A lot of people are terrified of the number 666. For many folks, just looking at the number can send chills down the spine. Sadly, ours is an age when fear of this sort is on the rise. I continue to meet people, for example, who are deeply frightened they will accidentally receive the mark of the beast. Some are worried they will be tricked into taking it. (What if, they wonder, the mark of the beast is the Covid vaccine?!) Fears like these have no biblical merit to them, obviously. But for many people, the fear is real—it affects their lives, their decisions, their view of reality. What is sadder still is that these sorts of fears are often manufactured not outside the church but, rather, inside the church. So many Christians (some of them church leaders) are themselves responsible for spreading baseless end-of-the-world rumors, especially on places like social media. This is lamentable, to say the least.
But such fear is not unique to 2021. In his book, The Book of Revelation: A Biography, Timothy Beal shares several stories from the past few decades about folks who had hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, which is a ten-dollar word for the fear of the number 666. I thought I would share a snippet from this section of the book, as it offers a glimpse into how deeply ingrained the phobia is in our Western culture.
“. . . there is a name for this fear of the number 666: hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (Greek hexakosioi, “six hundred,” plus hexekonta, “sixty,” plus hex, “six,” plus phobia). This phobia is indeed prevalent in our Revelation-infused Western society. Consider these hexakosioihexekontahexaphobic cases:
- In 1988, Ronald and Nancy Reagan left the White House and purchased a $2.5 million ranch house in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles whose address was 666 St. Cloud Road. Before moving in, they had the address changed in city records to 668 on account of a ‘mutual concern’ that it could be interpreted as a sign of association with Satan.
- In 2006, many pregnant women with summer due dates expressed concern about giving birth on June 6, that is, the sixth day of the sixth month of 2006—06/06/06—for fear of bad omens or, worse, inadvertently giving birth to the Antichrist.
- In 2013, a high school athlete in Lexington, Kentucky, forfeited the regional cross-country championship race because she had been assigned bib number 666. ‘I didn’t want to risk my relationship with God,’ she told the reporter. ‘I told them to mark out my name because it makes me sick just thinking that my name is associated with that number.’
- In 2015, Republican United States Representative Joe Barton of Texas had the number of his bill repealing a ban on crude-oil exports changed from 666 to 702.”
 Timothy Beal, The Book of Revelation: A Biography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), xii-xiii. You can find Beal’s sources on pp. 219-220, nn. 4-7. For each bullet point above, they are, respectively: “The Reagans: First Family Easing into Private Life,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1988; Tony Allen-Mills, “Mothers Expect Damien on 6/6/06,” The Sunday Times, April 30, 2006, http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/article200645.ece; Eric Sondheimer, “Kentucky Cross Country Runner Forfeits Rather Than Wear No. 666,” Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/06/sports/la-sp-vi-kentucky-cross-country-runner-forfeits-rather-than-wear-no-666-20131106; Laura Barron-Lopez, “Representative Avoids Apocalyptic 666,” The Hill, February 4, 2015, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/231787-republican-avoids-apocalyptic-666. (Note: not all of the links still work, but you can find the articles with a simple google search.)