Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Kathryn MaddenEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_4

Origins and Images of the Abyss

Abyss from the Greek abyssos typically signifies a bottomless or boundless deep. The abyss appears in biblical tradition in several related senses. In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 1:2, abyssos relates to the Hebrew tĕhōm, which most likely stems from the Babylonian Tiāmat, a personification of the primordial deep of waters existent before the creation of the world (NRSV). In Babylonian mythology, Tiāmat as the primal sea was personified as a goddess (Jacobsen 1968, pp. 104–108) and also as a monstrous embodiment of elemental chaos (Dalley 1987, p. 329).

The Egyptian worldview had a similar concept in Nun. Nun referred to the primeval water that encircles the entire world and, from which everything was created, personified as a god. In contrast to Tiāmat’s goddess, feminine nature, Nun was considered to be an ancient god, the father of all the gods, which refers to his primacy rather than literal parentage (Lindemans 2000).

Abyss became identified with Sheol...

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for the PsychotherapiesNew YorkUSA