By Steve A. Hamilton
“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev. 13:18).
Much ado has been made about the number 666 from the above passage out of Revelation 13:18. It is not our intent to disprove all the various theories as to the meaning of the number and hence the name that represents the beast. Rather, we will simply offer a solution that makes perfect sense.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the stated fact that the number represents the beast. The beast is the Roman Empire. The man’s name would not be an emperor as that would not reflect the Roman Empire unless the man’s name was the very embodiment of the empire. It would be difficult to pick one emperor that would be the designation for an empire that lasted over 450 years.
Hippolytus (170 A.D. to 236 A.D.), a second century Christian who died a martyr, provides an answer that fulfills the requirement for a man’s name that reflects the Roman Empire. Though Hippolytus cautions against any declaration of certainty on this matter, his insight is certainly worth the consideration.
“With respect to his name, it is not in our power to explain it exactly, as the blessed John understood it and was instructed about it, but only to give a conjectural account of it; for when he appears, the blessed one will show us what we seek to know. Yet as far as our doubtful apprehension of the matter goes, we may speak. Many names indeed we find, the letters of which are the equivalent of this number: such as, for instance, the word Titan, an ancient and notable name; or Evanthas, for it too makes up the same number; and many others which might be found. But, as we have already said, the wound of the first beast was healed, and he (the second beast) was to make the image speak, that is to say, he should be powerful; and it is manifest to all that those who at present still hold the power are Latins. If, then, we take the name as the name of a single man, it becomes Latinus. Wherefore we ought neither to give it out as if this were certainly his name, nor again ignore the fact that he may not be otherwise designated.” [Hippolytus, “Treatise on Christ and Antichrist,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, Vol. 5, Pg. 215. ]
It appears that Hippolytus was well versed with Irenaeus’ writings on this subject. Irenaeus (30 A.D. to 107 A.D.) was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus says much the same things concerning Revelation 13:18 in his writings. He also cautions against supposing with certainty the identity of the name. Yet, Irenaeus connects the fourth beast in the book of Daniel to the name Latinus. The fourth beast being the Roman Empire.
“Then also Lateinos has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence].” [Irenaeus, “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, Vol. 1, Pg. 559. ]
According to Irenaeus, Lateinos is a most probable name of a man whose name calculates to 666 while at the same time refers to the Roman Empire. This name calculates to 666 using both the Greek and Roman isopsephia. Many names can calculate to 666 using but one lingual method. Very few names have succeeded using two different languages. Greek and Latin were the common languages spoken at the time John wrote the book of Revelation. It did not matter which language a reader at the time might have used to calculate the name. Both languages lead to the same answer. Though Irenaeus admits John never revealed the name if he even knew it, just the fact that dual lingual methods calculate to the same number provides confidence that the number 666 refers to Lateinos.