Adventists like to present a fake papal title, Vicarius Filii Dei, as evidence that the papacy is linked to the number 666 found in Revelation 13:18, because, using Roman numerals, the title adds up to 666.
The supposed title is said to be used in two significant Catholic texts, as well as a Catholic newspaper.
- The Decretum of Gratian, quoting the forged document known as the Donation of Constantine
- Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope St John Paul II
- Our Sunday Visitor, 1915
The Decretum of Gratian, quoting the forged document known as the Donation of Constantine.
This is the relevant passage from the Donation of Constantine:
Et dum haec praedicante beato Silvestrio agnoscerem et beneficiis ipsius beati Petri integre me sanitati comperi restitutum, utile iudicavimus una cum omnibus nostris satrapibus et universo senatu, optimatibus etiam et cuncto populo Romano, gloriae imperii nostri subiacenti, ut, sicut in terris vicarius filii dei esse videtur constitutus …
– Donation of Constantine
You can see the words above contain “beati Petri” (blessed Peter) and “vicarius filii dei” (vicar of the Son of God).
This made its way into the Decretum of Gratian, 1148 AD, which was an early collection of church law, in the following form, copying the underlined text from above:
“Beatus Petrus in terris vicarius Filii Dei videtur esse consitutus.”
Translated into English, this means:
“Blessed Peter is seen to have been constituted vicar of the Son of God on earth.”
It is clear that in both texts, the term “vicarius filii dei” is not used as a title, but rather as a descriptive term, saying what Peter was.
So, looking honestly at these texts, there is no evidence of such a title.
Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope St John Paul II
The book contains the following phrase:
“The Pope is considered the man on earth who represents the Son of God …”
Adventists argue that “who represents the Son of God“, when translated into Latin, is “vicarius Filii Dei“.
Firstly, this is not a title. Secondly, “represents” is not a noun, but rather a verb, and is translated as “repraesentat“, and “the Son” is accusative, not genitive – so the correct translation is “Filium Dei repraesentat” and not “vicarius Filii Dei“.
So, again, no title to be found here, and not even a use of the phrase.
Our Sunday Visitor, 1915
In the issue of 18 April 1915, the following question and answer were given:
What are the letters on the Pope’s crown, and what do they signify, if anything?
The letters on the Pope’s crown are these: Vicarius Filii Dei, which is a Latin for “Vicar of the Son of God.“
This one is simple – journalists are not infallible, they do not represent official Catholic teaching, and this statement provides no real support for the claim that “Vicarius Filii Dei” was a papal title omitted from all known lists of papal titles.
Furthermore, the author subsequently acknowledged that he was mistaken, and that no such inscription is present. People looked at the tiara, confirmed the absence of such an inscription, and it seems that the author had actually been misled by Adventist propaganda.
Worth noting is that Adventist scholar Dr Samuele Bacchiocchi did his own research into this, and had the following to say:
Another example of the blinding effect of tradition is the popular interpretation of the number of the beast “666” [Rev 13:18], as VICARIUS FILII DEI, a title allegedly used by the Pope on his Tiara-a claim that has been proven to be wrong. In a recent Sabbath School Quarterly devoted to the Book of Revelation, Dr. Angel Rodriguez, Director of BRI, acknowledged that the traditional interpretation, though popular, lacks textual and historical support. Instead, he proposed the figurative interpretation of “666” as the symbol of incompletion, imperfection and rebellion. Concerned Adventists expressed their bitter disappointment with the new figurative interpretation of 666. They viewed it as a rejection of the traditional interpretation developed by our pioneers.
– Samuele Bacchiocchi, Endtimes Issues newsletter #134
Thank you, Dr Bacchiocchi, for that honesty. The Pope’s tiara does not have the words Vicarius Filii Dei on them. The phrase is not, and never was, used as an official papal title. It’s an anti-Catholic manipulation of a real papal title – Vicarius Christi.
Lastly, more for amusement than anything else, the name of the Adventist prophetess, Ellen White, adds up to 666.
Ellen Gould White: eLLen goVLD VVIte (the origin of the letter W is a double V)
L + L + V + L + D + V + V + I
In contrast to the pope, for whom no real title exists that adds up to 666, the name of Ellen White does indeed add up to 666. Make of it what you will.