Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Sluts, Schemers, And Other Shockingly Interesting Women Of The Bible #7 – The Whore Of Babylon.

My internet is busted at the Shabby Shack, which is annoying and also why this post is late. Mucho apologies.

Disclaimer: I am doing this as a way to share what I learn about these gals. I’m not saying what I discover and write about here is the absolute truth about them. I’m not thinking I’m going to discover some revolutionary truth that nobody’s heard before, nor am I looking to start legalistic fights. This is more about me being curious and wanting to learn more about these gals, and saying “Here’s what I learned in my Bible readings today!”

Which One Is She?

You really can’t be called the Whore Of Babylon and be anything other than a Slut. Sorry. Very technically, she’s known in Revelation as “the woman,” , “the great prostitute” and then over the centuries, people would casually call her “the Whore Of Babylon.” You know, ‘cause that’s catchier.

Who Could Be Her Celebrity Counterpart?

Oh hell no. No thank you. We shall be using paintings of her from across the centuries. (when I get my internet service back up and running, thank you.)

Where Is She In The Bible?

Revelation 17 and 18.

What Did You Already Know About Her Before This?

Surprisingly, not much. I know she’s there, and I know she’s not a real person, but a concept, the book of Revelation is mostly written in code, so she’s an example, an allegory, an enigma wrapped in a metaphor.

What’s Her Story?

Revelation is the revelation of the apostle John, who is writing this book o’ the Bible while in exile on the island of Patmos and has a vision about the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Whore of Babylon represents Rome, Babylon, Jerusalem, hell, let’s just say any culture, civilization or person who has turned away from God and have abandoned their faith for pagan religions, false teaching and worshipping false gods.

In John’s vision, Chapter 17 has an angel showing up to John and basically saying “Wanna see a whore?” Okay, fine, the official phrasing is “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.” (Ch. 17:1-2)

Rather than saying, “Um, gee, thanks but no,” John doesn’t say anything, and in the classic sense of Not Saying Anything Means Yes Indeedy, the angel spirits John to the desert, and there our lady is, “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” (Ch17:3-4)

Such specific detail! Scholars suspect that the color scarlet is in there to directly contrast with white, which is the color of purity (though to me, the opposite of white is black, and black and purple is a cool color comb, but whatever.) Purple has long been noted as the color of royalty, so this chickie is the Queen of Blasphemers.

She also has a “golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things,” (Ch. 17:4), which to me means it was filled with Cheddar Ranch Doritos, and she’s also drunk “with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus,” (Ch.17:6) so she’s all around not very nice person.

There’s a bunch of symbolic mumbo jumbo woo woo stuff about the beast she sits on, the beast’s seven heads, ten horns, waters, a partridge in a pear tree and la la laaaaaaa.

The Beast and the Whore are going to turn on each other, because evil will always turn on evil, and “… they will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (Ch:17:16)

So the Whore of Babylon is basically a city, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” (Ch:17:18) And she’s a whore/prostitute because a gazillion people (in the form of kings, cultures, civilizations and populations) have “committed adultery” with her in a metaphorical sense by abandoning God for pagan religions and teachings.

Chapter 18 goes on to talk about how how she, as a metaphor for a city, comes to ruin. At first kings come to her and commit adultery, merchants grew rich from “her excessive luxuries” (Ch.18:3), but God “has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given, pay her back double for what she has done…” (Ch.18:6) and so she as a city burns, and kings, merchants, sea captains all mourn the loss of the great city, and then an angel throws a boulder into the sea and says “With such violence, the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.” (Ch.18:21b)

Whatchoo Thinking About?

Well sigh. Why does the metaphor of a blasphemous city have to be a CHICK? You’ve got a lot of Roman emperors (like Domitian, who’s the ruling emperor when John’s in exile) who demand to be worshipped as a god. Why can’t the metaphor be a dude?

Because John’s letters don’t make it out from Patmos if there’s any language in them that could be read as slander against the emperor. So let’s make Babylon a CHICK! Why? Because everyone knows a chick has the possibility to be a WHORE, right? Because it’s an easy association, since most pagan religions worshipped at temples where they could have sex with temple prostitutes (even though there were male temple prostitutes as well, but whatever).

You know, you could’ve used animal imagery. There’s already quite a few dragons, and unnamed beasts, sea creatures, horses, and locusts scurrying around Revelation. So why couldn’t it be the great Bear of Babylon? Bruno, the Babylonian Bear, clothed in scarlet and purple, drunk on honey and blood.

They probably have never seen a bear. This is the Middle East we’re talking about. You don’t find bears in the desert.

I joke, but I am kinda sad. Because whenever there’s a metaphor to be written about, especially if it’s a metaphor where someone has gone astray, a lot of writers of the Bible smack the Chick button. As a literary tool, it’s done to death.

I’m not talking about the real women who have real adventures in the Bible. I’m talking about women as metaphors. Revelation also mentions another woman in Chapter 12, a woman who’s obviously meant to be the Virgin Mary. But it’s like, when it comes to literary devices, women are either Virgins or Whores or In Labor (see book of Jeremiah).

There’s just so much more to us, we’re so much more interesting, so much more complicated, to reduce us to broad literary stereotypes. And if this is how men in Biblical times saw women, we’ve come a long long way. Sometimes. No, yes, maybe, depends on what day it is.

It’s just a shame that these particular literary metaphors live on in the Bible, to haunt us still.

What Did You Learn?

Bruno, the Bear of Babylon. That cracks me up. Whenever I see the phrase “Whore of Babylon” from now on, I’m just gonna mentally switch to Bruno the Babylonian Bear. It makes me happy.

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