The Whore is associated with the Antichrist and the Beast of
Revelation by connection with an equally allegorical kingdom. 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
all Christian religious perspectives on what the Whore and Beast symbolize as
well as the possible implications for contemporary interpretations.
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.
17:4 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:
upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF
HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
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.
And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on
which the woman sitteth [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
cometh, 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 goeth into
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
17:15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou
sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and
17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city,
which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Many Bible scholars
agree 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. The Roman Catholic commentary of the Jerusalem Bible,
the evangelical Protestant commentary of the
New International Version Study Bible, the Rastafarians and
the Protestant commentary of the Oxford Annotated Study Bible all
concur that "Babylon is the symbolic name for Rome" and that [1st century] Rome
was the "type of place where evil is supreme"
(Jerusalem Bible, commentary to Rev. 17).
In 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and the Sibylline
oracles, "Babylon" is a
cryptic name for Rome. Elsewhere in the New Testament, in 1 Peter
5:13; some speculate that "Babylon" is used to refer to Rome. This is bolstered
by the remark in Rev. 17:9 that she sits on "seven mountains" (the King James
Version Bible-the New International Version Bible uses the words "seven hills"),
which could be the seven hills of Rome. "Rome" would therefore
be the 'new Babylon' and all of the symbolism characterizing Babylon as a wanton
"whore," would be transferable to Rome, according to this view.
There are a number of smaller symbolic clues that some see as suggesting a
link between Rome and Babylon — the Roman Empire in its military occupation of Israel,
its repression of the Jewish nation and religion, its destruction of Jerusalem following
Jewish revolts in 70 AD and
135 AD, and its persecution of Christians, would lend
meaning to the imagery of the 'whore, drunk with the blood of martyrs,' as a wantonly violent and bloodthirsty
In Rastafarian ideology both Babylon and Rome are also equated with the
modern world in which we live. The Rastas have popularized the name Babylon to
refer to what they see as the fundamentally evil modern society.
Many Biblical scholars
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. This symbolism did not fit the case of Rome at the time.
The first to see Jerusalem in Revelation's Babylon were the French Jesuit Jean Hardouin (1646-1729)
and the French Calvinist Firmin Abauzit (1679-1767). Abauzit suggests
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 AD.
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).
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.
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, see also Rev
In Jeremiah 13,
Judah is warned that because of her whoredom, the cups of all of the people will
be "filled with wine," they will be "made drunk," and the nation will be
suddenly destroyed. This is identical to the scenario in Revelation 17-18; it
also correlates with the warning of Jesus that Jerusalem would be suddenly
invaded and destroyed just prior to his return to earth in Luke 21:20-22. So,
according to this view, John's prophecy about Babylon was merely a detailed
repetition of warnings already given by many Old Testament prophets and by Jesus
himself in Matthew 23:37-38 and Luke 19:41-44.
According to this view, "the great city, Babylon" in Rev. 17:18 which
is also "the great city where their Lord was crucified" in Rev 11:8, the
earthly Jerusalem is opposed (cf. Acts 8:1, 1 Thes. 2:14-16, Gal 4:22-31,
Rev. 2:9-10,3:9) to the spiritual, heavenly, new Jerusalem, which is the
Christian Church of the faithful of Jesus (the bride): "And I John saw the holy
city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride
adorned for her husband." (Rev 21:2)
The scholars who defend this position believe that earthly Jerusalem "riding
the seven-headed beast" refers to Jerusalem being controlled and subjected to
the overlordship of the scarlet beast Rome in the
1st century (cf John 19:15). Some see it as an evil relationship between the
harlot, apostate Jerusalem, and the scarlet beast Rome on whom she is seated to crucify Jesus and
persecute the Christians. This evil alliance is confirmed in the Book of Acts
(Acts 4:26-28, 12:1-3). The beast Rome later hated the harlot Jerusalem and
burned her with fire in 70 AD. (see also abomination of desolation)
commonly used the phrase "Whore of Babylon" to refer to the Roman Catholic
Church. Most Reformation writers and all Reformers
themselves, from Martin
Luther (who wrote On the Babylonian
Captivity of the Church), John Calvin, and John Knox (who wrote The
First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women)
accepted this association. The "drunkenness with the blood of saints and martyrs," by this interpretation,
refers to the inquisition and
the veneration of saints and relics
and the Sunday sacredness, were viewed by Reformers as idolatry and apostasy. This interpretation continues to be taught
in churches arising from the Adventist movement and it is kept alive by
contemporary figures such as Ian
Paisley and Jack Chick.
The Roman Catholic Church denies the claim
that it is being referred to by the Book of Revelation as the Whore of Babylon.
Roman Catholics argue that in Rev 17:10, it states that the seven heads of the
are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings,
five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes
he must remain only a little while (Rev. 17:9–10) "If five of these kings had
fallen in John’s day and one of them was still in existence, then the Whore must
have existed in John’s day. Yet the Vatican City did not even exist at that
time." Nevertheless, a
significant amount of 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
Among conservative Protestants, historicism was supplanted
in the 19th century by futurism, with the rise of dispensationalist
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