The Number of the Beast

This is an interesting story from CBS.

A Georgia factory worker claims in a federal lawsuit that he was fired after he refused to wear a 666 sticker he feared would doom him to eternal damnation.

Billy E. Hyatt claims he was fired from Pliant Corp., a plastics factory in northern Georgia near Dalton, after he refused to wear a sticker proclaiming that his factory had been accident-free for 666 days. That number is considered the “mark of the beast” in the Bible’s Book of Revelation describing the apocalypse.

Hyatt, who said he’s a devout Christian, had worked for the north Georgia plastics company since June 2007 and like other employees wore stickers each day that proclaimed how long the factory had gone without an accident.

But he grew nervous in early 2009 as the number of accident-free days crept into the 600s. As the company’s safety calendar approached day 666, Hyatt said he approached a manager and explained that wearing it would force him “to accept the mark of the beast and to be condemned to hell.” He said the manager assured him he wouldn’t have to wear the number.

When the day came on March 12, 2009, Hyatt sought a manager to discuss his request. He said he was told that his beliefs were “ridiculous” and that he should wear the sticker or serve a three-day suspension.

Hyatt took the three-day suspension, and was fired at a human resources meeting several days later. He then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and his attorney Stephen Mixon said the agency granted him the right to sue the company in August.

The lawsuit, which seeks punitive damages and back pay, said the company forced him into a terrible situation: Keep his job or “abandon his religious beliefs.”

I am not sure how to put this, but Billy Hyatt’s religious beliefs are ridiculous. I don’t think he understands the meaning of the number of the beast in the book of Revelation. Here is the relevant section.

16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.[e] That number is 666. (Rev 13:16-18)

The beast is introduced earlier in chapter 13.

And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”  5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

(Rev 13:1-8)

Most people know about Roman numerals but I imagine that few know anything about Greek or Hebrew numerals. Both the Greeks and Hebrews used letters of their alphabets to represent numbers, alpha would be 1, beta 2, and so on. For more information see here and here. The fact that numbers could be used to spell out words lent itself to a form of numerology called gematria for Hebrew letters or isopsephy for Greek letters. Various numbers in either system could have special meanings depending on the words they spelled out.

With that is mind then the intent of the author of Revelation becomes clearer. The beast is a person. The number, 666, is the sum of the values of the letters, Greek or possibly Hebrew, of that person’s name added together. Who that individual could be has been the subject of speculation for millenia. Roman emperors, popes, kings, Mohammed, Martin Luther and many others have been suggested as candidates over the years.

The mark of the beast appears to be a tattoo or a brand. It could represent some sort of token or certificate that Romans received after completing their patriotic duty of worshipping the Emperor. In any event, I am fairly certain that the mark is not referring to a sticker worn after completing 666 days without an accident. It would seem, instead, that the mark would only be given as a voluntary sign of allegiance of the beast, so that it simply would not be possible to accidentally get the mark. Mr. Hyatt does not need to worry about going to Hell over a sticker.

2 thoughts on “The Number of the Beast”

  1. Unfortunately, and I really do mean that, many Christians do not study their holy book with the same scholarly intent as most of Judaism. Jews have their fringes as well, such as the Charedi, who’ve taken Rabbinic Judaism off the deep end, but for the most part Judaism outright requires objectivity in understanding the Torah. The only thing not open to questioning is the existence of G-d. Christians such as yourself are becoming more common, but I still find that I’m more likely to run into Christians like Mr. Hyatt. Which is really unfortunate, because Jesus would certainly not have approved. He would have intended for his followers to keep that objectivity and scholarly pursuit.


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