616

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People are saying some strange things about the discovery of an early Revelation manuscript that has 616 as the" number of man" or "number of a man" in Rev 13:18, strange enough to make me look around at the NT blogs for more info on the find, and they've confirmed my suspicions. Here are the facts: We've known for a long time that some manuscripts of Revelation have 616 instead of 666. There are multiple explanations of why this would have come about, more than one of them fairly plausible, but I'm not going to bother with that now, mostly because I'm on campus and don't have my Revelation commentaries with me. Suffice it to say that this is a late development in the manuscript tradition, and there's no reason to think 616 was original.

All that's new is that this find is a manuscript that's older than the other ones we know of that have 616. It's a good deal older than the ones we knew about, but it's not at all the oldest manuscript we know of for the book, and there's no reason to think as a result of this that it's the most likely reading. The number 666 is overwhelmingly represented in multiple text traditions, in the earliest manuscripts, and just plain overall as the dominant reading. See Ralph the Sacred River for a nice summary of the important points. [Hat tip: NT Gateway Weblog] Some of the reports going around on this are treating it as if the 666 texts have been disproved. Hardly. This isn't that significant a discovery for the study of copyist errors in text criticism, for which it's a very interesting find. It hasn't affected what scholars think the original manuscript said.

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Good points. Irenaeus was also aware of the 616 reading during his lifetime but he rejected it.

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