*Text has been amended (June 2009) following input from a reader. The “Very Old Text (Rev. 13:18) in glass display” fragment is from the supplement to the Codex Vaticanus; I had originally doubted this.
When Joe Lieberman gives credibility to the upcoming Christians United for Israel with his attendance, he won’t just be lending his reputation to conspiracy-monger John Hagee. Also on the CUFI line-up is Walid Shoebat, the self-proclaimed former Palestinian Muslim terrorist-turned Christian evangelist. Various sources have challenged Shoebat’s account of his former terrorism, with the Jerusalem Post in particular raising questions about his story that so far have not been answered.
Shoebat also fancies himself as a bit of a Biblical scholar and palaeographer, and in a video clip that I have just been made aware of he expounds his theory that the “number of the Beast” mentioned in the Book of Revelation is in fact a reference to…Allah.
The argument is that the author of Revelation was shown the Mark of the Beast in “video” form from God – obviously following Hal Lindsey’s idea that the visions in Revelation, rather than being symbolic, in fact are John’s interpretations of images from the future he couldn’t understand (“locusts” being helicopters, and so on). With the Mark of the Beast, John saw some strange squiggles, which he incorporated into the text. For centuries, readers thought these squiggles were the Greek letters for either “666″ or “616″, but finally Shoebat has cracked the mystery: the squiggles are in fact Arabic, and they spell out “In the Name of Allah”!
Apparently Shoebat has been promoting this “theory” for a few years, and it appears in an obscure book by a certain Simon Altaf, entitled Islam: Peace? or Beast? (Altaf and Shoebat collaborated on an equally obscure book, entitled This is our Eden, This is our End.) Some details are here (and more at sites such as this one), including the supposed evidence, from the Codex Vaticanus:
One website adds the unpromising caption:
Very Old Text (Rev. 13:18) in glass display at Bob Jones University Library – Greenville, S.C.
One small problem however, is that the Codex Vaticanus does not include the Book of Revelation. The above is from a much later supplement, and the Greek is in a “miniscule” script which came in only centuries later. Irenaeus in the Second Century discusses the text as consisting of the number “666″, and there are no fragments of Revelation which predate this source: therefore any ancient copies we have must have been written by scribes who certainly intended to write Greek characters.
Shoebat, meanwhile, prefers to give his credulous audiences his own version of what he says he saw in the Codex Vaticanus, which allows him to elaborate further:
It’s worth comparing that with the earliest fragment of the text we have, identified in 2005 from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri:
This follows the “616″ variant reading, and so does not include the Greek character which Shoebat finds the most suggestive.
[UPDATE: The Codex Sinaiticus, which Shoebat also assures his audience he has seen, spells out the number in letters:
That's "six hundred and sixty-six".]
One obvious question is how this strange twist on 666 fits with the wider context of the text, which speaks of a “number of a man” which will be known to he who “has understanding” (most scholars take it to be a reference to the Emperor Nero). Shoebat claims that it can’t be a numerological code, because that would be “Gematria”, which God has nothing to do with. I’ve always found it interesting that fundamentalist Christian Zionists, while appropriating all kinds of things from Judaism, have a horror of Jewish mysticism, which is seen as occultic.
UPDATE: More on Shoebat and Altaf here.
UPDATE 2: Joel Richardson digs the hole deeper.
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