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The Whore of Babylon or Babylon the Great is a Christian 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 “great whore”, of the biblical book of Revelation is featured in chapters 17 and 18.
|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), the New American Bible mentions "harlotry"]|
|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 and the New American Bible use "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.|
The Whore is associated with the Antichrist and 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 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.
Many 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: perhaps specifically referencing some aspect of Rome's rule (brutality, greed, paganism). 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 her 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 Emperor, and was dependent on Roman influence, like Herod the Great in the Gospel according to Luke.
In 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and the Sibylline oracles, "Babylon" is a cryptic name for Rome. Reinhard Feldmeier speculates that "Babylon" is used to refer to Rome in 1 Peter 5:13. 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 (ca. 70 AD) 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: (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)."
Alan James Beagley, David Chilton, J. Massyngberde Ford, Peter Gaskell, Kenneth Gentry, Edmondo Lupieri, Bruce Malina, Iain Provan, J. Stuart Russell, Milton S. Terry and theologians[who?] 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. 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 The dress of the whore of Babylon is similar to the Jerusalem High Priest (Exodus 28:6).
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.
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).
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.
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." (Jeremiah 6:2 nkjv) 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.
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 (whose 1917 edition identified "ecclesiastical Babylon" with "apostate Christendom headed by the Papacy").
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.
Adventist believe that the fallen state of traditional Christianity can be seen especially in the Roman Catholic Church, which they teach is the great whore in prophecy as seen in Rev 17:1-5, a false church. Her harlot daughters are interpreted as other false churches which adopt Catholic Church's many non-biblical doctrines. They hold that the persecution of the true believers prophesied in Rev 17:6 is fulfilled in the persecution of Waldensians and the Inquisition.
Seventh-day Adventists interpret Rev 17:18 as a prophecy of the false church which has power over the kings of the earth. They consider the Papacy to be in apostasy for allowing pagan rituals, beliefs and ceremonies to come into the church, having those who pointed out its apostasy persecuted and killed and never repenting of or fully admitting the true extent of its actions. They see the Papacy stepping in after the Roman Empire as fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 which says "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 Gould White in her book The Great Controversy wrote 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 too 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.
His word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever shall believe and obey the word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution.—Ellen White
It has been popular within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to equate the Whore of Babylon and its Book of Mormon parallel, the "great and abominable church", with the Roman Catholic Church. However, official publications of the LDS Church have discouraged that interpretation without offering a definitive identification.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Whore of Babylon represents "the world empire of false religion", referring to all elements of worldly religions that do not adhere to biblical truth as published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTS) and as interpreted and defined by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses (the institutional and leadership organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses). This includes, but is not limited to, Christendom, a term they use to refer to "professed Christianity" (Nominal Christianity) as opposed to "true Christianity". Jehovah's Witnesses literature often mentions the Catholic religion when discussing 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 harlot—the empire of false religion and an enemy of God—has persecuted God's prophets and people, and that 'false religion'—all religions that have dealings with governmental or commercial elements of the world;commits and has committed "fornication" with the world's political and commercial elements.
The Twelve Tribes communities, a new religious movement that has some things in common with Christianity and Messianic Judaism but does not self-identify as Christian, views Christianity itself (both Catholic and Protestant) as the whore of Babylon.
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