Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The noun πυλη (pule) describes one of usually two wings of a great gate, specifically the door(s) of a town or large building. These doors commonly gave first access to a kind of portal called πυλων (pulon), see below. Our word is the equivalent of the Hebrew noun דלת (delet), meaning door as the instrument that separates the inside from the outside, to be distinguished from שׁער (sha'ar), which describes the whole formal apparatus of a city gate, or פתח (petah), which accentuates the openness of a doorway.
In the classics as well as the New Testament, the most peculiar gates are those of Hades (Il.5.646, Matthew 16:18; see Job 17:16), and it remains unclear why the ancients figured that there were doors between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. It's also unclear where our word πυλη (pule) came from, but an excellent candidate would be the Hebrew root פלל (palal), from which also comes the noun פליל (palil), judge, and the verb נפל (napel), meaning to fall (including to fall asleep and to fall dead), from which in turn comes the much contested term Nephilim, the fallen ones.
Our noun πυλη (pule), gate, is used 10 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and from it comes:
- The noun πυλων (pulon) means gateway, a gate-house or portal behind the gate but before the actual house or city. This gateway is where personnel hung out and visitors were assessed, where social issues were settled (Ruth 4:1), justice and counsel were dispensed, preliminary trade was conducted, and offerings were arranged (Acts 14:13). The gateway was an area that belonged to the larger territory of the house, but where people other than the house's owner, family and highest ranking servants resided: a place of fringe people, where lower ranking personnel mingled with soon-to-be-outcast and possibly even dogs and such. Since Lazarus was not simply laying in the street outside the rich man's house, but rather resided in the rich man's gateway, it is implied that Lazarus was actually one of the rich man's slaves. Note that John the Revelator places more emphasis on the New Jerusalem's twelve gates than its single splendorous core (Revelation 21:12-15, 21:21-25, 22:14; 21:23). This word is used 18 times; see full concordance.