Whore of Babylon

Whore of Babylon
An 1800s Russian engraving depicting the Whore of Babylon riding the seven-headed Beast (a Sirrush)
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The Whore of Babylon or "Babylon the great" is a Christian allegorical figure of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Her full title is given as "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth." (Greek: Βαβυλὼν ἡ μεγάλη, ἡ μήτηρ τῶν πορνῶν καὶ τῶν βδελυγμάτων τῆς γῆς; transliterated Babylōn ē Megalē, ē mētēr tōn pornōn kai tōn bdelygmatōn tēs Gēs).



The Whore is associated with the Antichrist and the Beast of Revelation by connection with an equally allegorical kingdom. (The word "Whore" can also be translated as "Idolatress").[1][2] The Whore's apocalyptic downfall is prophesied to take place in the hands of the beast with seven heads and ten horns. There is much speculation within Christian eschatology on what the Whore and Beast symbolize as well as the possible implications for contemporary interpretations.[3][4][5][6][7]

The “great whore”, of the biblical book of Revelation is featured in chapters 17 and 18. Many passages define symbolic meanings inherent in the text.

17:1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
17:2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. ["Fornication" is interpreted/translated as "idolatry" in the Amplified Bible (AMP)]
17:3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. [King James Version; the New International Version uses "prostitutes" instead of "harlots"].
17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
17:9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sat. [King James Version; the New International Version Bible uses "hills" instead of "mountains"].
17:10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a short space.
17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goes into perdition.
17:12 And the ten horns which thou saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
17:15 And he said unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sat, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.
— Revelation 17:4-18 (various)
See also: Revelation 17:1, Parallel Translations


Rome and the Roman Empire

Many Biblical scholars[8][9] believe that "Babylon" is an allegory of Rome; perhaps specifically at the time to some aspect of Rome's rule (brutality, greed, paganism), or even a servant people that does the bidding of Rome[citation needed].

In 4 Ezra,[10] 2 Baruch[11] and the Sibylline oracles,[12] "Babylon" is a cryptic name for Rome.[13] Elsewhere in the New Testament, in 1 Peter 5:13; some[14] speculate that "Babylon" is used to refer to Rome. In Revelation 17:9 it is said that she sits on "seven mountains" (the King James Version Bible—the New International Version Bible uses the words "seven hills"), typically understood as the seven hills of Rome.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] A Roman coin minted under the Emperor Vespasian (ca. 70 CE) depicts Rome as a woman sitting on seven hills.[28]

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "The characteristics ascribed to this Babylon apply to Rome rather than to any other city of that age: (a) as ruling over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18); (b) as sitting on seven mountains (Revelation 17:9); (c) as the center of the world's merchandise (Revelation 18:3, 11–13); (d) as the corrupter of the nations (Revelation 17:2; 18:3; 19:2); (e) as the persecutor of the saints (Revelation 17:6)."[29]

Because Spiritual Babylon would have worldwide influence, affecting "all nations", Ellen G. White was led to believe that Imperial Rome could not meet such a specification, as she said it only had influence in the Old World.[30]

Protestant Reformation

Historicist interpreters commonly used the phrase "Whore of Babylon" to refer to the Roman Catholic Church. Reformation writers from Martin Luther (1483–1546) (who wrote On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church), John Calvin (1509–1564), and John Knox (1510–1572) (who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women) taught this association.[31][32] The Roman Catholic Church denies the claim that it is being referred to by the Book of Revelation as the Whore of Babylon.[33]

Most early Protestant Reformers believed, and the modern Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches, that in Bible prophecy a woman represents a church.[34][35] "I have likened the daughter of Zion To a lovely and delicate woman." (Jeremiah 6:2 NKJV) A harlot, it is argued, is representative of a church that has been unfaithful:

"Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2 NKJV)[36]

They also believed that the primary location of this unfaithful church is stated in the same chapter.

"And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:18)

The connection noted above on the seven hills of Rome is argued to locate the church.[37][38][39]

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Whore of Babylon represents "the world empire of false religion",[40] referring to all elements of worldly religions that do not adhere to biblical neutrality with respect to the world's political and commercial elements, including, but not limited to, Christendom, a term they use to refer to 'professed Christianity' as opposed to "true Christianity".[41][42]

They believe that the harlot—the empire of false religion and an enemy of God—has persecuted God's prophets and people, and that 'false religion' commits and has committed "fornication" with the world's political and commercial elements.[43]

Traditionalist Catholics

Some traditionalist Catholics who hold the position of Sedevacantism, most notably the Most Holy Family Monastery, believe that a counterfeit bride – a Counter-Catholic Church – will arise in the end times in order to deceive faithful Catholics; they teach that this counterfeit Church is the Roman Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council.[44]

Earthly Jerusalem

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

Many Biblical scholars[45] and theologians point out that although Rome was the prevailing pagan power in the 1st century when the Book of Revelation was written, the symbolism of the whore of Babylon refers not to an invading infidel of foreign power, but to an apostate false queen, a former "bride" who has been unfaithful and who, even though she has been divorced and cast out because of unfaithfulness, continues to falsely claim to be the "queen" of the spiritual realm.[46][47][48] This symbolism did not fit the case of Rome at the time. Proponents of this view suggest that the "seven mountains" in Rev 17:9 are the seven hills on which Jerusalem stands and the "fall of Babylon" in Rev 18 is the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE[49]

Several Old Testament prophets referred to Jerusalem as being a spiritual harlot and a mother of such harlotry (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1-11; Ezekiel 16:1-43; Ezekiel 23, Galatians 4:25). Some of the these Old Testament prophecies as well as the warnings in the New Testament concerning Jerusalem are in fact very close to the text concerning Babylon in Revelation, suggesting that John may well have actually been citing those prophecies in his description of Babylon.[50]

For example, in Matthew 23:34-37 and Luke 11:47-51, Jesus himself assigned all of the bloodguilt for the killing of the prophets and of the saints (of all time) to the Pharisees of Jerusalem, and, in Revelation 17:6 and 18:20,24, almost identical phrasing is used in charging that very same bloodguilt to Babylon. This is also bolstered by Jesus' statement that "it's not possible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem." (Luke 13:33).[51]

See also


  1. ^ πόρνη: From Greek. Fr. transliteration; pornē; English; prostitute/whore. 2) Metaphor; an idolatress; a) of "Babylon" i.e. Rome, the chief seat of idolatry. "Dictionary and Word Search for pornē (Strong's 4204)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. Retrieved on: 3 Nov 2011.
  2. ^ The Lifting of the Veil: Acts 15:20-21, By Avram Yehoshua. Google Books
  3. ^ Rome or Jerusalem? A Protestant Study on the Whore of Babylon in Revelation
  4. ^ The Interpretation of Revelation
  5. ^ Hunting the Whore of Babylon. Catholic Answers
  6. ^ Ch 17: Babylon the whore. Commentary on Revelation
  7. ^ What is the whore of Babylon / mystery Babylon? Catholic Questions.
  8. ^ Women in scripture: a dictionary of named and unnamed women in the Hebrew
  9. ^
  10. ^ 4 Ezra 3:1–2, 28–31
  11. ^ 2 Baruch 10:1–3, 11:1, 67:7
  12. ^ Sibylline oracles 5.143, 159–60
  13. ^ http://books.google.ca/books?id=KuauhZijcb4C&pg=PA69
  14. ^ http://books.google.ca/books?id=4vUkZpLbOooC&pg=PA41
  15. ^ Wall, R. W. (1991). New International biblical commentary: Revelation (207). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
  16. ^ Bratcher, R. G., & Hatton, H. (1993). A handbook on the Revelation to John. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (248). New York: United Bible Societies.
  17. ^ Davis, C. A. (2000). Revelation. The College Press NIV commentary (322). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub.
  18. ^ Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (315). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  19. ^ Beckwith, Isbon T. The Apocalypse of John. New York: MacMillan, 1919; reprinted, Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001.
  20. ^ Caird, G. B. A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine. Black’s New Testament Commentaries, edited by Henry Chadwick. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1966.
  21. ^ Bruce, F. F. The Revelation to John. A New Testament Commentary, edited by G. C. D. Howley. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969.
  22. ^ Swete, Henry Barclay. Commentary on Revelation. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977.
  23. ^ Morris, Leon. The Book of Revelation, an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.
  24. ^ Roloff, J. (1993). A Continental Commentary: The Revelation of John (198). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
  25. ^ Aune, D. E. (2002). Vol. 52C: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 17–22. Word Biblical Commentary (944). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
  26. ^ Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Re 17:9). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
  27. ^ Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Re 17:7–18). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
  28. ^ http://books.google.ca/books?id=2sW808jaEekC&pg=PA46
  29. ^ http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/B/babylon-in-the-new-testament.html
  30. ^ The Great Controversy
  31. ^ Bilhartz, Terry D.. Urban Religion and the Second Great Awakening. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 115. ISBN 0-838-63227-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=pK_DqHjUfg4C&printsec=frontcover#PPA115,M1. 
  32. ^ Edwards, Jr., Mark. Apocalypticism Explained: Martin Luther, PBS.org. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/explanation/martinluther.html. 
  33. ^ Catholic Answers: Whore of Babylon
  34. ^ Commentary on Daniel and Revelation - Google Books
  35. ^ Keys To Bible Symbols see Woman, pure and Woman, corrupt on bottom of page
  36. ^ see also "They have committed adultery with their idols" (Ezekiel 23:37)
  37. ^ Walvoord, John F. "Every Prophecy of the Bible". pg. 603-610. ISBN 978-1-56476-758-5
  38. ^ LaHaye, Tim. "Revelation Unveiled". pg. 262-271. ISBN 978-0-310-23005-2 (softcover)
  39. ^ http://www.mystery-babylon.net/
  40. ^ The End of False Religion Is Near! - Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site
  41. ^ The Watchtower, April 15, 1962, p. 229 par. 6 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | "Christendom Has Failed God! After Her End, What?"
  42. ^ The Watchtower, October 15, 1961, p. 229 par. 6 "When All Nations Unite Under God's Kingdom" Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | Revelation 11:15-18:
  43. ^ What Does the Bible Really Teach? p. 219 par. 2 - p. 220 par. 3 published by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
  44. ^ "Is the Vatican II sect the Whore of Babylon prophesied in the Apocalypse?". Most Holy Family Monastery. http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/apocalypse.php. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  45. ^
    • Alan James Beagley, The 'Stitz Im Leben' of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Church's Enemies, 1987, 92-108
    • David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, 1987, 421-66
    • J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, ed, Anchor Bible, vol. 38, 1975, 283-286
    • Peter Gaskell, Is She Jewish? Is She Roman? The Identity of the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation, 2003
    • Edmondo Lupieri, A commentary on the Apocalypse of John, 2006, 281
    • Bruce Malina, 1995, 206-220
    • Iain Provan, "Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 from an Old Testament Perspective," JSNT, 64, 1996, 81-100
    • J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming, 1887, 482-98
    • Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, 1898, 426-39
  46. ^ Hunting the Whore of Babylon
  47. ^ Douglas Connelly. "The Indispensable Guide to Pratically Everything: Bible Prophecy and End Times". ISBN 978-0-8249-4772-9
  48. ^ http://www.thepreteristpost.com/t2-the-transformation-of-jerusalem
  49. ^ A commentary on the Apocalypse of John, Edmondo Lupieri, p.7
  50. ^ Revelation: The Apocalypse of St. John By John Drane, Richard Harries, p. 53
  51. ^ A new and original exposition of the book of Revelation, pp. 252-253

Further reading

  • Harper's Bible Dictionary Paul J. Achtemeier, general editor (1985, Harper Collins), ISBN 0-06-069863-2
  • The NIV Study Bible, Kenneth Barker, general editor. (1995, Zondervan) ISBN 0-310-92589-4
  • The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible with Apocrypha, Bernhard W. Anderson, Bruce Metzger, general editors. (1991, Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-528356-2
  • John Coleman, Conspirators' Hierarchy, 4th ed., Carson City: Joseph Holding Corp., 2006.
  • R. A. Coombes, America, The Babylon: America’s Destiny Foretold In Biblical Prophecy, Leathers Pub, 1998.
  • Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • whore\ of\ babylon — A reference back to Revelation 17 where it talks about the great prostitute who was drunk with the blood of the saints. Only it s not biblical in reference at all. Used to describe an exceptionally evil woman who lacks any redeeming qualities,… …   Dictionary of american slang

  • whore\ of\ babylon — A reference back to Revelation 17 where it talks about the great prostitute who was drunk with the blood of the saints. Only it s not biblical in reference at all. Used to describe an exceptionally evil woman who lacks any redeeming qualities,… …   Dictionary of american slang

  • Whore of Babylon — noun A Christian allegorical figure of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, whose apocalyptic downfall is prophesied to take place at the hands of a beast with seven heads and ten horns …   Wiktionary

  • The Whore of Babylon — Californication The Whore of Babylon The Whore of Babylon …   Википедия

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  • the Whore of Babylon — derogatory the Roman Catholic Church Origin: with biblical allusion to Rev. 17:1, 5, etc …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Babylon (New Testament) — The Fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great c.539 BC, depicted in a medieval tapestry. Babylon occurs in the Christian New Testament both with a literal and a figurative meaning. The famous ancient city, located near Baghdad, was a complete… …   Wikipedia

  • whore — {{11}}whore (n.) O.E. hore prostitute, harlot, from P.Gmc. *khoraz (fem. *khoron ) one who desires (Cf. O.N. hora adulteress, Dan. hore, Swed. hora, Du. hoer, O.H.G. huora whore; in Gothic only in the masc. hors adulterer, fornicator …   Etymology dictionary

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