Listen to this article as an audio
The pope is the beast spoken of in Revelation 13. Verse 1 says that he wears crowns and has “blasphemous names” written on his head. Verse 18 says that the numerical value of his name adds up to 666. The pope’s official title in Latin is Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God). If you add that up using Roman numerals, you get 666. The pope’s tiara is emblazoned with this title, formed by diamonds and other jewels.
I wasn’t very good at math in school, but even I can follow this argument and run the numbers well enough to show it’s bogus. (Besides, answering this question is apologetics at its most fun!) The charge that the pope is the beast of Revelation 13, because his tide adds up to 666, is especially popular with Seventh-Day Adventists, but it’s also widely repeated in some Protestant circles.
Vicarius Filii Dei does have the mathematical value of 666 in Latin. Here’s how it works. Like many ancient languages, such as Greek and Hebrew, some Latin letters are also used for numbers: I = 1, V = 5, X = 10, L = 50, C = 100, D = 500 and M = 1000. The letter “u” is rendered as V and the letter “w,” which doesn’t exist in the Latin alphabet, would be rendered as VV. So this title would read in Latin as VICARIVS FILII DEI.
When calculating the value of a name or word, letters that don’t have a numerical value are ignored. For example, drop out the novalue letters in my name, PATRICK MADRID, and you come up with 2102 – 1 (i) + 100 (c) + 1000 (m) + 500 (d) + 1 (i) + 500 (d) = 2102. By the way, this is one reason why, as far as I know, no one has yet accused me of being in league with the anti-Christ. The numbers just don’t add up.
But in the case of VICARIVS FILII DEI, they do add up to 666. Isolate the numbers and this is what you get: 5 (v) + 1 (i) + 100 (c) + 1 (i) + 5 (V) + 1 (i) + 50 (L) + 1 (i) + 1 (i) + 500 (d) + 1 (i) = 666.
But there are problems with this. The first is that Vicarius Filii Dei, or “Vicar of the Son of God,” is not now, nor has it ever been, a title of the bishop of Rome. The second problem is that virtually no one, including many unsuspecting lay Catholics, knows that this papal “title” is a fabrication. To an untrained ear, it sounds enough like one of the pope’s real titles, Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ), to pass the test. Unfortunately for those who traffic in this particular piece of pope fiction, the real title, Vicarius Christi, adds up to only a measly 214, not the infernal 666. In fact, none of the pope’s official titles, such as Servus Servorum Dei (Servant of the Servants of God), Pontifex Maximus (Supreme Pontiff), or Successor Petri (Successor of Peter), will add up to 666. That’s why you never see any of them used by anti-Catholics.
If the person making this claim disputes these facts, ask him to furnish even one example of a papal decree, ecclesiastical letter, conciliar statement, or any other official Catholic document in Which the pope calls himself or is referred to as the “Vicar of the Son of God,” He won’t be able to find one, because none exist. Vicarius Filii Dei has never been a title of the pope.
Poof! That part was easy, but some people, especially Seventh Day Adventists, will ignore the evidence (or lack of it) and hold tenaciously to the notion that “Vicar of the Son of God” is an official papal title and therefore identifies the pope as the Beast of Revelation. What else can be said in response?
Using the same math exercise we did above, point out that the name of the woman who started the Seventh-Day Adventist church, Ellen Gould White, also adds up to 666 in Latin. (L + L + V + D + V + V + I = 666). Then ask if this proves that she is the Beast. I can assure you the answer won’t be “yes.” If the answer is “no,” ask how this numbers game could possibly prove the pope or anyone else is the Beast. If you’re answered with silence, it’s a good bet that you’ve made some progress with the person.
The main fact to impress on someone who uses this argument is that a papal title had to be invented, one that could produce the magic number, in order to give this argument legs.
But we’re not quite finished cutting it off at the knees. The charge that the pope is the Beast because he wears a crown, and Revelation 13:1 says the Beast wears crowns and has “blasphemous names” written on his head, must also be answered. This we can do more quickly.
Since about the year 708, many popes have worn at non-liturgical ceremonial events a special papal crown called a tiara, but the stylized beehive-shaped papal crown of three diadems that we have come to know as a tiara emerged only in the early 14th century. Although it was customary for tiaras to be encrusted with jewels and precious ornaments, there is no evidence – no statue bust, painting, drawing or even written description of any of the many tiaras that were crafted – that any papal tiara ever had the name or title of a pope emblazoned on it.
This is significant, because there have been medieval and Renaissance popes whose extravagant vanity prodded them to have lavishly ornamented, jewel-encrusted tiaras made for themselves. And we possess paintings and statues and other representations of them produced during their lifetimes that show these tiaras (we even possess some of the actual tiaras). If any popes in history would have been tempted to succumb to the bad taste of spelling out “Vicarius Filii’ Dei” in diamonds across the front of their tiaras, these men would have – but they didn’t. No pope did, One particular anti-Catholic tract I’ve seen shows a plain metal tiara with Vicarius Filii Dei written in diamonds across it. But it was a drawing – not a photograph of a museum piece or even a photo of a painting of a tiara.
It had to be drawn, of course, because the “666 papal crown” – as with all the other pope fictions – has only ever existed in the minds of those who perpetuate this fantasy.
By Patrick Madrid (Envoy Magazine, March/April 1998, p.27)