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I am discussing the doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses concerning the identity of Abaddon in Revelation 9:11. The names of persons (e.g. Matthew, Mark, and Luke) along with words that are part of certain titles (e.g. Michael the Archangel, John the Baptist, and Satan the Devil) are capitalized since they are proper nouns. However, some Bible translations render the term "angel of the Abyss" with a capital "A" in lieu of a lowercase "a" like in other translations.

Rev. 9:11
11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

I find it quite difficult to discern if it warrants capital "A's". Is it a title? Some translators also opt to use a capital "A" when referring to the abyss such as in Luke 8:31 (NIV). Nevertheless, I am not sure if the abyss is specified. Should it be rendered as "angel of the abyss", "Angel of the Abyss", or some other rendering?

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2 Answers 2

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There is no definitive answer to this question. It will be a matter of interpretation.

First, the distinction between small and capital letters did not exist when Revelation and the other NT documents were written. Here is a quote from Zondervan Academic, one of many online resources that are available:

Originally the Bible was written in all capital letters without punctuation, accent marks, or spaces between the words. John 1:1 began, ΕΝΑΡΧΗΗΝΟΛΟΓΟΣ. Capital letters, or “majuscules,” were used until the sixth century A.D. (“Uncials” are a form of capital letters.) “Cursive” script is like our handwriting where the letters are joined together and is also called "minuscule." Cursive script was created before the time of Christ but became popular in the ninth century A.D. In Greek texts today, John 1:1 begins, ̓Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος.1

This means that any decision about capitalising words in English translations of the NT will be a matter of policy and interpretation. And indeed, that is what we see in the various English translations of Revelation 9.11. Consider these examples:

  1. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abad′don, and in Greek he is called Apol′lyon. (RSV)
  2. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer). (NIV)
  3. They have over them as king the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon. (ASV)

The Greek word is ἄβῠσσος. The NIV and ASV have both translated this as 'abyss', which is effectively a transliteration of the letters rather than the translation. On the other hand the RSV has translated the idea of the word, and so has 'bottomless pit'. As to capitalisation, you can see that the NIV and ASV, two reputable translations, have taken different views on the issue. I am unable to find explicit policy statements by the translators, but it is likely that in this example the difference simply reflects a difference as to how specific the word 'abyss' is. For example, "I travelled north" is not capitalised, whereas "I travelled to the North Pole" is. The difference here is between general and specific meanings of the word. This all comes back to the interpretations of individual translations.

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There are actually two angels associated with the abyss in the book of Revelation:

Rev 9

This angel of the abys is described as follows:

  • V1 - the star has fallen from heaven (compare Luke 10:8 where Jesus describes Satan the same way!). Compare Rev 12:9, 13.
  • V1 - it is called a "star" (compare rev 9: 11 and Rev 1:20 - an angel)
  • V1 - the angel is given the key to abyss
  • V2 - the angel opens the abyss
  • V3-10 - this unleashes the locust hoard who torment the righteous who have the seal of God on their foreheads (V4)
  • V11 - the angel is called in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek it is Apollyon, which both mean "destroyer". This is probably in contrast to the Creator, Rev 4:11, 10:6.

Many, including the Pulpit commentary, have suggested that:

"The angel" evidently, points to the star of ver. l, who is Satan himself.

Rev 20

In complete contrast, the other angel of the Abyss is described this way:

  • V1 - "came" from heaven as distinct from "fallen" from heaven
  • V2, 3 - seized the dragon and chained him up in the abyss (a very powerful angel indeed!)
  • V3 - this angel has authority to keep the dragon imprisoned in the abyss for 1000 years.

These two angels are distinct and described in different ways.

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    My question is concerning the punctuation of the term “angel of the abyss”, not the identity of the angel. I asked if the term is a proper noun that should be capitalized.
    – Tyconius
    May 15, 2021 at 0:04

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