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Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Name = 666

It was the summer of 1983 and I was sitting in a Ph.D. class at Bob Jones University on the Book of Revelation. Dr. Stewart Custer was waxing eloquent on Revelation 13:18: Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number [is] 666. He was explaining the various interpretations of this passage. Some said it just referred to the number of man repeated three times (the number six is held by some to be the number of man in the Bible, the number seven is the number of God, etc), sort of like an ungodly trinity. Others believed it refered to a literal human being whose identity could be found by adding up the value of his name.

At this time in history, Arabic numerals were not used in the Graeco-Roman world but rather each letter of the alphabet had a corresponding numerical value. For example, in Greek, the first letter alpha equals one and beta, the second letter, equals two, etc. The same was true with the Hebrew alphabet. Many Bible scholars on this basis identified the beast of Revelation as Nero. They argued that the Greek spelling of his name, “Nerōn Kaisar,” transliterates into Hebrew as “נרון קסר”. When you add up the values of each Hebrew letter you get 666.

I thought this was fascinating so I decided to add up the letter values in my name. Ken Pulliam transliterates into Greek as Κεν Πυλλιαμ. When I added up the value of each letter, I was flabbergasted. The letters equaled 666. I thought this can't be possible. I added them up again thinking maybe I had made a mistake. I added them up a third time. There was no way around it. My name equaled 666.

I admit this actually bothered me for awhile. Then I realized that there were billions of people on the planet and, while I didn't know the precise statistical formula, I was certain there were probably thousands of people whose name also equaled 666.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I am sure that some of my former colleagues and students probably think that I am the man of sin or at least a type (forerunner) of the last great embodiment of evil. After all, I am an apostate. I knew the truth, believed the truth, and then turned away. Hebrews 6:4-6 says there is no hope for me.

For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put [Him] to an open shame.

So I guess for those fundamentalists and evangelicals that take the Bible literally, this is just further proof that it is the Word of God. What further proof do you need (spoken with tongue firmly in cheek)?


  1. Ken,

    Unless your a tall, gay man who is blind in one eye and who has an injured arm you don't qualify! lol

  2. @ Rover -- to what are you alluding?

    @ Ken
    -- you should source your bible quotes and tell us the version ! Smile

    Heb 6:4-6
    4. αδυνατον γαρ τους απαξ φωτισθεντας γευσαμενους τε της δωρεας της επουρανιου και μετοχους γενηθεντας πνευματος αγιου
    5. και καλον γευσαμενους θεου ρημα δυναμεις τε μελλοντος αιωνος
    6. και παραπεσοντας παλιν ανακαινιζειν εις μετανοιαν ανασταυρουντας εαυτοις τον υιον του θεου και παραδειγματιζοντας

    Ken, I love this passage, like you, because I am an ex-Christian too.

    Maybe you can help us coin a word from this passage:

    ἀνασταυρόω (anastauroō 388) re-crucify --> The ReCrucifiers

    φωτίζω (phōtizō) The Enlightened --> The UnEnlightened

    It is important to embrace the derogatory words used against us so as to steal the power from them !

  3. Wow, I never knew that about Nero! That's really interesting, considering when it was written.

    And I guess we know why you de-converted! :D

    (And to type Greek, I think you can copy and paste from a Word document.)

  4. Ken,
    You said your name adding up to 666 bothered you for awhile. I think that's a good point to show that we can take some scary thing from the Bible, match it up with something about us, and it seems to fit so well. That doesn't make it true, but it can FEEL very true to us.

    Like me. I tend to feel inferior to others, so Calvinism was not happy news to me that I was chosen by God before the world began. I naturally concluded I was in the "unchosen" group. Why did I conclude that? Because it fit so well with my personality. Not because it was true. It just felt comfortable to me.

    Anyway, hope I'm making sense. This is how people harm themselves by thinking they've commited the unpardonable sin, they weren't of the elect, they might be the anti-christ, etc. You can take lots of things from the Bible and torture yourself with them.

  5. Another point-We apostates have no hope, yet there are Christians who believe "once saved, always saved." So many differences in BASIC doctrine people come up with, all using the same Bible (oh yeah, and they all have the Holy Spirit guiding them also-to different conclusions.)

  6. Dear Dr. Pulliam,

    The use of 666 or six hundred, sixty six is used several places in the Hebrew bible, some known and some obscured for people who do not know gematria. I think it would be more interesting to look at the Hebrew connections.

    Here are the known places

    1 Kings 10:14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents,
    2 Chronicles 9:13 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents,

    Ezra 2:13 of Adonikam 666

  7. thanks for all the comments. Yes I am on sort of a vacation right now. Visiting family in LA (lower Alabama) :)

    Lynn--you are right. There are some "scary" things in the Bible. When I was a minister, I had at least 3 different people come to me all worried that they had committed the "unpardonable sin." A lot of children were terrorized also by the preaching of some of the child evangelists who made them doubt their "salvation." I remember my own daughter when she was about 9 or 10 coming to me crying because the evangelist had preached on hell and she was not "certain" if she was saved. Even at the time as a believer, I thought it was wrong for these evangelists to play on the emotions of young children. Today, I would like to punch them out.

    Emet--yes I am aware of gematria but I think its all a bunch of contrived nonsense.

  8. Hi Ken,
    Glad I now know where the real LA is-ha. Yes, the unpardonable sin was a biggie for me, too.

    And I, too, think it's awful to tell children about hell-such a horrible concept at any age. It's the serious, thinking child that is harmed the most by these things.

    I guess that's why when people say the Bible is so beautiful, I figure they aren't very familiar with it.

  9. Lynn,

    You and I are probably cut from the same cloth. Biblical Christianity was always fraught with scary realities for me, too. And I could never understand why others didn't tremble under them as I did. How did they all manage to attain such peace and joy while I worried so much about the troublesome things in Scripture? Weren't we all reading the same book??

    I've always been an introspective person who is painfully aware of the human proclivity toward self-deception. I might reason, "Of course I'm saved," but my self-skeptical side would say, "How can you be sure? Maybe you're deluding yourself. Judas thought he was saved, too." I doubt that I ever had ten minutes of what they call "full assurance."

    As a staunch Calvinist, I imbibed literature that encouraged this unhappy tendency. The Puritans -- especially John Owen -- nearly made me an emotional wreck. (My wife pitched "The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded" into the fireplace to get rid of it.)

    I, too, worried myself sick over the unpardonable sin, reprobation, hellfire, inciting God's anger, demons, partaking unworthily of the Lord's Supper, etc. I read John Bunyan's "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" and found that he had those same unhealthy preoccupations ... before his conversion. Afterward, he didn't seem troubled over these topics. But I continued to be and it always bothered me.

  10. (if anyone knows how I can type these in a Greek font on the blog, please let me know).

    RE: Ken, you can use this conversion keyboard:

    Then copy the letters or words and paste it on your post.

  11. I'd like to quote from the book "Breaking the Code" by Bruce M. Metzger, pp 76-77.
    "A further complication arises from the fact that some ancient manuscripts of the book of Revelation give the number as 616 instead of 666.
    Among the names and titles that have been proposed to solve the cryptogram, the most probable candidate is the Emperor Nero. If we add the numerical values in the Hebrew spelling of the name Neron Caesar we obtain 666; on the other hand, since his name can equally well be spelled without the last N, if we omit the final N, the total will be 616. There does not appear to be any other name, or name with a title, that satifies both 666 and 616."
    Also, how did you ever translate your last name into greek? The etymology of Pulliam according to the Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press is that Pulliam is an Anglicized form of Welsh ap William ‘son of William’.

  12. Promethus,

    Yes I am aware of the textual problem in Rev. 13:18. This gave me some solace when I was worried about being the AC. :)

    Yes I did transliterate my entire name into Greek and this is what equaled 666. You are right that my last name is Welsh.

  13. The hard question for the people of faith is: Just how do we know that Jesus is not a deception of evil?

    Thus, even the Bible clearly states: For this reason God will send upon them a strong delusion that they will believe a lie, (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

    Here the Bible clearly states God can and does lie and (at times) God has evil intent himself!

    This is exactly what we former Christians are saying about Christianity: It is a delusion!

  14. SteveJ,
    We SURE ARE cut from the same cloth. Your wife had to throw out a book, and my mother had to throw out pamphlets a teacher had given out at a Christian high school in 9th grade. She was worried sick over communism and got me worried sick too. All the other students went happily on their way! So I can definitely relate.

    In fact, I wish someone would address this very thing. As I said before, it's the serious,over-thinking children that get hurt the most from scary things in religion. We think, we worry, we analyse-that's what we do. We pay attention to the preacher or Sunday School teacher and take it all very seriously. It's basically child abuse for our type personalities, in my opinion, although my parents had good intentions.

    Yep-me, too, on the partaking of the Lord's supper in an unworthy state. I worried about that too for many, many years.