Walid Shoebat, the author of God’s War on Terror, grew up speaking and reading Arabic, so he believed he saw something in the Greek text that most of us could never see, which is that the Greek letters chi xi sigma, which signify 600 60 and 6, look very much like the Arabic word, Bismillah that means, “in the name of Allah,” along with crossed swords, which is found in many Islamic emblems and flags. He believes that John actually saw the Islamic word and the crossed swords and tried to copy it; so what we see as being 666 in the Greek is not that at all. However, there is plenty of evidence that this theory is very wrong.
Shoebat says the top half of the image is what John saw, and that John actually wrote down something like the bottom part. He says that scribes thought he had written the number 666 as seen in the Codex Vaticanus, seen here:
This new theory has taken off on many websites and youtube.com; even well-known Bible teacher Chuck Missler has taught it, but it is not accurate for several reasons. First, notice that the scribes would have had to turn the middle squiggle 90 degrees and move the line from beside it to above it. And then also turn the middle letter. That is major editing, not merely writing letters that resembled what John wrote.
Since the early Bibles were handwritten, it is probable that only a few copies of the Bible would resemble Bismillah and crossed swords. If Shoebat were to have seen a different manuscript, he would not have seen anything that looked like Bismillah.
Notice the letters above the white line. They don’t look very much like crossed swords and Bismillah. Look at the bottom line, there is another X and E with a line after it; is that another failed attempt to write Bismillah?
Shoebat references the Vaticanus codex found in the Vatican library, but it was not complete and was pieced together. The book of Revelation was missing, so they added a much later copy of Revelation to make a complete Bible. So Revelation in Vaticanus was not so ancient, but later. Another codex, the Sinaiticus, has 666 written out in words and in capital letters, which do not in any way resemble Bismillah or crossed swords! It was a very common practice to write the Bible in all capital letters.
Also, the number 666 could have been written out in words. Which was in the original text that John wrote? Was it 666, or the words six hundred, sixty, six? We will not know this before the return of Christ, but it makes no difference insofar as this issue is concerned.
However, a piece of evidence does exist that points to the words being written out originally. Notice the line above the letters in the Chester Beatty Papyri above. That line above the text is not part of the numbers, it is a scribal mark that means that the numbers below it are an abbreviation. I do not believe that John would have put that mark there if he wrote numbers originally. To me, this means that the number was originally written out in words, six hundred sixty and six. Then a later scribe changed it to numbers and put the “abbreviated” mark above it. You don’t put the “abbreviated” mark above something that was not changed by a scribe.
But more importantly, the text actually says it is a number. The word “number” appears four times in the last two verses, “for it is man’s number. His number is ___” So John was not trying to write something other than a number. Everything John wrote down, he either saw in a vision, or is what an angel told him during the visions; he did not write down impressions or assumptions that a scribe mistook for a number, and he says it is a number!
But even if he wrote the number, perhaps God intended it to point to Bismillah? No, that is not possible because the verse says it is a number. It also says that we should “count” the number of the beast. How can you count up or calculate something that is not a number?
This inaccurate interpretation includes much twisting of the meaning of the original Greek text in order to smooth out the conflicts. Shoebat and his followers are doing this in an attempt to make the passage make sense with Bismillah. So they have contrived alternate meanings for “count” and “number” and end up making the verse say something very different.
They claim an alternate meaning for “number” (arithmos) (706), is “multitude,” and they use “determine” instead of “count,” so they come up with this; “let him that hath understanding determine the multitude of men belonging to the beast: for it is a multitude of men; and his multitude is (crossed swords, Bismillah).”
They are using the word “multitude” incorrectly, as though it were not connected to arithmos. Using “multitude” this way is dead wrong. Here is what Thayer’s Greek dictionary says about arithmos:
1) a fixed and definite number 2) an indefinite number, a multitude
The word “multitude” as used in the above definition refers to a large number, not a specific group of anything, certainly not a group of people. The way Shoebat and his followers are using it, it refers to a group, the group being the Muslims.
The word “multitude” from the Greek arithmos can be used only if its use retains the original meaning. As in, “he has a multitude of problems.” Notice that the sentence could have been worded this way; “he has a large number of problems.” So it retains the meaning connected to “number.” But as it is being used by Shoebat, it has a totally different meaning which is not in any way even inferred or suggested by its meaning; therefore, this is engaging in the worst kind of twisting, it is rewriting the text!
The Complete Word Study Dictionary, by Spiros Zodhiates, is a thick Greek dictionary that often has several definitions for a word, but it gives only one meaning for arithmos, NUMBER.
If John wanted to convey the meaning of a “multitude” of people, as in a group or company of people, he would have used (plethos) (4128) or “ochlos” (3793). How do I know this? Because Revelation actually contains the word “multitude” and in the Greek it is “ochlos.” It appears three times 7:9; 17:15, & 19:6: “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude . . .” CWD says:
A crowd, throng, confused multitude. . . . With polloi . . . Much, great, many crowds . . . Specifically used for the common people, the rabble . . . Generally a multitude, a great number.
Therefore, if John had intended to mean “multitude” he would have used the word that actually does mean “multitude.”
You may notice that the Greek, arithmos is the exact word from which we get our English word arithmetic, and arithmetic does not have any connection to a group or company of anything. So the correct meaning of arithmos is number, not multitude or group.
If you used this type of alternate meanings, like is described above, with any other part of the Bible, you could get anything imaginable in the text. The Bible would be a book without any predictable meaning, you could make it say anything you want.
Another thing to consider is that, since there were many Christians in the Middle East down through the centuries who were able to read and write in both Greek and Arabic, how is it that no one has seen crossed swords and Bismillah in the Greek text before now? Because it is not actually in the text, but is contrived to be there.
I believe the whole chapter of Rev. 13 points to Islam as I have shown in this chapter and other chapters, which are my own insights, NOT Shoebat’s. The only thing of his is this nonsense I am refuting. I do not approve of Scripture twisting to show that something points to Islam. STOP the nonsense.