Ed. Note: What follows is Part Two of a three-part series on the Mark of the Beast. The author, Dr. William Welty, is the Executive Director of the ISV foundation and also serves as Research Analyst in Advanced Communication Technologies and Adjunct Professor of Middle Eastern Studies on the faculty of Koinonia Institute.
All Biblical citations are taken from the International Standard Version (ISV) translation of the Bible.
The Apostle John’s description of the mark of the beast was recorded in the New Testament as a Greek koine narrative. The Greek language does not contain the rich nuance of volitional persuasion that is connoted by the Hebrew language causative verb form. While most non-Hebrew language Bible readers may not be familiar with the Hebrew causative, almost every Bible reader is familiar with Psalm 23. Note how the Psalmist’s use of the Hebrew causative verb form brings out the subtle influence of God as he acts as shepherd to David, persuading him to take the actions described in verse two of the psalm:
“The LORD is the one who is shepherding me; I lack nothing. He causes me to lie down in pastures of green grass; he guides me beside quiet waters.”
— Psalm 23:1–2, ISV
Do notice, if you would, how David confesses that it is God who is causing him to lie down, but there’s no suggestion that this action is being taken against his will.
For David to lie down in the pasture is an act of active cooperation on David’s part, but he’s being motivated to make the choice and act on that choice by God’s outward and inward influence.
The same lack of brute force contained within the context of outward and inward influence is connoted by the Apostle John in Revelation 13:16’s use of the Greek dative declension of the personal pronoun “them” to describe the second beast influencing all sorts of people “to take for themselves the mark” (Greek: ἵνα δῶσιν αὐτοῖς χάραγμα), the actual nuance of the dative declension here. The description by the Apostle John of the mark is that it will be placed either on the right hand or on the forehead of the person receiving it. This is a not-so-subtle clue to anyone familiar with the Torah of the antecedent theology from the earliest days of national Israel’s existence that the mark of the beast will be a rival or substitute for devotion to the true God of Israel.
The obvious word picture being described compares the mark of the beast to the Tefillim (or phylacteries) worn by righteous Jews. Just as the phylacteries were placed on the right hand or on the forehead of the faithful of ancient Israel, so also will these modern followers of the false prophet, the Beast, and their false god who animates them adopt to themselves an imitation emblem that mocks the faithful of ancient Israel.
I has been suggested in recent years that the Greek letters chi, ksi, and sigma (Greek: χ, ξ, and ς, used to indicate the three separate Greek numbers 600, 60, and 6) may bear a visual resemblance to the Aramaic rendering of the Shahadatan, the standard Arabic language confessional statement of the unity of Allah and of the significance of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Dr. Albrecht is aware of this view, but rejects it outright. In our view, this rejection is without scholarly merit.
One of the bases upon which Dr. Albrecht rejects Shoebat’s thesis is Shoebat’s observation that a horizontal bar written across the top of the Greek letters representing the numbers 60 and 6 are added by Shoebat to bolster his claim that the philological appearance of the sequence of Greek letters bears a visual resemblance to the Shahadatan. Aside from Dr. Albrecht’s ignorance concerning the elements of the Greek alphabet (such as her confusing the name of the miniscule Greek letter sigma (ς) with the Latin language word stigma, which means “mark”), Dr. Albrecht is just plain wrong about the use of horizontal marks in Greek manuscripts. Their presence in NT Greek manuscript philology is not only abundant and common, a study of their usage and function is a component element of elementary Greek exegetical analysis and textual criticism. We take the liberty of citing two examples from Codex Sinaiticus to illustrate this pattern of using horizontal marks in the Greek text to indicate abbreviations.
The earliest indications that Christians considered Jesus to be Yahweh Elohim incarnate is seen by examining how the first known manuscripts of the Greek New Testament depict the name “Jesus” and many predicate nominatives that refer to him. It is common knowledge that Jews were, as an almost inviolate rule, averse to pronouncing the holy name of God. Even today, many orthodox Jewish publishing houses will refrain from spelling out the English noun “God” in their English language manuscripts, preferring instead to spell the word as “G-d” so as to avoid violating the Third Commandment.
The writers of the New Testament gospels were Jews. When they wrote Greek words that refer to HaShem, that is, pronouns that refer to deity (such as the Greek word kyrios, which means “Lord”), they would follow this ancient tradition. One of the clearest examples demonstrating that the early copyists of New Testament manuscripts were following in that Jewish tradition of avoiding spelling out references to deity can be found in the text of Codex Sinaiticus, which is arguably considered the earliest extant copy of the New Testament. It has been dated reliably to about the middle of the fourth century, AD We reproduce below a sample portion of Matthew 23:39–24:1 from Codex Sinaiticus, along with a Greek transcription and English translation of that text from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version.
…“‘How blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” After Jesus had left the Temple and was walking away…
The first three lines of the uncial manuscript (i.e., a manuscript written completely in capital letters) depicted in the image above are a quotation by Jesus from Psalm 118:26, where the Masoretic Text phrase “name of the Lord“ spells the word LORD. This is a specific reference to Yahweh Elohim.
Do note, if you will please, how the Codex Sinaiticus copyist declined to spell out the name of God in the Greek text. Instead, he wrote out an abbreviation of the Greek word kyrios, using only the Greek letters KY. The letters come from the Greek genitive singular kyriou, which translate as “of the Lord”. Then he placed a short diacritical mark above the line, starting at the right edge of the letter “K” and extending about half way across the top of the capital letter “Y”. The presence of this diacritical mark is somewhat analogous to modern English grammatical usage of an apostrophe within a contraction to indicate missing letters that are to be supplied by the reader for comprehension. (For example, the contraction “don’t” is intended to mean “do not”.) Contractions were utilized when referring to deity out of a reluctance to violate the Third Commandment, which prohibits vain use of the name of God. But notice how in the very next line, that same copyist applied the tradition of not spelling out the name of God to not spelling out the name of Jesus. Instead, he spelled “Jesus” as “IS,” (i.e., printing the first and last letter of his name as a contraction), and then he added the same diacritical mark above those two letters that he did with the noun referring to God just a few lines above.
This pattern is so prevalent throughout Codex Sinaiticus, occurring dozens of times in the manuscript, that a clear and obvious pattern linking the name of Jesus and predicate nominative pronouns referring to Jesus with the sacred name of Yahweh Elohim cannot be denied. In sum, the copyists of the early New Testament manuscripts afforded Jesus the same reverence and honor when writing out his name and references to him that the reverent Jews extended to the sacred name “LORD”.
Next week, Dr. Welty will continue with Part 3 of his discussion on The Mark of the Beast.