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Babylon In the New Testament
Babylon Babulon, is used inin at least two different senses:
1. Mesopotamian Babylon:
2. Symbolic Sense:
All the references to Babylon in Re are evidently symbolic. Some of the most important passages are
(1) The characteristics ascribed to this Babylon apply to Rome rather than to any other city of that age:
(a) as ruling over the kings of the earth (
(b) as sitting on seven mountains (
(c) as the center of the world’s merchandise (
(d) as the corrupter of the nations (
(e) as the persecutor of the saints (
(2) Rome is designated as Babylon in the(5 143), and this is perhaps an early Jewish portion of the book. The comparison of Rome to Babylon is common in Jewish apocalyptic literature (see 2 Esdras and the Apocrypha Baruch).
(3) Rome was regarded by both Jews and Christians as being antagonistic to the kingdom of God, and its downfall was confidently expected, This conception is in accord with the predicted downfall of Babylon (
3. In 1 Peter:
(1) That the Egyptian Babylon, or Old Cairo; is meant. Strabo (XVII, 807) who wrote as late as 18 AD, says the Egyptian Babylon was a strong fortress founded by certain refugees from the Mesop Babylon. But during the 1st century this was not much more than a military station, and it is quite improbable that Peter would have gone there. There is no tradition that connects Peter’ in any way with Egypt.
(2) That the statement is to be taken literally and that the Mesop Babylon is meant. Many good scholars hold to this view, and among these are Weiss and Thayer, but there is no evidence that Peter was ever in Babylon, or that there was even a church there during the 1st century. Mark and Silvanus are associated with Peter in the letter and there is no tradition that connects either of them with Babylon. According to Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, ix, 5-9), the Jews at this time had largely been driven out of Babylon and were confined to neighboring towns, and it seems improbable that Peter would have made that his missionary field.
(3) That Rome was the city that was designated as Babylon. The Apocalypse would indicate that the churches would understand the symbolic reference, and it seems to have been so understood until the time of the Reformation. The denial of this position was in line with the effort to refute Peter’s supposed connection with the Roman church. Ancient tradition, however, makes it seem quite probable that Peter did make a visit to Rome (see Lightfoot, Clement, II, 493 ff).
Internal evidence helps to substantiate theory that Rome was the place from which the letter was written. Mark sends greetings (