Was Nero the beast whom John saw in his vision as recorded in Revelation, the beast whose number is 666?
*Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Rev 13:1-18 NKJV)*
One might ask whether an image of Nero was ever given breath so that it spoke, and whether any “beast” who supported Nero had everyone killed who would not worship the his image—an image which both breathed and spoke.
One might also ask whether there was a time in Nero’s reign where people couldn’t buy of sell unless they has a mark on their right hand or forehead (not Nero’s image on the coins, as some claim).
However, the main claim I would like to make at this time is that the number of Nero’s name is NOT 666. The preamble is helpful information, but the real evidence will be found near the end of this article. Please read patiently until then.
I wish to begin by considering what language John, the writer of Revelation, was using in writing that book. Clearly it was Greek.
The Greeks used the letters in their alphabet to represent numbers. I have a copy of the manuscript Papyrus 66, which contains most of John’s gospel, and is believed to have been written about 150 A.D. The page numbers of the manuscript are given in Greek numerical characters that represent numbers as follows (There early documents were written all in upper-case characters); they looked a bit like this:
1 Α alpha
2 Β beta
3 Γ gamma
4 Δ delta
5 Ε epsilon
7 Ζ zeta
8 Η eta
9 Θ theta
10 Ι iota
20 Κ kappa
30 Λ lamda
40 Μ mu
50 Ν nu
60 Ξ xi
70 Ο omicron
80 Π pi
100 Ρ rho
200 Σ sigma
300 τ tau
400 Υ upsilon
500 Φ phi
600 Χ chi
700 Ψ psi
800 Ω omega
You might wonder why 6, 90, and 900 are missing. These numbers were represented by characters outside the alphabet as follows:
6 ϝ digamma (later became C stigma)
90 ϟ qoppa
900 ϡ sampi
The earliest extant manuscript of Rev 13:18 is papyrus 113 dated in the third century (the 200s). I have a photo copy of the portion of the manuscript giving the number of the beast as XIC (616). Now I know that Irenæus writes in Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 30, that 616 is the incorrect number and that it was probably a copyist’s error. That well may be. But the point I am making is not that the number should be 616 as in the earliest extant manuscript, but that whichever is correct WAS WRITTEN IN REVELATION as a number in Greek characters. Some manuscripts have 666, and it is written as XΞC (chi,xi,stigma).
John the writer of Revelation wrote numbers in the Greek way using Greek letters or symbols. He did not use any other language to write them.
Some try to figure out the name with the number 666, by doing it in English—working out a system where a=1, b=2, c=3, etc. But why would John have predicted the name with an English system centuries before the English language existed? But preterists claim the Nero’s name is 666 when calculated in the Hebrew letter-numeric system. The Hebrew system existed in the days of John, but a similar question can be asked, Why would the name be calculated in Hebrew when John himself used the Greek system to express numbers? Irenæus suggested names whose number was 666 in the Greek system, and he clearly expected the “beast” whom he called “antichrist” to appear at a time future to his own time. Here are the names he suggested:
1 EYANΘAΣ (Euanthas). But Eusebius had nothing to say about this name. From the chart of Greek numerics we can see that this name works.
2 ΛATEINOΣ (Lateinos—The Latin Man). Eusebius wrote that this is a very probable solution, being the name of the last kingdom of the four seen in the vision of Daniel, as well as the fact that the Latins were ruling in the days in which Eusebius was writing.
3 TEITAN (Teitan—Total 666). Eusebius felt that this name was rather worthy of credit. He said that this was an ancient name, but that there were no kings in his day with this name, nor idols worshipped bearing this name. However, he said that this name was considered divine, and that the Romans called the sun by this name, and that it is a name belonging to a tyrant.
And now. How do some assign 666 to Nero’s name? “Nero” is a Latin name, and although numbers were written in Latin characters as “Roman Numerals”, they were limited to I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. So the Latin name “Nero” would have no numerical value in Latin.
The Greek spelling of the name is “ΝΕΡΩΝ” (NERON). The Greek numerical value of this name is 1005.
So how do Preterists and others obtain the value of 666?
First they take the GREEK name “ΝΕΡΩΝ” and put it together with the GREEK word for “Caesar” which is “ΚΑΙΣΑΡ”. Of course the total Greek numerical value will not do, since it will be greater than 1005. So they transliterate these GREEK words into Hebrew. Now Hebrew has no vowels. So they remove the vowels from
“ΝΕΡΩΝ” to get “NPN” (or “NRN” in Latin charcers). Then they remove the vowels from “ΚΑΙΣΑΡ” and so one would expect them to get “ΚΣΡ” (“KSR” in Latin characters). But no! Instead of using the latin “K”, they select a somewhat similar sounding Latin character “Q”! Why do they choose “Q” instead of “K”? Well, the HEBREW numerical value “NRN KSR” doesn’t add up to 666, but the Hebrew numerical value of ““NRN QSR” does! The Hebrew letter for “K” is either “Khof” or “Kas”. But neither will work to produce “666”. However, the Hebrew letter for “Q”, namely “Qof” does work.
We might ask ourselves:
- Why should the number of the beast’s name be calculated with Hebrew numeric characters? After all John, the author of Revelation, used Greek characters to express “666” itself!
- Doesn’t the method used to calculate the number of “Nero Cæsar” using Hebrew characters seem rather contrived?
- Cannot a similar method be used to calculate the number of almost ANY name to be 666?
For example, suppose one wished to show that the number of Hitler’s name is 666, using the English code A=10, B=20, C=30, etc.
The total is 720, but if we subtract the number of years (54) from Hitler’s birth to 1933, the year he made his famous proclamation to the German people, we get 666. Indeed, when I was a child, I read a Christian tract which stated absolutely that Hitler was indeed the Antichrist.