Bosom of Abraham
"Bosom of Abraham" refers to the place of comfort in sheol
Sheol |Hebrew]] Šʾôl) is the "grave", "pit", or "abyss" in Hebrew. She'ol is the earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all dead go, regardless of the moral choices made in life, and where they are "removed from the light of God"...

 (Greek: hades
Hades in Christianity
According to various Christian faiths, Hades is "the place or state of departed spirits".-Hades in the Old Testament:In the Septuagint , the Greek term "ᾅδης" is used to translate the Hebrew term "שׁאול" in, for example,...

) where the Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 said the righteous dead awaited Judgment Day.

Origin of the phrase

The word found in the Greek text for "bosom" is kolpos, meaning "lap" "bay". This relates to the Second Temple period
Second Temple period
The Second Temple period , in Jewish history, is the period between 530 BCE and 70 CE, when the Second Temple of Jerusalem existed. It ended with the First Jewish–Roman War and the Temple's destruction....

 practice of reclining and eating meals in proximity to other guests, the closest of whom physically was said to lie on the bosom (chest) of the host. (See )

While commentators generally agree upon the meaning of the "Bosom of Abraham", they disagree about its origins. Up to the time of Maldonatus (A.D. 1583), its origin was traced back to the universal custom of parents to take up into their arms, or place upon their knees, their children when they are fatigued, or return home, and to make them rest by their side during the night (cf. ; ; ; sqq.), thus causing them to enjoy rest and security in the bosom of a loving parent. After the same manner was Abraham supposed to act towards his children after the fatigues and troubles of the present life, hence the metaphorical expression "to be in Abraham's Bosom" as meaning to be in repose and happiness with him.

According to Maldonatus (1583), whose theory has since been accepted by many scholars, the metaphor "to be in Abraham's Bosom" is derived from the custom of reclining on couches
A triclinium is a formal dining room in a Roman building. The word is adopted from the Greek τρικλίνιον, triklinion, from τρι-, tri-, "three", and κλίνη, klinē, a sort of "couch" or rather chaise longue...

 at table which prevailed among the Jews during and before the time of Christ. As at a feast each guest leaned on his left elbow so as to leave his right arm at liberty, and as two or more lay on the same couch, the head of one man was near the breast of the man who lay behind, and he was therefore said "to lie in the bosom" of the other.

It was also considered by the Jews of old a mark of special honour and favour for one to be allowed to lie in the bosom of the master of the feast (cf. ), and it is by this illustration that they pictured the next world
World to Come
The World to Come is an eschatological phrase reflecting the belief that the "current world" is flawed or cursed and will be replaced in the future by a better world or a paradise. The concept is similar to the concepts of Heaven and the afterlife, but Heaven is another place generally seen as...

. They conceived of the reward of the righteous dead as a sharing in a banquet given by Abraham, "the father of the faithful" (cf. sqq.), and of the highest form of that reward as lying in "Abraham's Bosom".


In First Temple Judaism, Sheol
Sheol |Hebrew]] Šʾôl) is the "grave", "pit", or "abyss" in Hebrew. She'ol is the earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all dead go, regardless of the moral choices made in life, and where they are "removed from the light of God"...

 in the Hebrew Old Testament, or Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

 in the Septuagint, is primarily a place of "silence" to which all men go. However during, or before, the exile in Babylon ideas of activity of the dead in Sheol began to enter Judaism.

During the Second Temple period the concept of a Bosom of Abraham first occurs in Jewish papyri which refer to the "Bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". This reflects the belief of Jewish martyrs who died expecting that: "after our death in this fashion Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will receive us and all our forefathers will praise us" (4 Maccabees 13:17). Other early Jewish works adapt the Greek mythical picture of Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

 to identify the righteous dead as being separated from unrighteous in the fires by a river or chasm. In the pseudepigraphical Apocalypse of Zephaniah
Apocalypse of Zephaniah
The Apocalypse of Zephaniah is an ancient pseudepigraphic text attributed to the Biblical Zephaniah and so associated with the Old Testament, but not regarded as scripture by Jews or any Christian group. It was rediscovered and published at the end of 19th century...

 the river has a ferryman equivalent to Charon
Charon (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Charon or Kharon is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin to pay Charon for passage, usually an obolus or danake, was sometimes placed in or on...

 in Greek myth, but replaced by an angel. On the other side in the Bosom of Abraham : "You have escaped from the Abyss and Hades, now you will cross over the crossing place... to all the righteous ones, namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Elijah and David". In this myth Abraham was not idle in the Bosom of Abraham, he acted as intercessor for those in the fiery part of Hades.

The pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch
Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, traditionally ascribed to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. It is not part of the biblical canon as used by Jews, apart from Beta Israel...

 describes travels through the cosmos and divides Sheol into four sections: for the truly righteous, the good, the wicked awaiting judgment at the resurrection
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

, and the wicked that will not even be resurrected. However, since the book is pseudepigraphic to the hand of Enoch
Enoch (ancestor of Noah)
Enoch is a figure in the Generations of Adam. Enoch is described as Adam's greatx4 grandson , the son of Jared, the father of Methuselah, and the great-grandfather of Noah...

, who predates Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

, naturally the character of Abraham does not feature.

Later rabbinical sources preserve several traces of the Bosom of Abraham teaching.

In kiddushin
Nashim is the third order of the Mishnah , containing the laws related to women and family life...

 72b, rabbi Adda bar Ahavah
Adda bar Ahavah
Adda bar Ahavah or Adda bar Ahabah is the name of two Jewish rabbis and Talmudic scholars, known as Amoraim, who lived in Babylonia.-The amora of the second generation:...

 of the third century, is said to be "sitting in the bosom of Abraham," Likewise "In the world to come Abraham sits at the gate of Gehenna, permitting none to enter who bears the seal of the covenant" according to Rabbi Levi in Genesis Rabba
Genesis Rabba
Genesis Rabba is a religious text from Judaism's classical period. It is a midrash comprising a collection of ancient rabbinical homiletical interpretations of the Book of Genesis ....


Rabbi Abraham Geiger suggested that the parable of Lazarus in Luke 16 preserved a Jewish legend and that Lazarus represented Abraham's servant Eleazar

New Testament

The Bosom of Abraham occurs in one New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 passage (cf. , and 16:23) where the destination of leprous Lazarus is carried to by the angels after death and is contrasted with the destination of a rich man who ends up in Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

, though it is possible that both the fiery side and the cool side, and the chasm between them are counted as parts of Hades in this parable. This parable corresponds closely with documented 1st century A.D. Jewish beliefs (see above), that the dead were gathered into a general tarrying-place, made equivalent with the Sheol
Sheol |Hebrew]] Šʾôl) is the "grave", "pit", or "abyss" in Hebrew. She'ol is the earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all dead go, regardless of the moral choices made in life, and where they are "removed from the light of God"...

 of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

. In Christ's parable, the righteous occupied an abode of their own which was distinctly separated by a chasm from the abode to which the wicked were consigned. The chasm is equivalent to the river in the Jewish version, but in Christ's version there is no angelic ferryman, and it is impossible to pass from the one side to the other.

The fiery part of Hades (Hebrew Sheol
Sheol |Hebrew]] Šʾôl) is the "grave", "pit", or "abyss" in Hebrew. She'ol is the earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all dead go, regardless of the moral choices made in life, and where they are "removed from the light of God"...

) is distinguished from the separate Old Testament, New Testament and Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 concept of Gehenna
Gehenna , Gehinnom and Yiddish Gehinnam, are terms derived from a place outside ancient Jerusalem known in the Hebrew Bible as the Valley of the Son of Hinnom ; one of the two principal valleys surrounding the Old City.In the Hebrew Bible, the site was initially where apostate Israelites and...

 (Hebrew Hinnom) which is generally connected with the Last Judgment
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

.; ff, .

The concept of paradise
Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and...

 is not mentioned in Luke 16, nor are any of the distinguishing Jewish associations of paradise such as Third Heaven
Third Heaven
The Third Heaven is a spiritual division of the universe within Judeo-Christian cosmology. In some traditions it is considered the abode of God, and in others a lower level of Paradise, commonly one of seven.-Hebrew Bible:...

 (found with "paradise" in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 and Apocalypse of Moses), or the tree of life
Tree of life
The concept of a tree of life, a many-branched tree illustrating the idea that all life on earth is related, has been used in science , religion, philosophy, mythology, and other areas...

 (found with "paradise" in Genesis 2:8 Septuagint and Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 2:7). Consequently identification of Bosom of Abraham with Paradise is contested. It is not clear whether Matthew 8:11 "And I tell you that many will come from the East and West and will eat with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." represents an alternative or complimentary cosmology
Religious cosmology
A Religious cosmology is a way of explaining the origin, the history and the evolution of the universe based on the religious mythology of a specific tradition...

 to the ideas of Luke 16:19-31.

In the Latin Vulgate sqq. in the Latin Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

)- the other, a place of bliss and security known under the names of "Paradise" (cf. ) or "the Bosom of Abraham" .

The happy part of the afterlife as portrayed in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus fits this concept of the Bosom of Abraham.

Early Christianity

In the 3rd century, Hippolytus of Rome referred to Abraham's bosom as the place in hades where the righteous await judgment day in delight. Due to a copying error a loose section of Hippolytus' commentary on Luke 16 was misidentified as a Discourse to the Greeks on Hades by Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 and included in William Whiston
William Whiston
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician. He is probably best known for his translation of the Antiquities of the Jews and other works by Josephus, his A New Theory of the Earth, and his Arianism...

's translation of the Complete Works of Josephus.

Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 likewise referred to the righteous dead as disembodied spirits blissfully awaiting Judgment Day in secret receptacles.

Since the righteous dead are rewarded in the bosom of Abraham before Judgment Day, this belief represents a form of particular judgment
Particular judgment
Particular judgment, according to Christian eschatology, is the judgment given by God that a departed person undergoes immediately after death, in contradistinction to the General judgment of all people at the end of the world....


Relation to Christian heaven

Among Christian writers, since the 1st century AD, "the Bosom of Abraham" has gradually ceased to designate a place of imperfect happiness, and it has generally become synonymous with Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 itself, or the Intermediate state
Intermediate state
In Christian eschatology, the intermediate state or interim state refers to a person's "intermediate" existence between one's death and one's resurrection from the dead...

. Church fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

 sometimes used the term to mean the limbo of the fathers, the abode of the righteous who died before Christ and who were not admitted to heaven until his resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

. Sometimes they mean Heaven, into which the just of the New Covenant
New Covenant
The New Covenant is a concept originally derived from the Hebrew Bible. The term "New Covenant" is used in the Bible to refer to an epochal relationship of restoration and peace following a period of trial and judgment...

 are immediately introduced upon their demise. Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, on the other hand, described the bosom of Abraham as that section of Hades
Hades in Christianity
According to various Christian faiths, Hades is "the place or state of departed spirits".-Hades in the Old Testament:In the Septuagint , the Greek term "ᾅδης" is used to translate the Hebrew term "שׁאול" in, for example,...

 in which the righteous dead await the day of the Lord.

When Christians pray that the angels may carry the soul of the departed to "Abraham's Bosom", non-Orthodox Christians might mean it as heaven; as it is taught in the West that those in the Limbo of the Fathers went to heaven after the Ascension of Jesus, and so Abraham himself is now in heaven. However, the understanding of both Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

 preserves the Bosom of Abraham as distinct from heaven.

The belief that the souls of the dead go immediately to hell, heaven, or purgatory is a Western Christian teaching. That is rejected and in contrast to the Eastern Christian concept of the Bosom of Abraham.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 considered the parable allegorical. The belief of Christian mortalism holds that the dead, righteous and unrighteous, rest unconsciously while awaiting Judgment Day.

In Islam

The phrase "lap of Ibrahim" does not occur in the Quran. In Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, the righteous dead are said to await Judgment Day resting blissfully in their graves
In Islamic eschatology, Barzakh is the intermediate state in which the soul of the deceased is transferred across the boundaries of the mortal realm into a kind of "cold sleep" where the soul will rest until the Qiyamah . The term appears in the Qur'an Surah 23, Ayat 100.Barzakh is a sequence that...

, much like the righteous dead rest in the Bosom of Abraham. The unrighteous, meanwhile, wait in torment.

In Christian art

In medieval Christian art the phase was illustrated literally: images of a number of miniature figures, representing souls, held on the lap of a much larger one occur in a number of contexts. Many Gothic cathedrals, especially in France, have reliefs of Abraham holding such a group (right), which are also found in other media. In a detached miniature of about 1150, from a work of Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen
Blessed Hildegard of Bingen , also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Elected a magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136, she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and...

, a figure usually described as "Synagogue", of youngish appearance with closed eyes, holds a group, here of Jewish souls, with Moses carrying the Tablets above the others, held in the large figure's folded arms. In the Bosom of Abraham Trinity
Bosom of Abraham Trinity
The Bosom of Abraham Trinity, also known as the Trinity with souls, is a rare iconography apparently unique to English medieval alabaster sculpture, of which only twelve examples are known to have survived, although there were undoubtedly many more made...

, a subject only found in medieval English art, God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 holds the group, now representing specifically Christian souls. The Virgin of Mercy
Virgin of Mercy
The Virgin of Mercy is a subject in Catholic art, showing a group of people sheltering for protection under the outspread cloak of the Virgin Mary. It was especially popular in Italy from the 13th to 16th centuries, often as a specialised form of votive portrait, and is also found in other...

 is a different but somewhat similar image.

In literature

  • In William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

    's play Henry V
    Henry V (play)
    Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

    after the death of Sir John Falstaff, Mistress Quickly
    Mistress Quickly
    Mistress Quickly is an inn-keeper who appears in four plays by William Shakespeare:*Henry IV, Part 1*Henry IV, Part 2*Henry V*The Merry Wives of Windsor...

     asserts confidently that "He's in Arthur's bosom, if ever man went to Arthur's bosom." Quickly, an uneducated innkeeper, has presumably confused the Christian idea of Abraham's bosom with the legend of King Arthur
    King Arthur
    King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

  • In William Wordsworth
    William Wordsworth
    William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

    's poem "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free", Wordsworth writes about a walk on the beach with his daughter Caroline, who lived in France with her mother and whom he saw only rarely. A line from the poem reads, "Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year" - a double meaning, in that to Wordsworth she is righteous and blissful, and also that she "liest" in her father's heart all the time, even when they are apart.

External links

  • Abraham's Bosom in the Jewish Encyclopedia
    Jewish Encyclopedia
    The Jewish Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia originally published in New York between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls. It contained over 15,000 articles in 12 volumes on the history and then-current state of Judaism and the Jews as of 1901...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.