Content Warning: There’s gonna be some discussion of a modern-day prominent religion in a format differing from the usual online treatment of these points. Please don’t be offended.
In my time running Life In Plastic, I admit that I have kind of used the column as a bully pulpit to go on about mythology, ’cause there are mythology toys. I have discussed demons, deities, signs of the Zodiac, Japanese Yokai, and all sorts of other things. So today, I’m stumbling onto something pretty big: BIBLICAL PROPHECY. Or rather, “I found out about this figure, couldn’t believe that somebody made it, and AHAHAHAHA IT’S A TOY OF THE WHORE OF BABYLON!!!!!”
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am protestant Christian, and pretty faithful and active. I generally keep it out of my toy reviews because… well, they’re toy reviews. Also, I’m good at discussing things in person, but rotten online, and I try to keep myself out of situations where I would act like a jackass. But see, the subject matter of this one is based on my home turf, so to speak. I’m not going to be preachy in an inappropriate way (again: toy column), but to be frank, I’m gonna treat Revelation like it’s inspired Scripture. And yes, I know that some folks are sharpening their typing fingers, ready to “defeat” me with massive atheism… and other people are sharpening their typing fingers, ready to assault me with “Your eschatology is wrong! You’re not MY kind of Christian!” C’mon, be civil. If you want to debate or discuss, contact me privately and friendly-like, mmkay? If you just don’t want to read religious stuff, then look at the first few and last paragraphs of this for toy stuff. I clearly mark it. Thanks. Okay, back to the toy.
Mother Harlot comes from the Shin Megami Tensei game series, which uses stuff from EVERY religion and mythology, because in Japan, they don’t feel offended at stuff. Seriously. YHWH is one of the “monsters”, and… yeah. Meanwhile, there are a few figures of some of the monsters – this one was made by FuRya, and is solid (not hollow) vinyl, in roughly 5″ scale (if the Harlot were standing, she’d be 4 1/2″), and comes in afew pieces – the wings, tail, and Harlot are removable, though her cup is not, unfortunately – that’s a fragility point. It usually retails for like $60-$70, but I found mine for under half that, Under half! So, let’s look at the passage in question – Revelation 17 and 18 are where the infamous Whore of Babylon makes her appearance. The relevant parts of 18 basically just say “She’s gonna get judged, as will all the nations who followed her! Repent!(summary),” the meat of the description is in 17. Here it is in the New International Version:
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. 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 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. 5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH
6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. 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. 8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. 11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. 18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
Okay. There have been lots of interpretations of this – literal Rome (seven heads = seven hills = seven hills of Rome), or the Roman Catholic Church, or a whole host of other things. Also of note is that the Scarlet Beast looks exactly like the “Beast from the Sea” earlier – i.e. The Beast i.e. The Antichrist.
The Beast has been interpreted in a bajillion ways – maybe a committee, or one guy, or the UN, or the EU, or a bunch of religions, or who knows what. This is a running theme in Jewish prophecy – it’s hard to figure out until later, when it makes sense. Daniel has the famous Alexander the Great prophecy, which looks like it’s about goats and super-long horns, but it matches Alexander’s career and his successors.
So, some people have argued that the Beast the Harlot sits on is different from the other one because its color is different and because it’s described separately, but to be honest, I’m 99.9% certain they are meant to be the same symbol.
See, this has to do with the genre of literature that Revelation falls into – Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Ancient Jewish prophecy is a thing that existed for a while. There are several examples in the Bible, and a veritable boatload of them outside of it, too. When ancient Jews wrote prophecy, they followed certain literary rules. So did lots of early Christians. The genre died out at roughly the time that JErusalem fell in AD 70. But in the two millennia since, we’ve sort of had to rediscover these other works of literature via archeology, as well as commentaries talking about them. And we have input our own modern, western, white-honky perspectives into them. And look, guys. It’s cool being in America, but we WHITE AMERICAN DUDES do not have the same mentality as ANCIENT HEBREWS. We dont think in the same way. This isn’t always an issue, but when it is (see also: Biblical geneologies), it is significant. Jewish Apocalyptic Prophecy is a huge biggie, because frankly, it’s not written in ways we are used to. Concerning the Beast Vs. Beast…
Jewish Apocalypticism tended to repeat the same events or illustrations multiple times, only changing some stuff around to make a point. They would even swap chronology – the source of the big rapture debate is the fact that one passage says “The righteous are taken, and the wicked left behind,” another says “the wicked are taken, and the righteous left behind,” and ANOTHER says, “They are all taken.” But going by the rules of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, this is all totally normal – one illustration emphasizes that the righteous are taken. Another judgement. yet another the eventual fate of us all. Prophecy isn’t meant to be treated as a straight-up historical timeline. So what if one beast is red and the other isn’t? The Scarlet Beast, who in every other way is identical to the main Beast, has a big prostitute sitting on him. And what’s the color associated with prostitutes? Red. And that’s why he’s red, folks!
And confusing the issue more is the fact that a lot of apocalyptic prophecy relates things to the modenr day – the Number of the Beast is a thinly-veiled Nero reference, which inspires some people to say, “The whole thing was about Nero!” Well, no. it’s saying that the beast will be LIKE Nero. I’m real sorry, but Preterism doesn’t pan out. So, what’s the solution to take from this? There’s some super-plainly-stated and explained stuf in Revelation, mostly to give hope for the ultimate end of everything (like in these pictures – the Beast being tossed into Hell and all). The really surreal stuff is meant to be interpreted when it’s right there in front. And don’t forget, Jesus’s last words to His disciples were “You are NOT supposed to know the times and places/dates and locations exactly! So stop speculating!” So yeah, this kind of ruins the whole eschatology/prophecy debate right there. I’m not exactly a Left Behind fan. heh heh heh.
Okay, RELIGIOUS DISCUSSION IS OVER, and now back to the toy! This is a really well-done figure. It’s solid, mostly sturdy, though I would watch certain spots – that cup worries me, and mine came with some damage to one of its crowns – and it’s destined to be one of the centerpieces in my religion mythology collection. This is the. Freaking. Whore. Of. Babylon. On the Beast! INSANE! If you like any of the stuff that’s in my collecting hobbyhorse – seriously, you guys know I love this sort of obscure stuff – then yeah, I would recommend this figure. Even my roommate was impressed. My cat, however, was terrified.
…You know, that just might have been the correct response.
(okay, she was just yawning)