top of page

Is the pope the "beast" in Revelation?

Q. Is it true that some anti-Catholics have claimed the pope is the “beast” in Revelation?

It is true. Since the time of the Protestant Reformation, some anti-Catholic apologists have claimed that Revelation 13:18 refers to the pope as the enemy of the true faith. His title, they say, is Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God). Using the value of Roman numerals, the sum of the letters in that title is 666.

Here’s how the calculation works. As in Greek and Hebrew, some Latin letters are used for numbers. “I” = 1; “V” = 5; “X” = 10; “L” = 50; “C” = 100; “D” = 500; “M” = 1000. Letters that have no numerical value are to be ignored in calculating the numerical significance of a name. The letter “U” is treated as “V.” Since there is no “W” in Latin, it is rendered as “VV.”

The Latin title Vicarius Filii Dei, then, would be VICARIVS FILII DEI. Now apply this numbering scheme to it. You get these numbers: 5 (V) + 1 (I) + 100 (C) + 1 (I) + 5 (V) + 1 (I) + 50 (L) + 1 (I); + 1 (I) + 500 (D) + 1 (I). The total is 666. Therefore, according to these anti-Catholic apologists, Scripture plainly identifies the pope as one of the two beasts who tried to destroy the true faith.

To unwind all this, start with the fact that Vicarius Filii Dei is not the pope’s title. It is never used in any official Church document. His title is “Vicar of Christ” (Vicarius Christi), which according to the scheme given above adds up to 214. The pope has o