Whore of Babylon  

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The Whore of Babylon is one of several Christian and Rastafarian allegorical figures of supreme evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. She is associated with the Antichrist and the Beast of Revelation by connection with the kingdom with seven heads and ten horns.

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

"the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication. (Rev. 17:1-2 [[New King James Version of the Bible

She bears the title, "Mystery Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth", and is 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 at the hands of the beast with seven heads and ten horns.



Whore of Babylon (historicism) is the view among certain historic Reformation communities that the Roman Catholic Church is referred to as the great prostitute of the book of Revelation. This interpretation has been superseded in many or most Protestant churches, who currently interpret the apocalyptic passage to mean a number of things.

Pre-Reformation usage

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:

Di voi pastor s'accorse il Vangelista,
quando colei che siede sopra l'acque
puttaneggiar coi regi a lui fu vista. . .
("Shepherds like you the Evangelist had in mind when he saw the one that sits upon the waters committing fornication with the kings.")

When the Florentine religious reformer 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, in 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.

Protestant Reformation

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) 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.

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") and pro-Reformation writings such as those of I.M. Haldeman, 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 inquisition and the veneration of saints and relics and the Sunday sacredness, were viewed by Reformers as idolatry and apostasy.

Catholic responses

At the height of the Reformation era tensions, 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.

Hans Urs von Balthasar used the expression Casta Meretrix to argue that the expression was acceptable in a certain tradition of the Church, in the writings of Rabanus Maurus for instance.

The Catholic Church denies the claim that it is the being referred to by the Book of Revelation as the Whore of Babylon. Catholic apologists argue that in Rev 17:10, it states that the seven heads of the Beast 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 Vatican Council.

Views in other sects or denominations


According to Swedenborgian doctrine, the Whore of Babylon symbolizes the lust for power within the Roman Catholic Church. It is believed that the book of Revelation is a spiritual allegory for the downfall of traditional Christianity, and its revival into a New Church. Each symbol in Revelation is thought to have correspondence with some aspect of the spiritual state of the Christian Church. In the book "Apocalypse Explained" Swedenborg expounds an explanation of Revelation that includes judgement on the corrupted leadership of the Catholic Church, as the Whore of Babylon.

See also

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