Friday, August 22, 2014

The Seven Kings of Revelation 17(and 13) Part 1: Caesars of John's Time

Now I want to study who the Seven Kings represented by the Seven heads of the beast are.
Revelation 17:8-11
"The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is......... And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition."
A key issue is whether "of the seven" means he is one of the 7 returning, or just descended from them in some way. I've checked the Greek and the plain reading on it's own supports the latter. It'd have said "one of the Seven" if it meant the former clearly.

But the talk of "was and is not, and shall ascend out of the Abyss" combined with the Mortal Wound healing in Revelation 13 lends circumstantial credence to the former. "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed:" Here it says one of, meaning a specific Head.

Now, most of my favorite Bible teachers are wrong in identifying these kings, they insist that they refer to seven world Empires, four of which are the four Beasts of Daniel, problem is that doesn't work for many reasons, Rome did not truly end it continues today and is being reunited, that's the point of the Fourth Beast prophecy.  There is no following empire, just different balances of power between pieces of Rome (Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Turkey/Ottoman, Syria, Egypt, Iraq/Baghdad).

They typically make Egypt the first world Empire. In Biblical symbolism Egypt represents the Word, that's why Biblical world empires have to conquer both Israel and Egypt. And they make the second Assyria.   Nebuchadnezzar's Empire which we scholarly types today call the "Neo-Babylonian Empire" was defined by Ancient authors like Herodotus and Xenophon as only another phase of the Assyrian Empire.

The Bible defines the fall of Nineveh as just that, Nineveh, not as the whole Civilization. The Dynasty and Capital changed, like happened to Rome many times, but it was the same Kingdom. The Lion with Eagles Wings symbol used of Nebuchadnezzar's Kingdom in Daniel 7 originated as a symbol of Assyria, both secularly and Biblically..

But more importantly the whole context here is clearly implying seven individual kings, one of which is (apparently) contemporary with when John wrote Revelation.

But a variant of the above problem is to make them 7 individual kings scattered throughout history, major kings of each supposed empire, or 7 conquers of Jerusalem, or 7 types of The Antichrist, ect. Those are just silly to me, the point is clearly successive Kings.

 I also believe the grammar of "was, is not and is to come" demands the Eighth King (Antichrist) is one of the first 5.  White's fatal flaw is insisting the 8th must be the 7th, when that not only isn't said in the text but in my view is directly contradicted.  The Present in the context of this prophecy is the 6th King and the 8th is already associated with the past but not the present.  The 6th or 7th or maybe both could be Decoy Antichrists.

Now there are two different views among Christian scholars as to under which Emperor John wrote Revelation, the most popular view is under Domitian, the other is Nero, I favor Domitian because of Ireneaus.

Now remember, John is writing in the reign of the 6th and 2nd to last of the 7, and the 7th is seemingly identified as having a very short reign. So far that can apply to both, Nero was succeeded by Galba (Less then a year) and Domitian by Nerva (About 2 years) both pretty short reigns.

The first 14 Roman Emperors where

But also maybe the very brief reigns of the "year of the four emperors" don't count at all, they where basically usurpers. Perhaps John was starting with the first new Emperor after the Church age began.
Which would make it possible for Caligula-Nero to be among the relevant 7 either way. Beginning with the first new Ruler after the Crucifixion, and the first Julio-Claudian who was both Julian and Claudian.

So the passage says The Beast is the 8th king, and is "of the seven". The word translated "of" here can also mean "from" or "out of". Could it mean a clone? I used to be very attracted to that theory but not so much anymore.

I will acknowledge that Bible critics believe Revelation was written during Nero's reign but wanted his readers to think it was written during Vespasian's. So they view the 8 as.
The fallen 5 as the Julio-Claudians, the short 7th as Titus and Domitian being viewed by Christians as a return of Nero. But why didn't the text say at it's beginning "in the ____ year of Vespasian" if he wanted the original readers to think his present time was anytime other then their own?

The view that Nero was the Antichrist was very popular in the early Church.
Preterists use this to support their view. But what they forget is what went with that was the belief that Nero didn't actually die but would return. This myth wasn't limited to people that didn't like Nero, fact is Nero was popular with most of the common people of Rome(as well the east) who where hoping he'd come back.  Basically an Ancient Romans form of the King Under the Mountain myth.

Otho had a vague physical resemblance to Nero and tried to present himself as a new Nero. A person pretending to be Nero appeared in 68-69 A.D. in Greece. Another during the reign of Titus 79-81 and was entertained by the Parthians. And a third appeared 20 years after Nero's death during the reign of Domitian, he too had Parthian support.
Tacitus, Histories II.8, Dio, LXVI.19.3, Suetonius, LVII, Tacitus, I.2

Dio Chrysostom (40-115 A.D.), a Greek philosopher and historian, wrote "seeing that even now everybody wishes [Nero] were still alive. And the great majority do believe that he still is, although in a certain sense he has died not once but often along with those who had been firmly convinced that he was still alive."
Dio Chrysostom, Discourse XXI, On Beauty
That predates all known Christian sources on the subject.

According to the Talmud, Nero went to Jerusalem and shot arrows in all four directions. All the arrows landed in the city. He then asked a passing child to repeat the verse he had learned that day. The child responded, "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel" (Ez. 25,14). Nero became terrified, believing that God wanted the Temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed, but would punish the one to carry it out. Nero said, "He desires to lay waste His House and to lay the blame on me," whereupon he fled and converted to Judaism to avoid such retribution. [Talmud, tractate Gitin 56a-b] Vespasian was then dispatched to put down the rebellion.

The Talmud adds that the sage Reb Meir Baal HaNess, a prominent supporter of the Bar Kokhba rebellion against Roman rule, was a descendant of Nero. There is no other example of the Talmud claiming a prominent Rabbi to be descended from a Gentile ruler.

But back to the Christian viewpoint, Domitian was the 2nd Emperor to persecute Christians, and because of that many Christians at the time thought he was Nero resurrected somehow, or perhaps possessed by the same demon(s).

The Ascension of Isaiah (Second century apocrypha) 4:2 says
"the slayer of his mother, who himself this king, will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the Twelve one will be delivered into his hands."
Of the Twelve, Nero's persecution took Peter. The "slayer of his mother" refers to his killing his mother Agrippina. This author might have seen Agrippina as the Whore of Babylon.

The Sibylline Oracles, IV, 119-124; V.137-141; V.361-396 appear to claim that Nero did not really die but fled to Parthia, where he would amass a large army and would return to Rome to destroy it.

Tertullian said
The Goths will conquer Rome and redeem the Christians; but then Nero will appear as the heathen Antichrist, reconquer Rome, and rage against the Christians three years and a half. He will be conquered in turn by the Jewish and real Antichrist from the East, who, after the defeat of Nero and the burning of Rome, will return to Judea, perform false miracles, and be worshipped by the Jews.
This scenario makes Nero a decoy Antichrist. The idea that there may be a Decoy Antichrist is important to the current theories I'm developing. Particularly in my study on the Resurrection of The Antichrist.

Lactantius (310 A.D.) wrote that Nero
"suddenly disappeared, and even the burial-place of that noxious wild beast was nowhere to be seen. This has led some persons of extravagant imagination to suppose that, having been conveyed to a distant region, he is still reserved alive; and to him they apply the Sibylline verses."
Lactantius, Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died II

Victorinus of Pettau
Now that one of the heads was, as it were, slain to death, and that the stroke of his death was directed, he speaks of Nero. For it is plain that when the cavalry sent by the senate was pursuing him, he himself cut his throat. Him therefore, when raised up, God will send as a worthy king, but worthy in such a way as the Jews merited. And since he is to have another name, He shall also appoint another name, that so the Jews may receive him as if he were the Christ. Says Daniel: “He shall not know the lust of women, although before he was most impure, and he shall know no God of his fathers: for he will not be able to seduce the people of the circumcision, unless he is a judge of the law.” Finally, also, he will recall the saints, not to the worship of idols, but to undertake circumcision, and, if he is able, to seduce any; for he shall so conduct himself as to be called Christ by them.
This one is trying to reconcile viewing Nero as the Antichrist, with the Antisemitic desire to see The antichrist as a Jewish Messiah which popped up following the Bar-Kochba revolt.

In 422 Augustine of Hippo, City of God XX.19.3 said "he now lives in concealment in the vigor of that same age which he had reached when he was believed to have perished, and will live until he is revealed in his own time and restored to his kingdom." Here he was referring to secular belief in Nero's return actually. He goes on to comment on those Christians still believing Nero would be the Antichrist, but he himself rejected that theory.

Some variant manuscripts have 616 as the Number of the beast rather then 666, (but Irenaeus a near contemporary of John knew about these and knew they were wrong). My hunch is the origin of this alternative was people who wanted Caligula to be the Beast (perhaps the earliest Preterists). His legal name Gaius Caesar, is spelled in Greek as Gaios Kaisar. Gaios is 284, and Kaisar is 332. 666 must be the valid one because that has Old Testament precedents. The measurements of the statue in Daniel 3. And 1 Kings 10:14 "Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty six talents of gold".

An Aramaic scroll from Murabba'at, dated to "the second year of Emperor Nero", (Hillers, D. R. (1963). Revelation 13:18 and A Scroll from Murabba'at. BASOR, 170. p. 65.) records the contemporary Aramaic spelling of Nero's name, in 2 forms. Nro Qsr, based on Nero Kaisar, the Greek form. And Nron Qsr, based on the Latin form, Neron Caesar. Aramaic letters are the same as Hebrew, so this allows us to compute the Hebrew numerical value of both names. The former is 616, the latter 666.

Now I feel it's Greek numerical value that should be used to compute the Number, and that doesn't match Nero at all. Since Revelation was in Greek, and 666 parallels Jesus's Greek numerical value, (Iesous=888). But that Nero's name can be made to match both the real number, and the popular alternative, 616, is convenient.

Another historical Detail of Nero often overlooked is what's compelling here. Most Pre-Christian Roman Emperors where cremated, their bodies burned completely leaving only ashes behind. However Nero was an exception, probably the only one. Acte had Nero buried in the Mausoleum of the Domitii Ahenobarbi, in what is now the Villa Borghese (Pincian Hill) area of Rome. What that means is he and he alone of the 14 possible candidates could possibly have remains still around today.

As interesting as all that is, I've come to feel any Romans Emperor view is actually too inherently conjectural. Rome did have way more then 7, and who should be counted as first isn't agreed on. And no single "dynasty" had a whole 7.

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