Whore of Babylon
Babylon the Great, commonly known as the Whore of Babylon, refers to both a symbolic female figure and place of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Her full title is stated in Revelation 17 as Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth.
Passages from RevelationThe "great whore" of the Book of Revelation is featured in chapter 17:
SymbolismThe Whore is associated with the Beast of Revelation by connection with an equally evil kingdom. The word "Whore" can also be translated metaphorically as "Idolatress". The Whore's apocalyptic downfall is prophesied to take place in the hands of the image 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.
Preterist interpretationsSome scholars interpret 'Babylon' as being based on historical places and events.
Rome and the Roman EmpireMany Biblical scholars believe that "Babylon" is a metaphor for the pagan Roman Empire at the time it persecuted Christians, before the Edict of Milan in 313. Some biblical scholars recognize that “Babylon” is a cipher for Rome or the Roman Empire but believe Babylon is not limited to the Roman city of the first century. Craig Koester says outright that “the whore is Rome, yet more than Rome.”
It “is the Roman imperial world, which in turn represents the world alienated from God.” James L. Resseguie says that Babylon “is not merely a representation of the Roman Empire.” It is “the city of this world” and a cipher for “the tyrannical ways of evil.” Perhaps the phrase is specifically referencing some aspect of Rome's rule. Some exegetes interpret the passage as a scathing critique of a servant people of Rome who do the Empire's bidding, interpreting that the author of Revelation was speaking of the Herodians—a party of Jews friendly to Rome and open to its influence, like the Hellenizers of centuries past—and later, corrupt Hasmoneans, where the ruler of Jerusalem or Roman Judea exercised his power at the pleasure of the Roman emperor, and was dependent on Roman influence, like Herod the Great in the Gospel of Luke.
In 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and the Sibylline Oracles, "Babylon" is a name for Rome. Reinhard Feldmeier speculates that "Babylon" is used to refer to Rome in the First Epistle of Peter. In Revelation 17:9 it is said that she sits on "seven mountains", typically understood as the seven hills of Rome. A Roman coin minted under the Emperor Vespasian depicts Rome as a woman sitting on seven hills.
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: as ruling over the kings of the earth ; as sitting on seven mountains ; as the center of the world's merchandise ; as the corrupter of the nations ; as the persecutor of the saints."
According to Eusebius of Caesarea Babylon would be Rome or the Roman Empire:
"And Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle which they say that he wrote in Rome itself, as is indicated by him, when he calls the city, by a figure, Babylon, as he does in the following words: «The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you; and so does Marcus my son.»"
JerusalemAlan James Beagley, David Chilton, J. Massyngberde Ford, Peter Gaskell, Kenneth Gentry, Edmondo Lupieri, Bruce Malina, Iain Provan, J. Stuart Russell, Milton S. Terry 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 or foreign power. It refers 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. 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 AD.
Several Old Testament prophets referred to Jerusalem as being a spiritual harlot and a mother of such harlotry. Some of 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. This suggests that John of Patmos 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 for the killing of the prophets and of the saints to the Pharisees of Jerusalem. 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.".
Revelation 11:8 indicates that only Jerusalem is being referenced allegorically as “Sodom” and “Egypt”; “Where indeed their lord was crucified”, corroborated therewith Jesus Christ's statement in Luke 13:33. Moreover, Revelation 21:9-27 refers to “The New Jerusalem”, whereas Revelation 21:22 states, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." This contrasts with “The Synagogue of Satan” in Revelation 3:9. This coincides with St. Stephen's charge against the Sanhedrin, in Acts 7:41, “Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.”
Historicist and idealistic interpretations
Catholic viewIn the most common medieval view, deriving from Augustine of Hippo's The City of God, Babylon and Jerusalem referred to two spiritual cities which were spiritually at war with one another, throughout all of history:
Babylon is interpreted confusion, Jerusalem vision of peace....They are mingled, and from the very beginning of mankind mingled they run on unto the end of the world....Two loves make up these two cities: love of God makes Jerusalem, love of the world makes Babylon.They also represented two principles at war with one another, inside each individual person, even inside seemingly worldly Christian monarchs; thus Augustine could boast approvingly, "...believing monarchs of this world came to the city of Rome, as to the head of Babylon: they went not to the temple of the Emperor, but to the tomb of the Fisherman." On the other hand, even seemingly religious popes could become so entangled in worldly pursuits as to constitute "Babylon", in Dante's eyes:
Dante Alighieri equated the corruption and simony of the pontificate of Pope Boniface VIII with the Whore of Babylon in Canto 19 of his Inferno:
Reformation viewinterpreters commonly used the phrase "Whore of Babylon" to refer to the Catholic Church. Reformation writers Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox taught this association.
Most early Protestant Reformers believed, and the modern Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches, that in Bible prophecy a woman represents a church. "I have likened the daughter of Zion to a lovely and delicate woman." A harlot, it is argued, is representative of a church that has been unfaithful:
They also believed that the primary location of this unfaithful church is stated in the same chapter.
The connection noted above on the seven hills of Rome is argued to locate the church.
Identification of the Pope as the Antichrist was written into Protestant creeds such as the Westminster Confession of 1646. The identification of the Roman Catholic Church with the Whore of Babylon is kept in the Scofield Reference Bible. An image from the 1545 edition of Luther's Bible depicts the Whore as wearing the papal tiara.
Seventh-day Adventist viewbelieve that the whore of Babylon represents the fallen state of traditional Christianity, especially in the Catholic Church. Other churches are generally considered either part of the harlot or her daughters. Adventists further hold that the persecution of the "saints" in Revelation 17:6 represents the persecution of believers who rejected the doctrines introduced by the Roman Catholic Church and were based on pagan Roman beliefs. The Persecution during the Middle Ages of anyone who opposed the Catholic Church, especially by the Inquisition, and the persecution of the Waldensians and the Huguenots are cited as examples.
Seventh-day Adventists interpret Revelation 17:18 as a prophecy of the false church, which has power over the kings of the earth. They consider the pope to be in apostasy for allowing pagan rituals, beliefs and ceremonies to come into the church. They consider the Papacy, as a continuation of the Roman Empire, as a fulfillment of : "For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way."
Ellen G. White's The Great Controversy states that "Spiritual Babylon" would have worldwide influence, affecting "all nations", that Imperial Roman Empire could not meet the criteria, as she wrote that it only had influence in the Old World. Like many reformation-era Protestant leaders, her writings also describe the Catholic Church as a fallen church, and it plays a nefarious eschatological role as the antagonist against God's true church and that the pope is the Antichrist.
Jehovah's Witnesses view, whose early teachings were strongly influenced by Adventism but have since diverged, believe that the Whore of Babylon represents "the world empire of false religion", referring to all other religious groups including, but not limited to, Christendom. Jehovah's Witnesses literature frequently refers to the "Great Harlot" of Babylon and the subsequent attack on her by the political powers, signaling the beginning of the "great tribulation". They believe that the empire of false religion has persecuted God's people, and that "false religion" has committed "fornication" with the world's political and commercial elements, based on their interpretation of.
Latter-day Saint viewviews the Whore of Babylon and its Book of Mormon equivalent, the "great and abominable church", as having dominion over the entire earth and representing a singular group as well as groups of carnal individuals seeking wealth, sexual immorality, and the persecution or death of saints. The Whore of Babylon, or the Devil's Church, consists of all organisations not associated or against all faithful people in Christ. Ultimately, the Whore of Babylon's fate is to be destroyed in the last days.The United States of America, with founder and former leader David Berg stating in one of his writings "all mankind worships her & loves her & fucks her & has fornication & intercourse with her & bestows upon her everything they've got & all their power & all! That's Babylon! Including today's Babylon, America, the Capitalist West & the Communist East."
In popular culture
- In Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis, the protagonist Freder has a vision of the Whore of Babylon arising before an avid audience of upper-class youths.
- In the Lars von Trier film Nymphomaniac, the central character Joe reminisces about a field trip as a young girl that suggests she had a vision of Valeria Messalina and the Whore of Babylon looking over her as she levitates and spontaneously has her first orgasm.
- In the sixth season of Dexter, season antagonist Travis Marshall – who is committing biblical-themed murders while 'guided' by a hallucination of his dead professor that acts as a second personality – kills his sister Lisa, in order for her to serve as the Whore of Babylon for his apocalyptic tableau in the episode "Sin of Omission".
- In the fifth season of Supernatural, when the protagonists must thwart the apocalypse after Lucifer is released from Hell, the episode "99 Problems" sees protagonists Dean and Sam Winchester and their angel ally Castiel arrive in a small town where a woman named Leah Gideon is presenting herself as a prophet of the Lord, protecting the town from demons by performing exorcisms and encouraging the residents to turn against the 'sinners' among them. Castiel reveals that Leah Gideon is not a prophet as angels are aware of the names of all the prophets, identifying Leah as the Whore of Babylon, who will come bearing false prophecy and condemn those who follow her to Hell. She can only be slain with a stake made from a cypress tree that grew in Babylon when wielded by a true servant of Heaven.
- The Whore of Babylon, referred to as "The Harlot" and "Mother Harlot", appears as a high level fiend race demon in the Megami Tensei series. She first appears in the updated version as an optional boss that guards the Candelabrum of Beauty. She also appears in the spinoff Persona series.
- The Whore of Babylon is also referenced in the 1978 film, '. Carl Bugenhagen, played by Leo McKern, takes a fellow archaeologist to a site to show him a painting, which proves that Damien Thorn is the Antichrist. On their way, a statue of the Whore is pointed out. Shortly afterwards, the site collapses and both men are buried alive. At the end of the film, Damian's Aunt Ann, who raised him, is revealed to represent the Whore of Babylon by killing her husband to prevent him from killing Damian while stating she always belonged to him.
- The Whore of Babylon is an upgrade in the game ', as an item and starting item for the character Eve
- The Whore of Babylon is referenced several times in the Avenged Sevenfold song "The Beast and the Harlot".
- In the Leonard Cohen song "Is This What You Wanted", he sings "You were the Whore and the Beast of Babylon".
- In the Bright Eyes song "Four Winds", The Whore of Babylon is referenced in the song's chorus.
- In the 2018 video game Agony, The Whore of Babylon is referred to as The Red Goddess. She guides Nimrod/Amraphel through Hell, often tormenting him with violent and deadly tactics. If certain conditions are met, one ending will show that The Red Goddess reveals herself as the Whore Of Babylon.
- In the 2019 Babylon novel series written by Mado Nozaki the main antagonist Ai Magase is alluded to as the Whore of Babylon in the third volume and also in the prologue to Episode 11 of the animated series.
- In the 2009 underground rap song "Nuclear Medicinemen" released by La Coka Nostra, Babylon the Great is mentioned in the 4th verse: "The severed heads of the dragon, the whore of Babylon"