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666: Unravelling the number of the Beast

Who or what is the Antichrist? And what are these marks and numbers all about? Mishty Varma finds some answers.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 20:38 IST

The concept of the Antichrist can be found in many places in the New Testament, perhaps the first mention of the same being made in the Gospel of St John: "You have heard that Antichrist cometh".

Interestingly the Antichrist seems to be a pluralistic entity, or perhaps plural entities: "Antichrist cometh, even now there are become many Antichrists".

Who are these Antichrists?

As the name suggests, the Antichrist is a being converse to the Christ, converse to the Christ's teachings and ideology, converse to the Christ's message and ministry. To define the Antichrist a bit more explicitly, he (it? them?) is one who denies and refutes the presence of Jesus as a living being.                     

As John says, the Antichrists are those who deny (and possibly, refute) the Catholic Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.                            

As the name suggests, the Antichrist is a being converse to the Christ, converse to the Christ's teachings and ideology, converse to the Christ's message and ministry.

Interestingly, John also maintains that the Antichrist is already present in the world at the time he composed his Gospel.

What does the Antichrist look like? In some of the finest Biblical traditions, the being has been bestialised.

The Book of Apocalypse calls the Antichrist a "red dragon"; alternately, the Antichrist is a "scarlet beast having seven heads and ten horns" or a "beast with two horns, like a lamb," who, however, speaks as a dragon.

A final interpretation of the nature of the Antichrist is that of Satan, let loose from his prison and seducing the nations of the world.

Where does 666 come in? The Bible provides that information in the Book of Revelations: "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," or 666.

That's not the end of it, though.

Apparently, the mark of the Beast is to be reckoned with, as well. The Bible does not specifically identify any marks, as such, though there are scholars who are doggedly pursuing an attempt to identify it.

So far they have come up with a slew of claims ranging from the kiss of Judas that betrayed Jesus to the entire Catholic church to the latest craze of micro-chip implants. However, as of now, there is no accepted Mark of the Beast, except, perhaps, if the mark is the number itself of the Beast - 666.

That is something which the writer and directors of the Omen films have exploited to the fullest.

The child Damien Thorne does have a mark - actually, a number - on his scalp: 666. However, he remains unaware of his purported heritage as the Scion of Satan, at least up till Omen III: The Conflict (1981).

The theory of the Antichrist received a sudden jolt a few years ago when recently, a fragment fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament (one that has been dated at 360 A.D.) was unearthed outside Oxyrhynchus, Egypt.

It indicates that scholars, theologians and rock/metal bands (yes Iron Maiden, this means you!) have got it wrong: It's not 666 at all, but 616.

However, many scholars, fundamentalists and even Satanists did not quite appreciate the idea.