The whore of babylon or "Babylon the great" is a Christian allegorical figuress of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The Whore is associated with the Antichrist and the Beast of Revelation by connection with an equally allegorical kingdom. The Whore's apocalyptic downfall is prophesied to take place in the hands of the beast with seven heads and ten horns. There is much speculation within all Christian religious perspectives on what the Whore and Beast symbolize as well as the possible implications for contemporary interpretations.
The “great whore”, of the biblical book of Revelation is featured in chapters 17 and 18. Many passages define symbolic meanings inherent in the text.
17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
17:9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth (King James Version; the New International Version Bible uses "hills" instead of "mountains").
17:10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
17:12 And the ten horns which thou saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
17:15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
—Revelation 17:4-18 (various))
Late 15th century German print from a woodcut.
Rome and the Roman Empire
Many Bible scholars agree that "Babylon" is an allegory of Rome; perhaps specifically at the time to some aspect of Rome's rule (brutality, greed, paganism), or even a servant people that does the bidding of Rome. The Roman Catholic commentary of the Jerusalem Bible, the evangelical Protestant commentary of the New International Version Study Bible, the Rastafarians and the liberal Protestant commentary of the Oxford Annotated Study Bible all concur that "Babylon is the symbolic name for Rome" and that [1st century] Rome was the "type of place where evil is supreme" (Jerusalem Bible, commentary to Rev. 17).
Elsewhere in the New Testament, in 1 Peter 5:13; "Babylon" is possibly used to refer to Rome. This is bolstered by the remark in Rev. 17:9 that she sits on "seven mountains" (the King James Version Bible-the New International Version Bible uses the words "seven hills"), which could be the seven hills of Rome. "Rome" would therefore be the 'new Babylon' and all of the symbolism characterizing Babylon as a wanton "whore," would be transferable to Rome, according to this view.
There are a number of smaller symbolic clues that some see as suggesting a link between Rome and Babylon — the Roman Empire in its military occupation of Israel, its repression of the Jewish nation and religion, its destruction of Jerusalem following Jewish revolts in 70 AD and 135 AD, and its persecution of Christians, would lend meaning to the imagery of the 'whore, drunk with the blood of martyrs,' as a wantonly violent and bloodthirsty entity.
In Rastafarian ideology both Babylon and Rome are also equated with the modern world in which we live. The Rastas have popularized the name Babylon to refer to what they see as the fundamentally evil modern society.