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The Hebrew term Abaddon (Hebrew: אֲבַדּוֹן, 'Ǎḇaddōn), and its Greek equivalent Apollyon (Ἀπολλύων, Apollyon), appear in the Bible as a place of destruction and an angel, respectively. In the Hebrew Bible, abaddon is used with reference to a bottomless pit, often appearing alongside the place שאול (sheol), meaning the land of the dead. In the New Testament Book of Revelation, an angel called Abaddon is written as the king of an army of locusts; his name is first transcribed in Greek (Revelation 9:11 – "whose name in Hebrew Abaddon" (Ἀβαδδὼν)), and then translated ("which in Greek means the Destroyer" (Ἀπολλύων, Apollyon)). The Latin Vulgate, as well as the Douay Rheims Bible, has an additional note (not present in the Greek text), "in Latin Exterminans", exterminans being the Latin word for "destroyer".
According to the Brown Driver Briggs lexicon, the Hebrew abaddon (Hebrew: אבדון; avadon) is an intensive form of the Semitic root and verb stem abad (אָבַד) "perish" (transitive "destroy"), which occurs 184 times in the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, renders "abaddon" as "ἀπώλεια," while the Greek Apollyon comes from 'apollumi (ἀπόλλυμι) "to destroy."
The term abaddon appears six times in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible; abaddon means destruction or "place of destruction", or the realm of the dead, and is associated with Sheol.
- Job 26:6: the grave (Sheol) is naked before Him, and destruction (Abaddon) has no covering.
- Job 28:22: destruction (Abaddon) and death say...
- Job 31:12: it is a fire that consumes to destruction (Abaddon)...
- Psalm 88:11: Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave (Sheol) or thy faithfulness in destruction (Abaddon)?
- Proverbs 15:11: Hell (Sheol) and Destruction (Abaddon) are before the LORD, how much more than the hearts of the children of men?
- Proverbs 27:20: Hell (Sheol) and Destruction (Abaddon) are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. (KJV, 1611)
Second Temple Era Texts
The text of the Thanksgiving Hymns – which was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls – tells of "the Sheol of Abaddon" and of the "torrents of Belial [that] burst into Abaddon". The Biblical Antiquities (misattributed to Philo) mentions Abaddon as a place (sheol, hell), not as a spirit or demon or angel. Abaddon is also one of the compartments of Gehenna. By extension, it can mean an underworld abode of lost souls, or Hell.
The Christian scriptures contain the first known depiction of Abaddon as an individual entity instead of a place.
Revelation 9:11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon. KJV, 1611
In Revelation 9:11, Abaddon is described as "The Destroyer", the angel of the abyss, and as the king of a plague of locusts resembling horses with crowned human faces, women's hair, lions' teeth, wings, iron breast-plates, and a tail with a scorpion's stinger that torments for five months anyone who does not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
In the 3rd century Acts of Thomas, Abaddon is the name of a demon, or the Devil himself.
Abaddon is given particularly important roles in two sources, a homily entitled "The Enthronement of Abbaton" by pseudo-Timothy of Alexandria, and the Apocalypse of Bartholomew. In the homily by Timothy, Abbaton was first named Muriel, and had been given the task by God of collecting the earth which would be used in the creation of Adam. Upon completion of this task, the angel was then named to be guardian. Everyone, including the angels, demons, and corporeal entities, felt fear of him. Abbaton engaged in prayer and ultimately obtained the promise that any men who venerated him during their lifetime stood the chance of being saved. Abaddon is also said to have a prominent role in the Last Judgement, as the one who will take the souls to the Valley of Josaphat. He is described in the Apocalypse of Bartholomew as being present in the Tomb of Jesus at the moment of his resurrection.
The symbolism of Revelation 9:11 leaves the exact identification of Abaddon open for interpretation. Matthew Henry (1708) believed Abaddon to be the antichrist, while the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary (1871) and Henry H. Halley (1922) identified the angel as Satan. In contrast, the Methodist publication The Interpreter’s Bible states: “Abaddon, however, is an angel not of Satan but of God, performing his work of destruction at God’s bidding.”
Jehovah's Witnesses also hold that Abaddon is not satanic, but another name of the resurrected and enthroned Jesus Christ, noting that "at Revelation 20:1-3 the angel having “the key of the abyss” is shown to be God’s representative from heaven, and rather than being “satanic,” he binds and hurls Satan into the abyss."
Latter-Day Saints believe that "Abaddon" is a title of the devil.
- "Revelation 9:1 - Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament - Commentaries". StudyLight.org. http://www.studylight.org/com/jab/view.cgi?bk=65&ch=9. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- Metzger & Coogan (1993) Oxford Companion to the Bible, p3.
- "Chapter IV: Moses in Egypt". Sacred-texts.com. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/loj/loj206.htm. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
- "Greek Word Study Tool". Perseus.tufts.edu. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=a%29po%2Flluwn&la=greek. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- "Greek Word Study Tool". Perseus.tufts.edu. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=a)po%252Fllumi&la=greek#lexicon. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- "Revelation 9:11 NIV - They had as king over them the angel of". Bible Gateway. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%209:11&version=NIV. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- "Revelation 9:7-10 NIV - The locusts looked like horses prepared". Bible Gateway. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%209:7-10&version=NIV. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
- Atiya, Aziz S. The Coptic Encyclopedia. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1991. ISBN 0-02-897025-X
- "Gospel Of Bartholomew". Pseudepigrapha.com. http://www.pseudepigrapha.com/LostBooks/bartholomew.htm. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
- Halley (1922) Halley's Bible Handbook with the New International Version, p936.
- William MacDonald (1995) Believer's Bible Commentary, p2366.
- The New Interpreter's Bible: Hebrews - Revelation (Volume 12) by Fred B. Craddock, Leander E. Keck, Luke Timothy Johnson and Christopher Rowland. Abingdon Press, 1998. ISBN 0687278252
- "Abaddon — Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY". Wol.jw.org. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200000007. Retrieved 2014-04-05.
- Watchtower, 1 December 1961, p. 719
- "Abaddon". Lds.org. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/abaddon?lang=eng&letter=a. Retrieved 2014-08-04.
- Metzeger, Bruce M. (ed.) (1993). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- Halley, Henry H. (2000). Halley's Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
- MacDonald, William (1995). Believer's Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.