Rome or Jerusalem?
A Protestant Study on the Whore of Babylon in Revelation


A  Critique of the "Apostate Jerusalem" Thesis from Dr. Scott Hahn by Roger Garza (in bold)

See an article summarizing this thesis from the Catholic apologetics site Defending the Bride HERE

Dr. Scott Hahn in his tape series "THE END" on the book of Revelation argues for the position that the Whore of Babylon is not Rome, which persecuted the Catholic Church, but instead is apostate, worldly Jerusalem which rejected the Messiah. He concedes that this is the minority position but the Biblical evidence that he gives is overwhelming.

Roger writes: This is listed as material that someone gleaned from listening to Dr. Hahn’s tapes, so it should by no means be assumed that Dr. Hahn has nothing more to say on the subject. I am just using it as a starting point to discussion. On to the material:

CODE NAME

Revelation 17:5-6 "On her forehead was written a name, which is a mystery, ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.’ I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her I was greatly amazed."

Babylon was a code name, a "mystery." Compare how Jerusalem is referred to similar code names such as Sodom, Gomorrah, and Egypt. All of these, Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, and Babylon are all notorious enemies of God’s people.

Isaiah 1:1, 9-10 "The vision which Isaiah, son of Amoz, had concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.…Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a scanty remnant, We had become as Sodom, we should be like Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah !"

Moses warns the Jews how God will punish them and destroy their land if they forsake the covenant.

also Deuteronomy 29:22-24 and Jeremiah 23:14

Romans 9:27-29 "And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the Israelites were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved; for decisively and quickly will the Lord execute sentence upon the earth.’ And as Isaiah predicted: ‘Unless the Lord of hosts had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom and have been made like Gomorrah.’" NAB

John in his Book of Revelation continues this use of code names for the "great city." He is using symbolism to refer to people who had betrayed God’s people.

Roger writes: Many cities and nations other than Jerusalem and Babylon are also compared to Sodom and Gomorrah.

For instance, we find this in Zephaniah 2:9: "‘Therefore, as I live,’ declares the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Surely Moab will be like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah . . .’"

In Matthew 11:23-24, Jesus said it will be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment than it will be for Capernaum.

In Matthew 10:15, Mark 6:11, and Luke 10:12, we see that indeed any place that does not receive the messengers of Christ will find themselves in even worse shape in the judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah.

Revelation 11:8 "Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city, which has the symbolic names ‘Sodom’ and ‘Egypt,’ where indeed their Lord was crucified."

This passage in Revelation 11:8 is most important because it clues us in as to where this "great city" is. It is "where indeed their Lord was crucified." It is Jerusalem.

Roger writes: The great city of Revelation 11:8 is not the same great city found in Revelation 17-18. Revelation 11:8 speaks of the great city where the Lord was crucified, while in contrast Revelation 17:18 is speaking of the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.

The outcome of events in Revelation 11 is that the two prophets who are killed are raised from the dead and ascend to heaven in the sight of their enemies, at which time there was a great earthquake that destroyed a tenth of the city, causing those who were left to be frightened and to give glory to the God of heaven.

"BABYLON" IS CALLED THE GREAT CITY

Revelation 18:10 "They will keep their distance for fear of the torment inflicted on her, and they will say: ‘Alas, alas, great city, Babylon, mighty city. In one hour your judgment has come.’" NAB

Jerusalem is also called the great city.

Jeremiah 22:4-8 "If you carry out these commands, kings who succeed to the throne of David will continue to enter the gates of this palace, riding in chariots or mounted on horses, with their ministers, and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, I swear by myself, says the LORD: this palace shall become rubble. For thus says the LORD concerning the palace of the king of Judah: Though you be to me like Gilead, like the peak of Lebanon, I will turn you into a waste, a city uninhabited. Against you I will send destroyers, each with his axe: They shall cut down your choice cedars, and cast them into the fire. Many people will pass by this city and ask one another: ‘Why has the LORD done this to so great a city ?’"

Roger writes: "Great City" seems to be a rather generic name. For instance, Nineveh is called a great city in the book of Jonah (Jonah 1:2). In earlier times still other cities were called great (see Genesis 10:12, Joshua 10:2). I don’t see how such a designation, which could so easily apply to any great city under discussion, can provide much help in identifying Mystery Babylon.

"BABYLON" AND THE DEATHS OF THE PROPHETS

Revelation 17:5-6 "On her forehead was written a name, which is a mystery, ‘Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.’ I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her I was greatly amazed."

Revelation 18:24 24 "In her was found the blood of prophets and holy ones and all who have been slain on the earth." NAB

Compare them with these statements about Jerusalem

Luke 11:47-51 "Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building. Therefore, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!"

also Luke 13:31-34 and Matthew 23:29-36 and 24:34

Roger writes: Dr. Hahn seems to be making 2 points here:

(1) that the fact that both Jerusalem and Mystery Babylon are guilty of the blood of the righteous points to them being the same thing; and

(2) that the punishment Jesus referred to, which would come upon them from this bloodguilt, would come within one generation.

First I will deal with point (1):

In Matthew 23 and Luke 11, Jesus was talking to, and about, the lawyers, the scribes, and the Pharisees! This will become obvious if one reads these chapters all the way through. Jerusalem is serving its purpose of being a symbol for, or a summing up of, things Jewish; in this case the hypocrites and the wicked among the lawyers, scribes and Pharisees. But Jerusalem represents more than just the scribes and the Pharisees; it also represents the little children who came to Jesus, and it represents those who do the will of the Father, whom Jesus calls "my brothers and sisters," not to mention the "chicks" that Jesus still longed to gather together.

The hypocrisy and wickedness of the Pharisees and scribes is being specifically targeted in Matthew 23 and Luke 11, and although all Jerusalem would suffer for it (we know this because Jesus said that their house is forsaken and desolate until they say "Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord"), we must remember that Jesus explicitly accused, not Jerusalem, but "this generation" of having the blood of the righteous on their hands.

Further, even if Jesus had implicitly alluded to Jerusalem as the city upon which would come "all the righteous blood shed on earth," it would still not be the same as Mystery Babylon, for in Mystery Babylon is found the blood of all who were slain on earth. That is an even more comprehensive blood guilt than that of which all the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers were guilty.

As for point (2):

Scriptures such as Matthew 24:32 which says "Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." It is not written in this collection of remarks whether Dr. Hahn said anything explicitly about it, but I take the order in which these Scriptures were quoted to be a hint that the judgments prophesied to come upon Mystery Babylon had to take place within the lifetimes of Jesus’ contemporaries, which would eliminate Rome as a possible candidate for Mystery Babylon since Rome was never destroyed in that way, and certainly not within one generation of Jesus.

However, we must remember that nowhere does Revelation say that all these things would come upon Mystery Babylon within one generation, but Matthew that says this of the judgments outlined in Matthew 24, at least those listed before verse 27.

Assuming for the moment that Matthew 24:34 Jesus meant a generation of contemporaries, remember that "this generation" is often equated with "you" in places like Matthew 23:33-36 and Luke 7:31-34 (cf. Matt. 3:7, 12:34, Luke 3:7). Matthew 24:33-34 is no exception; Jesus equates "this generation" with "ye, when ye shall see all these things."

Sometimes a writer in the Bible used the word "you" to refer to people who would live after his own generation. To illustrate this point, let's say I took a vacation to the mountains but was naive about the sudden mountain storms, so the ranger gave me a lecture in which he described the appearance of the dark clouds, the rising wind, and the lightning, and said "When you see that, get in your tent because half an hour won't be gone before you'll be soaked." Surely it is clear that the ranger didn't mean I would be in danger of getting wet half an hour from his lecture, but instead half an hour from whenever the clouds and the lightning were seen.

Neither is it necessarily I that would be in danger of getting soaked; when he said "half an hour won't be gone before you'll be soaked," you is an expression which in this context means you or whoever is there to see the signs of the coming storm.

In Acts 3:22, Peter referred back to Deuteronomy 18:15, quoting Moses as saying "The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as He raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you (RSV, my italics)." In Acts 4:4 five thousand people accepted Peter's identification of Jesus as this prophet. The fact that the people who spoke Jesus' language understood Moses to have used the word "you" to mean a future generation forbids us from assuming that Jesus could not have been using His own language the same way.

Likewise, when Jesus said this generation will not pass till all has taken place, he may have been referring not to the generation that stood in front of him, but to the generation that would be alive when they saw the ‘signs’ to which he was referring.

A CITY WITH FINE CLOTHING AND PRECIOUS STONES

Revelation 18:16-17 "…Alas, alas, great city, wearing fine linen, purple and scarlet, adorned (in) gold, precious stones, and pearls. In one hour this great wealth has been ruined."

also Exodus 35:30-36:1 and Exodus 39:1-2, 8-14

Roger writes: I’m not sure why Dr. Hahn included this material, since the Exodus passages are not a description of Jerusalem, but of the Tabernacle, which was sort of a moveable Temple. Perhaps it is because of similar precious stones mentioned in both cases. However, the precious stones in Mystery Babylon seem to indicate great wealth more than a direct connection with the Tabernacle.

DESTROYED WITH FIRE

God had promised blessings to the Jews if they obeyed, Deut 28:8 and seven curses if they disobeyed, verses 15-20. God’s Covenant is effected by His Oath. The word "oath" is based on the word "seven." And so the number "seven" represents the Covenant. In Leviticus he threatens to punish the Jews with fire if they break the Covenant.

Leviticus 26:15-16, 27-28 "…if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and breaking my covenant, then I…If, despite all this, you still persist in disobeying and defying me, I, also, will meet you with fiery defiance and will chastise you with sevenfold fiercer punishment for your sins…"

It also had been prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed by fire in the following passages.

Ezekiel 16:2-3, 35, 38, 41 and Ezekiel 23:2-4, 17-19, 22-25, 44-47 and Ezekiel 19:12, 21:2-3, 22:19-21

also Lamentations 2:4 and 4:11

In John's prophetic vision "Babylon" is also to be destroyed by fire.

Revelation 18:8, 17 "Therefore, her plagues will come in one day, pestilence, grief, and famine…she will be consumed by fire. For mighty is the Lord God who judges her…In one hour this great wealth has been ruined. "Every captain of a ship, every traveler at sea, sailors, and seafaring merchants stood at a distance…"

Jerusalem had been a center for commercial trade, but true to prophecy it had been completely destroyed by fire in 70 AD, whereas, Rome was only partially burned by Nero. The burning of Jerusalem by fire also had theological significance. The City of Jerusalem is often referred to as a daughter.

Lamentations 2:15-18 " … They hiss and wag their heads over daughter Jerusalem: ‘Is this the all-beautiful city, the joy of the whole earth?’…The LORD has done as he decreed: he has fulfilled the threat He set forth from days of old; he has destroyed and had no pity…Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter Zion!" NAB

Unfaithfulness to God is frequently compared to sexual immorality. The penalty for fornication by the daughter of the priest called for a special punishment. It was to be burned to death.

Leviticus 21:9 "A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death." NAB

So, when Jerusalem was offered the grace to accept Christ, but instead rejected Him, she is referred to as the "Whore of Babylon" who is subsequently burnt to death.

Roger writes: I have a problem with this comparison. Jerusalem is clearly identified as the harlot in Ezekiel 16; but in this case Jerusalem is forgiven and restored at the end of the chapter (verses 60-62). This, in contrast to the Great Harlot of Revelation 17-18, of which it says, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all" (Rev. 18:21). Note the following:

In Isaiah 1:21-26, Jerusalem was faithful in the beginning (1:21), then became a harlot (same verse), and then at the end is healed, forgiven, and restored (1:26).

In Jeremiah 2:13-3:25, Israel was once faithful (2:17) then turned to harlotry (2:20) as a wife departing from her husband (3:20) but is promised restoration in the end if they repent (3:14-18).

In Ezekiel 16, God entered into Covenant with Jerusalem (16:8), but Jerusalem played the harlot (16:15) and yet is finally restored for the sake of the Covenant (16:60-62).

Ezekiel 23 does not say anything explicit about past faithfulness or future restoration of the harlot sisters, elder Samaria and younger Jerusalem; but the implication that past faithfulness was once there can be found in 23:5, and the possibility of future restoration is allowed for to the extent that nothing is said here about everlasting destruction for either Jerusalem or Samaria.

In Hosea 2, speaking of the house of Israel, we find that it was once faithful (2:14-15), that it then played the harlot (2:5), and that it will be restored in the end (2:19-23).

This is contrary to the harlot Tyre as portrayed in Isaiah 23, nothing is said about Tyre's ever having been a faithful wife to start with, and we learn from Ezekiel 26:21 that when it is destroyed, Tyre shall be no more: "though thou be sought for, thou shalt never be found again, saith the Lord GOD." Nahum did not say that the harlot Nineveh had ever been faithful to God, and Nahum 2:13 says that once it is destroyed, Nineveh will not be restored.

Although in Jeremiah 50-51 Babylon is not explicitly called a harlot, this is the passage in the Old Testament that has the most in common with Revelation 17-18. Babylon of Jeremiah 50-51, Tyre of Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 27, Nineveh of Nahum, and Babylon of Revelation 17-18, all have one thing in common: they will all be destroyed and not restored (Jeremiah 51:64).

Since Jerusalem will be restored after a period of rebellion but Mystery Babylon will not be restored, I conclude that they are not the same. (also see Appendix)

HARLOT

Just as "Babylon" is referred to as a whore, a harlot. Jerusalem is also called a harlot.

Revelation 17:1 "Then one of the seven angels who were holding the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come here. I will show you the judgment on the great harlot…"

also Ezekiel 16: 1-3, 26; 23:1-5,11,17-19 and Jeremiah 2:1-2, 17-20; 3:1-2,6-8; 5:1,5-7 and Isaiah 1:1, 21

Roger writes: Throughout the Bible, "playing the harlot," when used in a figurative, religious sense, denotes the act of forsaking the true God and turning to false gods or putting one’s trust in foreign nations rather than in God. Often in the Old Testament faithless Jerusalem is called a harlot, but we can see from Isaiah 23:15 and Nahum 3:4 that Tyre and Nineveh were also given that designation. Thus, the fact that Mystery Babylon is called a harlot is not conclusive proof that Mystery Babylon was a code name for Jerusalem.

ASSOCIATED WITH THE SCARLET BEAST

Compare the following verses. King Herod the Edomite, had falsely claimed to be King David’s successor. "Edom" means red, [it referred to Esau’s successors.] And not so coincidentally the beast in Revelation 17 is scarlet.

Revelation 17:1-3 "Then one of the seven angels who were holding the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come here. I will show you the judgment on the great harlot … Then he carried me away in spirit to a deserted place where I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns."

We see an evil relationship between the harlot, apostate Jerusalem, and the scarlet beast, King Herod, on whom she is seated. This evil alliance is confirmed in the Book of Acts.

Acts 4:26-28 " ‘The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.’ Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and (your) will had long ago planned to take place."

also Acts 12:1-3, 19, 21-23

A reading of the Book of Acts will show many examples of the particular Jewish leaders of that time attacking the Christians. For example, Acts 7:54-60, 14:4-6, 19 and 17:5-7. Jesus had prophesied in John 16:2 that His followers would be kicked out of the synagogue.

Roger writes: The ten horns on the scarlet beast, which Hahn identifies as Herod the Edomite, do the following:

"And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore [harlot], and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (Revelation 17:16-17).

From this it would seem that the harlot perishes before the beast, not the other way around. Since Herod died well before the destruction of Jerusalem it is hard to see how he can be the beast. Also, I’m not sure how 10 kings can be contained in, or grow out of, the beast if the beast is only one man.

LIVED NEAR THE MANY WATERS

The harlot is said to live near the many waters.

Revelation 17:1-3 "Then one of the seven angels who were holding the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come here. I will show you the judgment on the great harlot who lives near the many waters. The kings of the earth have had intercourse with her, and the inhabitants of the earth became drunk on the wine of her harlotry.’ Then he carried me away in spirit to a deserted place where I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns."

Jesus had been crucified just outside the city of Jerusalem. When His side was pierced with the sword out flowed water and blood. The water represents the waters of Baptism, through which God gives us saving grace and eternal life. The blood which flowed from His side is a reference to the Blood that He offered at the Last Supper, the Eucharist. Cf. John 6:54

John 7:37-38 "… Jesus stood up and exclaimed, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: "Rivers of living water will flow from within him." ’ "

The "lives near the many waters" in Revelation 17 could also refer to the fact that within Palestine, and not too far from Jerusalem, Herod had built the man made port of Caesarea and dedicated it to the Caesar.

Roger writes: That Dr. Hahn would use an argument like this really surprises me. The symbolism of the waters on which the woman sat is explained right there in Revelation chapter 17:15: "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues."

"BABYLON" HAS SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE NATIONS.

Revelation 17:18 "The woman whom you saw represents the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth."

Jerusalem, who had the role to bring God’s law to the rest of the nations, had a spiritual sovereignty over all the nations.

Psalm 2:6-9 " ‘I myself have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ I will proclaim the decree of the LORD, who said to me, ‘You are my son; today I am your father. Only ask it of me, and I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth. With an iron rod you shall shepherd them, like a clay pot you will shatter them.’ "

Roger writes: This almost sounds plausible until it is remembered that Jerusalem was to be over the nations only if she was obedient to the Covenant.

God said that He would set Israel above all the nations if she was obedient to do all the things written in the law (Deuteronomy 28:1, 9-10, 13-14, 7:14). Israel got into the land without this perfect obedience on the basis of a prior Covenant God had made with Abraham; but as we see from verse 1, she would not be placed "above the nations" unless she was first obedient. The Lord would establish Israel as a holy people to Himself if they would keep His commandments (verse 9); He would make Israel the head and not the tail if they would carefully do His commandments, not turning aside from any of His words (verses 13-14).

If Jerusalem (Israel) did "reign" over the nations, then she must have been completely obedient to her Covenant with God, since that is the only way she could obtain the "above-the-nations" status. If, however, Israel was not obedient to God (and she never completely was) then she never did qualify for the "above-the-nations" status in the first place.

Deuteronomy 28:1 does not say that Israel would have her position above all nations taken away if she were not obedient; it says that unless she was completely obedient, she would never obtain this position in the first place. We find our selves with this dilemma: Jerusalem was either obedient to God, in which case she could not have been Babylon the Great Harlot, or she was disobedient to God, in which case she could not have been the Babylon which reigned over the kings of the earth. Either way, Jerusalem could not be Babylon as described in Revelation 17.

MY PEOPLE

And a very important verse is Revelation 18:4

Revelation 18:4 "Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Depart from her, my people, so as not to take part in her sins and receive a share in her plagues…’ "

God said, "Depart from her, my people…" The term "my people" is a reference to people who were in a covenant relationship with God.

Ezekiel 37: 26-27 "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." RSV

The important question here is, where were many of God's "my people" when John wrote this Book ? They were still in the Old Covenant, in old worldly Jerusalem and God wanted them to leave that and come into the New Covenant. The good becomes the enemy of the best if it causes you to reject the best.

Roger writes: Evidently Dr. Hahn favors a pre-70 AD date for the writing of the book of Revelation, for in 95 AD, the date favored by the majority of scholars, Jerusalem had already been destroyed.

Hebrews 13:12-14 "Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp, bearing the reproach that he bore. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come." NAB

As a side note: a significant number of the Jews in Jerusalem had converted to Christianity. However, when 2.1 million Jews were slaughtered in Jerusalem in 70 AD none of the Christians that had lived there were killed. They had escaped by leaving Jerusalem before the Romans came.

Roger writes: I accept the fleeing of Christians from Jerusalem as a type of the ‘coming out’ of God’s people from Mystery Babylon, but I think that for the reasons I have already given, the two are not identical.

Appendix: One Final Thought

It could be argued that although Jerusalem is to be ultimately restored and Mystery Babylon is to be destroyed and never restored, Rev 17-18 could still be referring to Christ-rejecting Jerusalem as that which when once destroyed, will not be restored, instead of the "good" Jerusalem, which will indeed be restored at the proper time.

But if this is true, then Rev 17-18 can’t be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, for the following two reasons:

(1) Mystery Babylon, once destroyed, will not rise again. In contrast, Jerusalem the city was eventually rebuilt and still stands today.

(2) Mystery Babylon will cease to exist when it is destroyed, and after that "shall be found no more at all" (Revelation 18:21). In contrast, the spiritual forces that characterized Christ-rejecting were not destroyed when the city was, but instead spread throughout the Diaspora. These spiritual forces still exist today.

Because of these considerations, if Revelation 17-18 is referring to the destruction of an evil spiritual Jerusalem (a satanic counterfeit of the true Jerusalem), that evil spiritual Jerusalem could still be Rome.

By the way, in arguing for Rome as the "Mystery Babylon" of Revelation 17-18, I am neither affirming nor denying that the Roman Catholic Church is Mystery Babylon. That question is a whole different subject which must be dealt with separately.

By: Roger Garza (c) 2002

GarzaRoyal1@aol.com

For a reply to the RCC = Whore of Babylon thesis, see two articles written by James Akin

Hunting the Whore of Babylon and The Whore of Babylon


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