The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Papyrus yields ancient secrets to new technology

National Geographic has new details on the stories I blogged earlier this month including an intriguing detail at the bottom of this post:

Similarly, Biblical scholars can expect valuable new material to emerge as some gospels that weren't included in the New Testament didn't survive. "The texts that are in the Bible were selected out of a much larger body of work that once circulated," Obbink said. "We have samples of that material here." snip He says the Oxyrhynchus collection holds a lot of information about the rise of Christianity during the Roman period. (Egypt became part of the Roman Empire after Cleopatra's fleet was defeated at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.). "[Christianity] starts out as a small social phenomenon, then just takes over everything," Obbink said. "You can see other cultural sea changes taking place—changes in taxes, changes in rule. It's all reflected in the papyrus." Oxyrhynchus, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of modern-day Cairo, rose to prominence under Egypt's Greek and Roman rulers. The town's papyrus-rich garbage heaps were excavated in the late 1890s by two Oxford University fellows, B.P. Grenfell and A.S. Hunt. Researchers have been painstakingly piecing together the Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments ever since. So far 65 volumes of transcripts and translations have been published by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which owns the collection. The latest volume includes details of fragments showing third- and fourth-century versions of the Book of Revelations. Intriguingly, the number assigned to "the Beast" of Revelations isn't the usual 666, but 616.
I'll leave it to the End Timers and conspiracy experts to figure out what that means. UPDATED Leave it to the fine folks at The Daily Grail to point us to the answer so quickly. The Marvel Universe that we read about in the comics is dubbed Earth-616 (as opposed to the many alternative universes, timelines, planes of existence, etc.) Alan Moore apparently created the reference. From Wikipedia:
Another theory is that Moore simply chose a random number to show the "mainstream" Earth was inherently no more important than any other (unlike DC Comics, whose Earth was known at the time as Earth-1). It is possible that Moore's choice was inspired by the release date of Fantastic Four #1, which is considered by most to be the date the modern Marvel Universe was launched. Although the cover date of the comic book is given as November 1961, there are claims that the comic book was released as early as June 1961, hence, "61/6" [1] ( It is also possible that "616" is a reference to the Number of the Beast in the final chapter of the Christian Bible, the Book of Revelation (or the Apocalypse of John). While most early manuscripts give the Number of the Beast as "666", the earliest existing fragment of the Greek text of this book gives it as "616". Irenaeus argued against the "616" number in his neverending battle against early heresies. Moore, a student of mystic esoterica from a very early age, could well have known about this alternate rendering. Quite why the Marvel Universe should even be named after the Number of the Beast may be an indirect reference to set it apart from the DC Universe. For many years, the headquarters of DC Comics was located at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Thus, the name could be a subtle joke that the DC Universe was Earth-666 while the Marvel Universe was Earth-616; both numbers, of course, are renderings of the Number of the Beast.


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