ABRAHAM’s BOSOM (κολπος, κολποι, ̓Αβρααμ). A figure of speech used by Jesus in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (
The figure is drawn from the ancient eastern banqueting custom of reclining upon one’s side on couches at the meal. The configuration of the gathered company was such that the head of one would reach the chest of the one next to him. For purposes of conversation and fellowship, the one would lean his head back against the breast of the other. It was esp. gratifying to be placed next to a special guest, and even more so, next to the host. To have leaned one’s head against the breast of the principal guest, or that of the host, was proof of the existence of a special and intimate relationship with that person (see, e.g.
In the story, Abraham’s bosom is seen in strong contrast with Hades. It is seen as the felicitous abode of the righteous poor, while Hades is the place of torment for the wicked rich. The Gr. and later Jewish conception of Hades was that of a place that would receive all of the dead, but was divided into two compartments, one a place of blessing and the other a place of torment. This, however, does not seem to be the view taken here. While the two abodes are pictured as being close enough to allow some visual and vocal communication between the two, it is still in Hades itself, rather than in a compartment of it, that the rich man suffers. Further, the facts that there is a great chasm fixed between Abraham’s bosom and Hades, and that there is no possibility of crossing the chasm in either direction, would seem to indicate that each is a permanent location or state and not simply a temporary waiting place for judgment.
A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883), II, 278-283; S. D. F. Salmond, “,” HDB (1908), I, 17, 18.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Figurative. The expression occurs in