Select Babi-Baha'i and earlier Interpretations of 666, "the number of the Beast" in the Apocalypse or book of Revelation.
Stephen Lambden UC Merced.
IN PROGRESS 1980S + 2018, Being revised and updayed from a very old, inadequate scan.
Revelation and its Jewish antecedents
Islamic echoes of the number of the beast, 666,
Some modern academic interpretations,
The Baha'i Interpretation of the Apocalypse and the Number of the beast, 666,
From at least as early as the 1880s, such learned oriental Baha'i writers as the Persians Mirza Abu al-Fadl Gulpayigani (1844-1914) the `father of the Baha'i intarpretation of the Bible' and Hajji Mirza Haydar Ali Isfahani (d, 1921), were "unsealing" or disclosing what they thought were the mysteries of the Book of Revelation or Åpocalypse of John of Patmos (1st-early 2nd cent. CE), 177 American converts to the Baha'i religion have, from the beginning in the early 1890s shown a great intorest in the interpretation of the Book ot Revelation. In this they were much encouraged by Ibrahim George Kheiralla (1849-i930) their first teacher who may be :regarded as tbe father of westen Bahä'i Bible speculation and interpretation -Kheiralla was mueh influenced by Abu al-Fadl who himself had a great eft'ect on Baha'i: Bible speculation when he visited America dur'ing 1901-1904 at the eommand of `Abd al-Bahä; 178
Though during most of the ministey of Shoghi Effendi ( 1921-1957) interest was centsred in mis!l!.oru.ry wceees end adl!linistrativs ei'!icienoy rather than creati"" Biblieel interpretation or detailed atudy of Bahi •i doctrine and history the last twenyr years or so have wotnesesd scmething of a rebirth of intsrest in the Apocalypse among Ame:ricsn Baa'is. E.Marsslla's The Quest for Eden l79. paved the ""'1 for the publication of R.J Moffett '• New K!!!§ to th,e Book <>f lle~ion180• and most recsntl;r R.F .Rigg•s complete Baha'i conmentary on the Apocalypss entitled The Apocalypse Unseated. 1$1, 0 Abdu'l-Jlah- i•e hope that Bah• a•Ti s would beoome sufficiently spi:rituall;r maturs to be able to fathom the mysteries of the Apocel;ypse for themsel"'• has,one might say, found something of a realizstion, 182•
3)The beast which rose out of the sea (Rev 13:1‑10).
No det~;'ed exposition of the 13th chapter of the Apocalypse written by or attributed to Abdu'l‑Baha or Shoghi Effendi appears to exist though there are written and oral traditions or "pilgim notes" about the two beats of this chapter that have been expanded by Baha'i commentators.The significance of the first beast which aroso out of the sea may be summed up as follows:
First beast (Rev l3:1‑10)
Mu'awiya I (?personifying the `Umayyads) .Its "mortal ~" ~ihich wa‑ hosled indicates aa ass~ination ~Ltte~t on hi~ life. 193
Or, the rir~t boast = the Umayyad~ per~oniried by ~b~ ~ ~ho~e ~mpirowa~ romiDiscent of that of Alexander the Great (= n like a leopardn), with it~ Jtrongth in ~edia,Per~ia t= ~ fo~t like a boar'~" )and its throne within the confines of ancient Babylonia ( = M mouth like a lion'~ mouth" : refer Rb~. 13: 2 ).The n wounded head" which was healed signifies Andalusia (Spain) ~here the ~ d CAbd al‑Rahmin I (d.788.A.D.) who wa~ the grandson Or the t‑nth `Umayyad Caliph Hisham (d.743),established a Cordovan d ~ a~t~ Or ~r8 that la~ted ~or more than 300 years. 19~
4) Tho beast which rose out of the north (Rev. 13:11ff).
Thw significance of this particular beaßt has beon understood in difforent wags by dirfferent Baha'I writors ~ ~ho dr~ on tho writing~ Or `Abdu'l‑Baha and cortain (unpublished) "p~lgrim noto~" which conta~n some intorpretations of the Apoc lyp~e attributed to Shoghi Effendi.It i~ generaIly agreed that the second beast symbo~ the CAbbas~d dynasty Or C~l~phs ( reigned 750‑1,25g.~.D.) though CAbdu'l‑Bahi's explanations Or the number of the beast (666) ~uggest otherwise.
9bcoDd b~aJt= the CAbba d d dynasty ~lth its 36 Caliph8 (+ the Ottoman Sultans) That thi~ bea~t rises out of the "earth" indicates that the CAbbasids came to power on the ruins (= the "earthn) o~ the Umaryad8. ItJ two n hornJ" are the titles G81i~h and Sultan; ~r, tho fact that this nbeast" haß n two horns like a lamb" but spo_e n like a dragon" ~igniries the initi~l~y pro‑5hICI orientation of CAbbas~d propaganda ( boing n like a la~bn) ~hich subs~quontly took ~n a n~o‑~mayyad or anti‑ShICI di~ension ( being n l~Lke a dragonn).Ju~t as the so¢ond nbea~t" exercise~ all tho ×uthority Or tho first "boast" 80 did the CAbbas~ds mirror tho "imag~" o~ the Umayyads.The producod n groat wondor~n, the glory Or mndioval Ialamic civili~at‑ion, but ~ere in~ardly corrupt.Indeed, the n mark" Or the beast on the~right handn and the "~ark" Or the bea~t on tho "fordhead" which restrict the livlihood or trade of the faithrU1 8ymboli~08 tho corrupt CAbbas~d Adm~n~tration Or the khar~ or land tax (= the mark on the rt. hand) and the ~izya or poll‑tax (= the mark on the ~oroh~ad).195. The number Or the bea~t. 666 ( Re~ 13~
8) l~ Re~ardin~ the APocal~Pse of St.John the beast.the numerical value Or whoso na~e is 666: the intent i~ tho year. inasmuch as that beast who is the Umayyad kin~ aPPeared in the yesr 600 of the ~hrist~an era.This Prophecy relates to the Holy Lsnd" (cAbdu'l‑Bah~ ~. 196.
It i~ cl~ r that tho Umayyad ruler Alluded to by CAbdu'l‑Baha in thl~ l~tter i~ Mu'a~iya I whose Caliphate l_ßt~d from 661‑b~0.A.D.He i~ evidently under~tood to be the second "beast" of Rev 13.The numbor o~ this "bea~tn,666,is taken to be the 8ix hundredth and sixty ~ixth year Or the Christian era. Counting from the (~up~osod)date Or Jesu~t birth around ~‑5 B.C. the year 661 results: the dat~ Or Nu'a ~ 'a usurption of Im~m Hasan'~ (supposed) po~ition as Sh~C~ Im~m.On the okh r hand it has b~n thought that the number 666 rerors to ~6.~.D. ~hon Nu'a~‑iya i8 said to havc attompt~d to ~aks DalaAc ‑ ths cffntre Or thc Nuslaim ~orld ~nd to havo dssecratod the twin holy citie~ l~cca and M~dina. 197‑ Exactly ~ihat C~bdu~l‑Baha ~t by th‑ yoar 666 C.E (?) i9 unclear. It ~ms probable that he had in ~ind tho proclsm~tion of Ih~a~riya a~ Caliph at ~liya~ (Jerusalem) in the Holy Land ( in 661.A.D.) and tho 9tib~equent con~olid tion Or Uma;~ad p~ ( ~round 666. A. D. t ?] ), b) "Sl~c htmdred E~nd sixtY si~.c in one s‑n~e r~or~ to N ~ol‑on'~(C~bdu~l B ha). Thi~ ~tat~ nt ~aJ mado by CAbdu~l‑B~ha in reply to a question put to hi~ in 1920 by ~r. LutfutlI~h Hak~m on behalf Or the Bahi'I writer E.T.
Hall (c.1880‑1962) of Manchester (England) and written in a notebook. The latter was probably aware of the common identification of Napoleon Bonaparte (d.1821) with the beast whose nu~ber is 666 ( Napoleon was made by gomatria to yisld thi~ number) or may possibly have wondered whether this were true as a result of reading or being informed of such speculatontained in I.G. Kheirall's Behatu'llah (lst.Ed. 1900 ).199Napoleon then, becomesyet another candidate for the position of the second beast though C~bdu'l‑Baha , ~ho often gavo sympathetic answers to 11 manner of questions put to him, may not have taken this identification too ~eriously.
c) "As to the beast referred to in the Apocalypse he was a soul who XXXX King of Persia. that is. one of the earlly kings (`Abdu'l-Baha). 200.
It is obviously not clear whether this extract from a letter of `Abdu'lBaha refers to the "~econd beast" of Rev 13 ‑ though this would seem to be likely.Which " early" king of Persia is intended is also unclear though it is most probable that the n beast" who was an enemy of the Bab‑Baha'~ movement is to be thought of as either Muhammad Shah (d.1848) or,moro likoly, Naisir al‑Din Shah (reignod 1848‑1896) concoived a~ a neo‑Uma~yad type ruler. Perhaps CAbdu'l‑Baha, in the light Or Rev 13:15 (or less probably Rev 12:7ff) where we are informed that the "s‑cond beast" revives the "i~ag " Or the "rirst beast" and the Sh~C~,Bib~‑Baha'I notion of the return (ra'~a )of the evil Umayy‑ads and their l~ke~ thought of Nasiri'd‑Din Shah as the eschatological appearan‑ce of the Beast,We shall have occasion below to note the sometimes marked hatred exhibited by certain groups of Babis towards the ~jars whom they saw as manifes‑tations of the Antichrist‑Daiial or as neo‑Umagyads.
A "pilgrim note" attributed to Shoghi Effendi, it is worth noting at this point, has it that the revived "image" (refer Rev 13:15 which to the Baha'i reader might suggest the notion of ra'.ja or "return" ) of the first beast ( = the Umayyads, etc ) represents anti‑Babi measures taken by a corrupt ShI`i clergy at the time of the Bab. If the Shi`i clergy can be thought of as the "image" of the revived Unayyad beast, then such a Qajar ruler of Nasir al-DIn Shah might be thought of as the "beastn" ( that is the revived beast) itself. On a visit to `Akka and Haifa in 1909 (?) an English Baha'l lady named Ethel J. Rosenburg ( 1XXX~‑1930) noted down `Abdu'l‑Baha's explanation of the 16th chapter of the Apocalypse.These notes, summarized below along with certain other suggested interpretations, throw further light on the above. Abdu'1‑Baha all but identifies the Qajars as evil manifestations despite his careful avoidance of being labelled anti‑royalist or his efforts to put across a politically neutral stance ( hence perhaps also the vagueness of the interpretive phrase "one of the early kings" in the passage quoted above). 202‑
The seven angels
who pour out their seven vi~ls or bowls (Rev 16:1ff) are "seven powers" or the unleashing of various forces around the time of or at the time of the rise of the Babi‑Baha'i novement.The pouring out of the seven vials signif‑ies various manifestations of Islamic corruption and Babi‑Baha'i oppre~sion.
Vial 1. (16:2) which is poured upon the "earth" signifies the corruption of earthly rulers (= the "earth") in Islamic lands around the time of the rise Or Babism.Those who bear the "mark of the beast" are the evil hypocrites.
Vial 2 (16 3 ) which is poured upon the "sea" indicates the corruption of the ulamaCand the learned (= the bloody sea ~ which was the cause of spir‑itual "death"
Vial 3 (16:4‑7) which i~ poured upon the "rivers"and the "fountains of water"alludos to the corruption of lesser divines and teachers.
Vial 4 (16:8J9)which is poured upon the "sun" and which is al1owed to ~corch those who curse the name of God signifies the oppressive and ungodly rule of the Islamic kingdoms of the East (= the sun; in particular the Ottoman Empire [ or one of its Sultans?] or Persia (?) [ or one of its Shahs,?]) 203
Vial 5 (16:10^‑ll) which is poured upon the "seat of the beast" whose kingdom is in darkness and whose sub~ects curse God indicates Persia and its corruption ( or Constantinople‑Istanbul the seat of the Ottoman Sultan whose Empire was in darkness).204
Vial 6 (16:12‑16) which is poured into " the ~reat river Euphrates" which was dried up to prepare the way of the kings of the East refers to the oppo dtion of the Ottoman and Persian people to the Bab;‑Baha'1 movements (?)(or the triumph of Baha'u'llah and his successors [= the '~ings of the east"] over a corrupt Bibi~m in the region around Ba~dad,Iraq from the 1~50's onwards [= the dried up Euphrates region]).205 The dra~on ( or mouth of the dra~= neo‑Umayyad Qajars?) is Ha~i MIrza ~qasi the corrupt vizier of Muhammad Shah( see further below ) The false Prophet = Haji‑Mirza Muhammad KarIm Khan Kirmani (see further below) who claimed to be subject to divine revelations or said, "My words are revealed from above" ( or possibly Mlrza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad~see above]).206The (three) foul~ L~L~gc~5~a~_~ the evils ( anti‑B~bi‑BahatI activities) of the Persians (or evil principles and false teachings).207. Tho battle Or Arma~eddon= the troubles at"Roumelia and Macedonia" ( very likely as noted [see fn.l5b below ~ Bahalu'llah's confrontation with M~rza Yahya and the Azalis at Adrianople from 1~66 onwards; or those inner and outer conflicts and wars ~ particularly the first world war of 191~‑191~ ] that have troubled mankind since the advent of Baha'u'llah ). 20~.
Vial 7 (16:17‑21) which is poured into the "air" (thus permeating ~11 things) predicts a great or world war to come (? .i.e. W.W.I ) in which "small kingdoms" (= "islands" and "mountains",v.20) will suffer (~'fled awa~2 and be bombed ( = ( have "great hailstones" fall on them from heaven,v.20 ).~U~The ~reat city or~g~Tr~ y~ divided into three parts by a great earthquake= the (coming?) rule of Babylonia (= Iraq,etc ?) by three nations,or kings, the English,the Persians and the Turks as a result of (coming?) up~eavals(?) (or the earthquake or irreligious doubts which will divide corrupt human civilizat‑ion into those who give allegiance to the"three false gods" of Nationalism, Racialism and Communi~m[= Babylon in three parts] ).21~.
What now follows is a summary, based on the above-mentioned sources,
The number of the beast, 666 (Revelation 13:18.
"Regarding the Apocalypse of St John, the beast, the numerical value of whose name is 666: the intent is the year, inasmuch as that beast who is the `Umayyad king, appeared in the year 666 of the Christian era. This prophecy relates to the holy land" (`Abdul Baha). 196
It is clear tbat the `Umayyad ruler alluded to by `Abdu 'l~Baha' in this letter, is Mu`w:tya I whoee Caliphate lasted from 661-680.A,D.He is evidently understood to be the sscond "beast" of llev 13.The numbar of this "beast", 666, is taken to be indicative of the six hundredth and sixty sixth year of the Common or Christian era. Counting from theb (suppoeed) date of Jesus' birth around 6 or 4-5 BCE. the yoar 661 might result yielding the date of Mu'åwfya•s usurption of Imäm Hasan's (suppoud) position ae Shi"I Imäm..On the other hand, it hae been thought that the number 666 refere to b66. CE when Mu`ayiwwa issaid to have attacked to !!liike llamaocao tbe eontre of thil Muslaim world
and to have deseerated the twin holy oities lleoea and lledina. 19·1. Exaotly what
•Abdu'l-'Baliä meant by the year 666 C,E (?) is unolear. It eeeme probahle thst.
he had 1n m1nd the prcc1am;lation of l!u•äw.i.ya as Caliph at ~· (Jeruealem)
in the Holy Land ( in 661.A.D.) and the subsequent ooruiolldatiort o:r Uma;yyod
power ( arcund 666.A.D.[ ?)),
b) "~ix !J!!ndl'!!\i ll!<d eirlz !Ii;!; 11'. one eeng ref""I' to llj!Jl2lecn"(0Abdu'l-llahi).
Tbis --....., made by 0Abdn'l-Baliii 1n replr te>! question plXt to him
in 1920 by Dr, L\ltfu•llih Hakim on behalf of the Baha11 Wl'iter E.'l'.