God Math

Okay, I’m three years out of date… no, not because Christ was most likely born in 5 BC, I just missed the announcement in 2005 that Oxford scholars had confirmed that papyri found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt included the earliest copy of Revelations (by about a century), declaring the Number of the Beast to be… 616.

Oxyrhynchus fragment

Apparently Biblical scholars had been aware of this possibility for some time, but it was news to me – I only found out because of a casual mention in one of the essays in Christopher Hitchens’ collection “The Portable Atheist“. (Good collection, by the way, despite an uncomfortable small typeface.)

Yeah, sure, the evil number that makes Christian cashiers look nervous when the price comes out 34 cents short of seven dollars could still be correct, and no doubt most Christians will stick by it – evidence is not their strong suit at the best of times.

I find the probability that it isn’t hilarious, though! I picture all these millenarian scholars frantically numerologizing some wacko politician’s name, but coming up 50 short every time. “Damn, I guess he’s not the Antichrist after all…” Whoops, apocalypse!

I guess it’s all of a piece with the notion of a single god who’s simultaneously three.. or whatever.

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~ by B.T. Murtagh on April 15, 2008.

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