The 3rd Century Oxyrhynchus manuscripts, now being translated, futher indicate that the number of the beast (Revelation 13:18) is actually 616 not 666. This agrees with the previously known Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, and some other early writings.
Historically, early Hebrew and Christian writers would use gematria or isopsephy to conceal the subject of their writings when it would be politically dangerous to write openly.
The number 666 corresponds to the Aramaic version of "Nero Caesar" (NRWN QSR). An alternate version of "Nero Caesar" was spelled NRW QSR which, conveniently, adds up to 616. So the theory that the beast represents Nero could be supported by both numbers.
The other probable candidate is Caligula, whose full name "Gaius Caligula Caesar" would be rendered GS QLGS QSR, also 616. Or if you think it needs to be Greek, you've got GAIOS KAISAR = 616.
- Story in the Independent (UK)
- commentary at JimmyAkin.Org