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.

Revelation 9:11 (NIV):

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).

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?


Your observation that the NIV capitalises the word “Abyss” is interesting, because none of the other Bible translations I have looked at say “Abyss”. Instead, they refer to “the bottomless pit”. Examples:

Revelation 9:11 NWT: They have over them a king, the angel of the abyss. In Hebrew his name is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon.

Revelation 9:11 KJV: 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.

Revelation 9:11 ESV: They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.

Revelation 9:11 NLT: Their king is the angel from the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon –the Destroyer. Notes: The king of the locusts is identified in three ways: (1) as the angel from the bottomless pit (probably different from the fallen star, in Revelation 9:1, who unlocked the abyss rather than coming from it); (2) as Abaddon (“destruction”), often paired with death (see Job 28:22; Psalm 88:11), and (3) as Apollyon – the destroyer (see 1 Corinthians 10:10). There is also a connection with the Roman emperor Domitian, whose patron god Apollo was symbolized by the locust.

The NIV capitalises the name “Abyss” in Luke 8:31 and in the 8 places where the name appears in Revelation. In Romans 10:7 it uses the expression “the deep”.

The NWT uses the word “abyss” in Luke 8:31, Romans 10:7, Revelation 9:1, 11; 11:7; 17:8; and 20:3. The word is never capitalised.

The KJV uses the expression “the deep” in Luke 8:31 and in Romans 10:7. Elsewhere, in Revelation, the KJV uses the expression “the bottomless pit”.

Given that the NIV appears to be the only translation that capitalises the word “abyss” perhaps we need to find out why the NIV says “Abyss” when other translations say “the bottomless pit.”

As has already been pointed out, a person’s name (such as Abaddon, Apollyon, Domitian, Apollo) demands capitalisation. Places that are not proper nouns, such as “the bottomless pit” or “the deep” are written in lower-case. It therefore seems reasonable to apply that rule to “the abyss”.

Likewise, to say “the angel” is correct. If the Bible gives a name to an angel (for example, Michael or Gabriel) then it would still be correct to say “the angel Michael” or “the angel Gabriel” because there are millions of angels. Angels are not unique. But names are.

Why the NIV is the exception to that rule concerning "the abyss", I cannot say.

  • 1
    The Berean Study Bible also does it. I believe they are the only two translations to do so. The only thought I can think of as to why is that they treat the Abyss as a proper name of a location.
    – Ken Graham
    May 15 at 14:35

Should the “angel of the abyss” be capitalized?

Only in those translations that dream the the Abyss to be the proper name of the bottomless pit.

Only the Berean Study Bible and the New International Version actually do so.

The only thought I can think of as to why is that they treat the Abyss as a proper name of a location.

As for the word angel, it is correct as stands.


But here are the main principles:

jobs all lc, eg prime minister, US secretary of state, chief rabbi, editor of the Guardian.

titles cap up titles, but not job description, eg President Barack Obama (but the US president, Barack Obama, and Obama on subsequent mention); the Duke of Westminster (the duke at second mention); Pope Francis but the pope.

As mentioned before if the translators deem the abyss to be a proper name of a place, then yes it could be capitalized. Most translations do not do so in this instance.

For Proper Nouns

Proper nouns name something specific, for example, Jane, John, Oxford University, Denver, Qantas, Microsoft, Everest, Sahara.

Proper nouns (nearly) always start with a capital letter. There are exceptions to this rule and in marketing sometimes lower-case characters are purposefully used for some proper nouns. Examples include iPhone, eBay and oneworld Alliance. However, in most cases, proper nouns start with a capital letter.

Caution is needed however, even when you are referring to a specific place or thing. If you use the more general noun rather than the proper noun, this should not be capitalised.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.