Luke 16:22–23

22 ἐγένετο δὲ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πτωχὸν καὶ ἀπενεχθῆναι αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγγέλων εἰς τὸν κόλπον Ἀβραάμ· ἀπέθανεν δὲ καὶ ὁ πλούσιος καὶ ἐτάφη. 23 καὶ ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις, ὁρᾷ Ἀβραὰμ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν καὶ Λάζαρον ἐν τοῖς κόλποις αὐτοῦ.

What is the reason that the author uses the singular τὸν κόλπον (“the bosom”) in v. 22 but the plural τοῖς κόλποις (“the bosoms”) in v. 23?

  • Would the plural mean 'the breasts' (of one person) or must it mean 'the bosoms' (of two persons) ?
    – Nigel J
    Jul 10 '20 at 11:05

New American Standard 1977 Luke 16:22 Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (εἰς Ἀβραάμ κόλπον).

Abraham's bosom (Ἀβραάμ κόλπον singular) is a technical term that symbolizes a place of comfort, security and rest after one has died and gone to that location.

My translation of Luke 16:23

in Hades where he was in torments, he looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosoms (ἐν αὐτοῦ κόλποις)

Note the contrast between Abraham’s bosom and Hades.

Note also the use of different prepositions. Here it is not a special term. It refers literally to the bosoms of Abraham.

The shift from singular to plural shows the two different meanings:

  1. Ἀβραάμ κόλπον refers to the place of comfort in the Biblical Sheol as opposed to torments in Hades.
  2. αὐτοῦ κόλποις refers literally to his chest area between the neck and the abdomen.
  • This does not answer the question, which is why the shift from singular to plural.
    – fdb
    Jul 11 '20 at 14:57
  • It shifts from singular to plural to show the two different meanings as indicated in my answer.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 11 '20 at 15:20
  • But the meaning is not different.
    – fdb
    Jul 11 '20 at 15:43
  • I have made modifications.
    – Tony Chan
    Jul 11 '20 at 16:03

In contemporary English, "bosom" is probably better rendered as "heart", the bosom being the place above the heart. "Pressed to his/her bosom" is archaic in English, so thinking of it in KJV terms can cause some distortion. But the other thing is that the first use in the singular can also be translated as "in the lap" of Abraham as well. In the plural, kolpois can mean the folds of a garment, like the folds of a long robe. So the whole passage could be taken as "he saw Lazarus seated on the lap of Abraham, wrapped in the folds of Abraham's robe". Or something such. Takes liberties with the Greek of course, but to get the impact of the image as a literary device, it's often necessary to do takes such liberties.

  • Yes, kolpos in the singular means "breast"; in the plural it means "folds in the front part of a garment". You can read this in any Greek dictionary.
    – fdb
    Jul 12 '20 at 23:13

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