The Mark of the Beast, also called the “number of a man,” is a hypothetical mark espoused by followers of the Second Beast – the Beast of the Sea, aka Leviathan – in the end-times as described by Revelation.
“And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.”
– Revelations 15:2 (KJV)
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
And he had the power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
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.
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 hundred threescore and six.”
– Revelations 13:11-18 (KJV)
The references made in Revelation to the “deadly wound” of the beast are intended to invoke in the Jewish reader’s mind passages from the Old Testament referring to God slaying Leviathan.
“In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
– Isaiah 27:1 (KJV)
“There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.”
– Psalm 104:26-29 (KJV)
A later passage in Revelations associates Leviathan with Satan:
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.”
– Revelations 20:1-3, KJV
In Greek manuscripts, the number is written as χ ξ ϛ, ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ, hexakósioi hexēkonta héx, “six hundred and sixty-six.” Thus, the number of the beast is typically interpreted as 666. However, in early versions of the New Testament written on manuscripts dated to 225-275 AD (in the case of Papyrus 115), the number is translated instead as 616.
It is generally understood by Biblical scholars that the number 666 refers to Emperor Nero, whose name translated from Greek to Hebrew has a numeric value of 666. An Aramaic scroll dated to “the second year of Emperor Nero” refers to him by his name and title; in Hebrew it is Nron Qsr (pronounced “Nerōn Kaisar”), and in Latin it is Nro Qsr (pronounced “Nerō Kaisar”).
Regardless, end-times thinkers have applied these passages from Revelation to many people and forms of identification throughout history in an attempt to validate their belief in the iminent apocalypse.