The thing is, the closer to Biblical History a tradition is, the more likely it is evidence in The Bible itself could work against it. I already did a post arguing that Peter never went to Rome, which included my deconstructing the assumption that the Ascension of Isaiah was talking about Nero at all. (And there was a follow up to that about Simon Magus.) I even already there questioned the assumption that Paul was Martyred in Rome, though he certainly did go there.
Here is a fact that is somewhat little known, the Trail before Caesar (Nero was Caesar at the time because it's after Felix's time as Governor of Judea ended) Paul was awaiting when the narrative of Acts ended, is kind of recorded in Scripture elsewhere. 2 Timothy 4 verses 16-18, often considered the last of Paul's Epistles to be written.
At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.The implication of these verses is clearly that Paul was acquitted.
Now plenty of scholars are aware of this. But some insist Paul returned to Rome a second time later and was killed then, by the very same Emperor who had acquitted him before. Sometimes specifically saying 2 Timothy 1:16-17 refers to this second imprisonment, but to me the context of the letter clearly makes that the same imprisonment he records the resolution of quoted above.
The only authentic Epistle of Clement of Rome says in chapter 5 that Paul went to the "Extremity of The West" (or "limits of the west" in Bart Ehrman's translation). Many ironically quote this passage as backing up Paul being martyred in Rome when in my view it does not, it seems on it's own without bringing our assumptions into it, to be saying the "Extremity of the West" is where Paul met his fate.
Now "extremity of the west" is an expression used in Secular Pagan Roman writings to refer to Spain, so this can be read as just confirming Paul fulfilled his stated desire to go to Spain from Romans 15:24&28. I point this out because there is easily a temptation to see this as backing up fanciful theories that he went to Britannia or the New World. I'm not against Paul in Britain theories, plenty of other claims about the Early Church in Brita I think are false, but I haven't read Paul in Britain yet so I can't firmly pass judgment on it.
I do feel convinced that that Claudia and Pudens of 2 Timothy 4:21 are the same as the ones from Juvenal who are linked to Britain. Some argue the Juvenal reference is to late for them to be the same as Paul's. But there are other reasons people have for placing the letters to Timothy and Titus in the 90s, though I disagree with the aspect of that based on thinking the Pastoral Epistles support Monarchical Church Structure, the men those letters are named after are just the contacts those churches had with Paul. That date is viewed as conflicting with Paul being the author only because of the assumption Paul died in 64 or 67.
Maybe if Paul was martyred by a Roman Emperor it was a later one. The second Emperor tradition says persecuted Christians was Domitian. And sometimes people use against the Domitian persecution the same argument I'll bring up later against Neronian persecution, that Christians and Jews weren't distinguished in Roman law yet. However that ignores that Suetonius records Jews being persecuted under Domitian, and unlike many other things Suetonius talks about this he was an eye witness to.
An overarching theme of the Book of Acts is that the Roman Governmental authorities under Claudius and Nero are the good guys during this era, Christian Persecution came from local mobs, which in Judea were often riled up by the Sadducees. Tradition has chosen to vilify a Caesar that Paul was confident would rule in his favor.
Under the Flavians, as well as the Nerva-Hadrian administrations, it served the new Dynasty to vilify Nero for the same reasons it served the Tudors and Stuarts to vilify Richard III during the time of Shakespeare. And meanwhile during this same era many "Early Church Fathers" were trying to appeal to these same Roman Emperors, often addressing their Apologies to them directly. So at some point I think Christians like Tertulian wanted to pin the blame on Nero for the illicit legal status they had, and then Suetonius and Tactius listed persecuting Christians among the crimes they attributed to Nero because Christians were saying it.
The villainous reputation of Nero mostly comes from Roman Historians of the Senatorial Class (chiefly Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio), who loved to slander the Julio-Claudians as depraved because of their semi-plebian origins, but loved Vespasian-Titus and the "Five Good Emperors" because they came from their class and so were good to them. Thing is the common people of the Empire were oppressed by heavy Taxes under those Senatorial Emperors.
There is plenty of evidence however that the common people were happy under Nero. Even the Christian source John Crysostom acknowledged that. Plutarch in his allusions to Nero is also more favorable, as well as Lucan. The biography of Appolonius of Tyana also records how Nero was loved by the Greeks in the Eastern Provinces. And the Talmud has a favorable memory of Nero also. In fact the reason many later Christians started thinking the Antichrist would be Nero resurrected somehow was because before them those who liked Nero had started believing he would come back to save them from Flavian oppression, he became Greco-Rome's King Arthur.
One purely modern detail of the traditions about Nero's persecution is the tying it into the bad reputation of Poppaea Sabina his second wife, it seems the Hollywood versions needed a Jezebel figure. Poppaea was depicted as a scheming Femme Fatale by the senatorial sources. But Josephus who actually knew her personally paints a different picture in his autobiography. Josephus depicts her as practically a Proselyte and mentions among her Jewish friends an actor Nero was a fan of.
Now some have suggested Poppaea's Jewish associations are why her influence would have been against Paul. But that would be the case only if the Jews who had her ear were Sadducees But based on Josephus being a Pharisee, and that I think his Shipwreck was the same as Paul's, I doubt that. Plus Gentile Proselytes might have been inclined to like Paul's message.
Some histories are confused by how Josephus could possibly be talking about the same woman the other sources are, even if one or both is exaggerated to suit their bias. I say just look at Anne Boleyn, to the Catholics of Tudor England she was explicitly compared to Jezebel, but Protestants sometimes paint her as a saint in for example the film Anne of the Thousand Days.
Acte was a mistress of Nero, archeology has shown there were Christians in her household as either slaves or freedmen, leading some to speculate she herself may have been one. Modern fictionalizations often place her in conflict with Poppaea, wanting to make her the Betty to Poppaea's Veronica. But politically they were on the same side when trying to influence Nero, being pro Seneca and anti Agrippina. So for all we know they could have had a threesome.
Some secular scholars have already questioned the historicity of the Neronian persecution. But in a way they're not going as far as I am here, as they do think something happened, but distinguish it from a systemic persecution.
One of the arguments they do bring up is the lack of legal distinction between Jews and Christians before the time of Trajan, the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan clearly show there was no prior policy on what to do about Christians. And Romans persecution they did face before was a product of persecutions the Jews suffered under Domitian. But since the evidence from the Talmud and Josephus show The Jews had it good under Nero, there is no reason to think a Nero killed any Christians.
And these Secular critics have also pointed out that Tacitus account must be derivative of something he heard from Christians and not Roman legal records since he got the kind of Governor Pilate was wrong. And Suetonius was certainly willing to record things based on pure rumor. His account of the death of Caligula and Claudius becoming emperor is clearly based on Jospehus's account (he mentioned Josephus so was aware of him) but the differences are all the tabloid style scandals he spices it up with.
Why am I talking about this on the Prophecy blog? Well for one thing it effects Preterism. In one sense not that much since a lot of their arguments focus on Vespasian and Titus. But Nero is the only of these Emperors where any plausible way to make their name's Gemetria equal 666 exists, and even that is tortured. But also the assumption that Nero persecuted Christians is necessary to make it possible that John's exile to Patmos was under Nero, but even the traditional view of the Neronian persecution makes it local in Rome only. All the facts I laid out above make John's exile far more plausible under Domitian's Jewish persecution.
Persecuting Christians isn't the only evil thing attributed to Nero I think is slander. I think Poppaea probably died of a miscarriage and the claim Nero kicked her to death was probably another of Suetonius's tabloid rumors. But he is someone who became ruler of the world at a young age, and so at some points could have cracked under pressure a few times.
If the rumors of the Incest with Agrippina were true, he'd be the victim in that case, he was probably still a minor by modern standards when that started since he was only 17 when he became Emperor. However a book called Women of the Caesars (I'm not sure which book on Amazon with that title I read) argues for a more positive portrayal of Agrippina, but it did so supporting the negative view of Poppaea.
If you're familiar with my other blogs you may find yourself thinking "hmm, an Otaku Christian who's expressed a lot fondness for Fate/ suddenly trying rehabilitate Nero's reputation in Christendom, that's suspicious." This stuff has all been floating around in my head for years really, it just took awhile for me to bring it all together. It's again kinda derivative of what I'd already talked about regarding Peter. I started watching Fate Animes in 2016 and hadn't even heard of the Extra games and their Waifu version of Nero till over half way through 2017.
I'm actually pretty annoyed by Fate/Extra's take on Nero. 1 Artoria works because Arthur is a figure who's very existence is questionable so of course their gender could have been remembered wrong. 2. They could have at least kept Nero plus sized, or as we say in Anime Meme circles THICC. 3. I'd like Fate/ to start doing less random gender swapping and more bringing attention to actual historical/mythical women. For example the characterization Fate/Extra gives Nero could have been perfect for how I view Poppaea and Anne Boleyn. But also as a Christian I'd love to see the Arab Queen Mavia brought into the Nasuverse.
If someone's gonna write a fictionalization of Nero based on my theories, I may have to do it myself.