A candidate for Ripley's
Have you read The Bible Code or other material of that type, whereby supposed hidden messages are found by compiling every nth letter? Lo, and behold, many strange messages show up.
The Bible Code even cited a statistical analysis -- which has drawn sharp criticism -- purporting to show a strong degree of nonrandomness in the messages. Perhaps later I will put a Code probability discussion on my to-do list, right under my pledge to write something about taboos and surveillance realpolitik.
I recently ran across something else which spilled out of the weird controversies file:
The pontiff's tiara or mitre allegedly spells out 666 in Roman numerals. Not true, as Catholic defenders meticulously document on the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicarius_Filii_Dei
However, what is true is that the pontifical claims to worldly power were for centuries largely based on the Donation of Constantine, a brazen forgery, which does contain the phrase "Vicarius Filii Dei," meaning the vicar (representative) of the Son of God.
The numerology is done this way:
Only Latin letters that are also Roman numerals are considered, other letters counting zero. V and U both represent 5, since v and u are interchangeable in the old writing.
V = 5 F = 0 D = 500
I = 1 I = 1 E = 0
C = 100 L = 50 I = 1
A = 0 I = 1
R = 0 I = 1
I = 1
U = 5
S = 0
It should be obvious that if one follows these rules for a sufficiently large random sample of three-letter Latin names, a certain percentage will show up correlated to 666, even though most of these other word sets will not be remotely mystical or spiritual.
Also, though we cannot be sure what that number may represent in the very last days, scholars are reasonably certain that John the Evangelist was writing of Neron Caesar (Nero), whose name is correlated to the number 666. The use of code was necessary in the face of the consequences of impugning the name of Caesar.
But, if one suspends probabilistic considerations, it still seems curious that a counterfeit pontifical claim to global power bears a title with that number.