Joel Richardson Responds

Joel Richardson (author of Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah) has responded to my post concerning the Book of Revelation and the Codex Vaticanus, and once again it’s a gift.

To recap: Richardson’s associate Walid Shoebat had given a presentation in which he had claimed that the letters in Revelation 13:18 which are taken to be the Greek for “666” are in fact Arabic for “In the Name of Allah”, revealed to the author of Revelation in visual form by God in the First Century and misunderstood as Greek by later Christians. Shoebat claimed that he drew this conclusion after viewing the ancient Codex Vaticanus. I noted various shortcomings to this bizarre thesis, including the observation that the Codex Vaticanus does not contain the Book of Revelation. Richardson then wrote to me insisting that the Codex does indeed contain Revelation, showing me an 1868 facsimile edition of the text to prove it. He suggested I was in error because I had allegedly got my information from Wikipedia, and perhaps had been drinking beer before writing. Alas for Richardson, I pointed out that Revelation was tacked onto the end of the Codex in Italy in the Fifteenth Century, and was in no way a part of the ancient manuscript itself. Further, the 1868 edition does not include this fifteenth-century supplement, and instead provides a typeset version. I also pointed him to some scholarly resources.

Richardson’s response to all this is amusing. He argues I am still “in error” for some reason, and that I “look bad”; and further that I

tried to overplay a largely irrelevant oversight on Walid’s image sourcing (it is irrelevant it his larger point because the image he used is precisely like the Textus Receptus and the Byzantine Majority text or any other ancient Greek Mss)

But Shoebat’s whole argument was that by looking at an ancient manuscript he realised that Greek letters were not intended, whereas Greek letters certainly were intended in the “Byzantine Majority Text”. And besides, it seems that Shoebat did not apparently look at any “ancient Greek Mss” anyway! It seems that the way to admit to being wrong in the circles in which Richardson moves is simply to declare the issue to be “irrelevant” and to change the whole terms of the argument. Hence Richardson points me to a new site he has made, in which he uses the letters from the 1868 edition (which, by the way, he elongates and misleadingly labels as part of the Codex) as the basis for his comparison with the Arabic.

Richardson continues by demanding to know why

…do I not see you publicly renouncing the doctrine of death for Apostasy that is practiced throughout the Islamic world and endorsed by Orthodox Muslims?

As it happens, I have written plenty on Islamism and its unhappy consequences, but what that has to do with the issue at hand is unclear to me. Presumably the argument is that prioritizing truth and reason over hating Islam is morally deficient in some way, and that therefore my counter-arguments to the Arabic “666” can be discounted.

For easy reference, here are the relevant pictures:

(1) The oldest fragment of Revelation 13:18 we have, from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (“616” rather than “666”, so the middle figure is different):

(2) The phrase as it appears in the Fiftheenth Century supplement to the Codex Vaticanus* (the “A.D. 350” designation is incorrect for this part of the text):

(3) The text as it appears in the 1868 typeset edition:

(4) The 1868 text as elongated by Richardson:

(5) The 1868 text as reproduced in Shoebat’s presentation:

Salem Kirban looks like a serious scholar in comparison.

*Thanks to a reader for confirming the provenance of this – I had originally doubted the designation.

15 Responses

  1. As my Australian friends says: “good on ya, Richard.”

    Woebat is as phony as an eleven dollar bill. His story about his terrorist past is concocted from half truths and gullible American proclivities; his theological credentials are built on similar gullibilities (the fact that most people in his audiences don’t know enough biblical history or theology to challenge his nonsensical exegesis). The truth is he is a Palestinian who came to America seeking fame and fortune, who met a fundamentalist girl, married her and adopted her Christian Zionist theology, and then discovered that instead of getting a real job he could make a lot of money pretending to be a “former Muslim terrorist.” And now he is trying to sell himself as a biblical scholar.

    What is that W.C. Fields said? “A sucker is born every minute.” Unfortunately there are enough of them around to help Mr. Shoebat make a good living . . .

    • Seems there is a lot of gullibility down under or flat out ignorance and make believe.
      Nice accusations – a flat out wonderful display of style without substance.
      Would you like me to make up a story;

      John Hubers a self proclaimed informed theologian came forward with a story about himself living in Australia.
      Fact has it that he lives in Brooklyn NY and managed to escape his padded cell and obtained use of a PC. Then fired off a short message to some fella named Richard B.
      Though Mr. Hubers is not a physical threat he does have a tendency, if left standing in one place, to wear a hole in the carpet or linoleum with his incessant spinning on one foot.

      His origin is unknown but is thought to have washed up on the Jersey coast holding onto a very small and very worn wool blanket with the initials BCT embroidered on it.

      If you are ever in Brooklyn look him up – he tells the most fabulous stories.

      Bellview Hospital
      Sandhill Dr.
      Brooklyn NY
      Suite 666

  2. […] I last encountered Richardson – co-author of Why We Left Islam – here. […]

  3. Your proclaimation of an “elongation” is a stretch. If anything, Richardson’s example of the 1868 text looks slightly squished, not stretched. Eitherway, a comparison between the two copies you’ve provided look nearly identical, thus an argument for distortion doesn’t do anything to aid your argument.

    Lastly, whether or not the word was in the original vaticanus or not doesn’t negate the overarching fact that Revelation is canon and we have early copies of it, which you admit. Furthermore, it’s still easy to see a comparison of the arabic with the greek can give a plausible argument for Shobat and Richardson. Compound that with their book which deals moreso with the Old Testament then Revelation, and your argument is a nitpick, making you just as guilty of obfuscation as Richardson, bent on your own biases.

    The accepted eschatological paradigm in Christianity has been a Roman view for quite some time. Why would Richardson and especially Shoebat willingly engage in an effort to “make money” as Mr. Hubers asserts, knowing that making such claims would bring potential death on their heads? Richardson acknowledges that he has received death threats from Muslims, thus he uses a psuedonym to protect himself and his family.

    So Richardson is wrong on a particular, tangental issue. No one is perfect, and to be sure it’s a problem that even many Christians have, refusing to believe that they may be incorrect on certain points. The issue about 666 and Vaticanus is miniscule, specifically since we have Revelation in our Bibles, thus from other early texts and manuscripts wherein 666 was found. Thus Richardson’s basic premise and postulation still stands, even if he made a source mistake.

    You on the otherhand come off looking not so good.

  4. You on the otherhand come off looking not so good.
    I suppose careful deconstruction of hysterical and nonsensical claims doesn’t “look good” in some circles.
    Compound that with their book which deals moreso with the Old Testament then Revelation,
    I’m referring specifically to the argument which Shoebat gave in his presentation. The OT, by the way, is equally irrelevant to understanding Islam and events in the modern world.
    bent on your own biases.
    My “bias” is that an ancient text ought to be scrutinised according to a sensible historical method. So what?

  5. […] kind, with an attack on Shoebat and on Shoebat’s associates Joel Richardson (whom I blogged here) and Keith Davies (whom I blogged here). Altaf tells us that Shoebat’s real name is […]

  6. I wanted to know where the picture in your second point came from. The one with “Codex Vaticanus – AD 350” typed on it. The one you said “The Codex Vaticanus designation is erroneous”. I ended up purchasing a facsimile of Revelations from the Codex Vaticanus from for $4. It is not as good of a quality image as yours, and I am not a greek scholar, but they look the same to me. I would say the image is taken from the Codex Vaticanus, just not the 1868 typeset version mentioned here

  7. I’d be interested to see that, although even if it’s the same MS, it’s still a much later 15th century add-on to the ancient document. Also, it seemed to me weird it would be on display “under glass” at Bob Jones University. Picture came from here.

  8. I have studied and researched this 666 thing. What Mr Shoebat has wrote down fits Arabic PERFECTLY. The 666 is just a myth that arose sometime between the 15th and 18th centuries. And God would not use witchcraft.
    Now being that the 350AD writing is available for you to read. Please explain how John ‘The Devine’ came to write a name ( perfectly ) that did not exist for another 560+ years?
    Please do not tell me it was al-ilah. Not even close.
    And please explain why the Muslims wear a MARK of Allah , Islam and Mohammad on their foreheads and right arms. Please do not say right hand – Dexios ( if I spelled it right ) means the whole right arm. Also, why is every nation brought into the Valley of Judgment Muslim? When only 25 years ago Lebanon was a Christian Nation.

  9. And God would not use witchcraft.

    The issue is not that “God would not use witchcraft”. The issue is whether the author of Revelation would use code. And he does, as the text clearly indicates: “If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number”.

    And please explain why the Muslims wear a MARK of Allah , Islam and Mohammad on their foreheads and right arms.

    That’s hardly a widespread Islamic practice. The author of Revelation was perhaps imagining a Satanic parody of Jewish ritual practice.

    Now being that the 350AD writing is available for you to read.

    As I explain above: (a) it’s not from 350AD – it’s from a much later supplement; (b) it doesn’t fit very well, and Shoebat’s illustration even less so; (c) we don’t have anything in the author’s own hand, and there is no Christian tradition which sees the text as mysterious symbols rather than as a number. Irenaeus in the Second Century read it as a number; your claim that “666 is just a myth that arose sometime between the 15th and 18th centuries” is completely unsupported. Have a look at this book.

    If you want to understand Revelation, you need to look at the historical and social context of the text, as well as the Jewish apocalpytic genre which inspired it. Searching for meaning in eras and locations long after the author’s death is not a sensible procedure – whenever Christians do this, they read what they want to see into the text. Thus a Protestant who hates Catholics will find the Pope; those who worry about Islam will find Muslims. I see the latest tweak is that the anti-Christ will be gay.

  10. Revelation was not written for the 1st century. I was written for a time in the future. As Jesus said. Only The Father knows the day and the hour.
    Current events in the 1st century do not apply.

    It is a number of men. Danial tells us that the beast is a multitude. Plural not singular.

    ‘Was perhaps imagining’? Perhaps he saw what Mr Shoebat says is written. Perhaps you are imagining.

    Not a common practice – how many do you need for it to be common? Do thousand count as uncommon?

    How much later? 10 years? 200 years? Sure as heck not 1861 – Bibles were being printed on a press since 1450.
    What years was it Hand written? You just can’t through out ‘a much later supplemen’. That is worst than baseless. What year was it written? Where is the supplemental evidence it was written later than 350 AD?
    With this sword fighting aside. What religion, today, rules in ALL the countries God says he will Judge and Destroy?

    Unsupported? How do you know? Have you seen my research?

    Since they are ALL Muslim, today, if God judged today Walid would be right.

    What is the wine? What are the 7 mountains? What were Christians made for?

    There are things called clues. Perhaps if you followed them…….

  11. Have you seen my research?

    Unless you tell me who you are I can’t answer that one.

  12. Interesting reply, but it would improve your own credibility to produce Joel’s entire reply (if you have and I’ve missed it, my apologies). Do you have a link to what you think the passage means? I agree it wasn’t written for the 1st century (except John’s own ltd 1st century context to explain what he saw).So, curious to read how you interpret this.

  13. I found the response, apologies. I must say though, context is everything.

  14. As Richard says: some of the symbols “fits Arabic PERFECTLY” – in the minuscule texts. But you have to rotate and flip the Arabic symbols to get them in the same posisions as in the greek text. And that COULD account for the “figuring-out” part John points to. It doesn’t have to be about crunching numbers.

    BUT: If this shoud be “what John saw” (as Shoebat poits out): Shoud we not be able to find the same symbols in the some of the early majuscule manuscripts? – as Bartholomew points out. For example in the Codex Sinaiticus, which Shoebat referes to.

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