There are whispers that “the Covid-19 vaccine,” though there are several, is “the Mark of the Beast.” If one is an Orthodox Christian, there is good reason for this paranoia. Saint Paisios the Athonite in Spiritual Bravery in the chapter “The Signs of the Times” warned that “a vaccine has been developed for a new disease, which will be obligatory and people taking it will be marked [with 666].” (Volume II, Part 3, Chap 1; p. 204) Recently, a synod of Bishops in Moldova warned that, “Bill Gates is believed to be primarily responsible for creating population microchipping technology through a vaccine that introduces nanoparticles into the body that react to waves transmitted by 5G technology and allow the system to control humans remotely.” Further, it is a scientific fact that vaccines can affect the passions, one example being anti-nicotine addiction vaccines and another pertaining to the development of vaccines that combat mental illness. So, logic would dictate if a vaccine can reinforce positive behaviors that one can be devised to do the opposite.
Does this mean Orthodox must avoid the Covid-19 vaccine (or all vaccines) at all costs? Not exactly. While the aforementioned Moldovan Synod asserted that the Covid-19 vaccine-5G conspiracy may be the case (it merely considered the possibility), its firm assertions permitted vaccination. Specifically, it taught against mandatory vaccination and admonished that the issue be decided by individuals. This means, it did not positively reject vaccination or even the Covid-19 vaccine. The Russian Orthodox Church, which the Moldovan Synod is part of, recommended that the Covid-19 vaccine be “voluntary” and that vaccines be developed ethically without the use of human tissue from murdered fetuses. This is in keeping with the church’s position in 2019, which has caused an uproar among liberal Eastern Europeans as it has given moral support to anti-vaxxers in the Balkans.
Nevertheless, it would be inaccurate to classify Russian Orthodoxy as anti-vaccine. One of their highest level Bishops recommended that everyone receive the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. This is despite the fact that it was developed using human tissue like all Russian vaccines and therefore it does not abide by the ethical standards of Russian Orthodoxy. The Russian Church overall has been very pro-vaccine. This has been the policy of the Russian Orthodox Church for years, which has gone as far as to forbid “the distribution of anti-vaccination literature and audio-video material in its monasteries and temples” and recommends vaccination hoping in the meantime more ethical vaccines are developed. Likewise, ROCOR (the American contingent of Russian Orthodoxy reconciled to the Moscow Patriarchate in 2009) recommends its parishioners get the flu vaccine, perhaps unaware that ethically sourced flu vaccines are not yet developed.
So far, it would appear that only Russian Orthodoxy has weighed in on the issue of vaccination within the Orthodox communion. However, churches outside of the Russian Orthodox orbit have also weighed in on the issue in a consistent manner. The Cypriot Holy Synod recommended its parishioners get the Covid-19 vaccine once it is developed, but also asserted that it should be voluntary. The Metropolitan of North America for the Patriarchate of Antioch made the audacious claim that “a recent meeting of bishops [all jurisdictions?]” agreed that “confirmatory testing done on a stem cell line tracing back to the 1970s [on the RNA Covid vaccines]” is an “indirect connection” that is not “an impediment to the faithful receiving these vaccines in good conscience.” A Greek Archbishop in Australia requested that his country develop the Covid-19 vaccine ethically and that it not be mandatory, obviously implicitly approving of a vaccine if it met these criteria. The vaccine project in Australia has since been abandoned due to trial participants developing false HIV positive test results.
In sum, it is clear that the Church has not come up with a universal position as it has not been weighed in upon synodically by enough churches. Hence, Orthodoxy’s teaching on vaccination is fragmentary, similar to her teaching on organ donation. Nevertheless, it is possible to discern a consistent teaching. Vaccination must not be mandatory and if possible it should be ethically developed, though Metropolitan Joseph (Antioch) and fellow bishops (unnamed) go a step further in asserting that the use of such cell lines is “indirect” and not morally objectionable.* The Church has given little specific guidance on this large issue, leaving it to the discretion of spiritual fathers and their children to decide whether to get vaccinated though the churches generally recommended that their parishioners do.
*Ed: I believe Metropolitan Joseph’s rationale will ultimately not prevail over time.
In short, one can sum up the Orthodox teaching on vaccination as follows: vaccines are good, but they could be bad, and individuals must decide what is best for themselves and their families.
How does one know whether there are legitimate moral qualms with taking a vaccine? How can one be sure it is the best possible decision? While taking a vaccine may or may not be bad medically (such as the 1976 Swine Flu vaccine fiasco that everyone has conveniently forgot), the spiritual component of vaccination is not settled within Orthodoxy.
The reason this is the case is because there is no specific Apostolic teaching on this technology. The Church has only preserved what is Apostolic and cannot teach anything new. Therefore, one must identify what doctrinal issues vaccination actually is connected to and identify what the Apostolic teaching on these matters are. This now thrusts myself, as a layman and of no authority, into the realm of opinion–an opinion that my mind feels one way about, but my heart another.
My mind tells me that the Mark of the Beast in the Scriptures must be a clear denial of Jesus Christ. After all, in the saints’ lives we see clear affirmations of the faith contrasted with clear apostasies. Both are unambiguous. The Book of Revelation, in the saints’ commentaries, is always in reference to the history of persecution within the Church (and not strictly a window exclusively into the future.) Hence, the Mark of the Beast may have an ultimate fulfillment, but it has already existed just as there have been antichrists in the world 2,000 years ago (cf 1 John 2:18). Likewise, the “Mark of the Saints” (and not the Beast) has been around for thousands of years (cf Ezek 9:4-6, Rev 7:3, and Rev 9:4). Never before has there been an “ambiguous mark,” with someone unconsciously assuming the Mark of the Beast or the Mark of the Saints. My mind tells me I am pulling from very clear Scriptural and patristic support on this.
However, this appears to be at odds with Saint Paisios the Athonite. And, I am no saint. Saint Paisios believes that credit and ID cards are precursors to “666 laser markings” (and presumably microchips) which would act as ID/credit cards for people. Paisios asserted that the Mark would not even be outward, but say “666” inwardly. He was asked whether or not people would be forgiven for their ignorance, as they were not knowingly rejecting Christ. Paisios responded that ignorance was no excuse, blaming such people for their indifference.
Permit me to attempt reconciling our apparent positions and explore the possibility that we fundamentally agree. The difference between myself and the saint may not be so much the issue of “indifference,” but rather what is “clear” and what is not. After all, it would be indifferent to take a Mark that is not explicitly advertised “Mark of the Beast,” yet otherwise shows complete solidarity with something explicitly anti-Christian. For example, the libelli given to those who sacrificed/lit incense to the emperor’s idol exempted lapsed Christians from persecution. The mere purchase of one of these libelli, even if it was a counterfeit and there was no actual worship of the emperor, resulted in a penance that was less severe than actually lapsing. Nevertheless, there was still a penance. Apostasy, apparently, exists in a spectrum. It is not a binary.
In any event, this historical episode does underscore how completely indifferent one must be to apostatize. Apostasy is unambiguous. It is obvious (and not mysterious) which side someone is on when he/she commits the act of handing over Scriptures to destruction and accepting a libellus showing capitulation to the emperor’s cult.
I ask myself, will the Mark of the Beast be unambiguous? Saint Paul gives us a good indication of when we should know that something is amiss:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thes 2:3-4)
The idea that there will be a real disease with a questionable kill rate (the death rate in 2020 is up about 1.2 percent from 2019) and people will be tricked into getting a vaccine that has nothing to do with a son of perdition, false messiah, or anything specifically spiritual or attached to an individual–but is still the Mark of the Beast–seems to be a lot to swallow. In other words, for the Covid-19 vaccine to be the Mark of the Beast, this would mean the Mark was essentially a trick and not a deliberate turning away from God. If one is too stupid, oh well. Now he’s damned.
There seems to be some Scriptural support for skepticism for the possibility the Covid-19 vaccine is the (ambiguous) Mark of the Beast and not a legitimate (though perhaps badly designed) pharmaceutical. The term pharmakos (i.e. pharmaceutical comes from this word) is mentioned three times in the New Testament, but it is not in reference to “legitimate” medicine. In Rev 9:21 it is used in relation to sorcery that was not repented from. In Rev 21:8 and 22:15 it pertains to a class of people (sorcerers) who will be damned. In the LXX it is used in the same sense in Jer 34:9 and Nah 3:4. The sorcery referred to in all of these passages is public and deliberate. Hence, there seems to be no room for taking the Mark of the Beast by mistake if it meets the criteria of sinful pharmakos.
When one delves into Saint Paisios more, we see that he speaks of “marks” of the beast. His teaching is not so much that vaccines, credit cards, and other items are the Mark of the Beast. Rather, to sum up his thought in my own words, those of us living in the world, by varying degrees, participate in the Beastial system. Some of our retirements are invested in unethical companies or enterprises when the fact we even have retirements is problematic, we vote for politicians who support unethical wars of offense or social policies, we borrow money from godless usurers for things we want and not need, we send our children to schools which overtly brainwash them with godlessness, we partake in godless amusements, we simply accept multiple layers of identifications to make life easier and never reflect upon the spiritual component of people being reduced to numbers, and etcetera. We may not be taking the Mark of the Beast, but “friendship with this world is enmity with God” (James 4:4) and we sure as heck cozy ourselves up to the world. To the degree we have compromised and embraced the world and the love of its goods (cf 1 John 2:15-17), we have deliberately turned away from God. If the Mark of the Beast is spiritual and on some sort of spectrum, then most of us are on the spectrum–just like the lapsed of the early Church who were given varying degrees of penance for their varying degrees of apostasy. If we are honest with ourselves, we have almost gone “all the way” into apostasy and taking the Mark. This gives us every reason to repent and be in the world, but not of this world.
In conclusion, Orthodoxy does not condemn vaccinations. It even allows for unethically devised vaccines, as long as there is finger wagging at the scientists for not figuring out a better way to go about their work. The Church has also taught that vaccination can never be compulsory. In any event, all of these conclusions are tentative as there is no apostolic tradition on the matter. The Church cannot speak on the issue with the same authority as anything the Apostles did explicitly teach about. Rather, it can only recommend disciplines for the spiritual well-being of its people and in so doing, creating precedents that, if they prevail over time, gain the authority of custom. (cf Saint Augustine, City of God, Book 17, Chap 20)
The Book of Revelation warns not to misinterpret the Book of Revelation. The Church, the Orthodox Church (not our individual minds or feelings or interpretations or private exegesis or opinions on what sound doctrines are) is the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, 1 St. Tm. 3:15, so we need to consult the Church (the Orthodox Church: Chalcedonian] , the elders of the Church, the Patriarchs, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Moscow, the other Patriarchs, the Metropolitans, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and educated Laity, we associate and communion with those who have not fallen into heresies and schisms, we need to trust the Orthodox Church to tell us what Revelation means: and so far, there has been no one Universal, Catholic, Apostolic, Ecumenical, and Synodical Orthodox statement on the final, Common Meaning of Revelation 1 – Revelation 22, and when this book is talking about: past, present, future, and what time this book is to be fulfilled in, and what its verses mean; It is clear historically the number 666 can be historically applied by gematria to Nero, Caesar; but whether or not it is to be fulfilled by a specific individual or individuals in the future, has not been published by the Orthodox Patriarchs and the Ecumenical Council of the One Holy Orthodox Church. As for the Mark of the Beast, this, as well, is for the Church to judge. As a matter of an historical theologoumenon, the tradition and heresy of FILIOQUE has been the “wild animal and fox” (St. Photios, Mystagogy of the Holy Soirit), a beast, a fox, of Charlemagne (742-814), whose Carolingianism, Carolingian Frankish Filioquist theology has marked the beast of the West, Christendom (Catholicism, Protestantism (Calvinism, etc.), and this Filioque virus has become an atheist cancer on the non-Orthodox, heterodox West. God save us all from this little mark of a great Sin, FILIOQUE; for it corrupts the sole with overblown Semi-Sabellianism and other concomitant heresies like Papism and Protestantism, self-authority, Lutheranism’s sola fide, sola Scriptura.
“And now a vaccine has been developed to combat a new disease, which will be obligatory and those taking it will be marked.” Perhaps the Greek could be translated differently, but this English translation specifically says, “those taking it will be marked,” not that the vaccine “is the mark.” Given the [evil] history of the pharmaceutical industry, this may be an important distinction.
I wonder what type of 666’s can be found in the 5G specification. As I remember from school, the original implementation of a cell phone tower used 666 frequencies, 333 for sending and 333 for receiving. Does this mean anything? Perhaps, but perhaps not. The original Apple II was priced at $666.66 at Steve Wozniak’s insistence. However, if possible, he would have priced it at $666.666… Mathematically minded people do things like that just for fun.
As for the term pharmakos: “Some have discovered or have been told that the Greek origins of the words pharmacy and pharmacist are used in the Bible in reference to magic potions, poison, sorcery, and sorcerers. This is correct and there are five occurrences of this Greek root in the New Testament, all of which confirm this usage. Thus, those accustom to formulating arguments based on biblical passages and examples of Greek usage in the New Testament may feel justified in asserting that this is the only context in which these words were originally used. Of course, a mere five examples of a particular usage does not negate the possibility of other usages.
“If one were to search the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament in common use for more than a couple of centuries before the New Testament was written, this same Greek root is found a couple of times in reference to good and healing medicine. Additionally, the second Bishop of Antioch, Saint Ignatius, who was an immediate disciple of Saint John, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, described Holy Communion as the “Medicine of Immortality,” which could be translated, given the Greek that he used, the “Pharmaceutic of Immortality.” In surveying the wider usage of this Greek root, even in Christian contexts, it becomes obvious that it has both positive and negative connotations, much like the English word drug, so a sound argument against the pharmaceutical industry cannot be made using only the etymology of the word pharmacy.”
Thank you for the reference to St Ignatius. I wanted some reference to the term’s broader range of meaning and you provided it!
I was working off of memory from a single mentioning in a class around 30 years ago regarding the 666 channels used in a cell. Wikipedia quickly confirmed that information: “At the inception of cellular in 1983, the FCC had granted each carrier within a market 333 channel pairs (666 channels total). At the inception of cellular in 1983, the FCC had granted each carrier within a market 333 channel pairs (666 channels total).”
Here is some more food for thought on the subject. MIT announced on its website in December 2019 that it had invented a new vaccine delivery system that BOTH puts the vaccine into a human body while AT THE SAME TIME digitally marking the body, by placing a quantum dot tatoo into the skin that emits a near-infrared SCANNABLE light. This “mark” is not visible to the naked eye, but is readable by computer technology in a cell phone. This is a form of a “digital certificate” that literally marks the vaccinated person indicating which shot had been administered. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to see how stores and businesses could have scanners at their doors, identifying which bodies are “marked” and therefore allowing those people to enter. Bodies without such digital certificates/marks would be forbidden entry and not allowed to buy or sell. The main point being made here: various technologies (such as this new one) have arrived to literally make the Biblical warning of the Antichrist Mark — regarding the actual buying and selling of goods — to become true in a number of different ways right before our very eyes. Visit the MIT website:
http://news.mit.edu/2019/storing-vaccine-history-skin-1218, article: “Storing medical information below the skin’s surface,” by Anne Trafton | MIT News Office, December 18, 2019)
Scary stuff indeed. All this stuff can be great epidemologically, but if used wrongly can be part of an antichristian control grid.
Excellent article! I pretty much 100% agree with your conclusions.
Thanks for the kind words. I have a familiy and so it kind of makes it important that I seriously discern this issue, because it is not just about me.
The modern elders and saints of the Russian Church like Elder John Krestyankin, Fr. Daniel Sysoev (also his current disciple Fr. George Maximov), and others, repeatedly taught against such crude interpretations of the Mark of the Beast like the one given by St. Paisios.
Well, I tried reconciling the two
Maybe they are both right. Saint Epiphanius said to Saint John Chrysostom, “I hope you will not die a bishop,” and John replied, “I hope you will never return to your bishopric.” – Both came true, Saint Epiphanius dying at sea, Saint John deposed dying in exile. That there is an excelsior pass developed by IBM for vaccine compliance to high end “access” events in New York, that the internet follows “www” – in Hebrew phonetically Hav,Hav,Hav which is 666 – maybe we ought to begin to be cautious but not flippant. The Lord said we need to discern the signs of the times.
Amazing article! You have weighed all things well, in my opinion. It is a truly refreshing read on such a contentious issue. 🙂
Thank you Craig, a very sober look at the subject which is very topical and especially concerning for us parents. I will refrain from taking the vaccine based mostly on medical precaution, as the benefit for a healthy youngish person isn’t greater than the potential harm but also due to the fact that the same parties who are pushing very strongly for vaccination are strongly pushing an anti-christian agenda, so better to be safe than sorry.
Our archbishop Leo of Helsinki and all Finland just gave a statement echoing our ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew that everyone should take the vaccine and that not taking it or being suspicious of the vaccine or the wider COVID-19 measures shows a lack of love and since one cannot love God if he doesn’t love his fellow man, he’s basically saying that not taking the vaccine shows lack of faith. What do you think of those statements?
I really disagree with all of that, I don’t think the Church should be giving out health advice and especially not with such emotionally manipulative words. I could in the same manner argue that advising everyone to take a totally novel vaccine of which we have very limited information and a very real potential for harm as showing a lack of love for fellow man… But I’m not going to. 😉
Just a note on vaccine safety, here in Finland during the last pandemic, the H1N1 “swineflu”, the vaccine for that caused 230 confirmed cases of narcolepsy (mostly for children) and the pandemic itself killed only 44 people and this was a totally traditional vaccine that was researched for a much longer time than the COVID-19 vaccines, of which some are of a totally novel type (the mRNA vaccines). That’s a very recent example of how there is actual potential risk of really serious adverse effects, in the case of Finland and the H1N1, the vaccine caused greatly more damage than the virus. The Finnish state is still paying for all of those narcolepsy victims, since due to legislation the pharmaceutical companies are not liable for vaccine adverse effects if the vaccine is authorized by the authorities. The narcolepsy vaccine controversy is not in anyway in dispute by anyone, it’s not a “conspiracy theory”, you can find information on it in various official Finnish sources. Not sure how much you could find in English, but if anyone’s interested, you can use Google translate although it’s not the best for Finnish translations, here’s a link about it on the Finnish Medical Society’s page https://www.terveyskirjasto.fi/terveyskirjasto/tk.koti?p_artikkeli=dlk00908 for example and here’s one from the Finnish institute for health and welfare, which is the agency in charge of issues like this https://thl.fi/fi/tutkimus-ja-kehittaminen/tutkimukset-ja-hankkeet/pandemiarokotuskampanjatutkimukset
Eric, personally, I think it is in bad taste when the clergy give health advice and it shows they are willing to do whatever the corporate/government complexes want to impose upon the masses. It’s not necessarily heresy, but an abuse and speaks of concerns that are not strictly pastoral. In general I am surprised how quickly people have lost common sense with this and it does speak of something nefarious that we are a year later and we are over-reacting in the churches.
Are we to get rid of the kissing of icons because of the flu? Surely, Covid is more deadly, but flu is actually deadly as well. Do we just start changing all of our practices because we are more concerned with maximum health than the salvation of our souls?
I think if we focus on salvation, the good health will follow. Not in all cases, we must be willing to deal with consequences whatever they may be to be faithful, but God never blesses faithlessness and we depend upon the word of God more than our daily bread.
https://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/detail.jsf?docId=WO2020060606 (666 biosoftware)
https://www.modernatx.com/mrna-technology/mrna-platform-enabling-drug-discovery-development (MRNA Operating System)
There was after all a time when a majority of bishops, in the east at least were teaching Arianism, if you’d taken that snapshot of as The Churches position you’d be in trouble. So I suppose we just need to be faithful and cautious, and know that The Holy Spirit will speak clearly at the right time.
I personally think this was the most important part of your article, and very well done – thank you – “…we borrow money from godless usurers for things we want and not need, we send our children to schools which overtly brainwash them with godlessness, we partake in godless amusements, we simply accept multiple layers of identifications to make life easier and never reflect upon the spiritual component of people being reduced to numbers, and etcetera. We may not be taking the Mark of the Beast, but “friendship with this world is enmity with God” (James 4:4) and we sure as heck cozy ourselves up to the world. To the degree we have compromised and embraced the world and the love of its goods (cf 1 John 2:15-17), we have deliberately turned away from God. If the Mark of the Beast is spiritual and on some sort of spectrum, then most of us are on the spectrum–just like the lapsed of the early Church who were given varying degrees of penance for their varying degrees of apostasy. If we are honest with ourselves, we have almost gone “all the way” into apostasy and taking the Mark. This gives us every reason to repent and be in the world, but not of this world.”
Well if Christ save us from death, if we are fearless in Faith, if we trust God’s protection, isn’t cowering in fear to secularism and scientism to “save” our lives, quite near to “rejecting Christ”. Are we so far off from true Faith that we fail to see this as obvious? Isn’t our blood sacred? Are we defiling ourselves by injecting fetus cells, sometimes animal, or DNA changing elements?