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Who is 666?

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. Revelation 13:18

In the Hebrew numerology system, 6 is a number of incompleteness, failure, imperfection.  God createD the world in seven days, so seven is the number of fullness, completion, perfection; but six is short of perfection. The number six repeated three times (three is also a mystic number) therefore could connotate utter failure, lack of completion, hence evil or wickedness.

Why is 666 "a man's number"? Well, according to Genesis, man was created on the sixth day so man’s number could be 6. 

The number is actually 666 (six hundred sixty six), not 6-6-6.  Under a numerology system called Gematria used in the first century, the first 10 letters of the alphabet corresponded to numbers 1-10.  11th letter is 20.  12th letter 30.  20th letter 200.  Each letter an additional 100.  When Matthew in his genealogy said 14 generations from Abraham to David, David to the Exile, Exile to Christ, he was using that system for David’s name  4 + 6 + 4 = 14.

Using that same code, 666 is the sum of the numbers of the name Nero Caesar (NRWN QSR) in Hebrew. Presumably this would be why you have to be wise or "have understanding" to reckon the number--you need to know Hebrew Gematria.

Nrwn Qsr: The Greek version of the name and title transliterates into Hebrew as נרונ קסר , and yields a numerical value of 666 as shown:

Resh (ר)
Samekh (ס)
Qoph (ק)
Nun (נ)
Vav (ו)
Resh (ר)
Nun (נ)
Sum
200
60
100
50
6
200
50
666
People at various times have interpreted this "beast" as paganism, the anti-Christ, or (more amusingly) the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, Islam (the name Allah has the numeric value 666), the British Empire, the United States, Nazism, the United Nations, the European Union, Ronald Wilson Reagan (note six letters in each of his three names), etc.  But most likely it was Nero.

How bad was Nero?
  • Nero was the sixth ruler of Rome (Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero).
  • He was the first emperor to persecute the church (64 AD).
  • Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder called him “the destroyer of the human race” and “the poison of the world.”
  • Nero built a statue of himself 100 feet tall!
  • He castrated a young boy named Sporus then married him.
  • He kicked a pregnant wife to death.
  • Was involved in numerous homosexual rapes.
  • Nero caused civil wars in Rome.
  • He committed suicide as the Roman general Galba was about to capture him. He was a disgrace to Rome. Rome underwent distress and near ruin.
  • Once Nero died, Rome revived.
In the worst, more powerful kingdom around, Nero was the worst of its rulers.  John told the readers that human wisdom could figure out who he is.  Would John write a letter in captivity, hand it to Roman guards and tell them to send it out when it attacked one of its rulers by name?  It's in code and Jews familiar with the Gematria system could figure it out.

No amount of 1st Century wisdom could calculate the number of a 21st Century beast.  John had to be talking about a 1st Century person.