In Revelation 13:18, the Bible (depending on the version) says "let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six." In modern culture, this became associated with the devil because of confusion with his beast. But what was the original meaning behind the number? The leading theory is that it was a hidden insult against Roman emperor Nero. In Hebrew, letters are also used to represent numbers, and the numbers that added up to 666 in the translation could also spell out NRON QSR (there are no vowels) or "Neron Kesar", the Hebrew way to write Nero Caesar. The timeline would check out, too: the Book of Revelation is thought to have been written about 30 years after Nero's death, a time when there was a widespread belief that Nero would return to life.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.