Revelation 17:5
Parallel Verses
New International Version
The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the great the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.

New Living Translation
A mysterious name was written on her forehead: "Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World."

English Standard Version
And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

New American Standard Bible
and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."

King James Bible
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
On her forehead a cryptic name was written: BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE VILE THINGS OF THE EARTH.

International Standard Version
On her forehead was written a secret name: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND DETESTABLE THINGS OF THE EARTH

NET Bible
On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: "Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes and of the detestable things of the earth."

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And upon her forehead was written: “Mystery Babylon The Great, The Mother of Harlots and of the Filth of The Earth.”

GOD'S WORD® Translation
A name was written on her forehead. The name was Mystery: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Detestable Things of the Earth.

Jubilee Bible 2000
and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

King James 2000 Bible
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

American King James Version
And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

American Standard Version
and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And on her forehead a name was written: A mystery; Babylon the great, the mother of the fornications, and the abominations of the earth.

Darby Bible Translation
and upon her forehead a name written, Mystery, great Babylon, the mother of the harlots, and of the abominations of the earth.

English Revised Version
and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Webster's Bible Translation
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Weymouth New Testament
And on her forehead was a name written: "I am a symbol of great Babylon, the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth."

World English Bible
And on her forehead a name was written, "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."

Young's Literal Translation
and upon her forehead was a name written: 'Secret, Babylon the Great, the Mother of the Whores, and the Abominations of the earth.'
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

17:1-6 Rome clearly appears to be meant in this chapter. Pagan Rome subdued and ruled with military power, not by art and flatteries. She left the nations in general to their ancient usages and worship. But it is well known that by crafty and politic management, with all kinds of deceit of unrighteousness, papal Rome has obtained and kept her rule over kings and nations. Here were allurements of worldly honour and riches, pomp and pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds. Prosperity, pomp, and splendour, feed the pride and lusts of the human heart, but are no security against the Divine vengeance. The golden cup represents the allurements, and delusions, by which this mystical Babylon has obtained and kept her influence, and seduced others to join her abominations. She is named, from her infamous practices, a mother of harlots; training them up to idolatry and all sorts of wickedness. She filled herself with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. She intoxicated herself with it; and it was so pleasant to her, that she never was satisfied. We cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when we consider these prophecies, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. And let all beware of a splendid, gainful, or fashionable religion. Let us avoid the mysteries of iniquity, and study diligently the great mystery of godliness, that we may learn humility and gratitude from the example of Christ. The more we seek to resemble him, the less we shall be liable to be deceived by antichrist.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 5. - And upon her forehead was a name written. Omit "was." Ὄνομα, "name," is dependent upon ἔχουσα, "having," in ver. 4. This practice was customary with harlots (Juv., 'Sat.,' 6:123; Seneca, 'Controv.,' 1:2). In Revelation 14:1 and Revelation 7:3 the faithful members of God's Church have his Name in their foreheads; here the faithless ones, represented by the harlot, exhibit a spurious imitation. As God's Name marked the former as his, so the name Babylon, etc., marks the latter as belonging to the world (see on Revelation 16:19; 17:5; 18:2). The name consists of the words following, to the end of the verse. MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. The word "MYSTERY" may be

(1) part of the name, standing coordinately with "BABYLON" (Alford, Bleek, Hengstenberg, Vitringa, Wordsworth);

(2) a description of the following title, being thus in apposition with ὅνομα, "name" (Auberlin, De Wette, Dusterdieck, Ebrard);

(3) an adverb used in the same sense as in the last case (Stuart). Whichever view be taken, there can be no doubt that the purpose is to draw attention to the fact which is contained in the following words - a fact which might otherwise be exceedingly difficult to receive. For the rest of the verso asserts that the harlot is Babylon; that is, that the worldly portion of the Church, though nominally Christian, is in reality identical with the world, which is openly antagonistic to God. Indeed, the latter portion of the verse goes even further than this. This faithless (though outwardly Christian) portion of Christ's Church is the mother, that is, the cause of the existence of unfaithfulness to God. So true is it that the professing Christian who is worldly minded does more to cause in others disobedience and unfaithfulness to God, than he who openly declares himself in opposition to God, and even persecutes the faithful; cf. the words to the Church in Laodicea, "I would thou went cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). (On "ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH," see on ver. 4.)

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

And upon her forehead was a name written,.... As the high priest had on his mitre upon his forehead written, holiness to the Lord, Exodus 28:36 only a different inscription from that; the allusion is thought to be to harlots, who not only used to put their names over their doors, but some of them upon their foreheads, that all might know who they were; of which Mr. Daubuz has given proofs out of Seneca, Martial, Juvenal, and Petronius; and such might be said to have an whore's forehead indeed: and this is expressive of the openness and impudence of the church of Rome, in her idolatrous worship; she openly declares it, and pleads for it, and invites and ensnares persons to join with her in it: the name follows,

mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth; her name is "mystery"; not the mystery of godliness, that she dislikes and opposes, but the mystery of iniquity; which is the name antichrist went by in the Apostle Paul's time, when he was but in embryo, 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Some reference may be had to the mystery of the Mass, in which the Papists pretend are the very body and blood of Christ; to their seven sacraments, for wherever almost they find the word mystery, they make a sacrament of that to which it is applied; and to their unwritten traditions, and the sense of the Scriptures, which are locked up in the pope's breast: and it is very remarkable what has been observed by some, that the word "mystery" was formerly upon the frontlet of the pope's mitre, and was removed by Pope Julius the Third, when it was observed that the Protestants made use of this passage of Scripture, and applied it to the Romish antichrist. Joseph Scaliger (l) affirms, that he saw mitres at Rome with this inscription on them. Though others think that this is not any part of the name, but only signifies that this woman was, in a mysterious or mystical sense, called Babylon, &c. just as the great city is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, Revelation 11:8 but to me it seems to be a part of the name, as well as what follows, "Babylon the great"; that is, the great city, Revelation 14:8 by which name the church of Rome may well be called, because of the signification of it, confusion, Genesis 11:9 its doctrine and worship being a confused mixture of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity; and because of the pride and haughtiness of it, its tyranny and cruelty, and its sorceries and idolatry; see Isaiah 14:12.

And the mother of harlots, of all antichristian states and kingdoms; and is different from the heavenly Jerusalem, the Gospel church, which is the mother of true believers, Galatians 4:26 or the "mother of fornications": as some copies read, and the Vulgate Latin and eastern versions render it; that is, the author and encourager of them, as the church of Rome has been; of corporeal fornication, by commanding celibacy, and forbidding marriage to priests, and setting up of brothel houses; and of spiritual fornication or idolatry, everywhere required and encouraged by it: and of "the abominations of the earth"; of abominable doctrines and practices; all manner of wickedness that is to be found in the earth, as murder, adultery, sodomy, perjury, &c. these, with everything that is vile and wicked, are practised and connived at by her.

(l) In Scaligeran.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

5. upon … forehead … name—as harlots usually had. What a contrast to "Holiness to the Lord," inscribed on the miter on the high priest's forehead!

mystery—implying a spiritual fact heretofore hidden, and incapable of discovery by mere reason, but now revealed. As the union of Christ and the Church is a "great mystery" (a spiritual truth of momentous interest, once hidden, now revealed, Eph 5:31, 32), so the Church conforming to the world and thereby becoming a harlot is a counter "mystery" (or spiritual truth, symbolically now revealed). As iniquity in the harlot is a leaven working in "mystery," and therefore called "the mystery of iniquity," so when she is destroyed, the iniquity heretofore working (comparatively) latently in her, shall be revealed in the man of iniquity, the open embodiment of all previous evil. Contrast the "mystery of God" and "godliness," Re 10:7; 1Ti 3:16. It was Rome that crucified Christ; that destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews; that persecuted the early Christians in pagan times, and Protestant Christians in papal times; and probably shall be again restored to its pristine grandeur, such as it had under the Cæsars, just before the burning of the harlot and of itself with her. So Hippolytus [On Antichrist] (who lived in the second century), thought. Popery cannot be at one and the same time the "mystery of iniquity," and the manifested or revealed Antichrist. Probably it will compromise for political power (Re 17:3) the portion of Christianity still in its creed, and thus shall prepare the way for Antichrist's manifestation. The name Babylon, which in the image, Da 2:32, 38, is given to the head, is here given to the harlot, which marks her as being connected with the fourth kingdom, Rome, the last part of the image. Benedict XIII, in his indiction for a jubilee, A.D. 1725, called Rome "the mother of all believers, and the mistress of all churches" (harlots like herself). The correspondence of syllables and accents in Greek is striking; "He porne kai to therion; He numphe kai to arnion." "The whore and the beast; the Bride and the Lamb."

of harlots—Greek, "of the harlots and of the abominations." Not merely Rome, but Christendom as a whole, even as formerly Israel as a whole, has become a harlot. The invisible Church of true believers is hidden and dispersed in the visible Church. The boundary lines which separate harlot and woman are not denominational nor drawn externally, but can only be spiritually discerned. If Rome were the only seat of Babylon, much of the spiritual profit of Revelation would be lost to us; but the harlot "sitteth upon many waters" (Re 17:1), and "ALL nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication" (Re 17:2; Re 18:3; "the earth," Re 19:2). External extensiveness over the whole world and internal conformity to the world—worldliness in extent and contents—is symbolized by the name of the world city, "Babylon." As the sun shines on all the earth, thus the woman clothed with the sun is to let her light penetrate to the uttermost parts of the earth. But she, in externally Christianizing the world, permits herself to be seduced by the world; thus her universality or catholicity is not that of the Jerusalem which we look for ("the MOTHER of us all," Re 21:2; Isa 2:2-4; Ga 4:26), but that of Babylon, the world-wide but harlot city! (As Babylon was destroyed, and the Jews restored to Jerusalem by Cyrus, so our Cyrus—a Persian name meaning the sun—the Sun of righteousness, shall bring Israel, literal and spiritual, to the holy Jerusalem at His coming. Babylon and Jerusalem are the two opposite poles of the spiritual world). Still, the Romish Church is not only accidentally and as a matter of fact, but in virtue of its very PRINCIPLE, a harlot, the metropolis of whoredom, "the mother of harlots"; whereas the evangelical Protestant Church is, according to her principle and fundamental creed, a chaste woman; the Reformation was a protest of the woman against the harlot. The spirit of the heathen world kingdom Rome had, before the Reformation, changed the Church in the West into a Church-State, Rome; and in the East, into a State-Church, fettered by the world power, having its center in Byzantium; the Roman and Greek churches have thus fallen from the invisible spiritual essence of the Gospel into the elements of the world [Auberlen]. Compare with the "woman" called "Babylon" here, the woman named "wickedness," or "lawlessness," "iniquity" (Zec 5:7, 8, 11), carried to Babylon: compare "the mystery of iniquity" and "the man of sin," "that wicked one," literally, "the lawless one" (2Th 2:7, 8; also Mt 24:12).

Revelation 17:5 Additional Commentaries
Context
The Woman on the Beast
4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." 6And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.
Cross References
2 Thessalonians 2:7
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.

Revelation 1:20
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Revelation 14:8
A second angel followed and said, "'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,' which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."

Revelation 16:19
The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.

Revelation 17:1
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters.

Revelation 17:2
With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."

Revelation 17:7
Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.
Treasury of Scripture

And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

upon.

Revelation 7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till …

Isaiah 3:9 The show of their countenance does witness against them; and they …

Philippians 3:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory …

MYSTERY.

2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now lets …

2 Timothy 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come…

BABYLON.

Revelation 11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, …

Revelation 14:8 And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, …

Revelation 16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of …

Revelation 18:2,10,21 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great …

Jeremiah 51:47,48 Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment on the …

THE MOTHER.

Revelation 18:9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived …

Revelation 19:2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he has judged the great …

HARLOTS. or, fornications.

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