Naturalism and the 666
I recently had to search and add some instruction to the little I knew about the book of Revelation, thanks to a Protestant who was trying to convert me. I thanked him by trying to convert him in my turn. When the subject of Apocalypse arose, I shared my personal theory about the 666. Unfortunately, I checked it only after our conversation, and it proved a complete anachronism. I feel fairly ridiculous about this, now that I have learned a much better, and real Catholic, interpretation.
My enlightenment came from Naji Mouawad, a Maronite (Lebanese rite) Catholic, interviewed by Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osODD9qeRLo). Both the guest and the host are remarkable scholars and theologians, and I learned many things in this brief overview.
Mr Mouawad’s biblical lectures, developed over 15 years, are available for purchase on his website, named “Qorbono” (https://www.qorbono.com/). He advises to respect the specific order and begin at the beginning of his 200 talks. The first group of talks, titled “Catholic Foundation” are a pre-requisite to the study of the book of Revelation.
My failed attempt at the interpretation of the 666 symbolism is proof that it is fruitless to examine a detail of the puzzle without referring again and again to the big picture – the “Catholic foundation” – to discover where and how the little piece fits. In the case, I did it the Protestant way, following my own dim light.
Naji Mouawad uses the well-known allusion to the number 666 as the numerical value of letters in the name of Caesar Neron (the count is 666 with the final “n”, without the “n” it equals 616). However, the key to the symbol is to combine the allusion to Nero with a clear biblical passage about another king, Salomon, who collected taxes in disobedience, and raised 666 talents of gold in the year.
Nero is clearly the extreme – though not exactly rare – example of the wicked ungodly ruler, while Salomon’s whole story is a serious warning that the best can fall from grace when they stop listening to God, and oppose their will to the Lord’s commandments. Both followed what the New Testament calls the spirit of the world, and what philosophy and theology call naturalism, to its logical consequences.