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Revelation 17

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The study Index page.

     Again. This study is verse by verse, IMAGE by Image, IDEA by Idea, and concept by concept. Which means it is a Marathon.
     We are using sources that John the Apostle and those mentioned as the recipients of the letter, the Seven Churches and other First Century Christians, the majority of which were Jews, would / should / could have been familiar with. We will also reference newer translations and versions of the book, beginning with the 1560 Geneva Bible (the bulk source for the 1611 KJV, which we also use) all the way up to much more current publications, and examinations of the text from various scholars, as well as beginning the analysis of the text from the Greek.
     It should be said here, as we are beginning with the Greek, we are going in remembering that John was writing in an 'apocalyptic' style. It seems many translations have forgotten that and 'moderated' the language.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
- John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton (1834–1902)

Before we start. This section has been the most difficult one yet to get the full flavor of from the original language. Going through it, you get the impression that the translators took the easy way out in several places.
          For what it's worth, we shall not do that.
     And one of the seven angels with the bowls speaks to John and says: “Deuro” (Here) “deixo” ((I'll) show) you the “krima” ('judicial' decision) of the “pornes...”

Time Out for something of a failure of translation and an historical note:
     And here we run into one of those terms that has layers of meaning in the Greek that doesn't translate well into English.
     To explain it, we're going to drop back into history into something called the "pornocracy" also called the “Saeculum obscurum” in Latin, historically the Latin phrase for 'dark age' refers to the century or so in Rome, from around 850 to as late as 1050 AD, and especially the period of 900 or so (possibly beginning with the "Cadaver Synod" where the exhumed body of a dead Pope Formosus was put on trial in 897) on to about 960, where everybody who was anybody was so corrupt the operation of the Vatican, the civil government of Rome, as well as Italy itself, that they all essentially ceased to function in any meaningful way and was only saved after foreign intervention cleaned house, including running one of the worst Popes in history, Benedict IX (he had been installed three times!), out of the country. In the 897 trial Formosus was found guilty (of course) of various crimes and his papacy was vacated in the official record. Other church officials were caught with women who were supposed to be married to somebody else, sent certain enemies to meet Jesus before they would have naturally, and in the case of Benedict 9, sold the office for cash. No, we're not kidding.
     The English word "pornocracy" is from the Greek term for "harlots rule", or something of that nature. In our current case, it is a fair description of the majority of career politicians in the US Government where those in office, as well as those seeking said offices sell their influence, vote, morals, and everything else to get where they want to be. What it boils down to is that not only are they Whores physically, they are idolizing money and power, and they, and everything else, is for sale.
(did somebody just say “bingo”?)
     There is the other implication of the root word “porne” (defilement), there is more than a pinch of greed in the recipe. This is greed to the point of idolatry of worldly goods (not just money). Where the service of self destroys everything it touches, and we come to the line from Mark 8 that also introduced another player in the history of corruption in Rome, Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (more on him in a minute), and introduced a movie made with his birth name as the title (and fits right in with the opening quote for this study):
     “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gaine the whole world, and lose his owne soule?” (1611)
     So the term here is not simply a 'sex worker' from Babylon, it could mean... well, a Washington Politician. And when you read the rest of the section with that in mind, and then on to 'her reward' that makes more sense.
     The earlier translators probably knew this... so why did they put it the way they did? We'll answer that later.
End time out

     “pornes tes megales” (idolater / harlot the great) the one that “kathemenes” (sits prominently) on “hydaton pollon” (waters many),

     with whom “eporneusan” (have practiced - idolatry / unlawful lust (includes fornication)) “basileis” (rulers / sovereigns) of the earth, “emethysthesan” (have become intoxicated) with those inhabiting the earth with the wine of the “pornes” (defilement) of her.

Another time out, this time with an explanation.
     Right about now you may be asking “so, exactly WHAT is going on?” And rightly so.
     The “City of Babylon”, or its modern stand in, is being cast as an attractive idol, made of an intoxicating mix of power, sex, fame, and money which those who rule have sold their, take you pick, soul/own mother/firstborn child/ all of the above, to have a self-serving relationship with.
     Which, when John was writing in the climate in the Empire under Emperor Domitian (who grew up under Nero, his family came to power in 69 “the year of four emperors”, and he was later assassinated by his own court officials), works.
     Keep that in mind.
End time out

     The angel carries John away in “pneumati” (spirit or The Spirit) into the “eremon” (lonely place)...
     1611: “and I saw a woman sit vpo a scarlet coloured beast”
     Another wrong word in the 1611 is 'scarlet', “kokkinon” in Greek is “coccum” in the world of cloth dying, and was originally a purplish-red and was the original 'crimson', something seen on royalty, not on the “Scarlet Letter” which is a bright 'stop sign' red. The color of her 'pony' makes more sense in the next verse when we hear about her uniform of the day.
     ... being full of names of blasphemy...
     The text implies that the beast is 'full of the names', but it could also mean that the woman had the names, or even both, which would be in character with what they represent.
     ... with seven heads and ten horns. Implying that we've met this critter, or a near relative, before in chapter 13 when it comes out of the sea.

     And the woman was clothed in “porphyroun” (purple) and coccum, and “kechrysomene chrysio” (gilded, covered with golden ornaments) and “litho timio kai margaritais” (stones precious and pearls) and holding a “poterion chrysoun” (cup gilded with gold), overfull of “bdelygmaton” (detested and accursed) “akatharta” (impurity / uncleanliness (religious implications)) of the “porneias” of her.
     OK, you have a woman who stole Napoleon's royal robes, holding some of Liberace's tableware, riding on the star of a Midnight Monster Movie, but who takes the list of Seven Deadly Sins as her weekend agenda. Got it.

     She has a name on her forehead, a “mysterion”... If you change out the word “harlots” for “idolaters” the 1611 is good.

And now we'll answer the question from the first time out.
     There is probably a couple of reasons that we can guess as to why the translators used the English words they did.
     The first and least cynical is for simple readability and the flow of the text. One simple and common, although somewhat dramatic word is used to convey a certain level of meaning, even though it misses a good deal of the underlying flavor of the original language.
     We'll skip the middling reasons, such as arguments between members of the 1611 committee which may have led to tie-breaking votes by King James I (who was also King James VI of Scotland) who had, shall we say, some unusual concepts of religious ideas as well as bed partners. See link below for an example.
     The factor we're going to go with scores at least an eight point five on the ten point cynical scale, and fits right in with our premise that the 'turned down the heat' in the book.
     By focusing on sexual immorality (a “pleasure of the body”) instead of the various other practices that come in the package of “Idolatry”, they avoid some of the things that those in the court, including various royals, thought were their 'divine right'. At least a few of the various Popes from before and after the “Saeculum obscurum” broke most of ten of the Commandments before lunch. And we're not even going to discuss Caligula who ruled the Roman Empire from 37 to 41 AD (during the early days of the church, followed by Claudius, then Nero).
     The sin of idolatry is letting anything else get between you and God. That can be anything of this world. It is usually money, but is often other possessions. It can also be intangibles like fame or glory, or even religious practices that focus more on ritual and tradition than God. So it is a lot easier if you're translating a text that you're going to have to preach from to focus on an easily defined and somewhat taboo subject like sex, which those with a certain level of self-righteousness can look smug about, instead of the larger meaning of the words in the original language, which might hit a little too close to home some.
     And it also makes life easier on the so called “princes of the church” in their own gilt palaces who like to walk in procession in their fine robes to their ornate thrones.

“Let them hate me, so they but fear me”
- Caligula
end second time out

     The woman is now “methyousan” (intoxicated) with the “haimatos” (blood) of the “hagion” (those set apart for God / saints) and the “martyron Iesou” (witnesses of Jesus)...
     The 1611 and other translations do John a disservice in the next clause: “And when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration”
     That's not the tone of the Greek. It would be better stated as “and when I saw her, I couldn't believe my eyes.”
     John is seeing the chief idolater in all of history, sit in a wasteland, and celebrate the spilling of the blood of the faithful.
     The language reminds us of Daniel's “Abomination of Desolation” which was referring to the desecration of the temple by pagans. The term is used in chapter 11, but the entire sequence that leads up to it takes several of the previous chapters, and comes to a head in 2 Maccabees 6: 2 when the temple is rededicated to Zeus by the occupying Greeks.

     John's latest tour guide is back, he asks John why he's surprised by what he sees, then the angel says he will explain the mystery of the woman and her steed of choice.

     The angel is speaking.
     The beast “ee kai ouk estin” (was, and is not) and is “mellei” ('about to' or 'intends to') ascend “ek tes abyssou” (out of the abyss) and “eis” (to a time and place 'an appointment') “apoleian” (perishing (eternal ruin)) “hypagei” (depart (as to death)); and will be viewed with “thaumasthesontai” ....

A focus of wonder.
     In 17, both “thauma” and “thaumasthesontai” were translated into English as “wonder”, and “ethaumasas” as “marvel” . While the root word is the same, the implied meaning in the text is somewhat different. And the difference makes a difference in the overall story being told. Such as the difference between 'not believing one's eyes', and 'amazed astonishment and admiration'. Again, we can only suppose the terms used in English were in an effort to make the narrative more readable.
     At least we hope so.
End focus

     ... “thaumasthesontai” ((gape-jawed admiration) stand entranced by) those inhabiting the earth,
     (some translations insert a parenthesis that is not in the Greek)
     whose names are not written in the “biblion tes zoes” (roll of life) from the “kataboles” (conception) of the “kosmou” (world (the root word is for 'cosmos')), when they “bleponton” (perceive / hear about / know about) the beast 'in three time phases'.

     Here is the “nous” (intellect) having “sophian” (wisdom / insight / skill),

Mountainous tangent
     Before we start counting hills, a bit of clarification: Cities built on Seven Hills/Mountains include: Athens, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Moscow, Rome... Seattle. (see link below to the list, there are other cities on it)
     The point here is: Don't jump to conclusions based on the number of hills, like every commentator in history has.
     It was a short tangent.
End tangent
     The seven heads are seven “ore” (mountains / hills) where the woman sits on them. The woman is sitting on seven hills, she is also in a 'lonely place' / wilderness. The implications is that this city is in the middle of nowhere, on seven hills.

     Seven Sovereigns exist / have existed. Period, not comma.
     The “pente epesan” (five are 'fallen'), “ho heis estin” (the one exists), the “allos oupo elthen” (other not yet come); and “hotan elthe” (when they come), “oligon auton dei meinai” (little they 'will' remain).

Pronoun trouble focus:
     While many of the specific pronouns are male or female, such as male angels, the woman in the wilderness, etc. many of the pronouns in Revelation are Neutral (it), or even plural (them). Such is the case here in 17 :10 with the 'ruler yet to come' which is uses a neutral “auton”, “autos” or similar, which can be 'they', which means the coming seventh ruler could be male or female, or a 'committee', or in the case of the beast, an "it".
End focus.

     The beast “was, and is not”, also the “ogdoos” (the eighth) and is of the seventh, and into “apoleian hypagei” (eternal ruin departs / dies).
     The 'beast' will be the eighth ruler, and is a 'heir' one way or another, of the seventh, which... ends badly.

     The 'ten horns' are 'ten rulers' who do not have a 'kingdom' but do have “exousian” (privilege and influence) they get for one hour, as does the beast.
     These 'rulers' do not have any authority that comes naturally, such as the 'king' of a country, but they have some sort of power over people anyway. Something we see in the present day with so called 'social media influencers' and various celebrities who are “famous for being famous”.

     These 'all hat and no cattle' rulers have one “gnomen” (intention / thought) and their own “dynamin” (force / power) and “exousian” they give to the beast.

     These, the rulers, will with the “Arniou” (Lamb) “polemesousin” (fight a battle), and the Lamb will “nikesei” (be victorious / prevail) over them because He is “King of kings and Lord of lords”; and those with Him are the “kletoi” (invited/ called) and “eklektoi” (selected) and “pistoi” (trustworthy / faithful).

     The angel speaks again, the many waters the woman is sitting on are “laoi” (peoples) and “ochloi” (a throng of people / rabble) and are “ethne” (foreign nations) and “glossai” (languages).
     Another explanation. By “rabble” John means that the people consorting with the woman are just people, the “great unwashed” of the world, not the power elites and others who were working for the beast. Which is why “idoltery” makes more sense.

     And the ten horns (the kings without land) and the beast will “misesousin” (detest) the woman, and will make her “eremomenen” (desolate / destitute) and “gymnen” (all but naked (still having underwear)) and her “sarkas” (material / body (flesh)) they will “phagontai” (consume / eat) and her “katakausousin en pyri” (burn up with fire).
     When these politicians have used her up and are done with her, they take everything she has of value, then burn what's left to hide their crime. Essentially: business as usual.

     For “Theos” (GOD) has put into their “kardias” (innermost thoughts / hearts) to do this for His purposes, and his intentions, and to give their kingdoms to the beast until the “telesthesontai” (accomplished) the “logoi” (motives / reasons) of God.

     And the woman is the “polis” (city) “megale” (great) that has “basileian” (rule) over the “basileon” (rulers / kings) of the earth.

End 17

Selected Sources for this chapter:
A downloadable PDF of Erasmus's 1539 translation

The Latin Vulgate:

Is is what it says it is:

Bad Popes and the Saeculum Obscurum

The Year of the Four Emperors:

King James VI and I’s Demonology, 1597:

“Filled with ‘a number of male lovelies’: the surprising court of King James VI and I”:
Full URL:,were%20in%20an%20intimate%20relationship.

Seven Hills:

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages:

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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