6-6-6: Day of the Devil?

June 06, 2006 | Post Archive

Apparently, it's the Devil's day today, 6/6/06, and depending on whom you ask, it's cause for either celebration or cowering in your prayer closet. For residents of Hell, Michigan (who thought up that one?), "666" means that it's party time. Hell's local businesses are making good on the numerals' mythos, selling T-shirts, coffee cups and other hellish paraphernalia, while a whole slew of books, movies and music debut in the marketplace today.

From the apocalyptic fictional series, "Left Behind" (with a video game to match), to numerologists, scholars, theologians and Hollywood blockbusters, theories about "666" abound. But what is "666" all about, anyway?

The number finds its origins in the last book of the New Testament, Revelation. The book is the apocalyptic vision of the Apostle John on the island of Patmos. The story goes that the Roman government exiled John to the Greek isle for preaching about his faith. At the time, Christianity was an underground movement the government saw as a potential threat to the stability of Roman rule. After an unsuccessful attempt to kill him in boiling oil, the Romans sent John to Patmos for the remainder of his life, where he died an old man.

Photo credit: Vince Valitutti
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick in the remake of the 1976 thriller, "The Omen," which comes out today. Does that look like the face of the Antichrist to you?

The number 666 appears in chapter 13 of John’s Revelation, (though some scholars now say the correct translation is '616') and perhaps surprisingly, '666' doesn’t refer to the devil or hell. The book of Revelation mentions beasts multiple times, but this passage tells of two beasts in particular -- one that rises out of the sea and one that rises out of the earth. The first beast has power over the world, and the second "makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast" and "performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven.” The exact reference comes from verse 18 of the 13th chapter.

"This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666." (ESV)

Interestingly, in light of today's festivities and caterwauling, nowhere in that verse does the number indicate a relationship to time. In that regard, those who are bent on a time association with the number may have more in common with potheads who celebrate 4:20 than they thought ("420" is the alleged police code for marijuana). But according to some Christian interpretations, the second beast described in the passage, whose number is 666, will actually be a human being. In this sense, "beast" is a figurative or allegorical term for the human known as the Antichrist—the subject of the 1976 thriller "The Omen," which incidentally has been remade and opens in theaters today. Go figure.

I don't want to be a spoil sport, but there's one crucial point that everyone's missing: Today's date misses 6/6/6 by a mere two thousand years. But, hey, what are a couple of millennia?

It just goes to show that people will throw a party for anything.