666 AS A HEBREW MISSPELLING?

PMT 2014-035 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I am concluding a four part series on the leading objections to understanding 666 as referring to Nero 666 NeroCaesar. In this final reply to the preterist opponents, I will answer the question:
What about the defective spelling? To get the proper value of 666 out of the name Nero Caesar requires an unusual spelling of his name.

This problem is not insuperable, for we do find this spelling in Aramaic documents from Nero’s reign. Who is to say John could not use a defective spelling, especially one which we actually find from that time period? This spelling would be especially important for his narrative in that this would allow him to match the number for the beast with the name “Nero Caesar” — as he intends (13:17).


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Interestingly, elsewhere in Rev John employs an unusual listing of the twelve tribes in 7:4–8. Shall we reject the obvious point that he is there referring to the Israel’s famous tribes?

Furthermore, this complaint will not hold for a time in which spelling is not standardized. For instance, archaeologists have found deeds of sales with names shifting spelling within one short contract. Alon notes “in a deed of sale written in Hebrew … the name of the woman is written twice as Shalom — shlwm (11.6 and 25), and once without the was as shlm, but it is to be pronounced Shalom rather than Shlam; the same is true of a house sale in Hebrew (P. Se’elim 8a) where the wife’s name is spelled once as shlm (1.12) and once as shlwm (1:14). Thus the spelling shlm may not after all express an Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew name shlwm, but the Hebrew name written in defective spelling.”

We see spelling variations in Scripture itself. Scholars debate the spellings of the names of some of the prophets. For instance, in the case of “Elijah,” in the textual history of the NT it is sometimes spelled ēleias (“Elijah”) and sometimes ēlias (“Eliah”) (TDNT 2:929 n 1).

In fact, we also have the famous situation where the city of “Jerusalem” has two distinct spellings in the NT: Ierosalēm (Mt 23:37; Gal 1:17; Heb 12:22) and Ierosoluma (Mt 21:10; Mk 1:5) (BAGD 470). Significantly, “the books belonging to the Hebrew canon [LXX] use the Hebraizing form Ierousalēm, which is not used in secular Greek,” thus Ierousalēm “often had an archaizing or festive ring” (EDNT 2:177). John uses the Hebraic, archaic form Ierosalēm exclusively in Rev (3:12; 21:2, 10), whereas in his Gospel he exclusively employs Ierosoluma (e.g., Jn 5:1; 11:55; 12:12).

Thus, we dan see that John’s use of a minority spelling for Nero Caesar does not undermine the Nero interpretation.

Note

1. Gedeliah Alon, “A Cancelled Marriage Contract from the Judaean Desert” JRS 84 (1994): 64-86.


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2 thoughts on “666 AS A HEBREW MISSPELLING?

  1. Guy Cooksey March 28, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Ken, I think it is relevant to also understand that John is urging his readers to have wisdom and understanding so as to “calculate” the number (arithmos) of the beast for it is that “of a man” (Rev 13:18). Surely, John’s readers would have understood that there was some fine calculating that needed to occur, and who better to calculate than the savage beast of their day, Caesar Nero. This all just makes sense, and the arguments against are once again paltry and very unconvincing. Nice work.

  2. Don Strickland June 2, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Oh, I thought the Antichrist was Barney. He is a “Cute Purple Dinosaur.” And if you write that in Roman letters — CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR. Now extract the Roman numerals — C V V L D I V. These add up to 666. Barney is clearly the Antichrist.

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