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DISSERTATION, &c. 2009
Rev. XIII. 18. CALIFORNIA "Ωδε η σοφία εςιν δέχων τον νούν, ψηφισάτω τον αριθμών
του θηρίο αριθμός γαρ ανθρώπο εσί, και ο αριθμός
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 HUN
DRED THREESCORE AND SIX.
Introduction of the Subject-What is to be understood by “ counting the number of the Beast”The phrase, “ For it is the number of a man,' examined.
THERE is no prophecy in the whole Book of God which is more strongly marked than this which rer spects the number of the Beast; for it is introduced with these solemn and impressive words “ Here is wisdom.” The right understanding of all that is spoken relative to the Beast hangs, therefore, upon this passage; it is evidently the key by
which the sacred mystery is unlocked: consequently, every attempt to explain the prophecies relative to the Beast, which has not the correct computation of the number 666 for its basis, must be necessarily loaded with many insurmountable difficulties. In order, therefore, to come at the truth, a careful inquiry must be made respecting that species of computation here alluded to; for the number contained in the Beast, or in his name, is directed to be counted, as it is expressed in the preceding verse, 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.” It is hence evident, that the Beast, or the name of the Beast, contains the number 666; which must be reckoned according to some mode of numbering that is or has been in use among men; for, otherwise, the number would be totally inexplicable.
That the number of the Beast is to be counted after some human mode of computation has been very generally admitted by commentators; and within these three last centuries the phrase it is the number of a man” has been conceived to be equivalent to “ It is a mode of numbering practised among men." Upon this side of the question Cotterius, in his Commentaries on the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, appears to have spoken the best. His words, together with Potter's paraphrase upon them, are as follows: “Numerus enim hominis est: ανθρώπε, ηοη του ανθρώπg, quasi hic appellatio hominis Antichristo tribueretur; de bes
tiâ agitur, cui appellationem hominis competere repugnat; vult igitur Scriptura numerum bestiæ ejusdem esse speciei cum nostrate; numeri enim ratio una non est: nos res nostras ad decadum, et centuriarum, et chiliadum, et myriadum rationes exigimus, quid ni verò angeli alias numerorum contabulationes sequantur? That is, for it is the number of a ma'n, or of man; not of this man, or that man, or any particular man, as if the name of a man were here attributed to Antichrist; the prophet speaketh of the Beast, to whom the name and appellation of a man cannot agree. The meaning, therefore, is, that this number of the Beast is of the same kind as other numbers are, which are used by us, who are men and 'inhabitants of this world. For all numbering is not after the same manner; we that are men number our things by tens, and by hundreds, and by thousands, and by tens of thousands ; but why may not angels rank and dispose units according to other progressions and proportions ? Forasmuch then as this number is the number of a man, that is, a number of the same kind that other numbers are, that are used by men; therefore we cannot doubt that the computation and counting of this number is such a kind of computation as is usual among men.”*
In confirmation of this mode of interpretation, that remarkable passage in the 17th verse of the 21st chapter of the Revelation has been produced by Dr. Henry More and others, where mention is
* See Potter's Interpretation of the Number 666, chap. 10.
made of “ the measure of a man,” uét gov avfgøre, the form of the expression in this case being the same with the ageduós árs game in the other, both being found without the definite articles ó and toữ. In this last passage μέτρον ανθρώπg must mean α mode of measuring in use among men: for the original words, where this forms a part, are the following: Και εμέτρησε το τείχος αυτής εκατόν τεσσαρακοντα-τεσσάρων πηχών, μέτρον ανθρώπε, δέσιν άγfέλα. The most literal English version of which is, “ And he measured its wall a hundred and forty-four cubits, a measure of a man, which is that of the angel.." The evident sense of these words, which every person who considers the subject must allow, is, undoubtedly, that St. John in his vision observed that the angel measured the wall of the New Jerusalem precisely with the same kind of cubit as is in use among men.
This is certainly a very powerful argument in favour of Cotterius's interpretation; for águ fjós aufgøre appears as likely to signify a man's way of numbering as pérgov åvggute to import a human mode of measuring:
Notwithstanding the great plausibility of Cotterius's interpretation, it is certain that the arguments are much more formidable which can be brought against it, than those which can be produced in its favour. The first objection is, that the phrase “ For it is the number of a man” is wholly unnecessary, if taken in his sense; for it must be evident to every one, that if the number be counted at all by man, it must be according to some system
of numbering in use among men. The second objection is, that though ago I jos óvgame may possibly be used in Cotterius's sense, yet it is not its most obvious meaning; and the majority of commentators, especially the Greek and Latin fathers, have understood it literally of some man. Irenæus, the most ancient commentator extant upon the number of the Beast, certainly understood the phrase in this sense, as he produces three instances of proper names of men containing 666; and further observes that several other names contain it.* As, therefore, the phrase “ For it is the number of a man,” stands in such connection with the number of the Beast as to affect its meaning, according to the way in which it is understood; I am fully satisfied that its most natural meaning must be that which is here intended, viz. that it is a man who is numbered, and not a man's way of numbering.
* See Irenæus adversus Hæreses, Lib. v. c. 30.