A Question I Was Asked:

In What Way is '666' Stamped on Nero?

I now accept that '666' was a warning about Nero, rather than some future king or ruler, but in what way is '666' stamped on Nero?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Yes, you are correct, but since I am not an expert on this sort of stuff, in answering this question I am simply going to quote two sources, The Michigan Catholic and the Christian Research Institute.

First, The Michigan Catholic:

Revelation 13:8 says, "Wisdom is needed here; one who understands can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a person. His number is six hundred and sixty-six."

The Greek name "Nero Caesar" put into Hebrew letters is NRON QSRN, which adds up to six hundred and sixty-six. If this were all we had to go on, then Nero would not be any more likely a candidate than any other name that could add up to this number, but there is one more piece of evidence that points to Nero.

We learn from the early Church father Irenaeus of Lyons that in his day (c. AD 180) the reading "666" was "… found in all the most approved and ancient copies" (Against Heresies, 5, 30, 1), but he doesn't tell us what number the minority manuscripts give. There is manuscript evidence that the alternative number is "616." But why this second number?

It's possible that the second number comes from the Latin version of Nero's name, which, when put into Hebrew letters drops the second "N" (Hebrew, Nun) so that it reads, NRO QSR instead of NRON QSR. Since "N"Nun) has the value of "50." The Greek version of his name when put into Hebrew letters has the value of 666, while the Latin version has the value of 616.Where did it come from?

Nero also seems to be a likely candidate in that Revelation 13:3 speaks about the beast having one head that "… seemed to have been mortally wounded, but this mortal wound was healed. Fascinated, the whole world followed after the beast." Roman historians report that after Nero committed suicide in AD 68, there was a widespread belief - possibly generated through the prediction of a group of astrologers - that Nero was not dead but would return to power soon. After Nero's death, there were three imposters who pretended to be “Nero Redivivdus” (Nero reborn).

(Source: http://www.themichigancatholic.org/2017/05/666-add-nero/)

The CRI website also has the following excellent material by Hank Hanegraff:

Multitudes today assume that 666 is a number representing a modern-day beast about to be revealed. Placing the beast in the twenty-first century, however, may well pose insurmountable difficulties. First, John, the author of Revelation, told a first-century audience that with "wisdom" and "insight" they would be able to "calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666" (Revelation 13:18). Obviously no amount of wisdom and insight would have enabled a first-century audience to calculate the number of a twenty-first-century beast. It would have been cruel and dangerously misleading for John to suggest to first-century Christians that they could identify the beast if, in fact, the beast was a twenty-first-century individual or institution.

Furthermore, unlike today, transforming names into numbers (gematria) was common in antiquity. For example, in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars Roman historian Suetonius identifies Nero by a numerical designation equal to a nefarious deed. This numerical equality (isopsephism) is encapsulated in the phrase: "Count the numerical values of the letters in Nero's name, and in 'murdered his own mother' and you will find their sum is the same." In Greek the numerical value of the letters in Nero's name (Greek: Nevrwn, English transliteration: Neron) totaled 1,005, as did the numbers in the phrase murdered his own mother. This ancient numerical cryptogram reflected the widespread knowledge that Nero had killed his own mother.

Finally, while "Nero" in Greek totaled 1,005, the reader of John's letter familiar with the Hebrew language could recognize that the Greek spelling of "Nero Caesar" transliterated into Hebrew equals 666. Moreover, the presence in some ancient manuscripts of a variation in which 666 is rendered 616 lends further credence to Nero as the intended referent. The Hebrew transliteration of the Latin spelling of "Nero Caesar" totals 616, just as the Hebrew transliteration of the Greek, which includes an additional letter (Greek: "n"=50, English transliteration: "n"=50), renders 666. Thus, two seemingly unrelated numbers lead you to the same doorstep - that of a beast named Nero Caesar. Twenty-first-century believers, like their first-century counterparts, can be absolutely certain that 666 is the number of Nero's name and that Nero is the beast who ravaged the bride of Christ in a historical milieu that included three and a half years of persecution. In the end, Peter and Paul themselves were persecuted and put to death at the hands of this Beast. Indeed this was the only epoch in human history in which the Beast could directly assail the foundation of the Christian Church of which Christ himself was the cornerstone.

(Thanks to CRI and Hank Hanegraff. Source: http://www.equip.org/bible_answers/what-is-the-meaning-of-666/)

My Conclusion:

Since the old and now increasingly discredited idea of liberal theology that Revelation was written very late (as late as AD90 according to some), is now - rightly - beginning to be overthrown, as we move back to the original widely-held early date view, we can be pretty sure that several things in Revelation did indeed concern Nero (would it have made any sense for John to warn about Nero in the 90sAD, thirty years after Nero had died?), and the pinning of '666' on later emperors would make no sense since Nero was by far the most despotic, also the man who initiated the very first Roman persecution of Christians, unleashing incredible cruelty against them. Moreover, Revelation 17:10 pretty much confirms that Nero was emperor as John wrote, this dating Revelation to around AD64 (several sources, including Josephus, confirm that Nero was the sixth Roman leader; the order: 1. Julius Caesar 2. Augustus Caesar 3.Tiberius 4. Caligua 5. Claudius 6. Nero). John was not warning of some far off Roman leader but a man who was about to impact the early Christians in his own day - see Revelation 1:1.

The knowledge about Nero and the better understanding of the dating of Revelation arms us to better understand Scripture and to be better able to reject the teachings of some false teachers.

Robin A. Brace. November 29th, 2017.