From the Encyclopedia Judaica2:165
|Designation in the
New Testament (Luke 16:22-31) of the abode of the blessed
souls of pious and poor in the other world (compare IV
Macc. 13:17 ; Matt. 8:11, where all three patriarchs
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are enumerated as those in
whose company the pious souls stay).
The Hebrew expression be-heiko shel Avraham ("in Abraham's Bosom") is mention in aggadic literature (e.g., PR. 43:180b) dealing with martydom of Miriam (Hannah) and her seven sons. She urges her youngest child to die for the sanctification of God's name, saying : "O my son, do you wish that all your brothers sit in Abraham's bosom, except you?" Abraham's bosom is mentioned also in the Midrash haGadol to Genesis (ed. Margulies (19447), 206) and in the Talmud (kid. 72b) where it probably refers to the covenant of Abraham (see also Pd RK(1868) , 25b S. Buber's emendation).
In Christian mythologhy, Abraham's bosom stands for the abode in the netherworld of the unbaptized children and for purgatory, from where, after punishment, Abraham conducts the purified souls into paradise. This notion is hinted at in the talmudic passage (Er.19a) which describes Abraham as shielding from punishment in hell all those who have not effaced the sign of circumcision (compare also, Gen. R 48:8).
Whether Abraham's bosom is the abode of bliss, or, on the contrary, a place in Gehenna, it expresses the popular Jewish belief about Abraham as the warden in paradise and the protector of the meritorious souls in the other world.