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Purpose and Scope of This Timeline by Jerry A. Stevens

Seventh-day Adventists did not originate the interpretation of the number 666 in Revelation 13:18 as being perfectly manifested in the Latin inscription Vicarius Filii Dei. Beginning in 1865 the Adventists did, however, find in author Uriah Smith (1832–1903) a consistent, articulate commentator on this topic. In the 144 years since then, other voices, including a few influential Adventists, have advocated abandoning the standard interpretation in favor of an altogether different understanding of the symbolism of verse 18.

The purpose of this Timeline is to provide a concise history enabling the careful student to distinguish between genuine and misguided understandings. Thus the student may trace, beginning with A.D. 753, key themes in chronological order clear down to the present time. Indeed, the scope of this paper touches upon well over 12 centuries of continuous history with its starting point in medieval Europe.

In tracing the earlier period between the years 753 and 1755, I am especially indebted to Edwin de Kock, a lifelong student of history and committed Seventh-day Adventist. Edwin and I have been able to achieve outstanding harmony on a great many converging points of this material and, in the process, accelerated an already growing long-distance friendship.

About the time Edwin and I thought our work virtually complete, a third partner providentially emerged. Unbeknownst to us, for about a year computer ace Stephen Emse had been amassing (and continues to amass) a tremendous number of electronic source documents on our precise topic. All Steve lacked was some vehicle for their expression and dissemination. He at last has found two: this Timeline and Edwin’s forthcoming book, The Truth About 666. The time and effort Steve expended in locating and electronically reproducing key pages from the many non-Adventist commentators who employed the expression Vicarius Filii Dei (or its equivalents) are practically incalculable. The cause of truth owes him a major debt of gratitude.

It thus seems evident to the three of us that God raised us up for just such a time as this. Edwin and I first began corresponding about these things in mid-September 2005, but had not physically met until mid-2008, neither has met Steve, and all three reside in three widely separated states!

Emphasis must here be made about Edwin’s forthcoming three-volume work, The Truth About 666. A significant portion of his material is closely related to my Timeline, but additionally offers the fairest and most expansive coverage ever given to this topic. In this I know whereof I speak, as he has shared its contents all through the writing process of several years’ time, and we continue to exchange copious correspondence on all its major themes. Without fear of contradiction, I heartily commend it as the magnum opus on this momentous subject.

With this background, I humbly submit the following Timeline, with its copious supporting documentation, as an offering to God and as a reliable guide to assist honest-hearted researchers in the future.

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