The Whore of Babylon



Introduction


Until now, I haven't dignified this topic with a response. However, in light of the amount of misinformation and poor scholarship floating around on the subject, I acquiesce. It's a pretty shallow and dishonest tactic to call the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon, but it's been going on for quite some time now. Naturally, this lie and hate for Christ's Church was a popularized by the protestant reformation, during which, Martin Luther called the Pope the anti-Christ, and due to civilian unrest, lawlessness, and the disorder he helped contribute to, Luyther had actually convinced himself and many of his followers that the end of the world was nigh.

It would be prudent to mention that prior to the 19th century, the theory that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon hadn't been given birth to yet. The false interpretation of St. John's Apocalypse was first advanced by Alexander Hislop (1807-1862) in his 1856 work "The Two Babylons." He is the grandfather of this "theory" that has found its way into some Evangelical circles, Seventh Day Adventists and various other fundamentalist groups. Historically speaking, where has the interpretation as the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon come from? Private Interpretation of the scriptures. So what does the Bible have to say about that?

Note: This document is still a work in progress, proper citations may be absent in it's current form.

2 Peter 1:20
Understanding this first: That no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation.

2 Peter 1:21
For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost.

It couldn't be more clear. Protestants historically, or heretics generally speaking, have often needed, in addition to the false doctrine's they teach, to invalidate the Catholic Church in order to convince people that they (all 38,000 denominations) are the "Real Church". This is where man's will plays the role of going against the scriptures by interpreting it privately and advancing opinions about prophecy.

Synopsis


The story of the Whore of Babylon is unveiled in St. John's Apocalypse, commonly known to protestants as Revelation. This is quite a bit of scripture, but we'll get to the breakdown below, demonstrating whether or not the Whore of Babylon could be the Catholic Church.

Revelation 17:1-18

The Woman and the Beast

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead:

MYSTERY
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.

"This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

"The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."

Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth."

Revelation 18:1-24

The Fall of Babylon the Great

After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! 3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. 7 In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.

The World Mourns Babylon’s Fall

“The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, 10 standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

 “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,  and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?'

“They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

Finality of Babylon’s Fall


Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.  The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”

Charactaristics


The false accusation that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon from the book of Revelation is made by assigning the characteristics we read from scripture to the Catholic Church. So what do we know about the Whore of Babylon? Do these characteristics actually apply? Dave Hunt, in his 1994 book, A Woman Rides the Beast, presents nine arguments to try to prove his claims, which are good representation of the common arguments set forth by people pushing the idea that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. Should any one of these arguments fail, it is proven that the Whore is not the Catholic Church, and indeed, all of these arguments do in fact fail. Let's walk through them.

Seven Hills

Revelation 17:9 
And here is the understanding that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth: and they are seven kings.

Dave Hunt and others predominantly start with the Seven Hills argument. It is arguably more commonly known that Ancient Rome was built on seven Hills than say, Jerusalem or Mecca. The fact of the matter is that there are many places founded on seven hills. You may find this list of them enlightening. See below of details of the seven hills of Jerusalem and Rome.

As far as how the Catholic Church relates to this first claim, it's really very simple. You say Rome, people think "Vatican". I don't personally have a problem with the Whore of Babylon being Rome itself, though I think it makes much more sense to be ancient, pagan Rome.
  • The Vatican is an independent (from Rome), sovereign nation.
  • The Vatican is built on one hill. Vaticanus Mons or Vatican Hill.
  • The seven hills of Rome were first occupied by small settlements and not grouped or recognized as a city called Rome.
  • These Hills do not include Vaticanus Mons (Vatican Hill), Mons Pincius (Pincian Hill) to the north, or Ianiculum (Janiculum Hill) to the west.
  • Vaticanus Mons, or Vatican Hill, was called so in antiquity, well before Christianity.
  • Rome didn't include Vaticanus Mons until the 9th Century, under Pope Leo IV who expanded the city walls to protect St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican
  • Until the Lateran Treaties in 1929 it was part the Rione of Borgo (in other words, it wasn't Rome, it was a province thereof).

Revelation 17:9; Additional Points

The Greek word in this passage is horos. Of the sixty-five occurrences of this word in the New Testament, only three are rendered "hill" by the King James Version. The remaining sixty-two are translated as "mountain" or "mount." Modern Bibles have similar ratios. If the passage states that the Whore sits on "seven mountains," it could refer to anything. Mountains are common biblical symbols, often symbolizing whole kingdoms (cf. Ps. 68:15; Dan. 2:35; Amos 4:1, 6:1; Obad. 8–21). The Whore’s seven mountains might be seven kingdoms she reigns over, or seven kingdoms with which she has something in common.

The number seven may be symbolic also, for it often represents completeness in the Bible. If so, the seven mountains might signify that the Whore reigns over all earth’s kingdoms.

Even if we accept that the word horos should be translated literally as "hill" in this passage, it still does not narrow us down to Rome.

Even if we grant that the reference is to Rome, which Rome are we talking about—ancient pagan Rome or Christian Rome? As we will see, ancient, pagan Rome fits the characteristic as well, or better, than Rome during the Christian centuries.

The Seven Hilled Cities

Jerusalem

  1. Scopus
  2. Nob
  3. Mount of Corruption
  4. Old Mount Zion
  5. Ophel
  6. Rock and New Mount Zion

Pre-Christian (Pagan) Rome



  1. Aventine Hill (Aventinus)
  2. Caelian Hill (Caelius)
  3. Capitoline Hill (Capitolinus)
  4. Esquiline Hill (Esquilinus)
  5. Palatine Hill (Palatinus)
  6. Quirinal Hill (Quirinalis)
  7. Viminal Hill (Viminalis)

Babylon

This is based on Revelation 17:5, which says that her name is "Babylon the Great."

The phrase "Babylon the great" (Greek: Babulon a megala) occurs five times in Revelation (14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2, and 18:21). Light is shed on its meaning when one notices that Babylon is referred to as "the great city" seven times in the book (16:19, 17:18, 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). Other than these, there is only one reference to "the great city." That passage is 11:8, which states that the bodies of God’s two witnesses "will lie in the street of the great city, which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified."

"The great city" is symbolically called Sodom, a reference to Jerusalem, symbolically called "Sodom" in the Old Testament (cf. Is. 1:10; Ezek. 16:1–3, 46–56). We also know Jerusalem is the "the great city" of Revelation 11:8 because the verse says it was "where [the] Lord was crucified."

Revelation consistently speaks as if there were only one "great city" ("the great city"), suggesting that the great city of 11:8 is the same as the great city mentioned in the other seven texts—Babylon. Additional evidence for the identity of the two is the fact that both are symbolically named after great Old Testament enemies of the faith: Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon.

This suggests that Babylon the great may be Jerusalem, not Rome. Many Protestant and Catholic commentators have adopted this interpretation. On the other hand, early Church Fathers often referred to Rome as "Babylon," but every references was to pagan Rome, which martyred Christians.

Commits Fornication

Hunt tells us, "The woman is called a ‘whore’ (verse 1), with whom earthly kings ‘have committed fornication’ (verse 2). Against only two cities could such a charge be made: Jerusalem and Rome."

Here Hunt admits that the prophets often referred to Jerusalem as a spiritual whore, suggesting that the Whore might be apostate Jerusalem. Ancient, pagan Rome also fits the description, since through the cult of emperor worship it also committed spiritual fornication with "the kings of the earth" (those nations it conquered).

To identify the Whore as Vatican City, Hunt interprets the fornication as alleged "unholy alliances" forged between Vatican City and other nations, but he fails to cite any reasons why the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with other nations are "unholy."

He also confuses Vatican City with the city of Rome, and he neglects the fact that pagan Rome had "unholy alliances" with the kingdoms it governed (unholy because they were built on paganism and emperor worship).

Clothed in Purple and Red

"She [the Whore] is clothed in ‘purple and scarlet’ (verse 4)"

Some proponents of this argument such as Dave Hunt represent these (purple and red) as "The Colors of the Catholic Clergy". It is apparent that these folks are unaware that the predominant Liturgical color is indeed white. All priests wear white (including bishops and cardinals when they are saying Mass)—even the pope does so.

Proponents of this argument ignore the liturgical meaning of purple and red in Catholic symbolism. Purple symbolizes repentance, and red honors the blood of Christ and the Christian martyrs.

The purple and scarlet of the Whore are contrasted with the white of the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ (Rev. 19:8). This is a problem for proponents of this argument for three reasons:

(a) we have already noted that the dominant color of Catholic clerical vestments is white, which would identify them with New Jerusalem if the color is taken literally;
(b) the clothing of the Bride is given a symbolic interpretation ("the righteous acts of the saints;" 19:8); implying that the clothing of the Whore should also be given a symbolic meaning;
(c) the identification of the Bride as New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12, 21:2, 10) suggests that the Whore may be old (apostate) Jerusalem—a contrast used elsewhere in Scripture (Gal. 4:25–26).

Possesses Great Wealth

This argument comes from Revelation 1:4.

So is the Bible talking about the Vatican, which has run a budget deficit in most recent years and has an annual budget only around the size of that of the Archdiocese of Chicago? The Vatican is not fantastically wealthy. This argument clearly applies better to world economic centers, two of which in ancient times were pagan pre-Christian Rome, and apostate Jerusalem.

The Golden Cup

This is another reference to Revelation 17:4. Proponents of this argument try to equate the Eucharistic Chalice with this Cup. The Greek word here is the ordinary word for cup (potarion), which appears thirty-three times in the New Testament and is always translated "cup", not "chalice" which is different.

  • The Catholic Eucharistic chalice is used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper—a ritual commanded by Christ (Luke 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:24–25).
  • The majority of Eucharistic chalices Catholics use are not made out of gold, but other materials, such as brass, silver, glass, and even earthenware.
  • Gold liturgical vessels and utensils have been part of the true religion ever since ancient Israel—again at the command of God (Ex. 25:38–40, 37:23–24; Num. 31:50–51; 2 Chr. 24:14);
  • Revelation tells us that it’s the cup of God’s wrath that is given to the Whore (Rev. 14:10; cf. Rev. 18:6). This has nothing to do with Eucharistic chalices.

Persecutes Apostles and Prophets

When the Whore falls we read, "‘Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you’. . . . In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth" (18:20, 24). This shows that the Whore persecuted not just Christians, but apostles and prophets. Apostles existed only in the first century, since one of the requirements for being an apostle was seeing the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1). Prophets existed as a group only in the Old Testament and in the first century (Acts 11:27–28, 13:1, 15:32, 21:10).

Since the Whore persecuted apostles and prophets, the Whore must have existed in the first century. This totally demolishes the claim that Christian Rome or Vatican City is the Whore. Rome was not a Christian city at that time, and Vatican City did not even exist, so neither of them could be the Whore. Furthermore, Fundamentalists continually (though wrongly) claim that Catholicism itself did not exist in the first century, meaning that based on their very own argument Catholicism could not be the Whore!

Reigns over Kings

The final failed argument is based on the misconception that the Vatican has vast political power; as Dave Hunt puts it: "Finally, the angel reveals that the woman ‘is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth’ (verse 18)".

This is yet another monumental failure to accurately portray the Vatican as a political powerhouse, when it's very existence has been threatened time and again in the past 200 years by Italian Nationalism. Vatican City has no power over other nations and certainly does not reign over their "Kings". The Vatican has diplomatic relations with several countries simply for the mere fact that there are in the world today about a billion and a half Catholics--that's about 1/5 of the Global Population, and indeed the largest (and oldest) form of Christianity.

External Links


Hunting the Whore of Babylon (Catholic Answers)
The Whore of Babylon (Catholic Answers)
Whore of Babylon (EWTN)
Why can't the whore of Babylon be the modern Catholic Church (David MacDonald)?


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