First, the issue regarding the mark of the beast which they say is 666 in Revelation 13:18 have become repeated questions and reason for criticisms of non-Catholics against the Catholic Church.
Many preachers and other religions say this refers to the Pope of the Catholic Church.
However, let us look at this closely.
The oldest manuscripts of Revelation do not state 666 but 616.Please see the attached manuscript. I encircled it for everyone. P115 (P. Oxy. 4499) shows Revelation 13:18-14:7. Look at the number of the beast (616) in the third line.
Here is what we can read in the statement of New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace in his debate with Bart Ehrman in the Book – The Reliability of the New Testament
“For example, consider a textual problem in Rev. 13:18, “Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” A few years ago, a scrap of papyrus was found at Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum. It gave the beast’s number as 616. And it just happens to be the oldest manuscript of Revelation 13 now extant.”
This will explain why some early manuscripts of the Book of Revelation have 616 rather than 666 as the number of the beast.
Second, there is no genuine and competent New Testament scholar who will tell you the Pope is the Beast in Revelation 13:18.
One of the greatest New Testament Scholars of the 20th Century, Dr. Bruce Metzger Said:
“Who is the satanic beast, symbolized by the number 666? Over the centuries a very great deal of ingenuity has been expended in attempting to answer this question. A further complication arises from the fact that some ancient manuscripts of the book of Revelation give the number as 616 instead of 6666. Among the names and titles have been proposed to solve the cryptogram, the most probable candidate is the Emperor Nero. If we add the numerical values in the Hebrew spelling of the name Neron Caesar we obtain 666; on the other hand, since his name can equally well be spelled without the last N, if we omit the final N, the total will be 616.” Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation with Study Guide by Bruce Metzger, Page 76-77)
In the Hebrew alphabet (made up of consonants only), the 10th letter has numerical value of 10. The 11th letter represents 20 and the following letters are classified by tens until 100. Then, the letters carry on by hundreds (200 and so on). Hence, the “full” spelling of “Nero Caesar” in Hebrew letters is N, R,W, N,Q,S,R. These letters have numerical values of N=50, R=200, W=6, N=50, Q=100, S=60, and R=200.
Third, they misconstrued the verse since it does not refer to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Revelation 13 referred to first-century B.C.E. Roman emperors. It is a misrepresentation to identify the images in Daniel 7 or Revelation as modern individuals. Rome is the context of Revelation but this is the direction of ancient Rome and not the Catholic Church. We must understand the beast in revelation 13 with seven heads and we can read this in Revelation 17:9.
“This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings.”(Revelation 17:9, NRSV)
Let us look at the map of Seven Hills which refers to ancient Rome and not the Vatican.