This is when I must beware

This is when I must beware June 6, 2006

The 30-year mortgage rate is now 6.66%. This news arrives on D-Day +62 years — 6/6/06 — and thus will be greeted as portentous by those obsessed with seeking portents, such as the authors and fans of the Worst Books Ever Written.

It's hard to know what these folks would make of this news, actually, since the rapture-maniacs all claim that they expect the world to end long before a 30-year mortgage would ever come to term.

X2I could link to any one of dozens of 6/6/06 articles about the combination of hysteria and marketing greed surrounding the meaningless quirk of the calendar that causes some people to view today as beastly. They get that idea from Revelation 13:18 —

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666

(Those most intent on the significance of the number at the end of that verse tend to be those least likely to pay attention to those four words at the beginning of it.)

Many of today's 6/6/06 articles cite the Rapture Index site, which currently calculates an index of 157. A Rapture Index of 110 to 145, the site says, indicates "Heavy prophetic activity." An index above 145, it says, means "Fasten your seat belts."

I suppose they mean "fasten your seat belts" as in "get ready for takeoff," but it still seems an odd choice of words (even apart from the way it makes one think of Bette Davis). Isn't the whole point of the rapture that these folks want to be lifted out of their seats? So why are they strapping themselves down?

Most of the 6/6/06 articles also note the strange trinity of marketing ploys attempting to take advantage of today's beastly date: the release of the unnecessary remake of The Omen; the release of The Rapture — the latest Left Behind prequel from our friends Tim and Jerry; and the publication of Godless, the latest screed from Mystery Babylon herself. (Sad, sadder, saddest.)

I like this 6/6/06 piece, from CBS/AP because it mixes an appropriate touch of whimsy with a broad array of representative quotes, and because it links to the Rev. Felix Just's Number of the Beast Web site.

Just offers a good bit more whimsy as well as some "more serious academic stuff" that provides a good overview of the significance of the number of the beast and the larger meaning of the rest of John's Apocalypse as understood by the great majority of Christians, living and dead (i.e., those of us who do not believe that Scofield's footnotes and Left Behind should be included in the canon as the 67th and 68th books of the Bible).

K. Connie King of the L.A. Times, likewise, offers some welcome theological context to help explain that Tim LaHaye is not the most reliable representative of What Most Christians Believe (while still including a fair summary of the PMD perspective from a Dallas seminary prof).

The BBC's Stephen Tomkins takes a different approach, sorting through the various reactions to today's date from the various competing factions of Satanists (who are apparently as schismatic as Baptists).

Dark rituals surrounding the nefarious date seem mainly to involve dinner and a movie. Vexen Crabtree, "Minister of the London Church of Satan," plans to go clubbing tonight, but you can tell he's disappointed that the date falls on a Tuesday. Still, he says, "Any excuse for a party is a good one" — which strikes me as not a bad bit of theologizing.

And speaking of theologizing, here's the gist of Just, a nice summary of why most Christians think that the portent-obsessed are misreading, and as the Rev. Just says, misusing, the Bible:

As a biblical scholar and Catholic priest, I think trying to predict the future is a misuse of the Bible. Biblical prophecy is not about crystal-ball gazing into the future. Rather, prophets of the Bible are those who speak on behalf of God, conveying God's messages to people, interpreting the past, present, and future through God's eyes, so to speak. Biblical prophets call people to repent and to remain faithful to God, not to worry about when the world will end or who is the "beast" of the Book of Revelation.

The inconvenient thing about this understanding of the prophets is that, unlike the complex hermeneutical schemes of the rapture-maniacs, it doesn't allow you to avoid what the prophets are actually saying. A skeptical person might even suspect that this convenient avoidance of the prophetic message is the primary purpose of that complex scheme.


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76 responses to “This is when I must beware”

  1. Avoidance combined with the fact that such sober reasoning does not sell anywhere near as many books, CDs, and conference tickets.

  2. I’ve told people that I’m willing to ensure the world does not end today for a measly 500$ payment. Personal guarantee.
    No takers so far.

  3. The year 2006 is based on Pope Gregory’s assumption about the year in which Jesus was born. If Pope Gregory was incorrect – and he probably was – then the actual spooky day of 6/6/6 will occur sometime between a few years ago and a few years hence.
    .. of course, it should be noted that Revelations was written during the time period when the Julian calendar was used, so “accurate” speculation will need to include at least the 10 (or 11) days that were lost when converting from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

  4. I spent my lunch calculating today’s most probable date and it turns out that today is actually the most Holy Day of Easter, 2001. Praise Jesus and pass the marshmallow peeps!

  5. Axiomatic,
    What restitution will you pay to your policy holders in the event that the world does end today? ;)

  6. Duane:
    I think it’s safe to say that an omnipotent God could predict the calendar that would be used at a given point in the future.
    Of course, he could also tell us the Antichrist’s name, rather than giving cryptic hints. Maybe he just doesn’t want to take the sport out of it…

  7. Fred: The inconvenient thing about this understanding of the prophets is that, unlike the complex hermeneutical schemes of the rapture-maniacs, it doesn’t allow you to avoid what the prophets are actually saying. A skeptical person might even suspect that this convenient avoidance of the prophetic message is the primary purpose of that complex scheme.
    I’d have to agree. Little if any of those types of teachings ever touch on repentance and Calvary’s act of grace.

  8. Fred: The inconvenient thing about this understanding of the prophets is that, unlike the complex hermeneutical schemes of the rapture-maniacs, it doesn’t allow you to avoid what the prophets are actually saying. A skeptical person might even suspect that this convenient avoidance of the prophetic message is the primary purpose of that complex scheme.
    I’d have to agree. Little if any of those types of teachings ever touch on repentance and Calvary’s act of grace.

  9. Axiomatic,
    What restitution will you pay to your policy holders in the event that the world does end today? ;)
    Provided that the other party can provide sufficient documentation to prove that the world did in fact end as well as produce a receipt of payment, I guarantee a full cash refund.

  10. Axiomatic,
    What restitution will you pay to your policy holders in the event that the world does end today? ;)
    Provided that the other party can provide sufficient documentation to prove that the world did in fact end as well as produce a receipt of payment, I guarantee a full cash refund.

  11. My father was a late convert to the Baptist church, and for a while he was REALLY caught up in this rapture stuff. He was convinced that barcodes were a sign of the Antichrist. I’m so glad we Episcopalians don’t get all tied up in knots over this stuff.

  12. Duane, you’re confusing the calculating of the length of the year — the Julian calendar had a regular 365.25 days a year, the Gregorian tweaked it a bit down by skipping 3 leap days every 400 years — with the counting of the years, which is where the supposed date of Jesus’ birth comes in. The latter was not due to Emperor Julius nor Pope Gregory, but rather a monk named Dionysius Exiguus who calculated the date around 535 c.e. — long after the Book of Revelations was written, but long before the Gregorian calendar began its centuries-long fight to replace the Julian calendar. And while the date is wrong, it’s almost certainly too late, i.e. Jesus was born b.c.e. — so that 6/6/6 was “really” a few years ago (rather than still coming up).
    (Lots of books on this; my favorite is Isaac Asimov’s The Clock We Live on, which I just pulled off the shelf to check on the precise name & approximate date of the person who miscalculated the date of Jesus’ birth.)

  13. Duane, you’re confusing the calculating of the length of the year — the Julian calendar had a regular 365.25 days a year, the Gregorian tweaked it a bit down by skipping 3 leap days every 400 years — with the counting of the years, which is where the supposed date of Jesus’ birth comes in. The latter was not due to Emperor Julius nor Pope Gregory, but rather a monk named Dionysius Exiguus who calculated the date around 535 c.e. — long after the Book of Revelations was written, but long before the Gregorian calendar began its centuries-long fight to replace the Julian calendar. And while the date is wrong, it’s almost certainly too late, i.e. Jesus was born b.c.e. — so that 6/6/6 was “really” a few years ago (rather than still coming up).
    (Lots of books on this; my favorite is Isaac Asimov’s The Clock We Live on, which I just pulled off the shelf to check on the precise name & approximate date of the person who miscalculated the date of Jesus’ birth.)

  14. Stephen: And while the date is wrong, it’s almost certainly too late, i.e. Jesus was born b.c.e. — so that 6/6/6 was “really” a few years ago (rather than still coming up).
    Well, according to Matthew, the Slaughter of the Innocents was done in the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4BC. As Jesus is generally assumed to be about 2 at this time, this puts his birth no later than 6BC.
    On the other hand, Luke puts Jesus’s birth during the Census of Quirinius, which took place in 4AD. So whether or not we missed it depends on which Gospel you believe.

  15. Stephen: And while the date is wrong, it’s almost certainly too late, i.e. Jesus was born b.c.e. — so that 6/6/6 was “really” a few years ago (rather than still coming up).
    Well, according to Matthew, the Slaughter of the Innocents was done in the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4BC. As Jesus is generally assumed to be about 2 at this time, this puts his birth no later than 6BC.
    On the other hand, Luke puts Jesus’s birth during the Census of Quirinius, which took place in 4AD. So whether or not we missed it depends on which Gospel you believe.

  16. Besides, 6 is no number at all. 19, now there’s a number of power.
    The world is going to end on June 19, 1999.

  17. The world is going to end on June 19, 1999.
    I got married that day. (Had a few people who claimed the end of the world would come before that event, though.)
    Personally, I’m using today as a great excuse to play REM on repeat.

  18. Well personally I’m wondering why *our* 6/6/06 in Ne Zealand doesn’t count? Oh wait. It’s because God runs on American Eastern Standard Time.

  19. Well personally I’m wondering why *our* 6/6/06 in Ne Zealand doesn’t count? Oh wait. It’s because God runs on American Eastern Standard Time.

  20. Duane, you’re confusing the calculating of the length of the year — the Julian calendar had a regular 365.25 days a year, the Gregorian tweaked it a bit down by skipping 3 leap days every 400 years — with the counting of the years, which is where the supposed date of Jesus’ birth comes in. The latter was not due to Emperor Julius nor Pope Gregory, but rather a monk named Dionysius Exiguus who calculated the date around 535 c.e. — long after the Book of Revelations was written, but long before the Gregorian calendar began its centuries-long fight to replace the Julian calendar. And while the date is wrong, it’s almost certainly too late, i.e. Jesus was born b.c.e. — so that 6/6/6 was “really” a few years ago (rather than still coming up).
    I’m not sure I confused anything. Read my post again and note that I separated discussion of years and days into two separate paragraphs. Further, I concluded that the “real” 6/6/6 occurred somewhere between a couple years ago and a couple of years hence. In my second tongue-in-cheek paragraph, I simply noted that not only were we off by years, but the exact day as well. Was I not clear?
    At any rate, it’s all semantical bullshit: God is using the Jewish Calendar.

  21. Duane: the confusion comes here: The year 2006 is based on Pope Gregory’s assumption about the year in which Jesus was born. That wasn’t Pope Gregory’s assumption; it was based on a calculation made a millennium of so before Pope Gregory was born. Our calendar is called the Gregorian calendar because he fixed the number of days per year (from the previous Julian calendar); he had nothing to do with fixing the 1 b.c.e. date.
    Wintermute: That’s interesting. Every discussion I’ve seen of it — and I’ve read a bunch — has always taken for granted that Mathews was right & used the Herod fact to calculate the date. I didn’t even know about the Luke dating. I wonder if there is some reason that books tend to go with the Herod fact and not the Census of Quirinius?

  22. Uh, I meant “fixing the 1 c.e.” date. But I suppose it comes to the same thing. (Although Dionysius Exiguus also was responsible for not putting in a year zero, which makes the whole ‘when does the century start/end’ thing such a bother.)

  23. Every discussion I’ve seen of it — and I’ve read a bunch — has always taken for granted that Mathews was right & used the Herod fact to calculate the date. I didn’t even know about the Luke dating. I wonder if there is some reason that books tend to go with the Herod fact and not the Census of Quirinius?
    To answer my own question: presumably because the Herod fact is mentioned in both Luke and Mathew, while the Census was mentioned only in Luke (an internal contradiction within that book). Therefore, I suppose, the Herod fact is presumed to be more reliable.

  24. Every discussion I’ve seen of it — and I’ve read a bunch — has always taken for granted that Mathews was right & used the Herod fact to calculate the date. I didn’t even know about the Luke dating. I wonder if there is some reason that books tend to go with the Herod fact and not the Census of Quirinius?
    To answer my own question: presumably because the Herod fact is mentioned in both Luke and Mathew, while the Census was mentioned only in Luke (an internal contradiction within that book). Therefore, I suppose, the Herod fact is presumed to be more reliable.

  25. You do have to cut Dionysius Exiguus a little bit of slack: he was working a few hundred years B.Z. (Before Zero)

  26. Duane: the confusion comes here: The year 2006 is based on Pope Gregory’s assumption about the year in which Jesus was born. That wasn’t Pope Gregory’s assumption; it was based on a calculation made a millennium of so before Pope Gregory was born. Our calendar is called the Gregorian calendar because he fixed the number of days per year (from the previous Julian calendar); he had nothing to do with fixing the 1 b.c.e. date.
    Gotcha. I was under the impression that Gregory certified Anno Domini as part of the 1582 decree.

  27. I’m celebrating the end of the world by getting hammered tonite. Then again, I do that every night….. :-)

  28. I believe the first sentence of Revelations 13:18 is one of the most obscure passages in the entire Bible – and that’s saying a lot. Apparently, translators from all over the world agree with me, just take a look. This is wisdom, this calls for wisdom, the wise ones should calculate, this needs to be understood, here is the place to apply your wisdom…
    In any case, ??? ? ????? ????? sound just like something I would put on a t-shirt. Or use as an alternative motto for this blog :o)

  29. Andy: “This Rapture stuff” is part of what made me go Episcopalian. I remember reading a book published in the late 70’s/early 80’s stating that bar codes were a sign of the Beast and that the then-10 members of what is now the European Union were the 10 kingdoms Revelations was talking about. The things bored 12 year olds can get at Southern Baptist church libraries…
    I wonder how she (the author) dealt with the expansion of the EU, if she was still “prophesizing” into the 90’s and this century.

  30. And speaking of the thoroughly unnecessary remake of “The Omen,” am I correct in thinking that this whole Antichrist spiel, at least to those who take it as a straightforward(ish) prophecy, is not a dire warning of what might happen if we don’t keep watching the skies, or at least the maternity wards, but rather a description of what God has decreed is going to happen? If so, isn’t “The Omen” actually about a bunch of people working hard to thwart God’s plan, and shouldn’t we be rooting for Damien to grow up and fulfill his role?

  31. And speaking of the thoroughly unnecessary remake of “The Omen,” am I correct in thinking that this whole Antichrist spiel, at least to those who take it as a straightforward(ish) prophecy, is not a dire warning of what might happen if we don’t keep watching the skies, or at least the maternity wards, but rather a description of what God has decreed is going to happen? If so, isn’t “The Omen” actually about a bunch of people working hard to thwart God’s plan, and shouldn’t we be rooting for Damien to grow up and fulfill his role?

  32. Axi…Play nice with the faithful, just because your country’s currency is barely worth the gold I use in World of Warcraft…

  33. Well, Texan, don’t worry. Barcodes (ISN numbers) are going to 13 in 2007! Now that’ s a fair bit of calculation.

  34. Fafblog’s back! And has already provided us with a topical motto:
    You must be this tall to ride the afterlife.

  35. “Here the wisdom, she be”, huh? Is “wisdom” traditionally (ie. throughout the Bible) feminine? Or is it just this particular wisdom?

  36. “Here the wisdom, she be”
    Well, it’s more like “Here she-the wisdom is”, but yes, wisdom is a feminine noun in Greek.
    The definite article is another thing that puzzles me: does understanding the number of the beast require some sort of specific wisdom?
    Is “wisdom” traditionally (ie. throughout the Bible) feminine?
    ????? is, so is Hebrew ????. Incidentally, ‘wisdom’ is a feminine noun in most languages I can think of – Latin, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Arabic…

  37. my darlings, this is just a quick nitpick, but it’s the Book of Revelation (singular), not Revelations.
    that extra ‘s’ is like nails on my mental chalkboard.

  38. That explains a lot.
    Sorry, but hanging around state-worshippers leaves me needing something to numb the pain of you abused-spouse like love of govt (they only beat us because they love us).

  39. Sorry, but hanging around state-worshippers leaves me needing something to numb the pain of you abused-spouse like love of govt (they only beat us because they love us).
    So your alcoholism is exacerbated by co-dependency? Or is it the other way around?

  40. {glares at Duane and Scott} All right, you two, enough. I don’t want to see yet another thread infected with political strife (and the attendant sloth, wrath, and envy).
    I *do* have a few questions for Scott, though (you stay out of this, Duane. I’m trying to pin down precepts, here–especially of the cause-and-effect variety.)…
    1. A few months back, Doctor Science mentioned that he saw libertarianism as the theory that humans are not social creatures. I think a suspicion I voiced a little while ago is that you see “market” and “society” as perfect synonyms (with the usual understandings of “market” having priority). Do you have an answer/refutation/etc. to these?
    2. I don’t think you ever gave a causal explanation for WHY chimerae like Guatanamo are inevitable for even the most conscientious of governments. Got an identification of the source pathogen/vice/etc. ready?

  41. Dammit Skyknight, I was very likely on the verge of a breakthrough with Scott and now you’ve got him pulling up the drawbridge and scooting back up his ivory tower of libertarianism.
    You aren’t going to make any headway with his libertarianism until you confront his alcoholism and co-dependent behavior. Sure you heard strife, sloth, wrath and envy but if you listen a little closer, you may hear a tiny cry for help.

  42. Dammit Skyknight, I was very likely on the verge of a breakthrough with Scott and now you’ve got him pulling up the drawbridge and scooting back up his ivory tower of libertarianism.
    You aren’t going to make any headway with his libertarianism until you confront his alcoholism and co-dependent behavior. Sure you heard strife, sloth, wrath and envy but if you listen a little closer, you may hear a tiny cry for help.

  43. (WHAT codependence? I haven’t sensed anything like that from him.)
    My main target (for now, at least) isn’t really his libertarianism–not the main part of it. Rather, I’m aiming at the “anarcho-” prefix he seems to have attached, if his antipathy towards government and nearly everything else that even pretends to be public is any indication…

  44. See, that’s where we differ. To me, the “anarcho” part just puts him further out on the lunatic fringe and makes him less deserving of serious debate. Even so, it’s all been tried before. Frankly, even if you are able to nail down his core principles (alcohol and Hustler magazine?) and reveal him to the world as a Trotskyite, it doesn’t make a bit of difference as the next libertarian you encounter will be one of the billions of different and really principled libertarians, unlike that traitor to the cause, Scott. And Scott will continue to tilt uselessly at windmills as he slips into Captain Morgan’s sweet embrace.
    (The big unspoken problem with Libertarianism: libertarians are all too damned disagreeable to form any kind of cohesive threat and actually matter. They’d probably do better if they disbanded the Libertarian party and reformed as the Contrarian party.)
    Having said that (cough), I find Scott charming and refreshingly funny when he isn’t in the feedbag screaming about black choppers and gmen. Many of the links he provides are quite entertaining and infomative.

  45. Fr. Just was on th George Noory show last night (the former Art Bell show). Not surprisingly, the Real Christians started calling as soon as he was off the air, and they were mightily offended by what he had to say.

  46. The way I see it, the end of the world occurs everyday for many in the real world. Using sentences like he or she has been dead for a long time but we just didn’t have the heart to tell them will not cut it anymore.
    What goes around comes around in the spiritual world so why pump up our brain trying to figure when The Judgement Day will really come cause your brain would just blow UP.
    The way philosopher Vic sees it, (lol)we have the end of the world as some knew it already. First of all, the dinosaurs era had their end. Second was the Egyptians who seem to have left us with a lot of their sophisticated pyramids. Where the Indians not next to come and didn’t they almost loose it all but they seem to be making a kind of a come back of sort.
    Without dissecting all your faults assumptions vic some might ask, what do you think caused all their lost. Well it’s really simple, Our Heavenly Father let them get away with everything that they wanted to do and eventually they lost IT all by themself because they eventually came to a conclusion that they really were the number one god and enough was enough.
    We humans are lucky well some of US who have enough Faith to believe that we have the potential to live forever as one big happy family with The Trinity.
    Even in the spiritual world nothing is really destroy but it just changes from one state to another. So where are all these pass so called gods at now? Well that’s simple, they are all around us and over us waiting for the right time to team up and create a catastrophe that only The Holy Trinity could put a stop to what they’ve planned. Like someone said above the end of the world occurred two weeks ago and who can really prove him or her wrong without going back there?
    What I suggest is that we all stay as spiritual virgin until our physical death comes or The Judgement Day cause I honestly don’t believe that Eve will go all the way with her treat cause I think she knows that Adam loves His rib but He’ll only let Her go so far.
    Hey there spaceship are all waiting to come into the real world also because contrary to what some may believe, Damien and followers will never stop working as the opposition to The Trinity and a lot of them have already entered by the back door.
    Remember that you never got any of this from me!
    I’ll close by saying “GOT YOU!” Be honest now, I got some of you thinking that I really had lost it” If some of you believe any of this then I’ve got some swamp land going pretty cheap and for the ones who love to really gamble, I’ve got some ocean front property in a few desert. Don’t wait to long to send your million dollar cheque care of J.E.S.US, V.I.C.T.O.R cause (J)esus (E)njoys (S)aving (US) (V)ulnerable (I)nnocent (C)hristians (T)esting (O)ld (R)eruns.
    Good Luck and yes by the way, there will be no refunds.

  47. Dammit Skyknight
    Great, now I’ll spent the whole day humming the tune to “Dammit Janet”…
    And though I’m with you on this one, Duane, let us not forget the words of the wise one: “Go your way-eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart”.

  48. Arrrrgh, “I’ll spend”, of course. Me no speak no good Inglish this early in the morning.

  49. I didnt even notice it as my brain was still in auto-correct mode from Crazy Vic.

  50. Vic: Where the Indians not next to come and didn’t they almost loose it all but they seem to be making a kind of a come back of sort.
    So far as I’m aware, the Indians have always been doing pretty well. There are over a billion of them, forming the world’s lagest democracy. True, they’re doing rather better with their current rush-to-outsourcing than they were under the British Empire, and I suppose it could be argued that they had slipped a little since the days when they were doing things like building the Taj Mahal, and realising that zero was an actual number rather than a mere placeholder for “no value”. But still, it seems very unfair to Indians to suggest they “almost loosed [lost?] it”.

  51. wintermute, duane: i think Vic is refering to those noble savages, the American Indians. who, as a race, did get pretty screwed.

  52. wintermute, duane: i think Vic is refering to those noble savages, the American Indians. who, as a race, did get pretty screwed.

  53. Just a quick reply if that’s possible for me before I read the above posts!(lol)
    pharoute, As far as I know, I’ve never spoken in tongues and that’s probably because Our Lord is having enough trouble keeping me in line now without encouraging me anymore.
    Duane, It’s interesting to hear that you’ve been reading some of my pass material and I would give IT a little more time before you go looking for help and between you and me, I believe that many of THE INDIANS probably are one big happy family with The Trinity but GOD only knows for sure.
    Wintermute, I didn’t mean to sound unfair to the Indians and if that’s what it’s sounded like, well that’s something else I’ll need to be forgiven for.
    grenadine, Thank you for your help although I didn’t mean to imply that American Indians were screwed up and if that’s how it sounded I must again apologize.
    Now that I’m finished apologizing I’ll thank you all for your comments and close this chapter and move on.

  54. Duane’s right; Doctor Science is a “she.”
    And from what I can gather based on this, looks like we get another stab at 6/6/06 the day after Father’s Day???

  55. There’s a Pentecostal Camp in our area.
    For the longest time their post office box number was 666.
    I think they’ve since changed it.
    It seemed like an unforgettable way to ensure your mail came to the right place.

  56. There’s a Pentecostal Camp in our area.
    For the longest time their post office box number was 666.
    I think they’ve since changed it.
    It seemed like an unforgettable way to ensure your mail came to the right place.

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