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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

GULF ( χάσμα, from χαίνω, to yawn, gape, open wide ,  Luke 16:26 only. Chasma (shortened, chasm ) is the exact transliteration of the Greek, but this word, in general use, is later than the Authorized Version. Tindale has ‘a great space,’ and the Geneva VS ‘a great gulfe,’ with ‘swallowing pit’ in the margin).—It is interesting to compare with this other representations of the division between the worlds of the unseen. In Plato’s vision in the Republic there is an intermediate space where judges are seated, who divide to the right hand or to the left according as men are found just or unjust. Return to the upper world is possible; but when any incurable or unpunished sinners tried to ascend, ‘the opening, instead of receiving them, gave forth a sound, and then wild men of fiery aspect, who were standing by and knew what the sound meant,’ seized and carried them to be cast into hell (Jowett’s Plato , iii. 512f.). Virgil’s vision is of ‘a cavern, deep and huge, with its vast mouth, craggy, sheltered by its black lake and forest gloom, o’er which no birds might speed along unharmed; such an exhalation, pouring from its black jaws, rose to the vault of heaven; wherefore the Greeks named the spot Avernus.’ The ‘dreadful prison-house’ is guarded by a ‘gate of ponderous size, with pillars of solid adamant; so that no mortal might, nay, nor the dwellers in the sky, are strong enough to throw it down in war’ ( aeneid , vi. 236f., 553f.). Coming to Jewish representations, the Book of Enoch speaks of three separations between the spirits of the dead,—‘by a chasm, by water, and by light above it’ (ch. 22). In Rabbinical teaching (cf. Weber, Jüd. Theol. 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] 341) the separation between Paradise and Ge-hinnom is minimized; it is but ‘a wall,’ ‘a palm-breadth,’ a ‘finger-breadth,’ ‘a thread.’ With this representation the ‘great gulf’ of the parable is in striking contrast. It would be obviously wrong to interpret literally, or even to insist upon some spiritual counterpart of the detail of the parable, as it would be wrong to base upon the parable as a whole any doctrine of the future over and above its clear moral lesson and warning. But the solemn words of Jesus as to the possibility and danger of the fixity of character in evil must not be lightly set aside (see Eternal Sin).

Literature.—Bruce, Parabolic Teaching , p. 393; Salmond, Christian Doctrine of Immortality , p. 277.

W. H. Dyson.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

GULF . The only instance of the use of this word in the Bible occurs in the parable of Dives and Lazarus (  Luke 16:26; cf.   Numbers 16:30 where the word ‘pit’ is the translation of Hades or Sheol ). Some commentators have discovered in Jesus’ employment of this term (‘chasm’), as well as in His assertion of the possibility of conversation, an approval in general terms of a current Rabbinical belief that the souls of the righteous and of the wicked exist after death in different compartments of the same under world (see J. Lightfoot, Hor. Heb . iii. p. 175). It is not possible, however, to construct a theory of Jesus’ belief as to the intermediate state from evidence so scanty. Indeed, signs are not lacking that on this occasion He employs the language of metaphor in order to guard against placing His imprimatur on useless and materialistic speculations. The expressions ‘from afar’ (  Luke 16:23 ) and ‘a great gulf’ (  Luke 16:26 ) do not harmonize with the idea of holding a conversation; and it seems plain that they form but subsidiary portions of a parable by which He means to teach a lesson of purely ethical import. There is, moreover, an evident implication in the context that the gulf is not confined to the world beyond the grave. Having reminded the Rich Man of the contrast between his condition and that of Lazarus in their earthly lives, and of its reversal in their respective conditions at present, Abraham is made to say, ‘In all these things (see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ) there has been and remains fixed a great chasm’ (cf. Plummer ‘St. Luke’ in ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , ad loc. ). The chasm is not only between the conditions of the two men’s lives; it has its foundation in their characters , modified, no doubt, and influenced by the circumstances in which each lived. The impassable nature of the chasm can be explained only on the ground that it is the great moral division separating two fundamentally different classes of men.

J. R. Willis.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

1: Χάσμα (Strong'S #5490 — Noun Neuter — chasma — khas'-mah )

akin to chasko, "to yawn" (Eng., "chasm"), is found in  Luke 16:26 . In the Sept.,  2—Samuel 18:17 , two words are used with reference to Absalom's body, bothunos which signifies "a great pit," and chasma, "a yawning abyss, or precipice," with a deep pit at the bottom, into which the body was cast.

King James Dictionary [4]

GULF, n.

1. A recess in the ocean from the general line of the shore into the land, or a tract of water extending from the ocean or a sea into the land, between two points or promontories a large bay as the gulf of Mexico the gulf of Venice the gulf of Finland. A gulf and a bay differ only in extent. We apply bay to a large or small recess of the sea, as the bay of Biscay, the bay of Fundy but gulf is applied only to a large extent of water. 2. An abyss a deep place in the earth as the gulf of Avernus. 3. A whirlpool an absorbing eddy. 4. Any thing insatiable.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 Luke 16:26

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [6]

( χάσμα , chásma , "a chasm," "vent," "a gaping opening" - a great interval; from χαίνω , chaı́nō , "to gape" or "yawn"): Occurs only in   Luke 16:26 , "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed" (compare "afar off" in  Luke 16:23 ). This is very different from, though it probably reflects, the rabbinical conception of the separation between the two compartments of Hades (Sheol) by "a hand's breadth," "a wall," or even, later, "a chasm," as the parable can be given here only a figurative significance, and is of purely ethical import. The fundamental difference between the Rich Man and Lazarus lies not in their conditions but in their characters. For "besides all this" (  Luke 16:26 ) the Revised Version, margin gives "in all these things," thus implying that the moral distinctions which exist in this life ( Luke 16:25 ) become more pronounced ("fixed") in the next world, and the "gulf" is impassable in the sense that a change of condition will not necessarily produce a change of soul. See also Abraham 'S Bosom; Hades .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [7]

( Χάσμα , a Chasm), an opening or impassable space, such as is represented to exist between Elysium and Tartarus ( Luke 16:26). (See Hades).