115 aligns with Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) which are generally regarded as providing the best testimony to Revelation.
The number is 666 in most manuscripts of the New Testament, and in modern translations and critical editions of the Greek text.
Ellen Aitken, Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University, have speculated that the reference to this passage was a way of speaking in code about then contemporary figures about whom it would have been politically dangerous to criticize openly.
The fragment gives the Number of the Beast as 616 (chi, iota, stigma), rather than the majority text 666. Thus, P115 has superior testimony to that of P47 which aligns with Codex Sinaiticus and together form the second-best witness to the Book of Revelation.
Although Irenaeus (second century) reported several scribal errors of the number, there is still doubt by some theologians about the original reading, as some recently discovered third century early manuscripts of Revelation read 616.


The other early witness Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) has it written in full: hexakosiai deka hex (lit.
Some scholars contend that the number 666 is a code for the Roman Emperor Nero, others that 616 is a code for the Roman Emperor Caligula.



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