The earliest example that I could easily find of something being identified as the Mark of the Beast is the barcode in the 1970s, and since then numerous other candidates have appeared. Is this something that only started then, or have people seen "marks of the beast" in different things over the centuries?
It is likely that the earliest identification of "the mark of the beast" in Revelation 13:17-18 was written down by Ireneaus (circa 175 A.D.) He believed it to be the name Lateinos [Greek for 'Latin']. He wrote:
"It seems to me very probable; for this is a name of the last of Daniel's four kingdoms; they being Latins that now reign."
Writing in 1884 about the book of Revelation, Albert Barnes started by quoting a Dr. More's words:
"They Latinize everything: mass, prayers, hymns, litanies, canons, decretals, bulls, are conceived in Latin. The Papal councils speak in Latin, women themselves pray in Latin. The Scriptures are read in no other language under the Papacy than Latin. In short, all things are Latin." With what propriety, then, might John, under the influence of inspiration, speak, in this enigmatical manner, of the new power that was symbolized by the beast as Latin.'
In this book explaining various interpretations of the book of Revelation, the explanation is given (for those holding to this 'historicist' view):
"For centuries, the mark of being Roman Catholic was that one worshiped in the Latin language, regardless what language one commonly spoke, or whether one even could understand the Latin liturgy! The receiving of this mark on the hand or foreheads may merely be an allusion to the practice, common in ancient times, of slaves or soldiers bearing a mark or the name of their owner or emperor upon their hands, or, in some cases, upon the forehead.
"Applied to the Papacy, the meaning is, that there would be some mark of distinction; some indelible sign; something that would designate, with entire certainty, those persons who belonged to it, and who were subject to it. It is hardly necessary to say that, in point of fact, this has eminently characterized the Papacy. All possible care has been taken to designate with accuracy those who belong to that communion, and all over the world, it is easy to distinguish those who render allegiance to the Papal power.
"The forbidding to buy or sell is explained by the fact that the popes have often forbidden commercial intercourse with heretics or Protestants. Barnes writes, 'It has been common in Rome to prohibit, by express law, all traffic with heretics." Pope Alexander III, at the Third Lateran Council in 1178, ordered that 'no man presume to entertain or cherish them i n his house, or land, to exercise traffic with them... [Pope Martin V also being cited as evidence of this fulfilment of verse 17.]...
"Andreas Helwig (1572-1643) explained the mystic number 666 by reference to the pope's official Latin title: Vicarius filli Dei (translated: Vicar of the Son of God.) The Roman numeral value of this title (i.e., V=5, I=1, C=100, L=50, D-500, all other letters = 0) totals exactly 666. This title reportedly was written upon the crown known as the "Triple Tiara" worn by the popes at their coronations. In the seventeenth century, it was expunged from the miter." (Revelation, Four Parallel Views, pp 305-6, first columns, Ed. Steve Gregg)
That also connects it to drawings in Martin Luther's day. In the New Testament of September 1522, a cartoon was drawn of 'the scarlet woman' sitting on the seven hills, wearing the papal tiara. So also does the great dragon. Protests were made to Frederick the Wise. So, in the December edition, the tiaras in the woodcuts were chiseled down to innocuous crowns of a single layer. But in 1534, when the whole Bible was completed, and after Frederick the Wise was dead, the wood-cuts were done over and the papal tiaras restored. (Here I Stand - Martin Luther, pp330-333, by Roland Bainton)
This means that teachings about 'the Mark of the Beast' started way back from at least 175 right through to the present day. I have only given a few examples of some of the earliest ones. You may be assured that papal authorities returned the pictorial insults in Luther's day by drawing him as the antichrist with 666 on him!
My take on this constant random creation of wild ideas signifying the Mark of the Beast as merely attempts to confuse the populous and hide the truth. No doubt that once the first person read revelation in the first century, the wild ideas already started swirling around in their head.
Several sources have the book of Revelation written between:
The more wild ideas, the more frustration and confusion around what it actually is. These ideas also cause shifts in doctrine and are used as tools to "manage" the people. Not enough people study or believe in God enough to stand alone with him and thus the ideas have a huge impact.
An in-depth explanation can be found on this topic on this website or in this book. The book has more info, but either way, you get the point.
- The mark of the beast: dispelling the lies and escaping the mark - Kindle, Paperback, Hardback
- The mark of the beast series - Main Points
The mark of the beast book listed above highlights many wild ideas that have been called the mark of the beast.
- COVID-19 vaccines
- Vaccination passports
- Emperor Caesar Nero
- The Sunday Sabbath (Referred to as worship)
- RFID chip implant
- Biometric ID Card
- Tattooed barcode
- Genetically modified/engineered humans
- A combination of letters and symbols placed on your forehead or right hand
- Facebook data collection
- World payment system
- Nationalism and following the world political system
- One world religion
- Cashless society
- Emperor Nero (Neron Kaiser)
The one thing this book does well is to break down all aspects of that passage in Revelation 13 which speaks about the Mark. No guesswork, no fanciful ideas. Everything backed by scriptures.
- And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
- And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
- 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.
- Right Hand: signifies the power you have to carry out your will. The things you do through your strength or your ability to get it done through other means. (Exodus 6:1, Genesis 31:29, Exodus 15:6, Deuteronomy 11:18-19, Psalm 77:10-12)
- Forehead: represents the things we hold in our minds (hearts) and the principles we live our lives by. This we speak and the things in our hearts and our minds. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, Deuteronomy 6:6-8, Exodus 13:9, Luke 6:45, Matthew 19:17)
- Name: To have the name of someone or something is to be under the authority or identity of that person or thing. (John 12:49, John 5:43, John 14:8-9, 1 Samuel 25:5, 2 Chronicles 2:1)
- Number (666): Represents Solomon and the actions he took by breaking the commands of God and succumbing to the lust for money and the things of this world. (1 Kings 10:14, Matthew 12:42)
- Buy or Sell: This is equivalent to the etymological definition of the word trade. Trade signifies occupation or the ability to generate and income--make money. Not being able to buy or sell, denied income, is a punishment of the Beast.
To worship is to do the commands of the thing you worship. To worship the BEAST, which is a kingdom (highlighted in Daniel 2:31-45, Daniel 2:39, Daniel 7:3, Daniel 7:23), is to follow the commands and practices of that kingdom. To worship God is to do the commands and requirements of God.