An opposition to prayers for the dead


#1

One particular objection I heard about the validity of Deuterocanonical books is that, some of its passages contradict the non-Deuterocanonical scriptures, for instance, the prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:43-45 “is opposed” to Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 which teaches that the dead no longer remember anything and have part in “anything that is done under the sun.” The Easy-to-Read version (which they cite, uhm, I don’t know, for convenience I think) says “The living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything. They have no more reward. People will soon forget them. After people are dead, their love, hate, and jealousy are all gone. And they will never again share in what happens on earth.”

One answer I can think of at the moment, which I recall I had read somewhere in the footnotes of the NAB, is that the Hebrew belief on the dead is “evolving”. There was a time when the Hebrews do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, but later on they did. Just not sure about this, and the time “when”. Perhaps I’ll look it up again.

Anyway, how do we reconcile “2 Maccabees 12:43-45” with “Ecclesiastes 9:5-6”, if the opposition is actually true?

thanks!


#2

I found this notation from Douay Rheims version regarding verse 5:

*[5] Know nothing more: Viz., as to the transactions of this world, in which they have now no part, unless it be revealed to them; neither have they any knowledge or power now of doing any thing to secure their eternal state, (if they have not taken care of it in their lifetime:) nor can they now procure themselves any good, as the living always may do, by the grace of God.
*
Seems to me, this and the passages from Macch are two different things. This speaks of the dead’s inability to affect their own salvation unlike the living. Machabees speaks about the living offering prayers on behalf of the dead. I don’t see the contradiction in that.


#3

What was the purpose of the prayers in 2 Mac? Wasn’t it that the dead might have a better resurrection? There was no attempt to contact the dead, or to let them know what was going on in this world, so I don’t see where Ecc 9 is relevant to what is being done. I would point out that prayers FOR the dead is not the same thing as prayers TO the dead (I’m guessing this has to do with prayers to Mary, Saints and Angels). I fully agree that those who are “asleep” (physically dead) no longer participate directly in the things of this world (they’re too busy praising God), and cannot hear any prayers directed to them (though God will certainly hear every prayer made for them).


#4

Regarding Ecclesiastes 9:5,

I found this Q & A from EWTN.

You’ll have to look at the question, but the response by Father Echert were applicable to your question.


#5

Regarding 2 Maccabees I would say that they offered prayers for the dead “that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten.” (9:42). As the author tells us regarding Judas Maccabeus, because “…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…” (verse 44). Ibid.

As Father Echert pointed out in the link I gave in my last post:

"1. Divine revelation of the Old Testament falls far short of the New Testament, for the fullness of Divine Revelation comes in Jesus Christ…

  1. Why would we assume that the state of the dead prior to Christ remains normative for the state of the dead following the Resurrection? In other words, did not the Death and Resurrection of the Lord make a difference for the dead?..

  2. Finally, we do not know what the experience was of righteous souls prior to the Death and Resurrection of our Lord…"

Source: ewtn.com/vexperts/showmessage.asp?number=327547&Pg=&Pgnu=1&recnu= (I have given an abridged version.)

Also, I disagree that the “…physically dead…no longer participate directly in the things of this world…and cannot hear any prayers directed to them…”

Sacred Scripture makes it clear in the New Testament that they are aware and offer our prayers to God (Rev. 5). It follows that they can hear us (through the power of God), as they offer our prayers to God.


#6

[quote=LionHeart777] Regarding 2 Maccabees I would say that they offered prayers for the dead “that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten.” (9:42). As the author tells us regarding Judas Maccabeus, because “…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…” (verse 44). Ibid.
[/quote]

Isn’t that the meaning that I gave (different words, but same idea)? If not, I apologize for not being clear. The point was that the prayers were not TO those who died, but FOR them, and therefore Ecc 9:5 does not apply to this.

as for your other points (from EWTN), I would say the following -

  1. I agree!

  2. From our perspective, what is the difference? I find none in Scripture, history or even early Church tradition (again, prayers FOR the dead is not the same thing as prayers TO the dead).

  3. I agree!

Your use of Rev 5 does not support your assertion. These beings are identified as Elders, not Saints, and there are only 24 of them. Furthermore, it is presumptuous to assume that the prayers they are offering were prayed to them directly. Isn’t it possible that God gave them the golden vials when He gave them the harps? I certainly believe so, and I find nothing in Scripture to make me think otherwise.


#7

There can be no reasonable opposition to praying for the departed.

The doctrine of Purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:46: “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.”

So the real Bible is replete with further evidence for Purgatory, here are a few:

  1. Mt 12:32: Our Blessed Lord Himself: “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” “The age to come’ means life after death, so Our Lord is clear – there ARE other sins that can be pardoned after death. We see also that the Lord knew that His Jewish listeners knew what He meant by forgiveness I the next life.

  2. Then follows Mt 12:36: “on the day of judgment, men will render account for every careless word they utter.” “Careless words” don’t merit Hell, but there will be a penalty which takes place in the Purgatory assigned for that.

  3. Mt 5:21-6: Christ warns of the coming judgment, and in His parable emphasises “put in prison….you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” So paid here, or hereafter where the detention is temporary that can be neither heaven or hell – but Purgatory.

  4. 2 Tim 1:16-18: St Paul prays for the house hold of his helper Onesiphorus, then for Onesiphorus himself: “may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.”
    Another example of purgatory in St Paul’s prayer for the dead.


closed #8

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