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 chapters 17 and 18. 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 would suggest 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]

Protestants historically interpreted the Whore as representing the Catholic Church, due to its location in Rome, its history of prior direct involvement in determining who would rule certain nations (and its indirect involvement in politics to this day, due to it being the predominant branch of Christianity in large parts of the world), and its past history in persecution against persons opposing its rule.[9] Though this interpretation is not as prevalent today (in large part due to increased dialogue between Catholics and some Protestants), it is still quite common, especially among fundamentalist branches of Protestantism.

See Seven hills of Rome, Vatican Hill and Revelation, Book of (historical exegesis)


  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. For an example see Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on Revelation 17:https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/revelation/17.html

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