Are there any Catholic saints or notable theologians that have interpreted the the Beast of Revelations number 666 in the following way?

The first 6 is linked to the six days of creation and in the eyes one day to the Lord is like a thousand days. - (2Peter 3:8)

The second 6, is linked to the age of the world as being 6,000 years old when the Beast of Revelation will appear.

The final 6, is referred to as being the the sixth age of the Church (or Creation).

Six Ages

The Six Ages, as formulated by Saint Augustine, are defined in De catechizandis rudibus (On the catechizing of the uninstructed), Chapter 22:

  • The First Age "is from the beginning of the human race, that is, from Adam, who was the first man that was made, down to Noah, who constructed the ark at the time of the flood," i.e. the Antediluvian period.

  • The Second Age "extends from that period on to Abraham, who was called the father indeed of all nations.."

  • The Third Age "extends from Abraham on to David the king." The Fourth Age is "from David on to that captivity whereby the people of God passed over into Babylonia."

  • The Fifth Age is "from that transmigration down to the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ."

  • The Sixth Age: "With His [Jesus Christ's] coming the sixth age has entered on its process."

The Ages reflect the seven days of creation, of which the last day is the rest of Sabbath, illustrating the human journey to find eternal rest with God, a common Christian narrative. - Six Ages of the World (Wikipedia)

I vaguely recall reading about this some decades ago. Can anyone point me to a source or sources of this information?

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. - Revelation 13:18

The interpretation given dwelt more on the time when the man, known as the Antichrist was going to appear, rather than on the interpretation that the numbers were more personally linked to the man of perdition.

Can anyone recall which Catholic author(s) wrote about this?

2 Answers 2


The church father Irenaeus  (130-202) said there were many names that could be produced from the number, and he speculates about the name using the “Greek fashion of calculation”, using the value of the letters contained in 666 and trying to mathematically produce a name. He attributes the erroneous number 616 to a copyist error, and states that none of the names produced is certain. This would indicate that it wasn’t anything that he learned from the apostolic teaching tradition. However, Irenaeus offered an alternative interpretation of 666.

And he will cause a mark [to be put] in the forehead and in the right hand, that no one may be able to buy or sell, unless he who has the mark of the name of the beast or the number of his name; and the number is six hundred and sixty-six,” (Rev 13:18) that is, six times a hundred, six times ten, and six units. [He gives this] as a summing up of the whole of that apostasy which has taken place during six thousand years." Irenaeus V.XXVIII.2

For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: “Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.” This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years;(2 Pet 3:8) and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year. Thus, then, the six hundred years of Noah (Gen 7:6), in whose time the deluge occurred because of the apostasy, and the number of the cubits of the image for which these just men were sent into the fiery furnace (Dan 3:1), do indicate the number of the name of that man in whom is concentrated the whole apostasy of six thousand years, and unrighteousness, and wickedness, and false prophecy, and deception; for which things’ sake a cataclysm of fire shall also come [upon the earth]." V.XXVIII.3

The church father Irenaeus associated the number of the beast (Rev 13:18) with the six days of creation as well as 6,000 years of Earth history. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John. Of course, Irenaeus got the number from the book of Revelation. According to this church father, the number was foreshadowed by the six days of creation, the flood, and the book of Daniel. 

Surprisingly, the idea for 666 was preceded by the first-century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria (25 BC-50 AD).

Since, therefore, the first beginning of the generation of our race, after the destruction caused by the deluge, commenced with Noah, men being again sown and procreated, therefore he also is recognised as resembling the first man born of the earth, as far as such resemblance or recognition is possible. And the six hundredth year has for its origin the number six; and the world was created under the number six, therefore, by this same number does he reprove the wicked, putting them to shame because he would, unquestionably, never, after he had created the universe by means of the number six, have destroyed all the men who lived on the earth under the form of six, if it had not been for the preposterous excess of their iniquities. For the third power of six and the minor power is the number six hundred, and the mean between both is sixty, since the number ten more evidently represents the likeness of unity, and the number a hundred represents the minor power." Philo, Book 42: Questions and Answers on Genesis, II

Here is a quote from Hippolytus of Rome (170-235).

  1. But that we may not leave our subject at this point undemonstrated, we are obliged to discuss the matter of the times, of which a man should not speak hastily, because they are a light to him. For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” (Heb 4:4) For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” (Heb 4:5, Rev 20:6) when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” (2 Pet 3:8, Psa 90:4) Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: “five are fallen; one is,” that is, the sixth; “the other is not yet come.” (Rev 17:10) The interpretation by Hippolytus, Daniel
  • 1
    This answer gives two out of three of the sixes as interpreted in the question. My guess is that some Catholic author may have quoted St. Irenaeus in addition to the six ages of the church (world).
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 6, 2019 at 1:14
  • 6 - Days of creation 60 - The mean, 600 divided by 10 is sixty, or 60 and 6 cubits (Dan 3:1) 600 - Noah's flood, Noah was 600 years old when the flood began (Gen 7:11). (Punishment of the wicked, the idea of Judgement. ) Aug 6, 2019 at 1:51
  • 1
    I added a quote from Hippolytus of Rome. Aug 6, 2019 at 2:04
  • 1
    Your answer with St. Augustine’s ages of the world seem to be what I am searching for.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 6, 2019 at 2:13
  • I added some Bible references to the Hippolytus quote. I added the Xref to Heb 4:4 where the ANE says, "This is what Photius condemned in Hippolytus. Irenæus, however, held the same opinion (book v. c. 28 and 29). The same view is expressed yet earlier in the Epistle of Barnabas (sec. 15). It was an opinion adopted from the rabbis." Sep 4, 2019 at 15:04

Here is how Fr. Kramer commentates verse 13:18 in his The Book of Destiny (1956), the best Catholic commentary on St. John's Apocalypse:

Verse 18

St. John clearly states that the Beast is but a man, for he has the name of a man given him by someone else; and the numerical letters of that name will enable the true believers to know him when he appears. In what language this name must be written to have the number is not stated; but since the Apocalypse was written in Greek, the number will probably be made up of the name written in that language. Explanations of diverse kinds have been proposed, but none of them has been satisfactory. Father Sloet advances the solution that if the name, "king of Israel" be written in Hebrew, it will make up the number 666. But then some violence must be done to Hebrew orthography. No doubt he will style himself king of Israel. St. Irenaeus warns against proposing any name as certain, for he, though he had known Polycarp, a disciple of St. John, would not dare to hold any name. He suggests the name "LATEINOS" or "Nero Caeser" in Greek but prefers "Teitan". Yet he "will not incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name".

It might be a mere symbolic number. In a modern explanation, Antichrist may flatter the secret societies by affirming their claim to the derivation of their mystic symbols from Solomon to be historical and thus win them over to become his supporters. They claim that an order or guild was organized among the laborers building Solomon's Temple, and from this order date their symbols. Hence the number 666 (3 kings X. 14; 2 Para. IX. 13) alludes to the income of Solomon, which he is supposed to have spent largely for the erection of the Temple. But this is as fantastic and unreal as other explanations. The number is probably no symbol at all but a mere cryptogram to be deciphered in Antichrist's time.

According to the testimony of St. Irenaeus (V. 30 — 1 ff), all old and good copies had χξς, and this reading was attested as being the original by those who had seen St. John. These letters which were probably the cryptogram in the original manuscript, may simply be the initials of the name of Antichrist, of the given name and the surname. Even in the time of St. Irenaeus there were two readings χξς and χις. In chapter fifteen, the victors over Antichrist and over "the number of his name" are privileged to sing a new canticle of praise to God for the victory. This intimates a short cryptogram, probably one containing the three letters. And probably the mark worn by his slaves on the forehead or hand will consist of the three Greek letters. As to his name St. Irenaeus says: "If it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision". "For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, TOWARDS THE END OF DOMITIAN'S REIGN".

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer, but this does not give the interpretation of the three sixes as demonstrated in the question.
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 6, 2019 at 0:33

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