Monday, January 03, 2011

2 Maccabees and Purgatory

Addressed to a Catholic interlocutor:

Subject: 2 Maccabees 12:42ff

Hello B,

I've read some good scholarly treatments of the
passage you mention in Maccabees. N.T. Wright briefly
touches on it in his work For all the Saints (p. 29) and there are fuller treatments found elsewhere. I'll not belabor the
point now, but there is a note in the USCCB NAB that

"This is the earliest statement of the doctrine that
prayers (2 Macc 12:42) and sacrifices (2 Macc 12:43)
for the dead are efficacious. The statement is made
here, however, only for the purpose of proving that
Judas believed in the resurrection of the just (2 Macc
7:9, 14, 23, 36). That is, he believed that expiation
could be made for certain sins of otherwise good
men-soldiers who had given their lives for God's
cause. Thus, they could share in the resurrection. His
belief was similar to, but not quite the same as, the
Catholic doctrine of purgatory."




Βασίλειος said...

2 Maccabees provides important evidence of the continuance of the ancient Hebrew belief not in the immortality of the soul but in the resurrection of the whole person; it is a historical link, among other intetestamental writings, between the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, and the general historical context of Judaism of the early centuries C.E., since it is evidenced that at least some of the rabbis did not believe in the conscious middle state of the soul.

A close look at the 7th chapter shows the hope of the faithful Maccabees before death was nor their departing to heaven, as in 4 Maccabees and in Wisdom of Solomon, neither the peaceful preservation of their souls in Sheol, as in 1 Enoch, but their revival in the future resurrection as whole persons.—Verses 9, 11, 14, 23, 28, 29, 37.

In addition, 7:14 shows that the definite punishment of the wicked is not torture in the afterlife but his having not the prospect of a future resurrection.

In the light of 7:14, it is clearly shown that the prayer for pardoning of the sin of the dead in 12:43-45 has solely to do with a desperate begging to God to bring the sinners back to life in the future resurrection of the faithful.

Taking all this evidence into account, it is positively proved that 2 Maccabees is against the Catholic and the Orthodox doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of the resurrection of the condemned wicked in order their bodies to share in the torture of their souls, and I make this mention beceuse 2 Maccabees is part of their canonical Scriptures.

On the other hand, it is well known that the doctrine of purgatory has its origin in Plato (Phaedo 133a-114c). It is also well known that this doctrine was introduced in Christian eschatology by the Christian Platonists Clement and Origen, his successor in the Catechetical School of Alexandria, who both believed in apokatastasis, that is, the complete purification of the wicked souls by means of the purifying fire, so that finally God may be the only Sovereign Lord of the Universe.

Βασίλειος said...

Please correct my citation of Phaedo: 113a-114c.