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Q35 : Nero and the Early Church

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Q35 : Nero and the Early Church

In your material on Nero (3.12a) you point out that the Neronic geomatric calculation was not proposed until the 1800s ie. Fritsche first proposed this in 1831 (footnote 24). You also cite Mounce who says the name of Nero was never suggested by the ancient commentators (footnote 15). This is very damaging for the preterist as you say.

But Gregory H. Harris says:

Others, such as Commodianus, believed that Nero would be raised from the dead in the Tribulation. Still others held that the 'resurrected Nero' will be the second beast of Revelation 13, Antichrist's cohort, the false prophet.... The fact that some early Christians concluded that Revelation 13 must refer to Nero is understandable in view of the dire suffering they endured. But the early church could have been mistaken in making this identification.[1]

He goes on to suggest that the beast has still to come and will be literally killed and resurrected which is the view you take.

Thus Harris is convinced that some in the early church including Commodianus 200-270AD (The Instructions of Commodianus) believed Nero was the beast of Rev 13 and Rev 17.

At any rate, you are taking the view that the identification of the beast with Nero was not made until the 1800s but Harris seems to say some in the early church identified him with the beast and Holding says "Nero Caesar" could have been identified with 666. Do you mean that the 666 calculation itself was not proposed until the 1800s but you would accept that Nero was identified by some early christians as the beast, as Harris says?


A35 : by Tony Garland

It is true that some in the early Church believed Nero to be connected with the prediction of a future resurrected Antichrist. As you observe, Harris identifies Commodianus, who wrote:

Isaiah said: This is the man who moveth the world anti so many kings, and under whom the land shall become desert. Hear ye how the prophet foretold concerning him. I have said nothing elaborately, but negligently. Then, doubtless, the world shall be finished when he shall appear. He himself shall divide the globe into three ruling powers, when, moreover, Nero shall be raised up from hell, Elias shall first come to seal the beloved ones; at which things the region of Africa and the northern nation, the whole earth on all sides, for seven years shall tremble. But Elias shall occupy the half of the time, Nero shall occupy half. Then the whore Babylon, being reduced to ashes, its embers shall thence advance to Jerusalem; and the Latin conqueror shall then say, I am Christ, whom ye always pray to; and, indeed, the original ones who were deceived combine to praise him. He does many wonders, since his is the false prophet. Especially that they may believe him, his image shall speak. (emphasis added)[2]

In my comments on the identification of Nero by the early Church, I state:

Those in the early church who were most intimately connected with the time of Nero know nothing of the supposed relevance of the myth. 'Irenaeus, who was the disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was the disciple of John, had no knowledge of the Nero Redivivus Myth.'[3]

The earliest and most significant Church Fathers (based on the writings we have) such as Polycarp (ca. 110) and Irenaeus (130-200) did not express this view.

You ask: "Do you mean that the 666 calculation itself was not proposed until the 1800s but accept that Nero was identified by some early christians as the beast, as Harris says?"

Yes. As in any point in history, we should expect to be able to find some individual Christian who might hold a unique view not followed by the Church-at-large. In this case, the view was not expressed by the earliest and most prominent for which we have any data. My statements are meant to say:

  1. The earliest and most prominent Church Fathers for which we have writings did not identify Nero as the Beast or Revelation.
  2. I am not aware of information which indicates that the "number of the beast" was connected with Nero's name by anyone prior to the 1800s. It may prove to be otherwise once further historical information comes to light, but that appears to be the situation at present.

In the case of Commodianus, he is not as early or significant as Polycarp or Irenaeus. Neither do we see any numeric calculations connecting 666 with Nero on his part. This has significant implications which preterists are unable to account for:

  • The early Church at large, especially the most significant and earliest writers, did not make the Nero-Beast connection.
  • We have no record that anyone made the Nero-666 connection until the 1800s.

Therefore, either the Word of God failed the early Church in its function to corroborate the identification of the Beast as Nero, or Nero cannot be the Beast.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that we were further along in history so as to "pop the preterist bubble" with the reality of the predicted Tribulation. It is tiring continually responding to the seriously flawed "Nero is the Beast" claim (even promulgated on the popular "Bible Answer Man broadcast" here in the USA). But then I remember other passages:

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. (Am 5:18)

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2Pe 3:9)

May we futurists learn from the patience and compassion of our Lord!


[1] Gregory H. Harris, "The Wound of the Beast in the Tribulation," Bibliotheca Sacra (Oct-Dec 1999): 460-61.

[2] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 1.4.2.2.0.40.

[3] Tony Garland, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Camano Island, WA: SpiritAndTruth.org, 2003), 4.12.1a.


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