- 18Here is wisdom: Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
Commentary: Of all the verses in Revelation, Rev. 13:18 has easily received the most attention. There have been many interpretations regarding the number 666. It may simply signify incompleteness and chaos by virtue of the fact it falls short of the perfect 777.
However, gematria, the ancient practice of assigning letters numerical value, was common in John’s day. Going the other way (numbers to letters) involves a little more guess work after 2000 years. Having said this, the Greek to Hebrew to number translation of Nero can produce 666. Also, the word Beast itself also produces 666. It seems John is showing as explicitly as he is able that 666 is the Beast is Nero is 666, etc. Nero is also a likely candidate due to his rampant persecution of christians. Furthermore, he would have been extremely well known to John's audience, so that even after concealing his identity in the number, the beast would have clearly stood as a symbol of Nero.
Additionally significant is the fact that 666 is the eighth sequential doubly triangular number; that is, it is the eighth number which is the sum of successive numbers beginning with 1 whose last number in the series (in this case 36) is also triangular. Some have argued that this could be the meaning of the symbolism of the beast having seven head, with Nero being the eighth and the beast himself. This may be pushing the symbolism too far.
There is actually some contention that the number is not, in fact, 666, but is instead 616. This can be found in some early manuscripts of the book. These are certainly in the minority, although they are not totally without merit. This comes from using the Latin form of Nero's name, translating it to hebrew, and then assigning a number value to the letters. This is the same process discussed above which translates the letters of Nero's name to 666.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.
Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.
It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea. They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.
More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.
There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
- An opening prayer
- A reading from Ephesians
- The lesson for the section
- A set of discussion questions
- An exercise to help reinforce the lesson and the experience
- A historical/theological reflection
- A closing prayer
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
A British researcher has published a startling new theory that the remains of untold ancient settlements from a 100,000-year stretch of human history were submerged by the rapidly rising waters of the Persian Gulf around 6,000 BC — the result, in all likelihood, of a catastrophic, planetwide flood triggered in Canada.
There's a consensus among scientists that the collapse of a kilometres-high glacial dam at the end of the last ice age caused a massive outflow of meltwater into the Arctic or North Atlantic Ocean near Hudson Bay, generating a sharp rise in sea levels around the world and profoundly altering the Earth's climate.
Some scientists have even speculated that ancient myths about great floods — culminating in the biblical story of Noah's Ark — were inspired by the worldwide deluge.
But the new theory, advanced in the latest issue of the journal Current Anthropology by University of Birmingham archeologist Jeffrey Rose, offers the clearest picture yet of what may have been lost at the Middle East nexus of human civilization when Canada's super-sized Lake Agassiz — a remnant of which is today's Lake Winnipeg — suddenly burst its banks 8,000 years ago.
The resulting rise of the Indian Ocean flooded a Great Britain-sized expanse of the Arabian Peninsula that had previously been above water and was almost certainly inhabited by ancient peoples for as long as 100 millennia, Rose stated.
The rising water created the present-day Persian Gulf and drowned shorelines around the peninsula, along the northeast coast of Africa and elsewhere around the world.