Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Arbitrary Evil Day

Happy 6/6/6!
Buzz for the remake of the 1976 horror film has been building since March.

There were posters trumpeting "Heed the Omen" and "The Signs Are All Around You." Airplane banners reading "You Have Been Warned" flew over popular spring break destinations, prompting frightened calls to 911 dispatchers and the FBI.

Thirty years after the original classic, the story line remains the same: A couple suspects their son is the spawn of Satan. But the remake comes with a twist, debuting by design on June 6, 2006.

The folks at 20th Century Fox liked the tie-in with the No. 666, which is considered the "number of the beast," as written in the Bible.

Just one problem, according to a group of English biblical scholars. The number should be 616, which appears on ancient papyrus fragments of the Book of Revelation, they say.

Looks like the film's marketing gurus will miss their ominous release by five days.

So, why hasn't this 616 translation caught on?

"Because six-six-six rolls off the tongue easier," Daniel P. Winters, author of "Superstitions 101," said with a laugh. "Plus, `The Omen' would have to be rewritten, the related superstitions reconsidered, the stars realigned, a whole population re-educated. And, I'd have to rewrite my book."

The Gregorian calendar in use today was not adopted until the 16th century. John, the author of Revelation, lived under the Julian calendar which calculates time slightly differently. The actual 6/6/2006 date in the Julian calendar happens this year on June 19 (see this calculator). If 616 is the evil number, that makes things more interesting since every June 29th is scary.

But dates are most likely not what had John spooked, especially since the real 6/6/6 (i.e. 2000 years ago), took place before he wrote his book. Instead, John was probably thinking of numerology, the idea of using a number to represent a person or concept. Most Bible scholars see him as identifying Nero Caesar, or rather the idea of emperor-worship as the villain, since Nero was dead by the time Revelation was written.

This makes sense from a historical point-of-view since the earliest Christians believed the world was about to end. Because Nero's successor, Domitian, took Caesar worship even more seriously, it stands to reason that John saw this development as Satan-inspired.

In any case, I hope no one out there is taking today seriously. I'll be celebrating and I hope you are, too!

More 666 fun stuff: