Biblical and Jewish Traditional Beliefs About Purgatory

Thanks to StillSmallVoice and Yaacov for their help with this.

There is ample evidence that the Bible implicitly teaches a Purgatory.

Begin with Matthew 12:32, which says, "And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come." Does this not imply that some sins can be forgiven in the age to come? Now think this through...There is no sin to forgive in heaven, right? Sin is not forgiven in hell because it's too late and permanent. So...Implicit "purgatory"

1st Corinthians 3:15 which says, "If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Again this cannot refer to heaven or hell for the same reasons as above. This is essentially the definition of Purgatory.

1st Peter 3:18-20 which says, "Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, 19 In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison: 20 Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water."

and 1st Peter 4:6 which says, "For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to the dead: that they might be judged indeed according to men, in the flesh; but may live according to God, in the Spirit" Note that it was a prison for disobedient spirits and yet they were saved when Jesus preached to them.

Where is that prison? We are not told in scripture, yet this does indeed indicate that there are other "places" besides just Heaven and Hell, does it not? Believing that there is only Heaven and Hell is in fact, not scriptural.

2nd Maccabees 12:44-46 which says, "44 (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) 45 And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. 46 It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. "
The same reasons apply here as to the first passages I gave you...

Note also that St. Paul says that the early church believed this in 1st Corinthians 15:29 which says, "Otherwise what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? why are they then baptized for them? " He does not condemn this practice though it seems to have fallen out of practice...

The Jews also believe this and still do today (as if the passage from 2nd Maccabees doesn't clearly show this). I offer info from my good friend Stillsmallvoice who is an Orthodox Jew who lives in Israel:
"Hi all!

Our prayer, the Mourner's Kaddish, is for the benefit of the soul of the deceased & is believed to ease the spiritual status of the deceased's soul as it goes through whatever trials & tribulations it may be subject to. Yes, we do believe in something akin to the Roman Catholic notion of Purgatory & thus saying the Mourner's Kaddish would be similar to the Roman Catholic idea of praying for the souls in Purgatory.

Look at http://www.ou.org/yerushalayim/kadish.htm#Meaning .

The text there is the (5 clause) Mourner’s Kaddish in Hebrew, transliterated English & English (you can also listen to it in RealAudio).

As I understand it, a soul that has sinned in this world has to pay for its actions/inactions in the next world. We do not automatically & necessarily divide souls into the entirely righteous who will therefore enjoy enternal bliss and the entirely evil who will therefore suffer eternal damnation. The degrees in between are infinite & we believe that God rewards/punishes each soul according to its good/not good actions. As I said, the recitation of the Kaddish prayer is believed to benefit the soul of the deceased as it goes through whatever trials and tribulations it has to endure in the next world.

In addition to the aforementioned Kaddish prayer (which is usually said by a son for a departed parent for 11 months after the day of burial, but which can also be said for 30 days for a spouse, child or sibling, particularly if none of these have children to say the Kaddish; the Kaddish is also recited on the anniversary of the burial), there are the Yizkor (literally: "He will remember") and E-l Maleh Rahamim (literally: "God Full of Mercy") prayers (see http://www.ou.org/yerushalayim/yizkor/) which are recited 4 times a year on Yom Kippur, the last day of Passover, Shavuot and Shemini Atzeret (see http://www.jewfaq.org/toc.htm for links to all of these holydays).

I submit the following excerpt (from http://www.jewfaq.org/death.htm#Kaddish):

In addition to the Kaddish. it is believed that the recitation of the Yizkor and E-l Maleh Rahamim prayers are beneficial to the soul of the departed. On the anniversary of the burial, it is common to study some chapter of the Talmud or the Tanakh (what we call what Christians call the "Old Testament"), read a selection of Psalms, give to charity, etc. in honor/memory of the departed. This is also believed to be beneficial."
I had already discovered this in talking to a devout Orthodox Jewish buddy of mine and Stillsmallvoice was kind enough to help out with all this info as well.

In spite of allegations to the contrary, the concept of Purgatory is indeed quite scriptural.

No comments: