The Harlot of Babylon

For years I heard from preachers in the pulpit that the Harlot mentioned in Revelation 17 was the Catholic Church.
Why is that believed and what answer do Catholics give to it?

Allow me to post the text of Revelation 17, to note what some have said, and to reply.

17 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[a] who is seated upon many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication** the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3 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. 4 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; 5 and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.” 6 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. 7 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. 8 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. 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven hills on which the woman is seated; 10 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. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to perdition. 12 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. 13 These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast; 14 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.”

15 And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 16 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, 17 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. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

The accusation relates to one from Luther, that the Pope is the Antichrist. Several things in this passage are associated with the Roman Catholic Church by Her critics. The rich clothes of the woman are seen as a portrayal of the Church’s wealth, and, since there were often violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants, the reference to “blood of the saints” is made to apply here. Lastly, there’s a reference to “seven hills”, and Rome was famously founded on seven hills.

However, these attempts are typically offered by anti-Catholics who have already decided that Rome is synonymous with evil and decadence. Further, it requires a selective reading of the book, ignoring other parts earlier on. Specifically, John is told that the events he’s witnessing “must happen soon”, and the city which persecutes the faithful is identified as the one that killed our Lord.

Other cities in antiquity were founded on seven hills, including Jerusalem! The seven hills of Jerusalem are :1.) Mount Gared; 2.) Mount Goath; 3.) Mount Acra; 4.) Mount Bezetha; 5.) Mount Moriah; 6.) Mount Ophel; 7.) Mount Zion. The motif of an idolatrous woman is often used for apostate Israel. This view is also supported by the fall of Babylon in the next chapter, where God’s people must leave the city before it is destroyed. This happened in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The beast on which she’s seated has a number of symbolic elements that point to a tie with the Herodian dynasty and the Roman empire. The likely interpretation is that the woman is apostate Judea, allied with Rome. Note that the beast hates the woman and will destroy her; again, Rome leveled the city. Take note that at the time was written, Rome was an enemy of Christians; the reference to the horns makes it likely that the book was composed between 67-69 A.D., during the reign of Galba or Otho. It’s illegitimate to attempt to use this as a weapon against the Roman Catholic Church.

I view the entire book of Revelation from both a preterist and futurist perspective, but I hesitate to speculate about what the fulfillment of this chapter will look like in the last days.

I am not saying I believe this. These are the reasons that were told to me by Fundamental Baptists:
The Seven Hills, Rome sits on seven hills.
Babylon was how the early church referred to Rome.
Commits Fornication “unholy alliances” forged between Vatican City and other nations
Clothed in Purple and Red,
Possesses Great Wealth.
The Golden Cup,
Persecutes Apostles and Prophets
Reigns over Kings

Again, I am not claiming to believe this, I am just searching for a response to give to fundamentalists.

At the bottom of my post theirs this booklet which i made, check it out, theirs a section there called IS the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon?

Biblically you will see that the Whore of which the Bible speaks of is the Old Jerusalem

This will help.

To the OP: where did you get the idea for your particular screen name?

It looks familiar to me but I can’t quite place it… :hmmm:

“Babylon” does refer to Rome, but not present day Rome. It refers to the pagan Roman Empire.

The problem is that many fundamentalists only read the Book of Revelation with a futurist point of view. The Book really talks about the past, present, and future (all at the same time).

Additionally, I believe that many misunderstand the historic root of the word “apocalypse,” which means uncovering or reveling. It doesn’t mean “the end of the World” like it often means today to English speakers.

Origin of apocalypse
1125-75; Middle English < Late Latin apocalypsis < Greek apokálypsis revelation, equivalent to apokalýp(tein) to uncover, reveal (apo- apo- + kalýptein to cover, conceal) + -sis -sis

The Book of Revelation also details for us how God is worshiped in Heaven by the Angels and saints. We use it as a blueprint for the Mass (Divine Liturgy).

I recommend Dr. Taylor Marshall’s podcast series on the Book of Revelation at

I also recommend the following study Bibles (though this is not an exhaustive list)

Ignatius Study Bible (Letters of St John and the Revelation to St John"

The Navarre Bible: Revelation

Revelation - from the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series

Finally, I recommend checking out the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology at

There are also numerous other resources, but don’t have time to list them all.

God Bless

The biggest problem of the protestant churches and orthodox as well, is that if they do not attack the Pope they lose identity. It is like a statement “we are kind of like the Catholics but not 100%” The “sola scriptura” is another statement of this kind, while it is clear they practice somebody’s opinion on the scripture
Even after the rise of homosexuality and the assault of churches and Christian values, even if the occult is rising they keep repeating like an old faulty gramophon that the Pope is the antichrist !
The tricky part in the raise of the occult is the fact that people believe in a kind of “spirituality” with no rules, no authority and practically it is hard to identify them.
Probably things will change after the rise of a charismatic leader of the occult, “the beast”


“…Mother of harlots” per the quote in post 2. What I have heard too, is that if the Harlot of Babylon were the RCC, then the offspring churches likewise, would be tied into it as well per Revelation. I deeply respect the Protestant Churches, these matters though do irk me and I generally try not to concentrate on it too much.

“Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”
But isn’t Revelation about things that will be in the future? Was John seeing a vision of religious Rome?

If the events in the book awaits a future time then I should be able to find that plainly stated to those first-century readers. I doubt very much that those first-century Christians, under the persecution that they were, were much interested in who the Anti-Christ was. I doubt very much whether they were interested in the European Union. These people were under such a persecution, they needed sustenance. They needed the comfort of the Holy Spirit. They were not people who were vaguely curious about the future, and I don’t think you could have gone to these people and said I think we are going to have a prophecy crusade. They weren’t interested in prophecy crusades, they might be dead tomorrow morning,

The future from the perspective of John, as he wrote it down. That doesn’t imply that all of it is still in our future… :wink:

This is a problematic approach. Since the Lord also says he will be “coming soon” and has not come in over 2,000 years, it would seem your interpretation is also selective.

The Vatican doesn’t sit on 7 hills. But of course these kind of details don’t bother the ones accusing the Church of being the Harlot of Babylon.

I remember asking a hard-core fundamentalist preacher about how the Orthodox fit into this theory. His answer? The Orthodox are the “Eastern breast of the Harlot”. :rolleyes:
Bottom line, these people are nuts and not even worth answering their bigoted statements.


Believe it or not I cleaned up the wording in his version. :eek:

Vatican City, the eighth hill of Rome:

Seattle Washington is on 7 hills. Rome is on 7 hills, so is Athens, Greece. Some fellow came on and laid a huge list of cities on 7 hills all around the world.

Rome was referred to as Babylon by St. Peter when he was jailed there. Israel was called Babylon two times by its prophets.

Babylon is essentially the turning away from God and embracing idolatry which really is about making the new gods do you want you want…money and power and protection from your competitors.

The Vatican is across from the Tiber…been there…and the Vatican employs several thousand lay people. It is a pretty busy place, pretty wide open to anybody…so there isn’t the cultish stuff going on there that is imagined. You can go into any bishop chancery office and see the same dynamic…as well as people standing around and drinking coffee and visiting, or people coming in for classes or references and so on.

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