This is the RV rendering of the word ἄβυσσος which occurs in Lk 8:31, Ro 10:7, Rev 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3. In Lk. and Rom. AV translates ‘deep’; in Rev., ‘bottomless pit’—no distinction, however, being made between τὸ φρέαρ τῆς ἀβύσσου in 9:1, 2 (RV ‘the pit of the abyss’) and ἡ ἄβυσσος simply in the remaining passages (RV ‘the abyss’). ἄβυσσος (from α intens. and βυσσός, Ion. βυθός, ‘the depth’) occurs in classical as an adj. moaning ‘bottomless,’ but in biblical and Greek almost invariably as a substantive denoting ‘the bottomless place,’ ‘the abyss.’ The word is found frequently in the LXX, usually as a rendering of the Heb. tehôm, and primarily denotes the water-deeps which at first covered the earth ( 1:2, Ps 103 (104):6) and were of as shut up afterwards in subterranean storehouses (32 (33):7).

In Job 38:16f. the abyss in the sense of the depths of the sea is used as a parallel to ; and in 41:23 () the sea-monster regards the Tartarus of the abyss as his captive. In Ps 70 (71):20 ‘the abyss’ is applied to the depths of the earth, and is here evidently a equivalent for Sheol, though it is nowhere used in the LXX to render the Heb, word. In the later , where Sheol has passed from its OT of a shadowy under world in which there are no recognized distinctions between the good and the bad, the wicked and the weary (cf. Job 3:17, Ec 9:5), and has become a sphere of definite moral retribution, the conception of the abyss has also undergone a moral .

The Ethiopian Book of is especially suggestive for the development of the eschatological conceptions that appear in pre-Christian ; und in the earliest part of that book the fallen and demons are represented as cast after the final into a gulf (χάος) of fire (10:13, 14), while in 21:7 the chasm (διακοπή) filled with fire (cf. τὸ φρέαρ in Rev 9:1, 2) is described as bordered by the abyss. Apparently the abyss was conceived of as the home of the devil and his angels, in the centre of which was a lake of fire reserved as the place of their final punishment.

The previous of the word explains its use in the NT. In Ro 10:7, where he is referring to 30:13, St. uses it simply as the abode of the , Sheol or Hades—a sense equivalent to that of Ps 70 (71):20. In Lk 8:31 the penal aspect of the abyss comes clearly into view: it is a place of confinement for demons. In Rev. we are in the midst of the visions and images of eschatology. In 9:1, 2 ‘the pit of the abyss’ sends forth a smoke like the smoke of a great . The abyss has an angel of its own whose name is Abaddon (q.v.) or Apollyon (v. 11). From it ‘the beast’ issues (11:7; 17:8), and into it ‘the old serpent which is the Devil and ’ is cast for a thousand years (20:1–3).

Literature.—The Commentaries and Dictionaries; art. ‘Abyss’ in ERE.

C. Lambert.

RV Revised Version.

AV Authorized Version.


q.v. quod vide, which see.

art. article.

ERE Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.

Lambert, J. C. (1916-1918). Abyss. In J. Hastings (Ed.), Dictionary of the Apostolic (2 Vols.) (J. Hastings, Ed.) (1:11-12). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *