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Book of Revelation

Book of Revelation

Figures

The Whore of Babylon Figure Analysis

It's not nice to call people names. Unless they happen to be the Whore of Babylon. Then it's kind of in their title. Just who is this saucy lady?

• She wanders into John's vision riding the Sea Beast (17:3).
• She's all decked out, wearing purple and scarlet clothes, gold jewelry, and pearls (17:4).
• In her hand, she has a golden cup filled with "abominations and the impurities of her fornication" (17:4). Um, okay.
• On her forehead she has written: "Babylon the great, mother of whores and of Earth's abominations" (17:5). This is why face tattoos are never a good idea.
• She's also drunk on the blood of the saints (17:6). Yuck.

If the tattoo and the drinking blood thing didn't tip you off, this lady is bad with a capital B.

The Scarlet Harlot

The Whore of Babylon probably represents John's favorite target, Rome. No surprise there, right? The vision's name comes courtesy of one of Israel's old enemies, Babylon. It's all part of John's prophecy for Rome—Babylon went down in flames, and you guys are next.

The Whore is dressed in lavish clothes, representing Rome's wealth. All the kings of the world adore her because they love working with her to make money. But they also pay a price to associate with her. It's clear that rich people love her a ton, but the little people on the ground (like the persecuted Christians) are in danger of being stomped by one of the Beast's giant evil feet.

Catholic vs. Protestant

When Protestants broke off from the Catholic Church around 1517, they started a new theory about the Whore of Babylon. Ready for it?

Maybe she was the Pope.

Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox all had a bone to pick with the papacy, and they decided the best way to do this was to link the Church with the lady riding the Beast. Guys, remember what we said about name-calling?

For its part, the Catholic Church denies all this and, centuries years later, probably thinks it's all a bit silly. You'll still find people around the interwebs (and elsewhere) throwing this theory around. Hey, why just peacefully go about your business when you could be calling people harlots?

What's With All the Shaming?

John calls this lady a "whore" or a "prostitute," but these words don't mean what we think it means (i.e., someone who sleeps with people for money). It basically means that she is being "unfaithful" to the guy she is supposed to be with—God. She's running around behind his back and worshipping other things like Roman gods and money. She's actually more of an idolatress than an adulteress (source, p. 1300.) But "whore" just has a more cheery ring to it.

Still, the Whore of Babylon pops up quite a bit in our culture. She's a villain on the show Supernatural where she comes to Earth, takes human form, and starts doling out false prophecies. In the movie Metropolis, Bridgette Helms plays a character who dances and rides on a seven headed beast while the city falls. (Warning: it's German Expressionism, so it's a bit weird.)

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