Translating “666″

Well, it’s June 6, 2006. The rest of the world is running around trying to calculate the number of the beast, but I want to ask a different question.

How do you translate this number into a language spoken by folks who use only the digits “one” and “two,” or perhaps just “one” and then an expression for “many?”

11 Replies to “Translating “666″”

  1. I believe the translation would be “incomplete”, as the 666 is used in reference to the Hebrew holy numeral 7, if my understanding of the numerology is correct. An interesting correlation of the adversary with the doctrine of eternal progression.

    Mogget says: This was really written by “Doc.” Yes, I’m fiddling, innocently I hope, with the names attached to the comments. Hope no one minds.

  2. This may not be exactly what you have in mind, but: a language that uses only the digits 1 and 2 is mathematically isomorphic to a binary arithmetic. In binary, 666 is rendered as 1010011010.

    A mathematically sophisticated speaker of the 1/many language would likely take the same approach: assign one of those two numbers as the “1” and the other as the “0”. Once that assignment process has taken place, all decimal numbers can be rendered. 666, for example, might be many-1-many-1-1-many-many-1-many-1.

    My favorite number system, though, is the trolls’ system from Discworld: 1, 2, 3, many, lots.

    Mogget says: This is Roasted Tomatoes.

  3. Seems to me that there was a big stir a couple months back about how the number 666 was a mistranslation and the the real number was 657 or something like that. I haven’t heard much about that today…people must not want to pop the satanic balloon.

    Mogget says: This was posted by J. Stapley.

  4. J Stapley- the other number is 616. Both numbers are correct. In gematria, 666 spells Caesar Neron and 616 spells Caesar Nero.

    Mogget says: This was posted by Taylor.

  5. I once heard reference to a culture with such a supposedly primitive number system, but apparently the reports proved to be an anthropological hoax.

    To me it is difficult to imagine a human culture at any stage of development that has not discovered the imperative of counting.

    BTW, when I studied plant science, it was common for taxonomic and morphological categorization to make use of just such a counting system. Not because plant scientists cannot count large numbers of things, but because the large numbers were superfluous for purposes of disambiguating the specific character of certain plant groups. Thus, counting three-to-five petals or sepals was useful, while 50-100 was never worth noting, and would typically be designated as “many”.

  6. 666 may be the “Number of the Beast”, but 659.99 is the WalMart price of the Beast (with warranty and replacement soul).

    Oh, and 668 is the next door neighbor of the beast.

    Mogget says: This was posted by Kristian. Same number as Taylor. Coincidence…?

  7. OK I’m sure that you’re all soon to get this email, but just in case…and you can blame Kristian for reminding me of it 😉

    666 Biblical Number of the Beast
    660 Approximate Number of the Beast
    DCLXVI Roman Numeral of the Beast
    665 Number of the Beast’s Older Brother
    667 Number of the Beast’s Younger Sister
    668 Number of the Beast’s Neighbor
    999 Number of the Australian Beast
    333 Number of the Semi-Beast
    66 Number of the Downsized Beast
    6, uh… I forget Number of the Blond Beast
    666.0000 Number of the High Precision Beast
    665.9997856 Number of the Beast on a Pentium
    0.666 Number of the Millibeast
    X / 666 Beast Common Denominator
    0.00150150… Reciprocal of the Beast
    -666 Opposite of the Beast
    666i Imaginary Number of the Beast
    6.66 x 102 Scientific Notation of the Beast
    25.8069758… Square Root of the Beast
    443556 Square of the Beast
    1010011010 Binary Number of the Beast
    1232 Octal of the Beast
    29A Hexidecimal of the Beast
    2.8235 Log of the Beast
    6.5913 Ln of the Beast
    1.738 x 10289 Anti-Log of the Beast
    00666 Zip Code of the Beast E-mail Address of the Beast Website of the Beast
    1-666-666-6666 Phone & FAX Number of the Beast
    1-888-666-6666 Toll Free Number of the Beast
    1-900-666-6666 Live Beasts, available now! One-on-one pacts! Only $6.66 per minute! [Must be over 18!]
    666-66-6666 Social Security Number of the Beast
    Form 10666 Special IRS Tax Forms for the Beast
    66.6% Tax Rate of the Beast
    6.66% 6-Year CD Interest Rate at First Beast Bank of Hell ($666
    minimum deposit, $666 early withdrawal fee)
    $666/hr Billing Rate of the Beast’s Lawyer
    $665.95 Retail Price of the Beast
    $710.36 Price of the Beast plus 6.66% Sales Tax
    $769.95 Price of the Beast with accessories and replacement soul
    $656.66 Wal-Mart Price of the Beast (next week $646.66!)
    $55.50 Monthly Payments for Beast, in 12 easy installments
    Phillips 666 Gasoline Used by the Beast (regular $6.66/gal)
    Route 666 Highway of the Beast (where he gets his kicks!)
    666 mph Speed Limit on the Beast’s Highway
    6-6-6 Fertilizer of the Beast
    666 lb cap Weight Limit of the Beast
    666 Minutes Weekly News Show about the Beast (airs daily from Midnight to 11:06 a.m., on Cable Channel 666, of course)
    666o F Oven Temperature for Cooking “Roast Beast”
    666k Retirement Plan of the Beast
    666 mg Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast
    Lotus 6-6-6 Spreadsheet of the Beast
    Word 6.66 Word Processor of the Beast
    Windows 666 Bill Gates’ Personal Beast Operating System
    #666666 Font Color of the Beast (gray)
    i66686 CPU of the Beast
    666-I BMW of the Beast
    IAM 666 License Plate Number of the Beast
    Formula 666 All Purpose Cleaner of the Beast
    WD-666 Spray Lubricant of the Beast
    DSM-666 (rev) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the Beast
    66.6 MHz FM Radio Station of the Beast
    666 KHz AM Radio Station of the Beast
    66 for 6 A Beastly Score for an Innings (in cricket)
    6 for 66 Bowling Figures of the Beast
    6/6/6 Birthday of the Beast

  8. Yea, Discworld! I oughta post on the theology of Discworld. Anyway, I have a young friend who counts 1, 2, many, lots, 16. Since I introduced his Daddy to Discworld about six years ago, I’m thinking there’s a connection.

    I’ve heard that it’s very hard to translate Revelation with its damning critique of a world empire into the language of a society that’s limited by the natural horizon. And simple ideas like “ocean” are hard to convey to landlocked folks. But pure numbers like 666 seem to be the worst.

    Binary arithmetic produces a number, but does it produce a meaningful number? Gematria? The triangular number thing? And if we opt for the argument from repetition, then we lose the number and end up overtly interpreting rather than translating with the word “incomplete.”

    I’m not knockin’ anybody’s answer, though, cause I don’t have one either. I’m guessing, though I’ve not tracked an example down, that this verse has the mother of all translation notes attached to it when it goes into these languages.

    the other number is 616

    It’s found in C Tyconius and some miniscules (Greek in small letters not caps) identified by Tischendorf. I think the thing about it this time is that another miniscule found at Oxyrhynchus is the oldest mss of Revelation and it reads “616.” Also David Aune cites a Aramaic document that uses the required transliteration of “Ceasar” and Richard Bauckham has found other evidence of gematria with transliterated Hebrew.

    Anyway. It’s a fun day.

  9. Love the list. BTW, 7 is considered the nuber of completeness because of the 7 creative periods. The 7th reaching perfection and so God rested. I learned somewhere, and I apologize for not having any reference. That repeating 6 over and over again is the mark of never being able to reach perfection, being “damned” if you will. The other numbers are much more entertaining however. 🙂

  10. Jim,

    My apologies for not checking the moderation cue sooner. It usually doesn’t catch anyone–you’re only the third instance of a false negative.

    I appreciate the idea that this scenario could be unlikely. I will have a look around and try to find an actual example among the Bible translation teams.

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