This is the story that just won't die ... MG over at NT Gateway comments on and links to a piece in Religion News Blog commenting on the piece which appeared in the National Post a while back ... here's the incipit:

As a professor of New Testament whose specialty is textual criticism, I was particularly interested in Chris Wattie's piece, "Beast's real mark devalued to '616'" (May 4, 2005). However, I noticed several errors in the essay, some of which I know from first-hand knowledge of the manuscript in question.

First, the papyrus fragment is not 1500 years old. It is closer to 1700+ years old.

Second, the fragment was not so badly discoloured that scholars could not make out the wording without sophisticated imaging equipment. Such equipment--such as multi-spectral imaging (MSI)--is often used on manuscripts that are in very bad shape.

This fragment, however, is part of a score of other fragments which span nine chapters in the book of Revelation. It is about the size of a postage stamp. No imaging equipment was needed to make out its wording.

I saw the fragment two years ago at the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University. It was published over five years ago; just now it is making its way into popular literature as though it were a new discovery. When I looked at the fragment, the curator had to slice open its case because the verse in question (Revelation 13.18) was on the backside. He told me that no one had asked to see the fragment since it had been published. I looked at it under a microscope to make sure that the wording had not been tampered with. But even with the naked eye, it was quite legible.

Fourth, I don't know who Ellen Aitken is, nor Elijah Dann, but it seems that Wattie did not interview textual critics for this piece. Aitken makes the astounding claim that "it now seems that 616 was the original number of the beast."


By the way, the piece was written by Daniel B. Wallace, who is the Executive Director of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. [I just noticed that MG and I excerpted the exact same chunk ...]