A brief etymology of the Number of the Beast

The British music magazine Kerrang! shared a fun piece over the holiday looking at the history and etymology of that most Metal of numbers: 666. While the novelty of it is clearly sparked by heavy metal bands with a Satan-loving schtick, writer Mike Rampton actually does some pretty interesting work digging into historical attempts to translate and interpret the ol' Number of the Beast:

Theologians increasingly believe that the actual number of the beast given in the earliest surviving versions of The Bible is in fact 616, and over the years it was changed due to a) repetition being cool; (b) repetition being cool; and c) the number 888 being associated with Jesus and the all-six version following suit because of d) repetition being cool. You can even get 616 from Nero, if you spell his name in the Latin way rather than the Greek one…

There's even some meaty parts for you math-obsessed types who are really into the poetry of numerology:

For a start, it is a triangular number, meaning it can be made by adding successive numbers together – all the numbers from 1 to 36 added together makes 666. On a big enough snooker table, you could rack them up. It's actually a doubly triangular number, as 36 in itself is a triangular number. Additionally, 666 can be made by adding two square numbers together (21 squared is 441, 15 squared is 225). Actually, more impressive than that, the squares of the first seven prime numbers add up to 666. The Roman numeral for 666 is DCLXVI – one of each number up to 500, in reverse order. It's also, you know, the same digit three times in a row, which is just kind of fun. Repetition is cool.

Repetition is cool, which is why I repeat: Hail Satan!

Why are we so fascinated by the number 666? [Mike Rampton / Kerrang!]

Image: Michael Mayer / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)