I present below my new proposal for the original meaning
of the Beasts of the Apocalypse and the name encoded in
the number 666.

I demonstrate that the Emperor Trajan was the man
described in Revelation as the First Beast.

I make my case in the following video. The article below
goes into more detail.
The Book of Revelation contains some of the most
enigmatic topics of the New Testament. Who are the First
and Second Beasts described in Revelation 13? And the
most intriguing question of all--what is the name encoded
in the number 666?

In this video I will show that ancient Roman sources
themselves shed crucial light on these mysterious issues.

Where and When was the Book of Revelation
Written?

The Book of Revelation was very likely among the last of
the texts composed which would eventually end up in the
Christian Canon of Scripture. Modern biblical scholars such
as myself tend to believe the book was written some time in
the late 1st or early second century AD.

The early Christian writer Ireneaus of Lyon places the
authorship near the end of the reign of Domition, who was
Emperor from AD 81-96 (Adv. Haer. 5.30.3).
In Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, Seven Churches are discussed. They are all situated in Western Asia Minor,
modern day Turkey. The concern the author has for these places tells us that the book was very likely composed
somewhere in that area.

Speaking in very apocalyptic terms, the author of Revelation tells us:

Then I saw a beast come out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads (13:1).

Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth... It wielded all the authority of the first beast... (13:11-12).

...
and it made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast ... and it made anyone who did not worship
the image of the beast to be put to death
(13:12; 13:15).

Let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person and his
number is 666
(13:18).

I believe, with most biblical scholars, that elements such as the First and Second Beast, as well as the number 666
were not meant to be guides for the end times. They were describing the author’s contemporary concerns. This
position is known as the Preterist view. In other words, although I am a Christian, I do not feel this book must be
understood as predicting the future. Instead, I consider Revelation to be an historical record from a Christian
community, discussing issues of importance to them at that time. If later generations derive inspiration from it in
other ways, that does not negate study of the book from a purely historical standpoint.


Revelation, Revealed…

By the accidents of history, there has been, preserved to this day, an exchange of letters between the Roman
Emperor Trajan and a man named Pliny, who was the Roman governor of the Province of Bithynia and Pontus in
Asia Minor in the year 110--around the time and in the place the Book of Revelation was likely written.


Pliny and the Christians

Pliny wrote to the Emperor Trajan asking for the Emperor’s advice on how to deal with Christians. Pliny states that
when someone was brought before him accused of being a Christian:

Interrogavi ipsos an essent Christiani. Confitentes iterum ac tertio interrogavi supplicium
minatus; perseverantes duci iussi.

I interrogated them as to whether they were Christians; those confessing I interrogated a second and a third
time, having threatened them with execution; those persisting I ordered executed
. (Pliny Epistulae 10:96)

Pliny goes on to inform the Emperor that someone published an anonymous document naming a large number of
people in his area as being Christians. Pliny interrogated the people named on the list and told the Emperor that he
released any who:

cum praeeunte me deos appellarent et imagini tuae, quam propter hoc iusseram cum simulacris
numinum afferri, ture ac vino supplicarent, praeterea male dicerent Christo.

invoked the gods, following my words, and made an offering of incense and wine to your image, which I had
ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ.


Pliny/Trajan and the Book of Revelation

As I said earlier, the Book of Revelation states that the second beast:

ποιηση οσοι εαν μη προσκυνησωσιν τη εικονι του θηριου αποκτανθωσιν

Makes as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. (Rev 13:15)

That is exactly what Pliny, writing at the same time and place as the author of Revelation, told his emperor that he
was doing.

Revelation states, regarding the second beast:

την εξουσιαν του πρωτου θηριου πασαν ποιει ενωπιον αυτου

He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. (13:12)

This certainly matches the authority that a Roman governor exercises in the name of the Emperor.

If the seven heads signify the seven hills of Rome, then perhaps the ten horns mean ten emperors.

Following the death of Nero, three claimants to the imperial throne briefly reigned. They are not considered true
Roman emperors. As of the year AD 110, when Pliny was governor in Asia Minor, Rome had seen the following true
emperors:

1) Augustus (27 BC - AD 14)
2) Tiberius (AD 14 - 37)
3) Caligula (37 - 41)
4) Claudius (41 - 54)
5) Nero (54 - 68)
6) Vespasian (69 - 79)
7) Titus (79 - 81)
8) Domitian (81 - 96)
9) Nerva (96 - 98)
10) Trajan (98 - 117)

Nicomedia, the capitol of Bithynia and Pontus, where Pliny would have had his residence and base of operations,
was just 250 miles from the center of the area where the Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3
are located. People in those Churches could not have been unaware of the persecution Pliny was overseeing just to
their northeast. And they would have assumed that the Roman governor was carrying out the will of his superior
far away in Rome.


The Number of the Beast

I assert that what Revelation 13 is describing is the persecution that Governor Pliny was conducting against
Christians in his province in Asia Minor. And that would mean that Pliny is the second beast and so Trajan is the
first. And the name Trajan, therefore, must be what is encoded by the number 666.

Grotius argued for an identification of Trajan as the name behind 666,
but he argued the point from a form of his
nomen Ulpius.

Most biblical scholars have previously asserted that the best candidate for the number 666 is the Emperor Nero,
who ordered the first general persecution of Christians following the great fire of Rome in AD 64. The number 666
is found to match the Hebrew numerical values of the name Neron Caesar, the Greek version of his name, when
written in Hebrew characters.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers for the characters of the name:

נרון  קסר  = Nerōn Kaisar = Nero Caesar

( נ ) Nun = (50)
( ר ) Resh = (200)
( ו ) Vav = (6)
( נ ) Nun = (50)
( ק ) Qoph = (100)
( ס ) Samekh (60)
( ר ) Resh = (200)

And this adds up to 666.

There is a very old textual variant found among some manuscripts of Revelation, in which the number is 616
instead of 666.

And this variant may have come about because that is the number produced when you calculate using Nero’s Latin
name, as follows:

נרו  קסר  = Nerōn Kaisar = Nero Caesar

( נ ) Nun = (50)
( ר ) Resh = (200)
( ו ) Vav = (6)
( ק ) Qoph = (100)
( ס ) Samekh (60)
( ר ) Resh = (200)

And this adds up to 616.

There have been many other proposals for names that add up to 666, both from the Preterist position and the
Futurist position. For a survey of these,
visit the Wikipedia page on the topic.

Now you will notice that the name Neron Caesar arrives at 666 as a fairly random collection of
numbers. I believe that the author of Revelation intended readers to find the right name in a more
straightforward manner.

I assert that the author expected the reader to simply unpack the alphabetic values of the numbers
600, then something adding up to 60, and finally 6.

What is the Hebrew way to represent 600?

The answer is:

Tav Resh = TR

Tav (ת) equals 400 and Resh (ר) equals 200. They were used together by convention to signify 600.

The name Traianus in Latin or Τραϊανος in Greek would be spelled next with the Hebrew Yod (י),
producing the same Y sound as the Latin I before a vowel. And Yod equals 10.

The next consonant would be the Nun (נ). And Nun equals 50.

And so, TRYN (Traian) add up to 660. On to the final number. The Hebrew letter for 6 by itself was
Vav (ו), the W sound, also used for the vowels O and U.

Taken all together, the number 666 encodes the Hebrew letters:

TRYNW     T R I N U       TRAIANU

Adding in the vowels, these letters are immediately recognizable as the name Traianus, Trajan. The sheer elegance
of the number 666 would certainly be more important to the author of Revelation than the mere nominative form
of his name, because adding the final S would have resulted in the inelegant number 726.

While that may be true, the context of Revelation 13:18 indicates that the form we have here may be precisely what
we should have expected. The letters TRYNW would pronounce the Greek genitive form Traianou (Τραϊανου), “of
Trajan.”

The Greek word rendered as  “number” (ὁ ἀριθμὸς) can just as validly be translated as “sum.” And in that case, the
genitive form of the name Trajan would be expected, in parallel to the word
anthropou “of a person”:

ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί•
For it is the sum of a person.
καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛ
And its sum is--of Trajan (
Traianou).

I will address one final question. If this interpretation should have been apparent to early Christian readers, why
was this solution not passed down as an option?

The answer comes in Trajan’s response to Pliny’s letter.

He wrote back the following:

Conquirendi non sunt; si deferantur et arguantur, puniendi sunt ... Sine auctore vero propositi
libelli in nullo crimine locum habere debent. Nam et pessimi exempli nec nostri saeculi est.

[Christians] are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and found guilty, they must be punished... But
anonymously posted accusations should have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a very bad example
and not (in keeping with) our times
. (Pliny, Epistulae 10:97)

The early Christian Historian Eusebius states that, because of Trajan’s reply to Pliny:

δἰ οὗ ποσῶς μὲν τοῦ διωγμοῦ σβεσθῆναι τὴν ἀπειλὴν σφοδρότατα ἐγκειμένην.

On account of this, the persecution seemed lessened in its extreme violence. (Church History 3.33.2)

Trajan’s reign was notable not only for its military expansion, but for internal prosperity enjoyed by all within the
Empire. And as the memory of Pliny’s persecution faded, esteem for Trajan only increased by the time of his death.
Trajan was simply not an obvious candidate any more to be considered the Beast of the Apocalypse.

But I believe I have demonstrated that he was very likely the original man that the author of the
Book of Revelation described as the first beast, and the man whose name was 666.




Further Research

Excursus: The Transliteration of the Name Trajan in Hebrew

Any theory claiming that a Latin name transliterated into Hebrew adds up to 666 must defend the precise letters
used to arrive at that total. Those who believe that the number stands for “Nero Caesar,” for instance, face a
potential problem in the fact that the word “Caesar” is consistently spelled QYSR (Hebrew) in the Talmud, and not
QSR as is required to total 666. Add just that Yod, and you are at 676, not 666.

In the case of my transliteration, I must explain my use of the Tav instead of the letter Tet. Originally these two
letters stood for slightly different consonants similar to the English T. By the time of the Book of Revelation, that
distinction had probably been lost in Hebrew.

In the Talmud, compiled much later than the writing of the Book of Revelation, the name Trajan is transliterated in
multiple ways, for example:

Trogianos (טרוגיינוס ; Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah 5:1, 55B)
Torianos (טוריינוס ; Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 18b)

There is a preference in Talmudic transliteration, both with the name Trajan and with Latin and Greek words
beginning with TR in general, to use the Tet, and not the Tav.

Note, for instance, that the Greek word trigonos (τρίγωνος), ‘triangular’, is transliterated with a Tet as trigon
(טריגון) in Midrash Negaim 12.1.

It is important to note, however, that there was no authoritative rule governing such transliteration strategies.

Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, transliterates the Greek word triodion (τριωδιον) as
triodon, with the equivalent of a
Tav, not a Tet.

No one starting their attempt to decipher 666 with 600 and exploring names beginning with TR was going to
change course because they could not imagine names beginning with Tav Resh.