Babylon the Great is a mythological female
figure and also place of evil mentioned in the
Book of Revelation
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
hē megalē, hē mētēr tōn pornōn kai tōn bdelygmatōn tēs
1 Passages from Revelation
3 Preterist interpretations
3.1 Rome and the Roman Empire
4 Historicist and idealistic interpretations
4.1 Pre-Reformation (Catholic) view
4.2 Reformation view
4.3 Seventh-day Adventist view
4.4 Latter-day Saint view
Jehovah's Witnesses view
5 In popular culture
6 See also
Passages from Revelation
The "great whore", of the biblical
Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation is featured in
chapters 17 and 18:
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:
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
Bible (AMP), the New American
Bible mentions "harlotry"]
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.
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:
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT,
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. [King James
Version; the New International Version uses "prostitutes" instead of
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
And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven
mountains, on which the woman sitteth. [King James Version; the New
Bible and the New American
Bible use "hills"
instead of "mountains"].
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.
And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of
the seven, and goes into perdition.
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.
And he said unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore
sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigns over
the kings of the earth.
— Revelation 17:4–18 (various)
See also: Revelation 17:1, Parallel Translations
The whore of
Babylon as illustrated in
Hortus deliciarum by Herrad of
See also: Babylon
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 image of the beast with seven heads and ten horns. There is
much speculation within
Christian eschatology on what the
beast symbolize as well as the possible implications for contemporary
Some scholars interpret 'Babylon' as being based on historical places
Rome and the Roman Empire
See also: Dea Roma
Many Biblical scholars believe that "Babylon" is a metaphor for
Roman Empire at the time it persecuted Christians, before
Edict of Milan
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 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 Emperor, and
was dependent on Roman influence, like
Herod the Great
Herod the Great in the Gospel
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)."
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Babylon would be Rome or the Roman
"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.»(1 Peter 5:13)" 
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)
Alan 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
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
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 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
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 and idealistic interpretations
Pre-Reformation (Catholic) view
For medieval Spanish Catholics, the
17.4-5) (a Christian allegory of evil) was incarnated by the
Emirate of Córdoba.
In the most common medieval (Catholic) view from St. Augustine's City
Babylon and Jerusalem referred to two spiritual cities (or
civilizations) spiritually at war with one another, throughout all of
Babylon [from Babel] 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
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
[Christian] 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 equated the corruption and simony of the pontificate of Pope
Boniface VIII with the
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.)
See also: Historicist interpretations of the Book of Revelation
Babylon wearing the papal tiara from a woodcut in Luther
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
John Calvin (1509–1564), and
John Knox (1510–1572) (who
wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous 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:
"Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry
And children of harlotry,
For the land has committed great harlotry
By departing from the LORD." (Hosea 1:2 nkjv)
They also believed that the primary location of this unfaithful church
is stated in the same chapter.
"And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the
kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:18)
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 (whose 1917 edition identified
"ecclesiastical Babylon" with "apostate
Christendom headed by the
Seventh-day Adventist view
Adventists believe that the fallen state of traditional Christianity
can be seen especially in the Catholic Church, which they teach is the
great whore in prophecy as seen in Rev 17:1-:, a false church. Her
harlot daughters are interpreted as other false churches
(predominantly Protestant) which adopt false doctrines, some drawn
from Catholicism itself despite the separation of Protestants from the
Catholic Church on disagreement on doctrines. Adventists further
hold that the persecution of the true believers prophesied in Rev 17:6
was fulfilled in the persecution of the early believers who rejected
the changes to doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church, which desiring
to win adherents from a largely pagan Roman Empire,introduced pagan
beliefs into their faith. This is seen in the persecution during the
Middle Ages of anyone daring to oppose the Church such as the
Albigensian Crusades in southern France and against the Waldensians
and Huguenots, and especially 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
pope 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 (termed
papal Rome) stepping in after the
Roman Empire (termed pagan Rome) 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."[citation
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.
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
— Ellen White
White concluded that the true "
Whore of Babylon" must be the Catholic
Latter-day Saint view
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) views the
Babylon and its
Book of Mormon
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
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.
Jehovah's Witnesses view
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the
Babylon represents "the
world empire of false religion", referring to all other religious
groups including, but not limited to, Christendom, which they use to
refer to "professed Christianity" as opposed to their own "true
Jehovah's Witnesses literature often mentions the Great
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.
In popular culture
Lars von Trier
Lars von Trier film Nymph()maniac, the central character Joe
reminisces about a field trip as a young girl that suggests she had a
vision of Valeria
Messalina and the
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 to serve as the
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
Babylon (Sam speculates that the real
Leah was killed months ago and the
Whore is now impersonating her),
who will come baring 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.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Whore of Babylon.
Book of Daniel
Rastafari Zion vs. Babylon
The Two Babylons
Woman of the Apocalypse
^ πόρνη: From Greek. Fr. transliteration; pornē; English;
prostitute/whore. 2) Metaphor; an idolatress; a) of "Babylon" i.e.
Rome, the chief seat of idolatry. "Dictionary and Word Search for
pornē (Strong's 4204)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996–2011. Retrieved on:
3 Nov 2011.
^ Rome or Jerusalem? A Protestant Study on the
^ The Interpretation of Revelation
^ Hunting the
Whore of Babylon. Catholic Answers
^ Ch 17:
Babylon the whore. Commentary on Revelation
^ Women in scripture: a dictionary of named and unnamed women in the
^ *L. Michael White, Understanding the Book of Revelation, PBS
Helmut Köster, Introduction to the New Testament, Volume 2, 260
Pheme Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, 16
James L. Resseguie, Revelation Unsealed: A Narrative Critical Approach
to John's Apocalypse, 138
Watson E. Mills, Mercer Commentary on the New Testament, 1340
Nancy McDarby, The Collegeville
Bible Handbook, 349
Carol L. Meyers, Toni Craven, Ross Shepard Kraemer Women in Scripture:
A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew, p. 528
David M. Carr, Colleen M. Conway, Introduction to the Bible: Sacred
Texts and Imperial Contexts, 353
Larry Joseph Kreitzer Gospel Images in Fiction and Film: On Reversing
the Hermeneutical Flow, 61
By Mary Beard, John A. North, S. R. F. Price Religions of Rome: A
David M. Rhoads, From Every People and Nation: The Book of Revelation
in Intercultural Perspective, 174
Charles T. Chapman, The Message of the Book of Revelation, 114
Norman Cheadle, The Ironic
Apocalypse in the Novels of Leopoldo
Peter M. J. Stravinskas, The Catholic Answer Book, Volume 1, 18
Catherine Keller, God and Power: Counter-Apocalyptic Journeys, 59
Brian K. Blount, Revelation: A Commentary, 346
Frances Carey, The
Apocalypse and the Shape of Things to Come, 138
Richard Dellamora, Postmodern Apocalypse: Theory and Cultural Practice
at the End, 117
A. N. Wilson, Paul: The Mind of the Apostle, 11
Gerd Theissen, John Bowden, Fortress Introduction to the New
^ 2 Esdras/4 Esdras; see the article on the naming conventions of the
Books of Ezra
^ 4 Ezra 3:1–2, 28–31
2 Baruch 10:1–3, 11:1, 67:7
^ Sibylline oracles 5.143, 159–60
^ Lester L. Grabbe, Robert D. Haak, ed. (2003). Knowing the End From
the Beginning. A&C Black. p. 69.
^ Reinhard Feldmeier (2008). The First Letter of Peter. Baylor
University Press. p. 41.
^ (the King James Version Bible—the New International Version Bible
uses the words "seven hills")
^ Wall, R. W. (1991). New International Biblical Commentary:
Revelation (207). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
^ Bratcher, R. G., & Hatton, H. (1993). A Handbook on the
Revelation to John. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (248).
New York: United
^ Davis, C. A. (2000). Revelation. The College Press NIV commentary
(322). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub.
^ Mounce, R. H. (1997). "The Book of Revelation." The New
International Commentary on the New Testament (315). Grand Rapids, MI:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
^ Beckwith, Isbon T. The
Apocalypse of John. New York: MacMillan,
1919; reprinted, Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001.
^ David Criswell (2002). She Who Restores the Roman Empire: The
Prophecy of the
Whore of Babylon. iUniverse.
Babylon in the New Testament". International Standard Bible
^ of Caesarea, Eusebius. CHURCH FATHERS: Church History, Book II
^ * Alan James Beagley, The 'Stitz Im Leben' of the
Particular Reference to the Role of the Church's Enemies, 1987,
David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of
Revelation, 1987, 421–-66
Josephine Massyngberde-Ford, "Revelation", ed, Anchor Bible, vol. 38,
Peter Gaskell, Is She Jewish? Is She Roman? The Identity of the Whore
Babylon in the Book of Revelation, 2003
Kenneth Gentry, Four Views of Revelation, 1998, 73–79
Edmondo Lupieri, A commentary on the
Apocalypse of John, 2006, 281
Bruce Malina, 1995, 206–220
Iain Provan, "Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18
Old Testament Perspective," JSNT, 64, 1996, 81–100
J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New
Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming, 1887, 482–98
Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable
Revelations of God and of Christ, 1898, 426–39
^ Hunting the
Babylon Archived 2006-12-31 at the Wayback
^ Douglas Connelly. "The Indispensable Guide to Practically
Prophecy and End Times". ISBN 978-0-8249-4772-9
^ "Congratulations!". thepreteristpost.com.
^ A commentary on the
Apocalypse of John, Edmondo Lupieri, p.7
^ Drane, John (1999). Revelation: The
Apocalypse of St. John. Palgrave
Macmillan. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-312-22513-1.
^ "A New and Original Exposition of the Book of Revelation".
^ "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: And upon
her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE
MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
^ "CHURCH FATHERS: Exposition on Psalm 65 (Augustine), 2".
www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
^ "CHURCH FATHERS: Exposition on Psalm 87 (Augustine), 7".
www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
^ Bilhartz, Terry D. Urban Religion and the Second Great Awakening.
Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 115.
^ Edwards, Jr., Mark. Apocalypticism Explained: Martin Luther,
^ Commentary on Daniel and Revelation. Google Books.
^ Keys To
Bible Symbols see Woman, pure and Woman, corrupt on bottom
^ See also "They have committed adultery with their idols" (Ezekiel
^ Walvoord, John F. "Every
Prophecy of the Bible". pg. 603–610.
^ LaHaye, Tim. "Revelation Unveiled". pg. 262–271.
ISBN 978-0-310-23005-2 (softcover).
^ "Who Is Mystery
Babylon The Great – Mother Of Harlots".
^ "Timeline of Bloody History of Papal Rome – Oppression of
Protestants". Amazing Discoveries.
^ Austin Best. "White Horse Media". whitehorsemedia.com.
^ White, Ellen G. (1999) . "Enmity Between Man and Satan". The
Great Controversy: Between Christ and Satan. The Ellen G. White
Estate. p. 581. ISBN 0-8163-1923-5. Retrieved
^ "The Third Conversation". Christian Resource Centre (Bermuda).
^ a b Stephen E. Robinson, "Warring Against the Saints of God",
Ensign, January 1988.
^ Dennis A. Wright, "Great and Abominable Church", Encyclopedia of
Daniel H. Ludlow ed.) (Macmillan: New York, 1992).
^ "Take Your Stand for True Worship — Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY".
^ The Watchtower, April 15, 1962, p. 229 par. 6 Watch Tower
Tract Society of Pennsylvania "
Christendom Has Failed God! After Her
^ The Watchtower, October 15, 1961, p. 229 par. 6 "When All Nations
Unite Under God's Kingdom" Watch Tower
Bible and Tract Society of
Pennsylvania Revelation 11:15-18:
^ What Does the
Bible Really Teach? p. 219 par. 2 – p. 220 par. 3
published by Watch Tower
Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
^ Siege, Julie (writer); Beeson, Charles (director) (8 April 2010). 99
Problems. Supernatural. The