Does Scripture Teach Us to Pray for the Departed, and to Pray to the Saints?

Daniel Chorny, The Bosom of Abraham (15th c.)

In regards to prayer and the Saints, Catholics do two things to which Protestants tend to object:

  1. Praying to the Saints: Asking the Saints to pray for us, etc.
  2. Praying for the Saints: Praying for the dead, commending their souls to God.

Yesterday, I talked about some of the common Protestant arguments against praying to the Saints: particularly about how these objections tend to be rooted in faulty views of the afterlife. But I didn’t address what’s perhaps the most common objection to both types of prayers, which is some variation of “But where do we see that in the Bible?” We saw yesterday that Scripture doesn’t condemn these prayers, but neither does it commend them … right?

So today, I want to look at the Biblical support for both prayer to and for the Saints. Is it true that Scripture is silent about praying to and for the Saints? And if so, would that Scriptural silence support the Protestant position?

I. Is Scripture Silent on Praying to and for the Saints?

In proving the Biblical case for these Scriptural practices, there’s an easy way and a hard way. Let’s address each in turn.

A.The Easy Way: Judas Maccabeus
Carl Poellath’s workshop, Judah Maccabees’ Vision (c. 1866)

The Second Book of Maccabees is completely straightforward about praying for the departed, and praying to the Saints. In 2 Macc. 12:43-46, some of Judas Maccabeus’ soldiers fall in combat. Although they’re fighting for Israel, the Israelites discover superstitious amulets on the fallen soldiers, and realize this is why they were allowed to fall. Maccabeus responds to this by praying for the dead, and offering a sin offering on their behalf:

He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

You can’t get much clearer then that. The Bible tells us that he prayed for the dead, praises him for it, and then tells us that he thereby made atonement for them that they might be delivered from their sin. All of this is linked to the resurrection of the dead, which puts the author of 2 Maccabees ahead of the Sadducees when it comes to orthodoxy (cf. Luke 20:27).

A few chapters later, Maccabeus inspires his men before battle “by relating a dream, a sort of vision, which was worthy of belief” (2 Macc. 15:11). Here’s what he saw (2 Macc. 15:12-16):

Oni′as, who had been high priest, a noble and good man, of modest bearing and gentle manner, one who spoke fittingly and had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. Then likewise a man appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity, and of marvelous majesty and authority. And Oni′as spoke, saying, “This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God.”  Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave to Judas a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: “Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries.

I’ve discussed this passage before, but for our present purposes, the important thing is that he’s conversing with two Saints, Onias and Jeremiah, and they’re interceding for him. Jeremiah in particular is described as “praying much” for the Jews and for Jerusalem. And it’s Maccabeus’ account of this vision that inspires the soldiers’ valor leading into their greatest battle (2 Macc. 15:17).

B. The Complication: Martin Luther
The Apocalypse, from the Luther Bible (1524)

So both praying for the faithful departed, and praying to the heavenly Saints are expressly commended in 2 Maccabees. With Scriptural evidence this clear, how could Protestants possibly disagree? Simple. Modern Protestants generally don’t consider 2 Maccabees Scripture, because it’s part of the Deuterocanon (often inaccurately called Apocrypha).

That’s not entirely a coincidence. Protestants have pointed to the passages we’re discussing as reason to reject 2 Maccabees as Scripture. This argument doesn’t make a lot of sense from a Catholic perspective. Rather, it looks something like this:

  • Protestant: “Prayers for the dead and prayer to the Saints aren’t in Scripture!”
  • Catholic: “Sure they are. There’s prayer for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46, and prayers to a Saint, with explicit reference to the Saint’s ongoing intercession, in 2 Macc. 15:12-16.”
  • (Protestant removes 2 Maccabees from the Bible).
  • Protestant: “Look, prayers for the dead and prayer to the Saints aren’t in Scripture!”

I’m exaggerating a bit, but only slightly, because this really does resemble how Reformation history played out.

Before we go any further, I should clarify a bit of history that lots of people get wrong: 2 Maccabees was in everyone’s Bible at the time of the Reformation, and had already been declared canonical by the Catholics, the Orthodox, and the Copts. During the Reformation, these Books were then removed by Protestants, although there was some initial confusion over which books they wanted in and out (for example, Calvin accepted Baruch as Scripture, while Luther rejected James, Hebrew, Jude, and Revelation). Initially, the Deuterocanonical Books were moved to an Apocrypha section in the back of Protestant Bibles, but they were eventually removed entirely.

This chronology is critical, if you’re going to avoid mistakes like Evangelical scholar Norman Geisler’s Catholic conspiracy theory. He thought the Church didn’t teach that the Deuterocanon was inspired until the Council of Trent (a common mistake), and concludes that “proclaiming 2 Maccabees canonical some twenty-nine years after Luther lashed out against prayers for the dead (in 1517) is highly suspect, especially since the book supported prayers for the dead.” This conspiracy theory is hindered by actual documented history, like the Council of Florence’s Bull of Union with the Copts from 1442, an ecumenical statement listing the canon of Scripture, including the “two books of the Maccabees.”

So, barring a time machine, Catholics didn’t add 2 Maccabees to the Bible in response to the Reformation. Instead, Protestants like Luther “lashed out against prayers for the dead,” Catholics pointed to 2 Maccabees in support of the doctrine, and Protestants removed 2 Maccabees. Now, Protestants like James Swan at Beggars All reject the idea that Luther’s eventual rejection of the Deuterocanon was based on his rejection of the Books’ teachings, since he thinks it would mean that “Luther is fundamentally dishonest and simply changed to the smaller canon to just pick and choose his theology.”

But Luther does exactly that with the Book of James. James wasn’t even a seriously disputed book in Christian history: you’d be hard-pressed to point to even a remotely-orthodox believer who denied James. But after Luther came up with the doctrine of justification by faith alone, his theology led him to choose a smaller canon. He’s clear about this in his 1522 Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude:

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation 2 devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works of Moses’ statement in Genesis 15. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham’s faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

So Luther was very comfortable with the idea of removing Books from the Bible if they contradicted his interpretation of St. Paul. Whether or not Swan is right that this makes Luther fundamentally dishonest is irrelevant: the record shows that it’s true.

So the Bible at the time of the Reformation taught something Protestantism denied, and apparently for this reason, these parts were edited out of the Bible. Of course, if you remove the Books of the Bible that speak about prayers for the dead and prayers to the Saints, you can’t use “prayers for the dead and prayers to the Saints aren’t in Scripture” as an argument. It would be like firing every board member who disagrees with you, and then claiming you’re right because all of the (remaining) board members agree with you.

C. The Hard Way: Onesiphorus and Abraham

James Tissot, The Bad Rich Man in Hell (c. 1890)

Having said all of this, there are references to prayers for and to the dead even within the Protestant Bible. They’re just less explicit than the ones that got removed. Here, I’m reminded of Msgr. Ronald Knox’s remark in The Belief of Catholics:

You must not say that no revelation would satisfy you unless the guarantee of miracle accompanied it, and then say in the same breath that you will refuse to accept any story of miracle precisely on the ground that it is miraculous. That is as if you were to invite your opponent to stab you with a pistol. If you will not have miracles, then you must be prepared to be satisfied without them.
Just as a skeptic can’t reject all evidence for miracles and then require evidence for miracles to be persuaded, Protestants cannot reject the canonicity of any passage explicitly describing the prayers in question, and then complain that the remaining evidence isn’t explicit enough. With that in mind, let’s look at two particular instances from the New Testament:
1. Onesiphorus and Prayers for the Dead

In 2 Timothy 1:15-18 (NAB), St. Paul writes to Timothy about a man named Onesiphorus:

You know that everyone in Asia deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he came to Rome, he promptly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus.

This passage is a subtle one, because Onesiphorus is a bit like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense: it takes a while to realize that he’s already died. To see this, pay close attention to three things in the passage.

First, as the NAB footnotes explain, “Onesiphorus seems to have died before this letter was written. His family is mentioned twice (here and in 2 Tim 4:19), though it was Onesiphorus himself who was helpful to Paul in prison and rendered much service to the community of Ephesus.” The second mention is striking, since Paul doesn’t ask Timothy to greet Onesiphorus. Instead, he says: “Greet Prisca and Aquila and the family of Onesiphorus” (2 Tim. 4:19).

Second, all of Onesiphorus’ earthly actions are spoken of in the past tense. At first, this seems to be simply because Paul is recounting how Onesiphorus cared for him in his hour of need. But Paul goes on to praise “the services he rendered in Ephesus,” without referring to any services that he is rendering there or elsewhere.

Third, the one time that Paul speaks of Onesiphorus in the present (and future) tense is when he prays, “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day.” In other words, Paul is praying for his soul, commending him to God in anticipation of the Final Judgment. And this prayer is distinct from Paul’s prayer for Onesiphorus’ family a couple verses earlier. If Onesiphorus isn’t dead, why is Paul praying for him and his family separately? So all of this points to the fact that Onesiphorus had died, and that Paul is praying for his soul.


2. Lazarus and Prayers to the Dead

Jesus’ parable of “Lazarus and the rich man” takes place largely as a series of prayers that a rich man in torment, prays to Abraham, starting in Luke 16:22-24:

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; an in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.”

Abraham refuses the rich man’s request on two grounds: that he can’t (since there’s “a great chasm” between Abraham and the rich man, Lk. 16:26) and that he won’t (since the rich man already had his chance). The rich man then offers up an intercessory prayer to Abraham, praying that someone will go to visit his brothers to warn them against leading a reprobate life. Here, Abraham simply refuses, since they have the Scriptures and “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead” (Lk. 16:31). The “great chasm” separating the rich man from Abraham seems also to separate him from his brothers, but it doesn’t cut Abraham off from those on Earth. Moreover, in light of the Resurrection, we should note that this refusal isn’t absolute. Someone does rise from the dead, “for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

There’s a lot to unpack in this parable: it’s one the clearest Biblical uses of “Father” as a spiritual title, it’s got an entire lingering question about just where the soul of the rich man is (if he’s in Hell, how is he praying?), and then it’s got the fact that Christ presents the rich man as praying to Abraham, and there’s not a hint that this is inappropriate. We don’t hear Abraham rebuking the rich man for crossing the chasm with his prayers, or saying that this detracts from God’s glory, etc. And again: this is true even for the prayers going across the “great chasm” separating the rich man from Abraham. So this serves as a proof, a fortiori, for praying to the Saints.

II. Would Scriptural Silence Support the Protestant Position?

Let’s say you’re not convinced: you don’t think 2 Maccabees is canonical, you don’t think Paul is clear enough, and Jesus is speaking in a parable. Does that mean that the Protestant position is right?

Not hardly.

Sola Scriptura Protestants tend to oscillate (generally unconsciously) between treating everything not explicitly mentioned in Scripture as permitted, and treating everything not explicitly mentioned in Scripture as forbidden. A half-millennium on, this is still a lingering problem for sola Scriptura. If you hold to Luther’s view that “whatever is without the word of God is, by that very fact, against God,” you’ve got an obvious problem: the restrictive principle itself isn’t found in the word of God, so it’s a violation of the restrictive principle to accept the restrictive principle.

But even accepting the restrictive principle, consider two facts:

  1. Scripture tells us to pray for one another and encourages us to take our sins and struggles to one another as members of the Body of Christ
  2. The faithful departed are still part of the Body of Christ.

Protestants tend to believe that (1) doesn’t apply to the deceased, even though Scripture doesn’t say that. Catholics are the ones taking the Scriptural teaching at face value here, going to our brothers and sisters in Christ without regard for whether they’re in our living room or before the Throne of God. Protestants are holding to two standards – one between us here on earth, another for our interactions with the departed – but this second standard isn’t actually Biblical.

Also, we’re not done with 2 Maccabees just yet. The story of the Maccabees is celebrated at Chanukah, which Jesus celebrated in John 10:22-23. This supports the canonicity of the two Books of Maccabees, as does the fact that 2 Maccabees 7 is referenced in Hebrews 11:35-37. Some people, even after seeing this, conclude that 2 Maccabees is historical-but-not-canonical. Even that’s a huge admission, though, since the history recorded is that God saved the Jews after the intercession of two Saints in Heaven.

By the way, the Jews still pray for the dead. You can read the Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer for yourself: it commends the soul of the faithful departed to the Lord.

Given all of this, think about what Scriptural silence would actually mean. Christ comes in to a culture in which there are Jewish prayers for the dead and prayers to the dead, and in which Judas Maccabeus is praised for his virtuous leadership (specifically including these two things). He celebrates Chanukah, tells a parable in which praying to a Saint is presented positively, and says nothing against these spiritual practices. Then you get to the New Testament period, and we see the author of Hebrews reference 2 Maccabees, again without any sort of indication that the Book is a mix of history and heresy.

Would any reasonable observer conclude from witnessing this that Christ and the Apostles were actually opposed to prayers for the departed and to the Saints in Heaven? Of course not. The results are exactly what you would expect. We see the earliest Christians like Origen (185-284), declaring that 1 and 2 Maccabees carry “the authority of holy Scripture.” And we see the early Christians praying to and for the Saints.

In doing this, the earliest Christians aren’t showing a disdain for Scripture. Quite the opposite: they evince a clearer understanding of what Scripture actually has to say on the subject, and they recognized that Scripture supports the practice of praying for the deceased, and praying to the Saints who have gone before us.

36 Comments

  1. There is another Scripture that is relevant to the Catholic argument regarding Saints, as it deals with Heaven, holy friends, good deeds (ie..works) on Earth, death and ‘reception into Heaven’ by friends who died and became saints. Moreover, it is an admonition from Jesus Himself in the Gospel of Luke (16:9):

    “And I tell you, make FRIENDS for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails THEY may receive you into the eternal habitations. (emphasis mine)

    Now, let’s say that it was St. Paul that had died first, before Onesiphorus. Would not this teaching of Christ indicate that it would be St. Paul himself, and possibly many others also, who would be the ones to ‘receive Onesiphorus into the eternal habitations’ due to the great charity that he gave to them while he was alive?

    And, if the Angels ‘rejoice over one repentant sinner, more than 100 just men’, would not the Saints in Heaven also be interested in, and rejoice with them over what happens on Earth, if for no other reason that Jesus relates that the saints will be ‘like the angels’ in Heaven?

  2. Quick objections

    1. Concerning 2 Maccabees. It has been a few years since I read this book, but I think even in what you quoted you have a few problems. First, idolatry is a mortal sin and they died in their mortal sin. Prayers cannot avail those who have not done penance for such a sin. So, if you interpret 2 Maccabees as Scriptural proof of prayers for the dead, you just eviscerated your own dogma.

    Second, Maccabeus was not praying for the dead men, he was praying for the nation of Israel. If you read the Old Testament Law, the sin of Israelites defiles the whole land and results in God’s judgement unless it is atoned for by the sacrificial system that has been ordained by angels through Moses.

    “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen” (2 Macc 12:42).

    His concerning was for the righteous, not for the idolaters.

    Now, you are going to argue, “but, but, he prayed for the idolaters specifically that they may resurrect to new life!”

    No! The text says, “But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it as a holy and pious thought.” The idolaters did not go to rest in godliness, they went to rest in godlessness! He made a sacrifice on behalf of the living who were to die (or perhaps those soldiers without the idols who fell in battle), and the author points out it was THIS thought that was pious.

    The author could have not more carefully stated that the prayers and atonement were to avail the godly, not the idolaters!

    2. Concerning the family of Onesiphorus. I have heard this mentioned before and it is an argument from silence. Paul prays for the family that is still alive, which is mentioned later in the Epistle. Indeed, everything Onsiphorus did was in the past tense, because they all happened before Paul was in prison. So, we cannot establish that he was dead and further, even if he was, this is not evidence of purgatory because Paul is praying that the Lord grant him mercy on “that day” (i.e. the day of judgement.) If Paul had in mind a modern Catholic view of purgatory, such a prayer would not make sense, as his salvation would be assured. Protestants pray that God may be merciful to their loved ones simply because God is outside of time and we know He can answer such prayers. They just don’t continue with the practice, simply because it is not spelled out in Scripture.

    3. The episode of the rich man and Abraham does not support the practice, for the rich man is praying in Hades. Without getting way to into it, people in Hades apparently can see heaven somehow. “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out” (Luke 13:28).

    In conclusion, I hope you can see that without rejecting anyone’s canon, that the Protestant position is defensible and that the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox positions have no support from the Bible. And, if that be the case, the question then becomes on what basis do we pray for the dead, how do we pray for the dead, why do we pray for the dead? We would have no guaranteed answers, and so to prevent its abuse, it is best not to teach others to do it in the fashion it is currently practiced in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Craig,

      1. “So if you interpret 2 Maccabees as Scriptural proof of prayers for the dead, you just eviscerated your own dogma.”

      I disagree completely. This objection doesn’t sense from a Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish perspective, because it’s premised on the idea that we can somehow be assured that they’re in Hell. After all, if there’s any hope, of course we’re going to pray for their soul.

      Underlying your confidence that the fallen are in Hell is the idea that they were idolaters. But it doesn’t actually say that in the Bible. Rather it says that the fallen were wearing the “sacred tokens of the idols of Jam′nia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear” (2 Macc. 12:40). So maybe they were idolaters, or maybe they were just superstitious. But err on the side of praying for them, obviously!

      As for the idea that Maccabeus wasn’t praying for the dead, you’re contradicted by 2 Macc. 12:44, which says, “For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.” The “fallen” here explicitly refers to those who fell in battle, as we see from 2 Macc. 12:39 (“Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen”) and 2 Macc. 12:40 (“this was why these men had fallen”). So yes, Judas prays for them in the hope that they’re amongst the godly, and with a hope of the Resurrection.

      2. You’re making the very argument that I warned against. Protestantism can’t simultaneously reject 2 Maccabees for explicitly including prayers for the dead and then reject the other references for not being explicit enough.

      It’s not actually an argument from silence, it’s also an inference from what he’s saying. For example, he prays for the family of Onesiphorus, and then for Onesiphorus. What’s your explanation for this, if not that the man has died?

      As for the idea that “everything Onsiphorus did was in the past tense, because they all happened before Paul was in prison,” that doesn’t seem to account for the final reference (“And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus”).

      I’m interested in your final point, though: “Protestants pray that God may be merciful to their loved ones simply because God is outside of time and we know He can answer such prayers. They just don’t continue with the practice, simply because it is not spelled out in Scripture.” So praying for the dead is okay, but not doing it a lot?

      3. It would be a strange position to say that a person can pray to the Saints if he’s in Hades, but not if he’s still on Earth. Why would the one be okay and the other not? You seem to suggest that it’s because the folks in Hades can somehow “see” Abraham. So what? Why does that distinction matter?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. All prayer should be directed to our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that we can pray to one or all three, because all three are one. To the Father we pray with the psalmist, “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray” (Psalm 5:2). To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all. Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Jesus assured His disciples that whatever they asked in His name—meaning in His will—would be granted (John 15:16; 16:23).

      2. Joe,

        This is an old post, so I probably won’t spend too much time in the comments, but what’s the basis for your argument?

        You are, of course, 100% correct that we should pray to the Father, as Scripture shows clearly. And you’re right that we should pray to the Son, as Scripture shows less clearly (there is one clear instance of it, the one that you’ve cited).

        But your claim that “all prayer should be directed to our triune God” seems to be based on the idea that if Scripture doesn’t show us how to pray to someone, we can’t pray to them. There are three problems with that assumption:

        1) It’s unscriptural – nothing in Scripture says what you’re assuming here;

        2) We don’t see explicit prayer to the Holy Spirit. Yet you hold (rightly) that prayer to the Holy Spirit is good.

        3) We do see explicit prayer to the Saints, as this post shows. So even if I accepted the flawed standard that we can only pray to those specified explicitly in Scripture, it would still permit prayer to the Saints.

        So to recap,
        – you’re right to pray to the Father and Son,
        – wrong to think that Scripture alone dictates the boundaries of the manner of our prayer (since this isn’t an authority Scripture claims to exercise, and both of us pray “outside the boundaries” in praying to the Holy Spirit), and
        – wrong to conclude that pray must only be directed to God.

        There’s more to say here, but I’ll just add one more thing. A lot of this controversy turns upon a subtle mistake: Protestants tend to assume that prayer = worship. Catholics and Protestants (and all Christians) agree that worship should only be directed to our triune God. But prayer, as spiritual petition, is broader than worship.

        I.X.,

        Joe

    2. “This objection doesn’t sense from a Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish perspective, because it’s premised on the idea that we can somehow be assured that they’re in Hell…Underlying your confidence that the fallen are in Hell is the idea that they were idolaters. But it doesn’t actually say that in the Bible.”

      You don’t understand the objection. If the men did not commit the sin of idolatry, then praying for them so that they would receive forgiveness would be irrelevant. Your interpetation is trying to have it both ways: Maccabeus prayed and sacrificed for the dead so that they would be forgiven their sin (which was idolatry), yet because idolatry is a mortal sin, the dead he prayed for did not commit idolatry.

      That’s a contradiction. Quite simply, it cannot be avoided that the passage of 2 Maccabbees cannot be used as evidence in favor of modern Catholic practice for this reason as well as the other I pointed out. My confidence concerning whether any of these men are in hell are not is totally, irrelevant, I don’t know that, I just know that to pray for forgiveness for a sin that cannot be forgiven apart from penance is improper Catholic practice, and so a passage that “supposedly” shows just that cannot be used to confirm modern Catholic practice.

      “As for the idea that Maccabeus wasn’t praying for the dead, you’re contradicted by 2 Macc. 12:44, which says, ‘For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.’ The “fallen” here explicitly refers to those who fell in battle, as we see from 2 Macc. 12:39 (“Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen”) and 2 Macc. 12:40 (“this was why these men had fallen”). So yes, Judas prays for them in the hope that they’re amongst the godly, and with a hope of the Resurrection.”

      First, praying for those who were righteous among the dead would not need prayers to avail them of sin of idolatry, because no one can be availed of that sin according to Catholic dogma anyway. So, the prayer would not avail the righteous men in any specific way.

      Second, praying “for the dead” could essentially mean “pray because of the dead.” Before accusing anyone of praying word games, this explanation is the only one that makes sense given the context. If the prayer is simply for the righteous among the dead idolaters or for the living whose land has been defiled by the idolatry, neither are guilty of sin personally that would require sacrifice, but both have been defiled because of the actions of others. Hence, the intercession and prayers are for the righteous because of the defiling effect of the unrighteous upon the righteous. Hence, no one is being prayed for to be delivered from sin, and therefore this passage is not a proof-text for Catholic practice.

    3. “You’re making the very argument that I warned against. Protestantism can’t simultaneously reject 2 Maccabees for explicitly including prayers for the dead…”
      I never rejected 2 Maccabbees in this convo and I have shown that you are understanding the text wrong. So, I haven’t rejected anything that forces me into contradiction, while for you to use 2 Maccabees as a proof-text would require a contradiction of Catholic dogma or an interpretation that makes 2 Maccabees not about praying for the dead in the sense that their sins can be mitigated against (and that be the case, the prayers are not objectionable to Protestants given the Old Testament regulations that would have been followed given the time).

      “…and then reject the other references for not being explicit enough.”

      Not really. I objected to your interpretation of 2 Maccabees because it is not about Catholic-styled prayers for the dead. Now, the reference from Paul was objected to not only because of it’s lack of “explicitness,” but also because Paul prayed for the man to be delivered on “that day,” so the prayer cannot relate to a prayer for a loved one in purgatory, which is the present Catholic interpretation.

      “It’s not actually an argument from silence, it’s also an inference from what he’s saying.”

      Even if you infer from something not explicit that he is dead, it is explicitly said that Paul prays for his salvation on the day of judgement. This means it has nothing to do with purgatory.

      “As for the idea that “everything Onsiphorus did was in the past tense, because they all happened before Paul was in prison,” that doesn’t seem to account for the final reference (“And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus”).”

      Services he “rendered” is still past tense, I honestly do not understand your point.

      “I’m interested in your final point, though: “Protestants pray that God may be merciful to their loved ones simply because God is outside of time and we know He can answer such prayers. They just don’t continue with the practice, simply because it is not spelled out in Scripture.” So praying for the dead is okay, but not doing it a lot? “

      I don’t personally have an opinion on this. It is not wrong to pray for the dead, the issue is we do not know exactly why we pray for the dead. Speaking to Catholics the issue is the prayers being of some avail in purgatory (or to mitigate some sort of suffering in the afterlife, Augustine speculated on this.) To Eastern Orthodox, I have heard of one of their Saints having a vision that a prayer literally took a love one one of theirs from hell and put that loved one in heaven. As you can see, Protestants would reject the effect of prayers for those is purgatory (because they deny its existence) and for those in hell (as we do not view their punishment as temporary.) So, if you pray, there really is not a concise reason for what you are praying about.

    4. “3. It would be a strange position to say that a person can pray to the Saints if he’s in Hades, but not if he’s still on Earth.”
      Well, the Scripture actually has examples of those in Hades that explicitly see saints (both in the Gospel of Luke). So, I suppose you can find that strange, but I can only report to you what I have read. It is taught to speculate as to what else is true when it is not made explicit outside of the transfiguration that there is any legitimate interaction between the living and the dead.

      God bless,
      Craig

    5. Craig,

      1. Still no. If your interpretation were right, what Judas Maccabeus was doing would be contrary to both Judaism and Catholicism. But if that were the case, why would no Jew or Catholic have ever noticed this?

      A better answer is that you’re the one misreading the passage. You’re still assuming that the sin in question is necessarily idolatry (which again, it doesn’t say), and that therefore the men were either in a state of mortal sin or not in a state of sin at all.

      But you’re forcing that reading onto the passage. If instead the men died because of superstition, for clinging to the “sacred tokens of the idols of Jam′nia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear” (2 Macc. 12:40), you don’t have a clearcut case that it’s mortal sin.

      In other words, if the men (who died defending the Temple) treated these tokens like a rabbits’ foot rather than an idol, you’re not dealing with the same sin. Superstition can be mortal or venial. And so the passage makes sense.

      2. In both #1 and #2, you’re making arguments that are contrary to real-life Catholicism. In #1, you’re basically saying that no Catholic would ever be justified in praying for someone who died in apparent mortal sin, and in #2 you’re saying that no Catholic would be justified in praying that the faithful departed find mercy on Judgment Day. Both of these are, you claim, contradictions of Catholicism. But we do both of these things, for the simple reason that they’re not contradictions.

      I don’t know how else to respond to the objection: you’re making “If he were Catholic, he wouldn’t do X” arguments to things that Catholics actually do.

      I will readily grant that the Protestant vision of Catholicism is contradicted in a thousand ways by the actual beliefs and practices of Catholicism, which is what seems to be at the root of your “but Catholics would never do that!” arguments. But this is an argument against the Protestant vision, against assuming that you understand Catholicism better than Catholics.

      2a. In terms of services that Onesiphorus rendered, you’re right that it’s in the past tense. That was my point. You had suggested that Onesiphorus’ earthly life was spoken of in the past tense because Paul was just looking at the events tied to Onesiphorus visiting him in prison. I pointed out that this isn’t the case: Paul also describes his overall ministry in Ephesus… still in the past tense.

      So the reason he’s past-tensing Onesiphorus isn’t because he’s just recounting a specific past event. It’s likely because Onesiphorus is departed.

      2b. I’ve not made an explicit argument for Purgatory. Although prayers for the dead and Purgatory are obviously related, my goal is a modest one: to show that Scripture supports praying for the dead. You seem to be unsure, but more or less in agreement on this point. Is that right?

      3. ” So, I suppose you can find that strange, but I can only report to you what I have read.” No, what I objected to what claiming that those on earth couldn’t do it while those in Hades could. We both agree that those in Hades can/could apparently pray to the Saints.

      This admission alone is enormous, because it shows that prayer to the Saints isn’t idolatry (unless idolatry is okay in Hades). But it also shows how irrational it is to assume – without any Scriptural evidence – that those on Earth can’t pray to the Saints. So the dispute isn’t over what you’ve read (we agree on that point), but on assuming from silence the exact opposite of what you’ve read.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. I may have missed this, but are you taking a position on whether “everything not explicitly permitted is forbidden” v. “everything not explicitly forbidden is permitted”?

      1. “About those in Hades can pray to Saint and how is that OK, while we, who are on Earth, can’t pray to Saints.”

        But my point is- Based on the parable, that prayer to Saint Abraham was not resulted in a favorable outcome. So why pray to saints for their intercession?
        Saint Abraham said, he can’t help.

        By the way, I am a Catholic and I personally believe that prayer for the intercession of St. Joseph was very effective and I am still continuing those intercessory prayers. But I am getting such doubts and I am searching for clarity in this matter.

        1. Hi, hope I can help.

          First thing to consider. The prayer to Father Abraham was made before Jesus Christ poured the Holy Spirit into the Church. It is less an example of a prayer and more an example of the living Spirits, communicating with each other in the Next Life.

          Second thing, but just as important. We are no longer in the Old Testament. Jesus has poured out the Holy Spirit upon the world and we are in a New Covenant. Here is how Scripture describes our New Reality:

          Hebrews 12:21-24New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

          21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

          Notice two things.

          1. We are no longer in the terrifying reality of Moses’ Covenant.
          2. We are now living on God’s Mountain, amongst the Spirits of men made perfect. That’s a reference to the Saints.

          Third thing to consider. Jesus is our example. It is also on God’s Mountain that Jesus gave us the very first example of what we should do when we are amongst the Spirits of men made perfect:

          Matthew 17:3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

          Notice that Jesus was communicating with the Saints when He walked amongst them on the mountain. And He had brought three of the Apostles to witness this event. The message seems clear. We are now free to talk to the Saints.

          And finally, St. James says:

          James 5:16-18New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

          16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

          Notice that St. James says that the prayer of a righteous man is very efficacious. Immediately, he follows it up with the example of Elijah. A man, long dead, and well known to be in heaven, due to Jesus having spoken to him on the mountain.

          Again, the inference is clear. Pray to the Saints, because their prayers are very efficacious. Elijah is an example of such.

          I hope that helps.

    6. “If your interpretation were right, what Judas Maccabeus was doing would be contrary to both Judaism and Catholicism. But if that were the case, why would no Jew or Catholic have ever noticed this?”

      Actually, I think in all of this you have been far from concise with what your interpretation is. The best I can gather, it is that Judas Maccabeus was praying for those men who died that were “Godly” yet given to good luck charms. Therefore, I presume your line of reasoning dictates, that the prayers would be for these men to be forgiven by God for their slight indiscretion.

      You have two presumptions in this. First, that these things were good luck charms. Amulets used for luck in the Scripture are not specifically idols of specific gods. Hence, these were not mere good luck charms in the Biblical sense, but idols.

      Second, that the prayers were for the dead men themselves so that they may be absolved of their sin. The “they” in verse 46 may be the Jewish nation as a whole in the future. Again, this is not a necessary reading, but not an impossible one.

      But, let me put forward another interpretation that would not exclude your presumptions: 1. the fallen were not guilty of mortal sin and 2. Judas prayed specifically for their atonement. How do we know that Judas even did the right thing?

      According to the author of 2 Maccabees, he gives a guarded approval of Maccabeus’ actions: ” In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, INASMUCH as he had the resurrection in mind” (v. 43). So, it was very excellent and noble that Judas believed in the resurrection of the dead, but is it likewise excellent and noble that Judas prayed for the forgiveness of these men to begin with?

      Verse 45 appears to show that the author disapproved of the pray for ungodly men: “But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.”

      So, what we are really seeing is a questionable prayer, that affirmed an important doctrine that was debated between Israel’s religious factions (the resurrection of the dead), which had the immediate benefit of being instructive to the Jewish people and blotting out the effects of that sin on the nation (v. 42).

      The narrow Catholic interpretation adds presumptions that every facet of the prayer was Godly when the text itself is explicit that only one specific facet was Godly (resurrection). Further, it requires the presumption that these men were not guilty of mortal sin (something that we may infer from verse 43 the author did not believe). Lastly, the Catholic interpretation attempts to shoehorn the idea of purgatory into the text when the text says nothing about it, but rather relates to post-resurrection judgement.

      For these reasons, 2 Maccabees poses no problem to Protestants and in fact, poses problems for Catholics as the text suggests against their present dogmas.

      1. Protestants pray for the dead? If they don’t and if they condemn this practice, I fail to see how praying for the dead, whether it be for resurrection or forgiveness, does not give Protestants a problem. In fact, it is just another of your, “I can say whatever I want and they’ll believe it” arguments.

        Sorry, Craig. Your argument makes no sense.

    7. “A better answer is that you’re the one misreading the passage.”

      That is possible 🙂

      ” I pointed out that this isn’t the case: Paul also describes his overall ministry in Ephesus… still in the past tense.”

      Not exactly. He speaks of what he had done in Ephesus was in the past tense just as what he did in Rome in the past tense. For all we know, he went to a third city, but because Onsiphorus’ family was in Ephesus Paul greets only them specifically.

      However, all of this is irrelevant because the prayer is for God’s mercy during judgement (“that day,”) not anything to do with purgatory. So, we have two Scriptural references (2 Maccabees and 2 Tim 1:16) which Catholics use to support prayers for the dead that explicitly have nothing to do with purgatory, but resurrection. Being that (aside from what Eastern Orthodox think) there is nothing one can do after one is dead to change one’s eternal state on the day of judgement: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his BODY” (2 Cor 5:10).

      So, if Maccabeus or Paul really are praying for dead people that they may be availed in some way, the only possible beneficial prayer would be that God have made these men faithful before they died and that God may be gracious to them on the day of judgement. It is like a retroactive prayer, which of course is not impossible for God to answer, but I am sure it is often not what most Catholics or Eastern Orthodox have in mind.

      “I’ve not made an explicit argument for Purgatory. Although prayers for the dead and Purgatory are obviously related, my goal is a modest one: to show that Scripture supports praying for the dead.”

      True, but in my response all I argued was that we are not sure that Paul was actually praying for someone who was dead, but if he was we know for sure it has NOTHING to do with purgatory (which ultimately is an argument from tradition, it is definitely not in Scripture. Augustine would have not called purgatory “either [something] ascertained or left doubtful” if it was clearly in Scripture or fully accepted traditionally for that matter).

      Because your references to 2 Tim and 2 Macc are highly debatable, you have only shown that it is debatable that Scripture supports praying for the dead in one context, while explicitly condemning it in others. Being that I never argued that Protestants rejecting praying for the dead under any circumstance, and rather said that Protestants often do pray for dead loved ones, I am not going to argue the extreme position that under no circumstance is it acceptable.

      “This admission alone is enormous, because it shows that prayer to the Saints isn’t idolatry (unless idolatry is okay in Hades).”

      Not really. In Luke 13 there is no talking to the dead and in Luke 16 it is not a prayer, but a conversation. So, I am not sure how this can be used to pray to the dead for intercession, especially when Abraham said no 🙂 .

      “P.S. I may have missed this, but are you taking a position on whether “everything not explicitly permitted is forbidden” v. “everything not explicitly forbidden is permitted”?”

      I think the “regulative principle” sums up my thinking pretty well. I am also pro-head coverings for example. I take things pretty seriously that are explicit in the Scripture with the full, unquestioned support of tradition. It is the same reason I believe in the real presence.

  3. Craig, Just a quick question that I believe pertains to prayer for saints after death.

    When Jesus teaches about these judgements below, He describes various penalties for sins. When Jesus says: ‘and you be put into prison’….’and will not get out until you have paid the last penny’…Do you think this refers to a ‘prison term’ that is to be paid for ‘after death’? or, in this world here? Or both? :

    “I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny. (Matt. 5: 22 -26)

    1. On the top of my head it appears what Christ is teaching is that in world tribulation those who can lord themselves over us can put us through the wringer, especially if we are disobedient in not reconciling if possible with these men. I would not go as far as to say that in absolutely every circumstance, this is what would occur, just as Job was righteous and instead of a blessing he was put through trial.

      For what it is worth, Matthew Henry interprets the passage to mean that one can never repay God for his sin so “that will not be to the utmost ages of eternity: divine justice will be for ever in the satisfying, but never satisfied.”

    2. In my opinion, this Scripture seems pretty clear that the Lord is describing ‘gradations’ of spiritual sins and also gradations, or degrees, of punishments relating to these varying sins. Some sins are small and meriting a lesser punishment, and other’s such as extreme contempt for a brother, will merit eternal punishment in ‘the hell of fire’. The judge is God, and the judgement is after our death. We are therefore counseled to reconcile with the people we offend while we are ‘on the way with them’ in this life, before death, lest those that we have offended demand justice of God for our sins, and God hears their plea’s, and casts us into ‘prison’. Jesus details the severity of the prison sentence by saying “you will never get out till you have paid the last penny”.

      But ‘prison’ also indicates by it’s very nature that indeed there will be a time, ‘after the last penny paid’, that you will be set free from this prison. Jesus, elsewhere warns ” But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.” Matt. 12:36. So, after life, in the ‘day of judgement’, great sins will be punished with eternal Hell, and smaller sins with imprisonment (i.e.. Purgatory). But, the ‘perfect’, i.e.. Saints, will enter Heaven free of all debt, as they have either reconciled themselves with God ,and man, in this world for their sins, or possibly committed very few sins and lived, for the most part, blameless lives. And, in another Scripture the Lord teaches: ‘those who followed and taught the commandments of God to others in this life will be called ‘great’ in the Kingdom of Heaven. And, those that broke the ‘least commandment’ and taught others to do likewise, will be called ‘least’ in the Kingdom of Heaven.'(Matt. 5:19)

      So, this is why Catholics pray for their beloved ‘dead’. We ask the Lord to relieve their punishment, if possible, for the minor sins they have committed, and for which in the after life they might be imprisoned to make satisfaction for (ie. to the last penny). In some way this prayer of ours is like those who brought their loved ones to Jesus to be healed in the various Gospel accounts. We do the same as these we read about, and pray that God has mercy on them, and forgives all of their trespasses and debts. And, because we don’t know if a person’s guilt is one meriting Hellfire (i.e.. Mortal sin) or not, as we ourselves are not the judge, we pray for all of our beloved dead, having hope for their souls and recommending them to the great mercy of God.

      I think it is for this love of Christians on Earth for their beloved dead, that 2Macc.12:46 says:

      “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

    3. I would have to honestly disagree with you and when I search the verse and the ECF none of the ECF took that interpretation. It seems to me to be eisegesis. Of course, it would be a consistent interpretation with present Catholic teaching.

    4. You might find some of these famous ECF and other Saints’ quotes on Prayer to/for the dead interesting:

      St. Cyprian of Carthage:

      “Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy”

      Letters 56[60]:5
      Carthage, AD 253
      *************************
      Origen of Alexandria:

      “But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels… as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep”

      On Prayer 11
      Alexandria, AD 233
      ************************
      St. Clement of Alexandria

      In this way is he [the true Christian] always pure for prayer. He also prays in the society of angels, as being already of angelic rank, and he is never out of their holy keeping; and though he pray alone, he has the choir of the saints standing with him [in prayer]

      Miscellanies 7:12
      Alexandria, AD 208
      *************************
      Inscription on the Tomb of St. Sabina:

      Atticus, sleep in peace, secure in your safety, and pray anxiously for our sins

      Funerary inscription near St. Sabina’s Tomb
      Rome, Circa AD 300
      ***************************

    5. Here are 3 more famous Church Fathers to be considered:

      Tertullian (155-220),

      “We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]” (Tertullian, The Crown 3:3).

      *********************************

      Chrysostom (349-407),

      “Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5).
      **********************************

      Augustine (354-430),

      “Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment,” (The City of God 21:13).

      ****************************

  4. Craig, here are even more quotations from Early Church Fathers that support the Catholic teaching on Prayers to, and for, the Saints:

    Clement of Alexandria

    The believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one, “yet” etc. (Patres Groeci. IX, col. 332 [A.D. 150-215])

    ***************************************

    Origen

    If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works. (Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448 [A.D. 185-232]).

    ************************************

    Abercius

    The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius (Epitaph of Abercius [A.D. 190]).

    ***********************************************

    Tertullian

    That allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25-26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the judge . . . and lest this judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation? (The Soul 35 [A.D. 210]).

    ***********************************************

    The faithful widow prays for the soul of her husband, and begs for him in the interim repose, and participation in the first resurrection, and offers prayers on the anniversary of his death (Monogamy 10 [A.D. 213]).

    ********************************************************

    Cyprian

    It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the Day of Judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord (Letters 51[55]:20 [A.D. 253]).

    ***************************************************

    1. I thought I wrote a reply on my phone yesterday, but I don’t see it. I don’t see anything objectionable in any of those quotes, I was just pointing out that none of the ECF interpreted that portion of Matthew as you do. Though, now that you have quoted Tertullian, I would be wrong in this (though reading the 35 chapter shows that Tertullian had more in mind world punishments for breaking a compact with a worldly adversary, though he allowed for the interpretation of those who renounced Satan who return to evil deeds will be accused by Satan and will then in effect have to pay for the deeds they have done in conflict of their renouncing of Satan.)

      Many of these quotes do not show an understanding of purgatory and what role praying for the saints has in alleviating distress in purgatory. Some appear to, if read out of context (for example, Cyprian is talking about world tribulations, Augustine in his speculations seems to think that the purging by fire is a possibility and not a drawn out event.)

      However, we are getting off topic anyhow I suppose getting into purgatory. I do not think the article, my response and Joe’s responses to those sought to prove or disprove that doctrine specifically 🙂

  5. Scriptural References for the Baltimore Catechism Rev G.H. Guyot

    Throughout the communion of saints, the blessed in heaven can help the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth by praying for them.

    Tob xii, 6-15

    If the angel Raphael offered to Goethe prayers and works of Tobias, then by analogy we can infer that the blessed in heaven who are more closely united to those on earth and to the souls in Purgatory will intercede for them. This is not a proof; it is simply a deduction by analogy.

    1. Aquinas enlightens both Joe and I 😉

      “The donaries to the idols were not found on those dead so that they might be taken as a sign that they were carried off in reverence to the idols: but they took them as conquerors because they were due to them by right of war. They sinned, however, venially by covetousness: and consequently they were not damned in hell, and thus suffrages could profit them. or we may say, according to some, that in the midst of fighting, seeing they were in danger, they repented of their sin, according to Ps. 77:34, “When He slew them, then they sought Him”: and this is a probable opinion. Wherefore the offering was made for them.”

      Using this explanation, these men did not die in mortal sin (rather than the good luck charms argument put forward by Joe). However, as I have shown, the writer of Maccabees only endorses the prayer in view of the resurrection of the dead and does not assert that all of the men would be delivered. However, Aquinas’ interpretation is possible and logical.

    2. Fascinating exegesis. I agree: Aquinas’ interpretation seems both logical and even probable.

      I’d add only that to the extent that the Maccabees weren’t sure whether or not the fallen were idolaters, the pious response would be to pray for them. Great find, you two!

  6. Excellent article.

    Comments relating to the Early Church Fathers add weight to the argument, that the Church did not evolve teaching along the way, but was there at the Church’s beginning.

  7. It does seem relevant to this question that the prayers of martyrs are especially powerful (Revelation 6:9-11). We see this belief also in Christian tradition.

  8. I dont mean to give shallow interpretations of what are you all saying here. I am not good in all bible passages. but a simple understanding I got in life….. I confess that I must have sinned… . My prayers are unacceptable because I prayed over soul – less things…. Like, God revive the plant I planted…. God thanks for the food we eat and thanks for more blessings everyday… Lord, kept my family safe always. . . And when my grandma died, I prayed, lord, forgive her and receive her in your bosom. . . . It seems to me that praying does not make any sense now. . . . Why should I pray for my plant? it’s dead. It’s soul – less.

    Are our prayers limited? Can’t we pray for miracles for my dead plant? for my family here only on Earth and not anymore in heaven? Are Heaven and Earth totally separated, despite of the fact that Jesus taught us to pray, ” your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven? . . .Are angels – saints(holy ones) and people on Earth NOT members of the family of God? I believe that what makes the difference between saints – angels and people on Earth,being judgment – being forgiven… While we are here on Earth, we are still to be judged. . those angels and saints are sinless. . Can’t they cheer for us in prayers with praises for God?

    if praying to the dead is absolutely NOT acceptable to God, are we NOT faithful enough also that we can’t help those people who are in hell? Does saints- angels and people – on – earth praying for each other defame God? or does it proclaim Him more glory and mercy for us His creations? I believe, it is just a matter of Faith. who are we, if we don’t pray? Knock and it shall be opened. ask and it shall be given. Are we too narrow- minded of God’s Power and Mercy? Am i going to knocks God’s mercy heart here on Earth ONLY for the safety of family and NOT anymore if I will be in Heaven? Is this the kind of God you want to tell me? We praise God here on Earth and the Scripture tells so, that when were in heaven we’ll keep on praising Him. .. Does it mean that we don’t pray anymore if were in heaven? I believe that praising goes with praying.

    May God have mercy on us….. I believe God can do everything…and He is merciful…. . If hell is eternal suffering, still my faith tells me that we can help pray for each other, saints – angels and people – on – Earth, that God may still be Merciful …

    Perhaps, we are too focused on verses. . . .

  9. Your first quote from Maccabees indicated that he prayed for the fallen soldiers, but he wasn’t praying to the dead because the dead no nothing and can’t respond. If you read your own quote it says, “Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” Who was he praying to? God For what purpose? To make atonement for the dead soldiers sins. He wasn’t praying to the dead soldiers. The second quote again from Maccabees in which the person is conversing with two saints, but again you are wrong because he had a vision which is normally called a dream. The person wasn’t actually talking to two departed saints. You do know what a dream is don’t you? Again your story about Onesiphorus is also wrong. Paul wasn’t praying to Onesiphorus he was as you said praying for the soul of Onesiphorus. Your final proof or people praying to the dead is as you say a parable, it didn’t actually happen. There are few other examples in of THE BIBLE where people appear to be praying to God to not leave their soul in sheol or pray from the grave for God to save them. They are not actually praying to God from the grave after they are dead. They spoke the words before they died and prayed that it would come to fruition once they died. All in all you have failed to prove that anyone in the Bible has ever prayed in person to a departed soul or saint.

  10. You are so far off base. The book of Macabees, first of all is a historical book, not a canonical book. And it says in Revelation that if anyone adds to or takes away from the words of Scripture, “God will take away from him his share of the fruit of the tree of life and of the Holy City.” The sacraments, as required by the Catholic Church, are additional requirements for salvation imposed by the church. Jesus died on the cross for your sins and for mine. Period. Acceptance and recognition of this is all that is needed for salvation. If anything else is required, including the non-scriptural purgatory, then what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t good enough. That’s basically what the Catholic Church is saying. Well good luck with that thinking because it’s wrong. I will never dumb down what my Jesus did on the cross for humanity by requiring other acts on top of what He did. What He did was good enough and I will defend Him until the day I die. You should be ashamed of yourselves for being so arrogant that you think you could possibly add to what the Savior did.

  11. Joe, are you one of those homosexual priest who deny the Doctrine of Justification by Faith?

    Do you even have a faith in Christ? Why not just have a faith in saints and have others to pray for you when you die?

    1. Am I a homosexual priest? No I do not believe in Catholic perversions of the Bible. I was raised a Baptist. I went to a Christian University. I know it may not be correct to call out Catholics but Catholics do add and remove from God’s Scriptures.
      Please tell me that chapter and verse for these actions
      No meat on Fridays
      Being told to not read the Bible just ask your priest
      Priests read prayers that were not written by them
      Praying to the dead
      Praying to the saints
      Inserting a man “the Pope’ as God on earth.
      Giving up candy for Lent to suffer as Christ did on the Cross. Yeah no Hershey bar is totally like being crucified
      Raising up Mary to be a God herself
      The sending of infants to hell for being BORN how sick are you people
      Purgatory? What did Christ tell the thief on the cross “was it well sir I will see after enough of family and friends pray to get out of purgatory” No the one true Christ said you will be with me tonight. So did Jesus lie or play favorites with the thief?

      Now I do not blame the majority of Catholics as they have been lied to by those people who should known better.

      Currently my faith is in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I no longer attend any church as todays leaders do not know the truth any more. I believe we do not know what God will do when you or I are standing before him.

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