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[revelation -list] Re: Mark of the Beast?

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  • Keith Dyer
    I think the backgrounding given by David and Jon is essential to locate our interpretations within the most appropriate context -- a hedge around our
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2002
      I think the backgrounding given by David and Jon is essential to locate our
      interpretations within the most appropriate context -- a 'hedge' around our
      hermeneutics that rules out the most wayward interpretations. But I also
      think that oral cultures (where the vast majority can't read the text)
      prefer a 'stubborn particularity' when interpreting symbolic language -- a
      concrete solution (Ong) that embodies the reference in the text (without, of
      course, exhausting its meaning for later interpretations, though providing a
      further limitation on them).

      There are a number of specific solutions that are partly attractive --
      Bruins' suggestion of the abacus of the market overseer with its Roman
      numerals at the top of each column (D plus C plus L plus X plus V plus I
      equals, you guessed it!); the usual interpretations that Caesar Nero(n),
      transliterated into Hebrew (a not uncommon thing for even Caesars to do, by
      the way, as Hebrew was an attractively mysterious alphabet to play around
      with), equals 666 (and the major variant 616 without the final 'n' -- both
      transliterations are attested archaeologically); or the Greek word THERION
      in Hebrew equalling 666.

      But I think the best suggestion that meets the criteria of Rev 13:16-18 and
      the allusions to Deut (Jon's point) and the 'colonial culture' of the day
      (David's descriptions) understands CHARAGMA to refer to the image/imprint
      and inscriptions on Imperial coinage (Balz, EDNT, protests too strongly
      against this possibility, and Acts 17:29 demonstrates that 'mark/brand' is
      not the only way to understand this term -- if anything, 'imprint' would be
      the more normal usage, and STIGMA used for mark/brand/scar). So:

      1. The coins bear the idolatrous graven image of the Caesar, always a
      problem for good 'Jewish Christians' like John -- and they are the prime
      means for Imperial propaganda in the Roman Empire.

      2. Coinage is carried and exchanged in the market place in the right hand
      (not the left 'toilet' hand), and also on the forehead by women (I think --
      isn't the practice of the chain of coins/dowry? around a woman's head an
      Eastern Mediterranean one? Doesn't this provide another 'demonic parallel'
      in John's symbolic world to the phylacteries of Deut?). Thus, no-one can buy
      or sell (Rev 13:17) unless they bear the imprint/image of the Caesar.

      3. There are coin inscriptions which total 666 (apart from the Caesar Neron
      possibilities) -- a calculation not beyond the capabilities of illiterate
      people in oral cultures (even in another alphabet!). This is because the
      alphabets (Greek, Hebrew and Latin, partly) are also the only number
      systems, and numeracy is a more common skill than literacy. W. G. Baines
      cites Vespasian's victory coins of 72CE with the inscription CAES VESP AUG P
      M COS III, which again, transliterated into Hebrew and read as numbers
      equals 666.

      These calculations seem improbable and bizarre to some -- but my hobby of
      collecting such interpretations throughout history convinces me that they
      are precisely the sort of thing that ordinary (and especially non-word-
      reading) people do and have always done.

      Sorry for the lengthy post -- but I could give you a lot more!! (Including
      references, if anyone wants them). My favourite interpretation comes from
      England at the time of the first smallpox inoculations (which were derived
      from cowpox). Cowpox transliterated into Greek (KOUPOKS) adds to 666 -- so
      watch out for all those who bear a mark on their upper right arm . . .

      Keith Dyer
      Prof. NT, Whitley College
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