Text: Luke 16:20-25 "And it came to pass that the beggar died and was
carried by the
angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died and was buried. And in
hell, he lifted
up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in
There has been much debate as to whether Christ's parables were literal,
based in fiction, pure invention or something else entirely. The parable of
the "Rich Man
and Lazarus" is one such parable that has created questions and
controversy as to its
meaning. While it seems a bit unreal, it is actually drawn from daily Jewish
life. And to the
first century Jewish listener, it made perfect sense.
Around the second century BC, idioms* crept into Jewish language and became
as a manner of speech. The Rich Man and Lazarus contains several great
examples of Jewish
idioms, the most vivid and descriptive being "Abraham's Bosom".
By the first century AD, the Jews had adopted the Roman custom of dinning
on couches. Guests at a feast leaned themselves on one elbow while resting
the back of their
head against the chest of the guest behind them. And a guest who rested
their head against
the host's bosom dined in the place of honor. The Jews
called this dinning position "resting in
the "Bosom of Abraham". The phrase
reminded them of their Jewish belief that someday, at the
final reward, they
all feast in honor with their father Abraham. At some point, the idiom
"Abraham's Bosom" became synonymous with "heaven", the place of final
reward, the place of the eternal feast.
Jewish Pharisees differed with Christ on several major points concerning
life and death. It was their belief that
father Abraham had gone directly to heaven
at the moment of his death, where upon arrival, 'he" had sat down on the
right hand of God. From then on, in order for any soul to go into heaven,
soul must seek the approval of Abraham. Only on Abraham's recommendation
could the soul enter paradise. When the dead saint arrived at the Pearl
Gates, Abraham came to meet them and clasped them soundly to his chest. Each
new arrival was welcomed into Abraham's Bosom, welcomed into
Paradise, welcomed to the place of final reward, welcomed to the great
The Jewish Talmud says that the most common interpretation of the Abraham's
Bosom Idiom is "Paradise".
The introductory text are words spoken by Jesus to a Jewish audience in
terms his listeners would understand. In
this instance, Jesus is giving both a description and a contrast of Heaven and Hell. See also
Matt. 8:11 and Luke 14:15.
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