The Covid Vaccine Is Not The Mark Of The Beast, So Why Do People Think It Is?

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why people think covid vaccine is the mark of the beast

Social media is filled to the brim with conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccines being administered for Covid-19. Many are pointing out similarities between the characteristics of the vaccines and the mark of the beast from the Book of Revelation. 

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Why do people think the covid vaccine is the mark of the beast?

The mark of the beast is described in the New Testament, more specifically, Revelation, chapter 13. In this final book of the Bible, the author, known as John the Elder, describes the sights that he sees at the end of the world. 

Two beasts arise from the sea, and the second beast “causes, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark.” 

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on the idea that “no one can buy or sell” without possessing the mark of the beast. In the current version of this conspiracy theory, it points to the fact that many businesses are refusing entrance to patrons who aren’t taking proper precautions against the spread of Covid-19. 

But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the mark of the beast is a very popular historical complaint against many elements of our daily lives when they first came about. 

Philip Jenkins, co-director of the Program on Historical Studies of Religion at Baylor University and Professor Emeritus at the Pennsylvania State University, says that the idea of the mark in modern times sprouts from a very particular place. 

“In 1972 a movie called ‘A Thief in the Night’ was made for a budget of about twelve dollars,” Jenkins says, “and that did a great deal to create ideas about the end times and the mark of the beast.” 

The movie stars Patty Dunning as Patty Myers, a woman who awakens to discover that rapture has taken place, and those without the mark of the beast are being hunted down and arrested. 

The 70s was a decade filled with social unrest and antiauthoritarian sentiment. Counterculture was on the rise. Faith in the establishment was replaced by faith in new age beliefs

Along with a renewed sense of spiritual purpose and skepticism of authority, “a couple of things also happened,” says Jenkins. “It got mixed up with the quantification of everyday life. Social security numbers came in, and credit cards came in, and it fit the idea that there was a mark without which you could not buy and sell. Bar codes had a big influence on this. In ‘A Thief in the Night’ they show people getting bar codes.” 

Revelation has always inspired people to look for ties in current events

The reason this is true is probably because most scholars believe that the Book of Revelation is packed full of symbolism relating to the political circumstances in the region at the time it was written. It’s always been a veiled allegory for the underdog prevailing against an oppressive establishment. 

According to Jenkins, the number of the beast, or 666, is a prime example. The Bible tells us that it’s the number of a man. “Almost certainly the number means Nero Caesar. It comes from Hebrew letters that equate to the name.” 

Then there’s “the Great Whore,” who sits on the beast with seven heads, which very likely refers to the Roman Empire itself. The city of Rome is said to have been built upon seven hills. 

“Revelation is scattered and almost random,” says Jenkins. “It’s hard to imagine a society that you almost can’t match something with Revelation.” Even divisions within Christianity itself begin to target one another with the ideas from Revelation. “In Protestant culture it begins to refer to Catholicism and the Papacy,” he says. 

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What happens when nothing happens? 

Jenkins points to a famous scholarly book from three social psychologists called “When Prophecy Fails.” It follows the adherents of a UFO cult in the 1950s who predicted the end of the world to fall on a certain date, but it never happened. 

The work centers around the exercise of cognitive dissonance in the face of failed predictions. The cult in question continued to double down by adjusting the date when the alien spacecraft would finally come to pick them up. 

The same pattern can be seen in the repeated movements that associate everyday objects and experiences with the Book of Revelation and the Christian apocalypse. The Jehova’s Witnesses, for example, are famous for calculating the exact date of the Second Coming over and over again, working on a new chronology after every new disappointment. 

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Jenkins has a wide range of experience with the practice, establishing himself as an expert on the subject of the global rise of Christianity. “Projecting the end of the world is very common,” he says. 

What is it about medicine and health, specifically? 

Medicine has been a common target of conspiracy theories, religious or not, for as long as the field has existed. The Covid vaccine is the just the latest in a long line of healthcare treatments and preventative public health measures to take the heat. 

“There are a couple of big precedents that get forgotten,” says Jenkins. “From the 50s, flouride [in the water] is similar to vaccination today. It’s forced medication — ‘We think this is good for you,’ and it is good for you.” 

There’s evidence to suggest that even our hunter-gatherer ancestors had conspiracy theories, but more modern skepticism of medicine has taken the form of anti-vaccination groups in the U.S. and abroad, opponents to birth control, the idea that HIV somehow doesn’t lead to AIDS (it does), and that big pharma has the cure for cancer but refuses to release it (it doesn’t). 

The issue is compounded by the fact that there are legitimate instances where portions of the public were subjected to horrifying practices in the name of medical or social progress. Black Americans and other disadvantaged groups have been victims of real atrocities, and often trust the government and public health advice much less than white Americans. 

There are very rational reasons why convincing certain people to get the vaccine has been difficult. But equating it to a biblical prophecy that was almost certainly written to identify men and situations existing thousands of years ago is not one of them.

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Kevin Lankes, MFA, is an editor and author. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Here Comes Everyone, Pigeon Pages, Owl Hollow Press, The Huffington Post, The Riverdale Press, and more.