Hitchcock, L. Mark, “A Critique Of The Preterist View of Revelation 13 And Nero,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (July-September 2007), 341-56
Mark L. Hitchcock, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, is the author of this article. Within this article Hitchcock takes apart the preterist viewpoint and critiques it using scripture in order to provide the correct interpretation. Within this article Hitchcock critiques what Kenneth Gentry said concerning Nero as the Antichrist in the book of Revelation, which comes from the preterist viewpoint. Kenneth Gentry He comes up with seven reasons with why he does not believe in the preterist position.
Preterism, according to Hitchcock, is “the view that the Book of Revelation does not predict yet-future eschatological events but events that were fulfilled before and in the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in A.D. 70 (341).” According to most preterists, Nero is the beast in Revelation 13. So according to this, this means that “Revelation had to have been written before these events occurred which was in the early sixties (341).” So with this knowledge, Hitchcock presents the four arguments that early date supporters rely on to support their view that Nero was the beast.
The first argument depicted is Nero and the Number 666. The number 666 is of course the mark of the beast. One of the most common interpretations of 666 is that … “ six is mankind’s number, which is one number short of God’s perfect number of seven (342).” There is also a symbolic view in which the meaning of 666 … involves some form of gematria, the rabbinic Hebrew form for cryptogrammic riddles in which the numerical value of letters in a proper name are added up to arrive at a numerical value for the name (342).” So advocates of an early date for Revelation use the gematria to identify Nero as the beast of Revelation 13 ( 343). But as Hitchcock points out, the “numerical value of Nero’s name in Greek is 1005 (343).” So what the preterists did was add the title Caesar to Nero’s name and they translated the phrase Nero Caesar from Greek to Hebrew and came up with the number 666.
Hitchcock comes up with five reasons or arguments that “make the identification of Nero with the number of the beast in Revelation 13:16-18 doubtful (344).” The arguments consist of the following: First, for the number 666 to the gematria value of Nero, the name and title Nero Caesar must be used (344). Hitchcock points out that … while Nero’s name with his title can certainly be rendered in this way, this is a case of adapting the facts to fit a predetermined solution. So based on this knowledge Nero could be ruled out (344). Second, verse 16 says that the numerical value 666 is the name of the beast or the number of his name. It has to be pointed out that Nero Caesar is not Nero’s name. So based on what Revelation says Nero cannot be the beast in Revelation 13. Third, for the value to fit Nero Caesar as 666 the Greek must be transliterated to Hebrew. Hitchcock points out that “ Gentry attempts to answer this objection by noting that Revelation is one of the most Jewish books in the New Testament, that John often uses Hebraic terms such as Abbadon and Armageddon and that Asia was well populated by Jews (345).” Hitchcock, however, makes the point that the book of Revelation was written to the Greeks and therefore a Greek calculation of the number would be more precise. Fourth, the argument is made that even if the transliteration is correct then there is still another problem. Hitchcock elaborates further and says that “ the calculation in Hebrew equals 666 only if the Hebrew letter yod is omitted from the word Caesar (345).” Finally, “in order to arrive at the number 666” one of the letters would have to be retained(346).
The second argument is Nero and the 616 Variant. Some early date supporters according to Hitchcock, “seek to identify Nero as the beast of Revelation based on the occurrence of the number 616 in a few ancient manuscripts (346).” The Preterists claim that the variant was there in order for someone who was not Hebrew to be able to identify Nero as the beast in Revelation 13. Hitchcock points out that there is no way to be certain that a connection with Nero was the intention.
The third argument is the worship of the beast. In this argument Gentry, the one that Hitchcock is critiquing, argues that if Nero is the personal incarnation of the beast of Revelation, then Nero must have been worshiped (347).” This makes no sense, because there have been many emperors who have received worship. Hitchcock points out “no one can deny that Nero was worshiped during his reign. The issue is whether the worship of Nero fits the facts of the worship of the beast in Revelation (348).” What Revelation 13 is pointing out is that the beast will have universal success in attracting worshipers. With Nero, the worship was confined only to his area, which does not meet the requirements of Revelation’s beast.
The fourth argument is the death of the beast. According to Hitchcock, Gentry points out that a sword killed Nero. However, Hitchcock says “ Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat with the help of his secretary (349).” If the persecution of the beast is universal as Revelation suggests that it will be, then Nero cannot be the beast. According to Hitchcock, “it is generally agreed that the Neronic persecution never extended beyond the city of Rome and its immediate environs (349).”
Although there are only four arguments, Hitchcock gives another three additional reasons for rejecting the Nero view of Revelation 13. First, he says concerning Nero, 666, and the early church, that the early church fathers did not recognize Nero as the beast. Second, “there is no historical figure during Nero’s reign who corresponds to the second beast, the beast from the earth in verses 11-18 (353).” The second beast is the false prophet, and most people think he might be an apostate Jew (353).” Hitchcock says “the inability to identify a historical person who fulfilled the roles and activities of the false prophet in the Neronic era is a drawback for the preterist position and an early date for Revelation (354).” Third, it is pointed out that Nero cannot be the beast because he does not fulfill all the requirements to be the beast. For example, according to Revelation 13 the beast will rule for seven years. Nero ruled for fourteen years. This takes Nero out of the equation completely.
This article written by Hitchcock has its strengths and its weaknesses. First of all, the author presents each argument in detail and talks about each point in depth. No one can read this article and not know what preterism is or who Nero is portrayed to be according to preterists. However, this article is filled with quote after quote. He puts down what everyone else says. There has to be some form of originality within a theological paper and this article fails that test. It is quite clear that Hitchcock is against preterists and holds to a futurist position. So in that way he does show bias. This article was a little more subjective than others that have been written in the field of eschatology. It was written in such a way that some people would have a hard time trying to understand what was communicated. This article is written to an audience who can understand Hebrew and Greek. If a person does not understand these very well then it is a little difficult to understand.
Not everyone can read this article. However, if one can read it and really pay attention then there are some things that can be learned in this article. If one wants to know about the preterist position then this is a good article. This article should be read because it does give information on the different viewpoints that people have concerning the identity of the beast. However, if one does not enjoy eschatology then this article should not be read because the average person could not understand its message.