Numbers and Nero

From Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur (December 31, 2011); used w/o permission.

I don’t have the ‘I’d rather be dead’ attitude of the deceased in that 2011 Non Sequitur strip. My viewpoint is more like Edison Lee’s dad in yesterday’s comic.

From John Hambrock's The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee (November 7, 2016); used w/o permission.

I figure that someone will win the 2016 American presidential election. It’ll probably a candidate from one of the two major political parties.

I think which candidate wins matters. But I also think that whoever gets the job — America will keep going. There’s a great deal more to this country than the national government.

That’s not what this post is about, though.

Whoever wins, I’m pretty sure that at least a few folks who think it’s the “wrong” candidate will make wild claims.

I’ll be talking about Satan in Sunday’s post, unless my mind wanders in another direction. That happened yesterday, which brings me to “the number of the beast” mentioned in Revelation 13:18.

And no, this won’t be a standard-issue rant. In my considered opinion, no living person is Adolf Hitler, the antichrist, or Nero.

Triangular Numbers and Wannabe Prophets

The number is “six hundred and sixty-six” in my Bible, but a few, like the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, say it’s ἑξακόσιοι δέκα ἕξ, 616.

The number 666 is a triangular number. There’s nothing triangular about triangular numbers: 0, 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, and so on.

But if you’ve got a triangular number of marbles, you can arrange them in an equilateral triangle. I’m just enough of a data geek to enjoy facts like that.1 Your experience may vary.

Enthusiastic wannabe prophets notwithstanding, I figure six hundred and sixty six is very possibly a reference to Nero, who couldn’t have played a fiddle while Rome burned.

The fiddle, or violin, started out as Europe’s 10th-century take on the Byzantine lyre, first mentioned by Ibn Khordadbeh. The lyre, I mean, not the fiddle, and that’s another topic.

Nero, Mostly

Nero actually did give public performances showcasing his musical talents, probably for mixed motives.

Tacitus says that some considered Nero’s celebrity status as a songster shameful. I see their point, but figure that if folks in leadership roles don’t fit the stuffed shirt stereotype, that’s their decision.

We’re still not sure exactly how the Great Fire of Rome in July 64 started. Tacitus says Nero helped rescue and rebuilding efforts, but others claimed that he set the fire.

Nero fingered Christians living in Rome, with painfully lethal results. For Christians, that is. There was more to the on-again, off-again, anti-Christian imperial policies than scapegoating a minority, and that’s yet another topic.2

About Nero and Revelation 13:18, I take the Bible very seriously. But I’m a Catholic, so I don’t try to believe that it’s written from a literalist Western/American viewpoint. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101133)

Revelation “…abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism, which at best appears unusual to the modern reader….” Trying to understand it is possible, but “…symbolic descriptions are not to be taken as literal descriptions….”3

As for my culture’s perennial ‘end times Bible prophecies,’ I see them as exercises in futility: at best. We’ve been getting ready for our Lord’s return for two millennia. I’d be astounded if I live at the moment we’re finally done.3

Besides, as Matthew 24:427 and 24:36 says; that information seems to be given on a ‘need to know’ basis. If our Lord didn’t need to know, I certainly don’t.

I’ve got my hands full, trying to act like loving God, loving my neighbor, and seeing everyone as my neighbor, is a good idea. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 2196)

And that’s yet again another topic.

Other posts; related, and not so much:


1 Getting a grip about numbers:

2 A really quick look at Nero, Domitian, and Dachau:

3 Making sense of Revelation, a very quick look at the Catholic view:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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