Monday, May 09, 2005

Markdown of the Beast 

Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.: In light of new archaeological findings we will henceforth refer to the late president Ronald Wilson Reagan as Ronald W. Reagan:
Satanists, apocalypse watchers and heavy metal guitarists may have to adjust their demonic numerology after a recently deciphered ancient biblical text revealed that 666 is not the fabled Number of the Beast after all.

A fragment from the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, dating to the Third century, gives the more mundane 616 as the mark of the Antichrist.

Ellen Aitken, a professor of early Christian history at McGill University, said the discovery appears to spell the end of 666 as the devil's prime number . . . .

Dr. Aitken said, however, that scholars now believe the number in question has very little to do the devil. It was actually a complicated numerical riddle in Greek, meant to represent someone's name, she said.

"It's a number puzzle -- the majority opinion seems to be that it refers to [the Roman emperor] Nero."

Revelation was actually a thinly disguised political tract, with the names of those being criticized changed to numbers to protect the authors and early Christians from reprisals. "It's a very political document," Dr. Aitken said. "It's a critique of the politics and society of the Roman empire, but it's written in coded language and riddles."
Note to future scholars: we live in parlous times ourselves and we are certainly not keen to bring down the wrath of the authorities. If, in some distant century, you stumble across this kind of seemingly indecipherable gobbledygook in the Zemblan archives --

?daor eht ssorc tnediserp eht did yhW .Q
.nekcihc eht fo tuo kcid sih teg t'ndluoc eH .A

-- just take our word for it: we're really talking about the Bush administration.

Speaking of reprisals against Christians, our revered colleague Avedon Carol (and boy, has that Eschaton blog perked up or what?) informs us that right Rev. Chan Chandler of the (currently) tax-exempt East Waynesville Baptist Church is hoping to put his umbrella away and come in out of the shit:

Calling it a "great misunderstanding," the pastor of a small church who led the charge to remove nine members for their political beliefs tried to welcome them back Sunday, but some insisted he must leave for the wounds to heal . . . .

The ousted members have said Chandler told them during last year's presidential campaign that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry needed to leave the church in the mountain town about 125 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Chandler said he and his wife have received calls from around the nation -- some of them threatening -- since his politics in the pulpit made national news . . . .

Some members of his congregation, however, voiced their support for Chandler on Sunday.

"He's a wonderful, good old country boy," Pam Serafin said as she walked into the church. "There are always two sides to every story."

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