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Rev. 13:18 in, for example, the Douay-Rheims Bible, is given as follows:

Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast. For it is the number of a man: and the number of him is six hundred sixty-six.

Many bibles state similarly.

However, the LEB and NirV, for examples, do not state "it is the number of a man", but rather, "it is man's number."

So, I decided to look for some Greek, but I did not find the Koine Greek; instead, I came up upon https://www.logosapostolic.org/interlinear-nt/revelation/13.htm, which, regarding the phrase in question, provides the Greek:

ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου

which (site) offers as the English translation:

for the number of a man

(with italics, they add)

In any case, a visit to DeepL translator https://www.deepl.com/translator#el/en/ἀριθμὸς%20γὰρ%20ἀνθρώπου provides the following translation:

number of man

QUESTION: (i) Are there any Catholic Bibles which provide "number of man" in Rev. 13:18 instead of "number of a man"; and

(ii) Can anyone point me to a site which provides the Book of Revelation in the Koine Greek and suggest (with sound reason) which is correct---"number of a man" or "number of man"?

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  • If you don't think your link is Koine Greek, what do you think it is?
    – eques
    Jun 7, 2023 at 0:45
  • @eques Based on logosapostolic.org/bibles/interlinear_nt.htm, I infer Textus Receptus
    – DDS
    Jun 7, 2023 at 19:13
  • Textus Receptus is a particular manuscript. Koine is a language. The New Testament was written in a variant of Koine.
    – eques
    Jun 7, 2023 at 22:10

3 Answers 3

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Literally "for of mankind it is" is the most accurate translation. The noun ανθρωπος (anthropos) denotes man as in mankind and is used in the Bible distinctively from both the realm of the divine and the more general word for man ανηρ (aner). It is in the gentative form which usually denotes "of"

See this website for a detailed etymology of the word in question and it's roots, derivatives, and relations. The blue highlighted section is the specific word in it's specific form in the passage in question.

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    Would you know of any Catholic Bibles which approximates this translation? Thank you for your answer.
    – DDS
    Jul 7, 2023 at 13:23
  • I do not. Here is a list of bibles approved for Catholics from 1983 to the present. usccb.org/offices/new-american-bible/… Jul 8, 2023 at 11:18
  • Thank you for the link.
    – DDS
    Jul 8, 2023 at 13:32
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I can only offer an answer to the second part of your second question; that is, reasons why the translation should not be "man's number", in the sense of "the number belonging to the human species".

Firstly, Greek was not using an equivalent of the indefinite article "a", so the absence of it in the text is not an argument against the translation "a man", which is more normal.

Secondly, the word "Man", meaning the human species, is a modern English idiom. I suspect that when a Greek-speaker of the time wanted to refer to the human species as a whole he would have said "men", using the plural form. This point argues against the translation "Man's number".

In fact I'm inclined to agree that "Man's number" would have been good theology. The message of the passage is clearly pointing towards the worship of something human. I just don't think it's a good translation.

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Revelation 13:18 - "Number of a Man" or "Number of Man"?

The Douay–Rheims Bible is a translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English made by members of the English College, from Douai, France.

No translations and even less the interpretations of Sacred Scriptures are perfect. There are always nuances involved when translating something from one language into another: Scriptures included.

Let’s look at this particular text in the Koine Greek, Latin and Old English:

Here is room for discernment; let the reader, if he has the skill, cast up the sum of the figures in the beast’s name, after our human fashion, and the number will be six hundred and sixty-six. - Revelation 13:18

Hic sapientia est. Qui habet intellectum, computet numerum bestiæ. Numerus enim hominis est: et numerus ejus sexcenti sexaginta sex.

ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν: ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν: καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ [χξ{punkstigma}].

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a footnote for the verse that states the following: ”Both in Greek and in Hebrew, the letters of the alphabet are used for numerical figures. In Greek, the letters of Latinus, in Hebrew, the letters of Nero Caesar, would add up to the required sum, but these identifications are uncertain.“

The translation that is seems the most correct should be that it is the number of man or as I would put it humanity.

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

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