MANILA, Philippines - Last Sunday, a tourist bus lost control and fell off a cliff in Barangay Cansumuran in Balamban, Cebu.
The incident killed 20 Iranian medical students and a Filipino driver, and left 30 others injured.
The bus carried the ominous license plate number DWZ-666. Many could not help but relate it to 666, the dreaded "Number of the Beast" as referred to in the Bible.
The Beast, commonly referred to as the "anti-Christ," is a figure in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament.
Revelation 13:17-18 states: "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 who has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666."
Since its close association with the Beast, number 666 has been considered in modern popular culture as cursed or unlucky. The number was greatly feared by a number of people that a phobia for it eventually emerged.
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is a term that refers to the fear of the number 666. People who suffer from this phobia are said to strongly avoid all things related to the number.
So, who is the "man" or "beast" behind number 666?
He or she has yet to be identified, but there have been a number of interpretations throughout history. Here are some of them:
- A Roman emperor. Generally, they were noted for their oppression of Jews and Christians. Both communities were known to use numerology, codes and symbols to avoid persecution.
- Nero. Some scholars believe that 666 refers to Roman Emperor Nero, who is said to be responsible for a number of attacks on Christians in Rome. His name, written in Aramaic, is said to be valued at 666 using gematria, a system of assigning numerical values to letters in the alphabet.
- Domitian. Ethelbert Stauffer, a German Protestant theologian, said number 666 may refer to Roman emperor Domitian since he reigned at the time of the Apocalypse, as proposed in the Book of Revelation. Domitian was also said to be called "The Beast" secretly by Romans, Greeks, Christians and Jews.
- A Pope. A number of Protestant Bible commentators have said that the letters of an alleged title of the Pope, Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God), sum up to 666 in Roman numerals. Eventually, however, it was said that Vicarius Filii Dei was never an official title of the Pope.- A Pope named Benedict. German priest and theology professor Martin Luther was quoted in history as saying that "Benediktos" added up to 666 in gematria, which led him to think that it might refer to a Pope named Benedict or to Benedictine monks.