Revelation 17

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Revelation 17
Papyrus 47 Rev 13,16-14.4.jpg
Revelation 13:16-14:4 on Papyrus 47 from the third century.
Book Book of Revelation
Category Apocalypse
Christian Bible part New Testament
Order in the Christian part 27

Revelation 17 is the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle,[1][2] but the precise identity of the author remains a point of academic debate.[3] This chapter describes the judgment of the Whore of Babylon ("Babylon the Harlot").[4]


The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 18 verses.

Textual witnesses

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:[a]

The vision of the harlot (17:1–6a)

After appeared only briefly in Revelation 14:8 and 16:19, Babylon is given full description in this part.[6]

Verse 1

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying [to me], “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,"[7]

The words "to me" do not appear in Codex Alexandrinus or in the Vulgate translation.[9]

Verse 2

with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”[10]

Lutheran Pietist theologian Johann Bengel notes a parallel with Tyre, which "committed fornication with the kingdoms of the earth" in Isaiah 23:17-18.[11]

Verse 5

A 1523 woodcut by Hans Burgkmair, for Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament, depicting the Whore of Babylon riding the seven-headed Beast (a hand-coloured copy)
And on her forehead a name was written:

The King James Version, New King James Version, and Young's Literal Translation (1862) include the word 'mystery' (or 'secret' - YLT) within her title, but in many other English translations the word is descriptive of the name: "a name that has a secret meaning" (Good News Bible).[13]

Verse 6

I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.[14]

This verse contains two descriptions of Christians which seem to refer to the same group (not two groups) of people.[15]

The interpretation of the harlot (17:6b–18)

In response to John's astonishment at the vision of the harlot, an interpretation is given as much about the beast as about the harlot, because 'her fate is closely related to the career of the beast'.[6]

Verse 8

The beast, which you saw, was, and is not, and is to ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to destruction. Those who dwell on the earth whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world will marvel when they see the beast that was, and is not, and is to come.[16]

Whereas one of Revelation's key designations for God is the term 'the one who was and who is and who is to come' (1:4, 8), in this verse the beast is twice described in a similar term, but with the significant different in the middle which is negative: 'is not', because unlike God, the beast is not eternal and his second coming "will prove a fraud" and "go to destruction".[15]

Verse 9

Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.[17]
  • "Seven mountains": The definition of the mountains with the seven heads makes an unequivocal identification with Rome, 'which is famous for its seven hills'.[15]

Verse 10

There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.[18]
  • "Seven kings": is better to be recognized as the number of completeness, because the attempts to use this passage to identify the ruling Roman emperor when the Book of Revelation was written fail due to the impossibility to know 'from which emperor the counting should begin or whether all emperors should be counted'.[15] It represents 'the complete sequence of kings', but not yet quite at the end because there is 'one short reign' still to come.[15]
  • "A short time": or "a little while": is 'the conventional period of eschatological imminence' (cf. 6:11; Heb 10:37).[15]

Verse 11

The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.[19]
  • "Perdition": or "destruction".[20]

Verse 16

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.[21]

See also


  1. ^ The Book of Revelation is missing from Codex Vaticanus.[5]


  1. ^ Davids, Peter H (1982). I Howard Marshall and W Ward Gasque (ed.). New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle of James (Repr. ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. ISBN 0802823882.
  2. ^ Evans, Craig A (2005). Craig A Evans (ed.). Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: John, Hebrews-Revelation. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor. ISBN 0781442281.
  3. ^ F. L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 45
  4. ^ Bauckham 2007, p. 1289.
  5. ^ Claremont Coptic Encyclopaedia, Codex Vaticanus, accessed 29 September 2018
  6. ^ a b c Bauckham}2007, p. 1300.
  7. ^ Revelation 17:1 NKJV
  8. ^ Meyer, H., Meyer's NT Commentary on Revelation 17, accessed 3 December 2018
  9. ^ Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Revelation 17, accessed 3 December 2018
  10. ^ Revelation 17:2 NKJV
  11. ^ Bengel, A., Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament on Revelation 17, accessed 3 October 2019
  12. ^ Revelation 17:5 NKJV
  13. ^ Revelation 17:5: Good News Translation
  14. ^ Revelation 17:6 NKJV
  15. ^ a b c d e f Bauckham 2007, p. 1300.
  16. ^ Revelation 17:8 MEV
  17. ^ Revelation 17:8 MEV
  18. ^ Revelation 17:10 NKJV
  19. ^ Revelation 17:11 NKJV
  20. ^ Note [a] on Revelation 17:11 in NKJV
  21. ^ Revelation 17:16 NKJV
  22. ^ Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Revelation 17. Accessed 28 April 2019.


  • Bauckham, Richard (2007). "81. Revelation". In Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). The Oxford Bible Commentary (first (paperback) ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 1287–1306. ISBN 978-0199277186. Retrieved February 6, 2019.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gill, John. Exposition of the Entire Bible (1746-1763).

External links

  • Revelation 17 King James Bible - Wikisource
  • English Translation with Parallel Latin Vulgate
  • Online Bible at (ESV, KJV, Darby, American Standard Version, Bible in Basic English)
  • Multiple bible versions at Bible Gateway (NKJV, NIV, NRSV etc.)
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