Whore of Babylon

From Academic Kids

The Whore of Babylon or Babylon the Great is one of several Christian and Rastafarian allegorical figures of supreme evil, who is mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. She is associated with the figures of the Antichrist and the Beast of Revelation.

She makes her appearance in Revelation chapter 17, in which she is described as:

"the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 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." (Rev. 17:1-2 KJV)

She moreover bears the title, "Mystery, Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth." She is furthermore described as being "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." (Rev. 17:5-6) Her apocalyptic downfall is prophesied in Chapter 18.



In accordance with the bible, both Old Testament and New Testaments, Babylon and Imperial Rome are demonized due to the event called the Babylonian Captivity and Imperial Rome's alleged oppressive occupation of Judah nee Israel, and the imposition of their belief systems and religions on the Jewish people. In the Jewish mindset both Babylon and Rome were thus coequal in their sins imposed on the Jewish people.

Babylon and Rome

Many Bible scholars agree that Babylon in the whore's title is meant as an allegory of Rome — perhaps specifically at time to aspect; of Rome's rule (brutality, greed), 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 liberal Protestant commentary of the Oxford Annotated Study Bible all concur that "Babylon is the symbolic name for Rome" and that "Rome" is the "type of any place where evil is supreme." (Jerusalem Bible, commentary to Rev. 17)

Elsewhere in the New Testament, in 1 Peter 4:12, "Babylon" is used to refer to Rome. This is bolstered by the remark in Rev. 17:9 that she sits on "seven mountains," which are the proverbial seven hills of Rome. "Rome" in the New Testament is the unquestionable 'new Babylon' and all of the previous symbolism to characterize Babylon as a wanton "whore," because of the similarity, is transferable to Rome. The author of Revelation also uses code names to refer to Jerusalem, calling it "that great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." (Rev. 11:8)

The Whore of Babylon rides the seven-headed Beast.
The Whore of Babylon rides the seven-headed Beast.

There are a number of smaller symbolic connections between Rome and Babylon — the Roman Empire in its violent persecution of Jews, its destruction of Jerusalem, and its persecution of Christians, would lend some literal meaning to imagery represented by the 'whore, drunk with the blood of martyrs,' as a wantonly violent and bloodthirsty entity.

In Rastafarian ideology both Babylon and Rome are also equated with this modern world in which we live. The Rastas have popularised the name Babylon to refer to what they see as the fundamentally evil modern society.

A symbol of doom, decadence and oppression

The central principle seems to be that the term applies to the defacto superpower of the day, and is the typical perceptual characterization of the people whom the superpower typically oppresses and persecutes. Thus "Babylon" is to compare Rome to the earlier society—a similarly bloated civilization out of favour with God, and therefore predestined to fall.

Thus, in the time of Rome, the Bible records the use of "Babylon" as a common metaphor that was commonly understood to represent the "evil empire" of its day —headed for certain destruction if it does not correct its ways. The downfall of Babylon was the precedent, and it was presumed then that Rome too would fall. The defeat of the Whore of Babylon can represent not just the imminent fall of Rome itself, but of tyranny itself —the future vision described by John in the Book of Revelation, where the 'Heaven's rule overtakes the earth' putting an end to strife and evil.

The title of "Babylonian Whore" has been bestowed upon most if not all of the dominant and exploitative powers throughout history, and is used by Rastafarians to describe modern society.

Roman Catholicism as the Whore of Babylon

Protestant Reformation

Some pre-Reformation writers and most of the 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) identify the Roman Catholic Church with the Whore of Babylon. This opinion influenced several generations in England and Scotland when it was put into the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible. As a tradition, it continues through the Scofield Reference Bible, whose 1917 edition identified "ecclesiastical Babylon" with "apostate Christendom headed by the Papacy", and it is kept alive by contemporary figures such as Ian Paisley and Jack Chick. The "drunkenness with the blood of saints and martyrs," by this interpretation, refers to the veneration of saints and relics, which is viewed by the Reformers as idolatry and apostasy. Those who accept this tradition use the phrase "Whore of Babylon" to refer to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Protestant reformers were not the first people to call the Roman Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon. There was a fairly long tradition of this kind of name-calling by opponents of the Papacy. Frederick Barbarossa published missives that called the Papacy the Whore of Babylon, and the Pope the Antichrist, during the course of his protracted quarrel with Pope Alexander III. Dante equated the corruption and simony in the office of the Papacy with the Whore of Babylon in Canto 19 of his Inferno. When the Florentine tyrant Girolamo Savonarola also called the Papacy the Whore of Babylon, he meant something closer to the Reformers' usage. These claims, however, were based chiefly on social and political disagreements with Roman Catholic policy, or at their strongest accuse the Papacy of moral corruption. The Protestant reformers, by contrast, seriously considered the Papacy to be at least potentially the apocalyptic figure mentioned in Bible prophecy, and included the claim in Bible commentaries as well as polemics. They meant something more than to accuse the Roman Catholic Church of political or moral corruption; they claimed that as a church it taught a Satanic counterfeit plan of salvation, one that would lead its faithful to Hell rather than to Heaven.


In Mormon Doctrine (an unofficial predecesor to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism) published by Bruce R. McKonkie, an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the 1970s, the Roman Catholic Church was also identified as the Whore of Babylon. Other apostles in the Church at the time urged McKonkie not to identify the Roman Catholic Church as such, but the initial publications went out unchanged as McKonkie intended. Later editions removed the reference. In current Mormon theology, the Whore of Babylon is not the same as the Roman Catholic Church.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Whore of Babylon or Babylon the Great (NWT) is the world empire of false religion or all the religious groups except Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe it is especially represented by Christendom, or all the Christian groups except them.


In Rastafarian ideology it is Queen Elizabeth II who is seen as the modern-day Whore of Babylon. This alleged relation between the Queen and the Whore was elucidated in Jamaica, where the Queen is the Head of state, and where the Rastafarian faith was founded. Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is not only their God but also their king, and therefore refuse to give their loyalty to the Queen.

Catholic responses; disuse of the epithet

The Roman Catholic Church denies the claim that it is the being referred to by the Book of Revelations as the Whore of Babylon; at the height of the Reformation era tensions, Roman Catholic authors often accused specific Protestant leaders of being potential Antichrists; these leaders, however, did not include St Robert Bellarmine, who taught that a personal Antichrist would arise before the end of the world, as do most Protestants who take a position today.

The use of the idiom appears to have dwindled, along with the rise in secular terminology to replace religious symbolism. Among the explanations are that the term is contrary to evangelical methods and goals and socially unconstructive, and so the tradition is kept only internally if it is kept at all. The rise of dispensationalism as a school of interpretation of the end times has also caused many Protestants to revise their interpretation of these passages in a way that diminishes the certainty of their identification of the Whore of Babylon with any present religion.

United States as the Whore of Babylon

The use of the "Great Satan" metaphor by some fundamentalist followers of Islam makes an implicit comparison of the United States to ancient Babylon and Rome. Those who equate the US with the Whore of Babylon liken the US to the Roman Empire — and therefore to Babylon — because of what they charge is its high-handed treatment of other countries as a military superpower. Conservative moralists, including some in the US, especially those associated with the religious right, may see US popular culture as decadent and evil, obsessed with sex and violence.

Soviet Union as the Whore of Babylon

During the Cold War, US popular culture was engendered to view the former Soviet Union as a "Babylon" of sorts —a monster to be defeated. Dispensationalist study Bibles and commentaries such as the Scofield Reference Bible and The Late Great Planet Earth typically identified the Soviet Union, or earlier Russia, with Gog, also an allegorical figure of evil that appears in Revelations and the Book of Ezekiel. A great many parallels could be drawn to the USSR, and for that matter, the British Empire, and Nazi Germany.

Other uses

The Whore of Babylon was also a title bestowed by the magician Aleister Crowley on a number of his female companions and partners in magical rites, most notably Leilah Waddell. John Whiteside Parsons attempted to invoke her in his "Babalon Working".

In the movie Metropolis, the Robot Maria was depicted in one scene as the Whore of Babylon.

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