Catholic Bible 101

21st Century Catholic Apologetics for Mary's Spiritual Warriors

The Whore of Babylon

How many times have we all heard ignorant people claim that the “whore of Babylon” mentioned in the book of Revelation is the Vatican / Holy Catholic Church?  Way too many times.  So who or what is the whore of Babylon anyway? 

In order to find out, Catholics should always refer to previous texts in the Bible, and never take a verse out of context.  The Whore of Babylon is described in Revelation 17:1-18 as follows:  

 
 
 
  
"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters,  with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk."  And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.  The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication;  and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth's abominations."  And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.  But the angel said to me, "Why marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.  This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;  they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while.  As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to perdition.  And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.  These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast;  they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful."  And he said to me, "The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.  

And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.  And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth."  

If you look at the very last line (verse 17) above, you will see that the Whore of Babylon is a “great city that has dominion over the Kings of the earth”.  Now we all have to ask ourselves if the Vatican has any dominion over any Kings of the earth today.  Well there aren’t that many Kings around anymore, for one thing, and even if you transpose the word “president” for “king”, it’s laughable to say that the Vatican has dominion over any president or ruler of a country today, with all of the legalized abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc., that is going on in most countries today.  And in countries that do have Kings, like Saudi Arabia, certainly the Vatican has zero dominion over Muslim countries.

So which city is John talking about anyway?  The 7 mountains that the Whore sits on with the 7 Kings gives us a clue.  The Vatican does not sit on one of the 7 hills of Rome, which are Aventine Hill, Caelian Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Palatine Hill, Quirinal Hill, and Viminal Hill.  Vatican Hill sits across the Tiber River from ancient Rome, and was a crucifixion site (where Peter was crucified upside down). It was not made part of the city of Rome until the 9th Century, well after John wrote the book of Revelation.  And since we know that 5 of the 7 kings have already fallen in John’s time, and the other 2 must remain “a little while”, the city had to exist in John’s time, 1rst Century AD.  This is all confirmed by Revelation 1:1, which says:

"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, "

“Soon” would NOT be 8 centuries later, for sure.

So this means that the Whore of Babylon is a great city that had to have existed in the first century.  Which city might that be?  Revelation 11:8 gives us the answer:

“and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.”

Jerusalem, the great city where Jesus was crucified, seems to be the great city, or the Whore of Babylon!  But wait a minute – Isn’t Jerusalem the Holy City?  How in the world could anyone say that Jerusalem is the Whore of Babylon?  For the record, Jerusalem also sits on 7 hills, namely, Scopus, Nob, Mount of Corruption, Old Mount Zion, Ophel, Rock, and New Mount Zion. And at the time of John, Jerusalem did have a lot of power over many Kings of the earth (because Jerusalem was the center of worship of God), as well as being a center of commerce.

Well, let’s look elsewhere in the bible, and in the words of our protestant brothers and sisters, we will let scripture interpret scripture.  For example, in Isaiah 1, God is castigating Israel for its many sins, even referring to Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah in Isaiah 1:10:

Hear the word of the LORD,  you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

In Revelation 11:8 above, we learned that the Whore is allegorically called SODOM!  And in Isaiah 1:21 below, God calls Jerusalem a harlot, which is another word for whore:

“How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.”

Israel is also called a harlot in Jeremiah 3:6:

“The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: "Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the harlot?”

Ezekiel 16:2 says that Jerusalem has abominations:

“Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, “

And these abominations are described by God as harlotries in Ezekiel 16:26-30:

“You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your harlotry, to provoke me to anger.  Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you, and diminished your allotted portion, and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior.  You played the harlot also with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; yea, you played the harlot with them, and still you were not satisfied.  You multiplied your harlotry also with the trading land of Chaldea; and even with this you were not satisfied.  "How lovesick is your heart, says the Lord GOD, seeing you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot;”

It would seem that God is describing Jerusalem as a harlot because He considered Jerusalem to be one with Him, as a man marries a bride.  But Jerusalem and its people always seemed to going after pagan wives, worshipping false idols like the golden calf, and generally not being true to the covenant God had established with them during the time of Moses. And now, in John’s time, the leaders of Jerusalem were teaming up with pagan Rome to not only kill the apostles and prophets, but also the Messiah Himself.

Jesus Himself condemns Jerusalem in Matthew 23:29-38: 

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.  
 
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.  
 
Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate." 

Here we see Jesus foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem by pagan Rome in 70 AD.  Why?  Because they killed the prophets and stoned the ones sent to them.  This should sound familiar, because in Revelation 18:20, 24 we heard that

"Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!"

"And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth."

So here we see in Revelation that the Whore of Babylon killed apostles and prophets.  Apostles were those that had actually been with Jesus, and prophets only existed up until the first century, way before the Vatican was established. One trap that some fundamentalists fall into is their sincere mistaken belief that the Catholic Church wasn't started until Constantine came along in the 4th Century.  While that isn't true (we have the writings from the early Church Fathers that confirm that the Catholic Church began with Peter's commissioning), the question has to be asked then how can the whore of Babylon be the Catholic Church, because the whore had to be around in the first century when the last prophet was killed.  So Jesus and Revelation agree that Jerusalem has killed the ones sent to it, and Jesus predicts the coming destruction of Jerusalem in this generation, which happened about 40 years later, in 70 AD. 

And who destroyed the Whore of Babylon?  Babylon did, which was pagan RomeBabylon is a code name for Rome, which symbolized sexual and immoral excess.  Revelation 17:16 says that the ten horns (symbolizing the rulers of pagan Rome) will destroy the whore by fire, which is exactly what the Romans did to Jerusalem in 70 AD.  And then Revelation 17:14 says that the Lamb will conquer them both.  This happened in the 4th Century, when Constantine became the first Christian emperor of Rome, who stopped all of the religious persecutions of Christians with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. Constantine built the Vatican directly on top of the tomb of St. Peter, on Vatican Hill, outside the city of Rome.

And so what or who is 666?  In numerology, each letter is assigned a value. In Greek, the name Caesar Nero, the emperor alive at the time Revelation was written, adds up to 666.  Nero killed his own brother and mother, and was generally known as the most decadent of all the emperors of Rome.  John was trying to tell the Christians alive at the time that Jesus would eventually triumph over wicked Jerusalem and pagan Rome.  The stubborn Jews of that day, like the murderous Saul, were turning in Christians to the Roman authorities to be tortured and murdered.  Thankfully, on his way to Damascus, Saul saw the light of Christ and became the saintly Paul.  But there was a price to be paid, as Nero not only killed Peter for preaching the Truth, but also Paul, who died by being beheaded (he was a Roman citizen, and therefore escaped crucifixion).

And for the record, the word Antichrist appears nowhere in the book of Revelation ! St. John does describe who the antichrist is in 1 John 2 - An antichrist is someone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah.

There is a lesson to be learned from this story, and that is this.

When God's chosen people decided to do their own thing and follow pagan ways, God let their enemies destroy them. Now we Christians, the new chosen people of the New Testament, have to ask ourselves if we aren't going down the same path, with our embrace of pornography, Freemasonry, homosexuality, artificial contraception, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, adultery, fornication, gluttony, disrespect for the sabbath, love of money, etc., over Jesus. If the answer is yes, then we can expect destruction by our enemies as well. 9/11 may have been a harbinger of what is in store for us.  Only by embracing Jesus and His Church can we expect to escape the doom we have created for ourselves by walking down the same path as ancient Jews, who wandered in the desert for 40 years after worshipping a false God, and who saw their great city and culture destroyed in 70 AD for forsaking God and embracing the ways of pagan Rome. May God have mercy on us all.

 

 

 

 

 

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