Whore of Babylon

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Whore of Babylon by William Blake.

The Whore of Babylon is a symbolic figure of evil described in Revelation. Revelation describes her as, "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations."[1]

Bible scholars have various theories concerning what the whore represents. In ancient times, Tertullian suggested that Babylon was a stand-in for pagan Rome.[2] Like Babylon of Revelation, Rome ruled over the kings of the earth,[3] sat on seven mountains,[4] was the center of the world's merchandise,[5] corrupted nations,[6] and was a persecutor of saints.[7] If Babylon does represent Rome, it follows that the beast represents Emperor Nero and that the whore represents the Jews, who John accuses of collaborating with the Roman authorities against Christians.[8]

Historically, Protestant commentators emphasized parallels between the Whore and the papacy. The Geneva Bible (1540) connects the papacy to the Whore by portraying it as a continuation of imperial Rome: "A scarlet color, that is, with a red and purple garment: and surely it was not without cause that the Romish clergy were so much delighted with this color."[9] There is also, "That harlot, the spiritual Babylon, which is Rome."[10] In his 1706 Bible commentary, Matthew Henry identified those who followed the whore with those that "have been bewitched and enslaved by the papacy."[11] This view has waned in recent years due to increased cooperation between Protestants and Catholics (though the cooperation is mainly on social issues such as abortion); however, it is still the prevalent view within fundamentalism especially within Independent Baptist churches.


  1. Revelation 17:5
  2. "Babylon in the New Testament," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. See also "Revelation— Note on 17: 9– 11," ESV Study Bible. "Rome, which then had “dominion over the kings of the earth” (v. 18), rests on seven mountains (or seven hills)."
  3. Revelation 17:18.
  4. Revelation 17:9.
  5. Revelation 18:3 and Revelation 18:11-13.
  6. Revelation 17:2, Revelation 18:3, and Revelation 19:2.
  7. Revelation 17:6.
  8. "Who is the Whore of Babylon?," Catholic Apologetics.
  9. Geneva Bible (1560), Commentary for Revelation 17:3.
  10. Geneva Bible (1560), Commentary for Revelation 17:4.
  11. Matthew, Henry, Complete Commentary on Revelation 17.