Scala/Art Resource, NY

With a sneer of cold command, Nero strikes the pose of the Beast—if only in the eyes of his Christian contemporaries, whom he mercilessly persecuted. “Let anyone with understanding,” writes the author of the Book of Revelation, “calculate the number of the Beast, for…his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Revelation 13:18). Each letter in the Hebrew and Greek alphabets carries a numerical value, and the sum of the Hebrew letters that spell “Nero Caesar” is 666—the number of the Beast. Moreover, the value of the Greek letters that spell “Nero Caesar” total 1,332—that is, two times 666. Thus the author of Revelation intimates that a second Nero—a second Antichrist—is yet to come. Domitian, Nero’s successor, may have been one such contender. This is the view of the preterist interpretation of the Book of Revelation, which explains the book by examining the historical context of its author—the late- first-century C.E. Roman world in which Christians suffered persecution. For these Christians, Nero and Domitian seemed the very personification of the Antichrist, both in name and in deed.