Where the world comes to study the Bible

Chapter 2: Proposed Solutions

In order to get our bearings, we will begin by surveying the primary interpretive options for the identity of the harlot. Some of these are considered more viable than others at the modern table of academic discussion (and such will be noted when appropriate), but this step should help us to form a well-rounded perspective on how the issue has been handled historically. It should be noted that, to a great extent, one’s choice of referent is tied inherently to one’s approach to the book as a whole (i.e., historicist, futurist, idealist, or preterist); this will become clearer as we proceed.

Furthermore, to get a grasp on the issues at stake in each case this survey will also include a basic introduction to notable difficulties for each position, i.e., weaknesses that should caution us from embracing these options hastily (and some positions, of course, will inherently have fewer apparent weaknesses than others). However, it is not the object of this chapter to accomplish a thoroughgoing critique of all of the views contrary to this thesis. The reason for this is that the very enigmatic nature of apocalyptic writing inevitably creates a situation in which several different interpretations may be made to plausibly fit the evidence. Therefore, much of the argument for the particular position represented by this thesis, rather than being focused on deficiencies in opposing views, will be contingent upon what I perceive to be the balance of the relative weight of evidence in favor of the Jerusalem view vis--vis the other options. In other words, I will try to show that the traditional preterist view makes the most sense of the most facts and on this basis is to be preferred.

The Roman Catholic Church

The first view will we will look at is the idea that the harlot represents Roman Catholicism, a belief that became popular in the days following the Reformation, for obvious reasons. This view is tied closely to the historicist view in general, which sees the Book of Revelation as describing the whole of church history. With the continuing demise of historicism, however, proponents of this interpretation have become few and far between.1 It should nevertheless be recognized that this identification was once quite dominant, and has been held by Jonathan Edwards,2 Adam Clarke,3 E. B. Elliott,4 and a host of others.5 Having said that, we should take note that this position is probably best understood as a natural Protestant outgrowth of the Reformation controversies.

Support for this view has been found in several areas. A key argument would be the nature of the adultery motif, which may imply that the harlot is a character that has at one time been allied with God and has since apostatized, rather than a merely pagan figure.6 In other words, the Apocalypse would be portraying Catholicism as an institution that at one time in history constituted the very people of God, but at some point forsook her God, presumably by corruption and abandonment of the gospel (the primary contentions of the Protestant Reformers).

Moreover, the adornment of the adulterous woman (17:4) has been seen to exemplify pompous worship in Catholicism, or perhaps even the actual colors of the robes of the popes and cardinals.7 Also, the woman’s drunkenness from the saints’ blood (17:6) could be read to align with the Catholic persecution of Protestants throughout history.8

However, despite its strong historical following, there are significant problems with this option. First of all, it is worth noting that the proponents of this view also regard the beast figure of Revelation as a Papal/Catholic symbol. This creates a conundrum for the historicist that will plague some of the other views as well, namely, the relationship between the beast and the harlot. As we will observe below, these two figures are often treated by some as having the same referent, but such a standpoint is difficult to reconcile with Revelation’s portrayal of the two as distinct characters—characters that, moreover, actually war against one another by the end of chapter 17.9

But perhaps the key difficulty for such a position is that it feels suspiciously like a reaction to many commentators’ own contexts. This should give us pause as to whether such interpreters have been more influenced by sound exegesis or historical and theological agendas. Granted, this is not specifically an interpretive problem associated with the text itself on this approach, but it does raise some incriminating “red flags.” All of us, no doubt, read Scripture through the lens of our own struggles and cultural parameters, and it is quite understandable that we should find such polemically loaded interpretation arising in such trying times of religious crisis. Still, even if some alleged evidences can be found in the text itself for this position, it is probably a healthy caution to keep in mind that any of us in any period of history can find apparent prophetic parallels from Scripture relating to our own experiences if we look hard enough. If anything, it may be best to see this view as a possible application of the text via analogy, rather than its strict interpretation. If there are greater strengths to consider in competing views, we can probably feel confident in leaving this one in its own time and moving forward.

Related to this issue is the question of how such a meaning would have had relevance to its original audience. This question must continue to be active in our mind as we survey the major viewpoints. Granted, we cannot always put our full confidence of interpretation in what may or may not have been the understanding of the intended audience, but since the Book of Revelation presents itself as a source of encouragement and blessing to those who were to receive it, it seems unlikely that its contents would be focused on the fall of an ecclesiastical institution centuries away.10 Does it not appear that this interpretation is curiously more comforting to persecuted Protestants of the sixteenth century than to first-century Christians?

Thus, F. F. Bruce sternly comments, “No important contribution to exegesis of Revelation was made by [historicists], whether J. A. Bengel in Germany or Joseph Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, and William Whiston in England—eminent as these exegetes were in other fields of study. The book itself has suffered in its reputation from the extravagances of some of its interpreters, who have treated it as if it were a table of mathematical conundrums or a divinely inspired Old Moore’s Almanack.”11

Perhaps even more devastating is Tenney’s observation: “The historicist view which attempts to interpret the Apocalypse by the development of the church in the last nineteen centuries, seldom if ever takes cognizance of the church outside Europe. It is concerned mainly with the period of the Middle Ages and the Reformation and has relatively little to say of developments after AD 1500.”12

For these reasons, the view that regards Babylon as a symbol for the Roman Catholic Church is largely regarded today, and rightly so, as the least defensible.

Rebuilt Babylon

Some strict futurists see in Revelation the expectation of a renewed Babylonian empire in the eschaton that will dominate the world and persecute the followers of Christ. While a view like this could merely expect a generic future empire in the vein of historic Babylon’s tyranny,13 some writers prefer the simplicity of letting the name stand, and expect an actual revival of Babylon itself on the river Euphrates (most prominently, Robert L. Thomas and Charles Dyer).14 This is, of course, due to adherence to a strict literalism in interpreting prophecy that is not generally regarded very highly among scholars.

Granted, such a view holds the advantage of being the easiest method of deciphering the text, but it is far from a foregone conclusion that Scripture consistently yields itself (especially in prophetic contexts) to the easiest interpretation.15 Moreover, there is obviously little to critique regarding whether this view can fit the details of the description of Babylon, given the fact that it considers Babylon the referent; the consistency is somewhat tautological. Nevertheless, there are serious problems with this position when we consider how this imagery is presented in its context.

First of all, the harlot’s name (or at least the presentation of the character16) is a “mystery” (musthvrion), which should already give us pause regarding a literalistic interpretation. Beale regards the term as describing “a hidden meaning of ‘Babylon the

Great’ that needs further revelatory interpretation.”17 Similarly, Morris remarks, “Mystery will indicate that the significance of the harlot’s name is not open and obvious to all.”18 This is not determinitive for a non-literal assessment of the name, but this approach is strengthened when we consider an earlier passage. Interestingly, in 11:8, we see that “the great city” being discussed in that context can be “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt” (kalei'tai pneumatikw'" Sovdoma kai Ai[gupto").19 This gives a key precedent to symbolically naming a city with the name of an enemy empire of Israel’s past in this book. Moreover, it should be noted that even Robert Thomas is unable to consistently apply a strictly literal hermeneutic in this passage. Amazingly, after arguing that the term “mystery” should not lead us away from a face-value handling of Babylon, he proceeds to claim that, “the ‘seven hills’ can and probably does have a nonliteral meaning… .”20

Dyer runs into problems as well by attempting to press the notion that the Old Testament prophecies declaring that Babylon’s destruction will be permanent (without the possibility of rising again)21 have yet to be realized.22 This requires him to push the limits of technical literalism in addressing texts like Jer 51:26, which warns that Babylon’s stones will not be used again for building. Commenting on this passage he cites evidence that some nearby villagers actually used stones from the city in their homes, thus apparently proving that to some extent Babylon still stands.23 Such hermeneutical maneuvers create more problems than they solve.24

Thus, the major problem with this position is that it fails to adequately address the way the image of the harlot is presented in the passage with regard to apocalyptic style and the general thrust of the rhetoric in terms of audience relevance. This is perhaps most clear from the fact that such a view requires the reader to presuppose the future rebuilding of the empire of Babylon on the Euphrates without any textual indication of such an event, purely on the assumption that the referent is in the distant future—a time when this empire, as history has now shown, would otherwise be a distant memory. In other words, seeing the harlot as a representation of this literal kingdom in the future requires one to posit a future rebuilding, without any warrant from the text (that is, there is no description of a rebuilding or secondary rise anywhere in Revelation itself).25

All in all, this view is attractive if we are seeking easily accessible answers, but it is ultimately unsatisfying in light of the greater complexities of the apocalyptic genre that are now so widely recognized. And, as we have noted, the real issue for our study is not whether or not a case can be made for a given view, but rather whether one particular interpretation seems to have the most evidence that it is the best answer.

Apostate Christianity

The theory that the harlot represents an end-time apostasy of the church (a believing remnant notwithstanding) is similar to the Roman Catholicism view described above, but with less ties to specific historical contexts. William Milligan is probably the most notable representative of this view,26 although Beale and Hamstra have sympathies with it as well.27 Like the Catholicism view, this position relies heavily on the implications of the adultery motif.28 Basically, it accepts the theory that adultery in prophetic terms implies former alliance with God and then casts this theme in a futuristic context. Christianity en masse is thus taken as the group that has defected from its Lord.

The obvious strength of this hypothesis is that it seems to fit well with the themes of the context and yet avoids the arbitrary imposition of a commentator’s own historical setting back onto the text. Still, even this interpretation feels a bit distant from the original audience, and it may not do justice to the detail of imagery John employs in order to hint at the proper solution. Otherwise, there is admittedly little to object to when considering this position exegetically, and it is therefore in my estimation one of the stronger options. My reason for being unpersuaded by this view, as in the case of several others, is not that there is an insurmountably high volume of counter-evidence against it, but rather that the evidence in favor of another position is strong enough so as to displace the other views, rendering them unconvincing by default.

Rome

By far, the majority view among modern scholars is that the Babylonian whore represents first-century Rome. This view is held by prominent commentators Aune29 and Mounce,30 and Beale incorporates elements of it as well.31 Probably the strongest evidence for this interpretation is the well-attested fact that after A.D. 70 Jewish literature often used Babylon as a metaphor for Rome.32 Peter himself could even be identified as one who uses this device (1 Pet 5:13), assuming he is writing from the traditional location of Rome.33 Rome’s world dominance, paganism, and persecution of the saints (all traits of the harlot34) in the first century are a matter of historical infamy. Who else so perfectly fits the title “the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth” (17:18)? Furthermore, who held such great economic sway as that described in chapter 18? The connection is obvious. Especially with the assumption of a late date of the book, Rome, the “city on seven hills,”35 is a prime candidate for Babylon.36

However, there are several problems with this view. First, if the book is more properly dated before A.D. 70 (see below, chap 3), the political and social background for the scene changes, and Rome is no longer the only obvious enemy of the saints.37 We cannot therefore simply assume Rome as the church’s antagonist if the date of the book remains in question. The bigger problem, however, is the relationship between the harlot and the “beast” on which she rides.38 As Gregg remarks, “That the beast from the sea is closely identified with Rome will scarcely be disputed by members of most interpretive schools.”39 This is due largely to the dependence of the image upon Daniel 7 in which the fourth beast/empire that persecutes God’s people40 has, like this beast, ten horns and is noted for its blasphemies.41 The identification of both of these creatures with the Roman Empire seems clearly to be intended.

What then of the harlot? This is a highly underrated difficulty for those who follow the Babylon = Rome interpretation. John seems to be at great pains to distinguish Babylon and the beast as two distinct characters. In 17:3, the woman is depicted as sitting on the beast.42 Verses 11 and 18 specifically interpret the two images as different entities. Moreover, and this is key: in verse 16 the beast, with its ten horns, “will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will devour her flesh and will burn her up with fire.” Thus, the idea that the harlot is merely a recapitulation of the image of the beast is fraught with difficulty, precisely because the two interact. Worse yet, the beast hates and destroys the harlot.

Furthermore, this option, while hitting the mark with regard to relevance for the original audience, makes little connection to the theme of adultery (that is, if this theme is, in fact, related to being at one time allied with God). Rome had always been the enemy of God.

However, this interpretation certainly has its merits, and has convinced most of the academic community. In fact, despite its problems, I tend to think I would personally lean toward this view myself if I were not persuaded of another perspective. Again, the argument of this thesis is not that all other views beside the Jerusalem interpretation are necessarily burdened with overwhelming difficulties, but simply that the reasons to adopt this option sufficiently outweigh those offered for other alternatives.

The Evil World System

One plausible interpretation that carries a lot of weight within the camp of idealism is that Babylon in Revelation simply represents pagan society or forces as a whole, regardless of the age. This allows the idealist to include portions of previous options under the more generic umbrella of “the world.” Representative of this position are Beale43 and Hendriksen,44 as well as a more cautious Hamstra.45 The obvious advantage with this position is its inherent inclusiveness. By its very nature, it can make room for most interpretive requirements, gladly incorporating apparently correct observations from any of the other camps.

While this position is no doubt theologically sound and meaningful, and is certainly attractive in light of its intrinsic “non-falsifiability” (i.e., with this position, one cannot technically be “wrong,” right?), the problem this raises is whether this in and of itself represents a satisfactory understanding of the nature of apocalyptic literature, especially within the canon of Scripture. Of course, we must be cautious of grouping all such literature together, as if second-temple Judaism was less than diverse. But general patterns, most notably in the biblical prophetic tradition, are probably better understood as showing a concern with history, not merely theology.46 Wright has gone to great lengths to contend “[Jews of the period] knew a good metaphor when they saw one, and used cosmic imagery to bring out the full theological significance of cataclysmic socio-political events.”47 Or, as he asserts elsewhere, “It will not do to dismiss … ‘apocalyptic’ [language] as ‘merely metaphorical.’ Metaphors have teeth; the complex metaphors available to first-century Jews had particularly sharp ones, and they could be, and apparently were, reapplied to a variety of scenarios, all within this-worldly history.”48 Various and sundry applications can be drawn from the idealist position, but if the evidence points to a more specific referent in the mind of the author, we should be willing to recognize what may be the more primary emphasis of the images in question.

Jerusalem

Although many students of the Book of Revelation are perhaps not even aware of this position,49 I am persuaded thus far that the many lines of evidence that illuminate our understanding of this mysterious metaphor are best synthesized in the view that the harlot Babylon is intended first and foremost to represent the city of Jerusalem in the first century, being judged by God in her desolation by Rome. Others who share this view include Ford,50 Russell,51 Terry,52 Chilton,53 Gentry,54 and apparently, N. T. Wright.55 I believe this solution can answer the most questions surrounding the text, and that it fits most naturally with the themes of the book and in the ears of the original audience. Moreover, I believe there are several direct hints and clues given by the writer to help the reader properly identify the promiscuous character. We will therefore devote the remainder of this study to examining the evidence regarding this view, beginning with an assessment of its chief objection: the date of Revelation.


1 “Although widely held by Protestant interpreters after the Reformation and into the twentieth century, no critical New Testament scholar today advocates this view” (M. Eugene Boring, Revelation, Interpretation, ed. James Luther Mays [Louisville, KY: John Knox, 1989], 49, [italics mine]).

2 Edward Hickman, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (London: Billing & Sons, 1834), 807.

3 Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, vol. 6 (New York: Abraham Paul, 1823), 617–23.

4 E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, 4th ed., vol. 4 (London: Seeleys, 1851), 24–46.

5 Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli were all also historicists (cf. Steve Gregg, ed. Revelation: Four Views, A Parallel Commentary [Nashville,TN: Nelson, 1997], 34), though I have been unable to find their precise interpretation of this passage.

6 This issue will be discussed more thoroughly in chapter four, as it is heavily pertinent to the argument for this thesis.

7 So Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, 30.

8 Ibid., 31.

9 For more on this, see “Rome” below.

10 No doubt biblical prophecy can sometimes focus on far future events, but if even the themes seem unusually disconnected with the homiletical/applicational ends of the work, perhaps the lack of coherence is cause for skepticism of such an interpretation. That is, a prophecy of the future arrival of the Messiah, for example, would still be relevant to an OT saint hoping for the eventual restoration of Israel. But how will it “bless” first century Christians to know that someday God will judge Roman Catholicism? Maybe a connection could be produced, but it certainly seems much more reasonable that this interpretation reflects the historical interests of those who conceived it, rather than the original message the churches were supposed to hear.

On the other hand, it is admittedly possible that room could be made for this issue in a “multiple fulfillment” approach, in which an earlier fulfillment might meet the criteria for audience relevance, while the Catholic Church would remain as a more distant prophetic object. However, I know of no author that has proposed such a scheme, and moreover, this question would by definition step beyond the bounds of the present investigation, which, as stated in chapter one, aims at the referent intended by the human author for his immediate audience, if such exists.

11 F. F. Bruce, Revelation, The International Bible Commentary, ed. F. F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison, and G. C. D. Howley (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1595.

12 Merrill C. Tenney, “Revelation, Book of the,” in Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1975), 96 (italics mine).

13 It is worth noting that one such variation of this view is that the empire will be linked with some sort of Roman empire revival, perhaps in the form of some great last-days European alliance epitomized in the beast figure. The evidence for such a view would be concordant with that of the “Rome” view, discussed below, but would then be recast in a futuristic context. Thus, Babylon itself becomes either the capital of Antichrist’s empire or a symbol for the worldwide religio-economic power of his rule. This position most often shows up in popular eschatology (e.g., Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming [New York: Bantam, 1975], 189–90; John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible [Nashville, TN: Word, 1997], 2015–17). However, see also John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1966), 240–41.

14 E.g., Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 307; Charles H. Dyer, “The Identity of Babylon in Revelation 17–18,” Bibliotheca Sacra 144 (1987): 305–16, 433–49; also, J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ, 10th ed. (New York, NY: Cook, 1909), 397–400; G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (London: Oliphants, 1945), 299–305.

15 Cf. 2 Pet 3:16, which explicitly claims that Paul’s letters are “hard to understand” (δυσνόητά). The point here is simply that, contrary to some popular notions that interpretation should be done from a plain, surface-reading perspective because God would not make his word hard to understand, the scriptures themselves express that some portions are in fact hard to understand, and we cannot therefore assume that the “easy” path is the correct one; see also Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1991), 227–32; Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1993), chaps. 2–3; Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, chap. 10.

16 See G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 858.

17 Ibid., 859.

18 Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 200.

19 The rendering of the term pneumatikw'" as “spiritually” is intentionally literal in translation for the sake of interpretive neutrality. Other translations, however, make the point more sharply, e.g., the NET Bible, which actually opts for “symbolically.”

20 Thomas, Revelation, 289.

21 These include Jer 28:39; 50:39–40; 51:24–6, 62–4; Isa 13:19–22.

22 Dyer, “Identity of Babylon,” 444–46.

23 Ibid, 446–49.

24 For further discussion of the hermeneutical difficulties of this view, see Beale, Revelation, 829–30.

25 The future Rome view only fares worse: in this case, this rebuilding idea would be even more of a stretch for the original hearers than for those of us who have the benefit of the subsequent historical record; since Rome was still standing and dominant, they would have to assume (again, without any word from John) both the idea that the empire was going to fall, and the idea that it would rise again, only to fall again!

It might be objected that we have a similar phenomenon in the gap between the advents of Christ, unforseen before the New Testament. But this is precisely the issue. The New Testment actually reveals a future coming of Christ—it is not merely assumed. There is no rebuilding of “Babylon” revealed at any point in the Apocalypse. It is certainly not impossible, but it is absent from the text, though central to such an interpretation. This argument from silence cannot disprove the theory, but it should raise suspicions against it.

26 However, while he sees this as the ultimate reality of the image (William Milligan, The Book of Revelation [New York: Armstrong, 1903], 904), he considers the archetype present in John’s mind to specifically be Jerusalem (ibid., 289–315), for which see below, chapter four.

27 Beale, Revelation, 884; Sam Hamstra Jr., “An Idealist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, ed. C. Marvin Pate (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 117–18.

28 Beale, Revelation, 884–85.

29 David E. Aune, Revelation 17–22, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce M. Metzger et al., vol. 52c (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1998), 959.

30 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed., New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 308.

31 Beale, Revelation, 886. Other works that take this view include R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John, vol. 2, International Critical Commentary, ed. S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), 75; Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, 3d ed. (London: Macmillan, 1911), 226; G. B. Caird, The Revelation of Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henry Chadwick (London: Black, 1966), 213; Moses Stuart, A Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. 2 (New York: Newman, 1845), 322.

32 Cf. 4 Ezra 3:1–2, 28–31; 2 Apoc. Bar. 10:1–3; 11:1; 67:7; Sib. Or. 5.143.159–60.

33 See discussion in Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, rev. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1990), 794.

34 Cf. 17:18, 17:4, and 17:6, respectively for these characteristics.

35 This was well-known nomenclature for Rome (cf. Caird, Revelation, 216; cf. Rev 17:9).

36 Some commentators, so confident that this position has long been established as correct, simply assume it with little or no argumentation: e.g., Mounce: “The prostitute is Rome” (Revelation, 308); also, Aune: “While ‘the great city’ is applied to Jerusalem in 11:8, in Rev 17–18 the phrase ‘the great city’ refers clearly to Rome” (Revelation, 959, italics mine).

37 The other primary option, the Jewish leadership, will of course become the focus of this thesis in chapter four.

38 Cf. Rev 13; 17:3.

39 Gregg, Revelation, 276.

40 The first three are usually understood as historical Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece.

41 Cf. Dan 7:7, 25.

42 Which accounts for why she is sitting on the seven hills/mountains. These are associated with the seven heads, which fits perfectly with the idea that the adulteress is riding on the back of the beast, not identifiable with it (so J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 38 [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975], 280 [proposing that the relationship involves mutual favors between local rulers and foreign powers]; David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation [Tyler, TX: Dominion, 1987], 436, n. 14). However, note Beale’s caution that it may be better to take o[ro" here in its normal sense in the Apocalypse, i.e., that of a mountain, not a hill. From this view, the mountain imagery represents strength, specifically that of kings/kingdoms (this being common symbolism in the OT as well as other Jewish writings), and therefore we are simply revisiting the “seven heads” idea (Beale, Revelation, 868). Either way, it is far from necessary to conclude with Swete that, “No reasonable doubt can be entertained as to the meaning of these words [considering that] the Seven hills of Rome were a commonplace with the Latin poets” (Swete, Apocalypse, 220). Moreover, Jewish parallels to this sort of “seven mountains” language may clarify the matter further (see below, chapter four, under “The city on seven hills”).

43 Beale, Revelation, 885–86; it should be noted, however, that Beale does want to recognize some connection of the book of Revelation with historical events, at least in so far as they are related to the ultimate establishing of Christ’s kingdom with the last judgment. For this reason he prefers to describe his position as a “redemptive-historical form of modified idealism,” or “eclecticism” (a far more manageable term) rather than simple “idealism” (p. 48).

44 William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1944), 200–202.

45 Hamstra, “An Idealist View of Revelation,” 117.

46 While a satisfactory evaluation of the debate surrounding apocalyptic literature would presently take us too far afield, it should be understood that the perspective on apocalypticism discussed in chapter 1 (see chap. 1, n. 8 for sources providing further discussion) informs this point of the argument.

47 N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, vol. 1, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 333.

48 N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2, Christian Origins and the Question of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 321–22, italics mine.

49 And many commentators do not adequately address it, even if they are aware of it; cf. Mounce, Revelation, 308, who gives it only a passing reference in a single footnote: “Ford tries to build a case for Jerusalem rather than Rome as the harlot of Rev 17, but without much success.”

50 Ford, Revelation, 54–59, 93, 259–307.

51 J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming (London: Unwin, 1887), 482–98.

52 Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1898), 426–39.

53 Chilton, Days of Vengeance, 421–66.

54 Kenneth L. Gentry, “A Preterist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, ed. C. Marvin Pate (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 73–79.

55 Who makes an interesting comment in a footnote in Jesus and the Victory of God (regarding what he perceives to be an underlying theme of the Olivet Discourse): “This conclusion [that Babylon’s ultimate fall as predicted by the prophets occurs in A.D. 70] may be held by some to carry implications for the reading of Rev 17–19, where some recent commentators have suggested that the great and wicked city is not Rome but Jerusalem. I have discovered that this suggestion arouses anger in some circles, which is not explained simply as annoyance at an exegetical peculiarity… . What is at stake here, and for whom?” (Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 358, n. 141). This, of course, may be a point of great importance: anti-Semitism is a charge quite frequently leveled in modern theological debate. It may in fact be that we have not yet begun to discern the extent to which New Testament studies have been impacted by nobly motivated biases left over from the aftermath of Auschwitz’ terrors. Could it be that some modern scholars are hesitant to advocate a view such as the one presented in this thesis because it inherently sounds disturbingly anti-Semitic?

Also, other representatives of the Babylon = Jerusalem view include A. J. Beagley, The ‘Sitz im Leben’ of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Church’s Enemies (New York: de Gruyter, 1987), 93–102; Eugenio Corsini, The Apocalypse: The Perennial Revelation of Jesus Christ, trans. & ed. Francis J. Moloney (Wilmington, DE: Gazier, 1983), 313–30; Cornelius Vanderwaal, Search the Scriptures: Hebrews—Revelation, vol. 10 (St. Catherines, ON: Paideia, 1979), 79–111; Keith Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1999), 152–54; Iain Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 From an Old Testament Perspective,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 64 (1996), 81–100; Philip Carrington, The Meaning of the Revelation (New York: Macmillan, 1931), book 6.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)