Examples of Indulgences in the Bible?

A friend I am emailing with has inquired about indulgences and possible Biblical examples. I’m actually not aware of any examples of indulgences being applied in Scripture, but I did give the definition of them from the Catechism (CCC 1471-1473) and noted that it’s linked to Penance and the authority to bind and loose (Mt 16:19, 18:18).

But I would like to have more input that I may give him. Here’s the question:

"I am reading about the Catholic belief in indulgences. I read about how the story of Lazarus as an example of someone dead trying to help the living. I also read 1 Kings 11:1-14, about the actions of David lessening the punishment for Solomon.

Are there any examples in the bible that you are aware of that are examples of those that are living helping or lessening the punishment of the dead through actions when they are living?" (bolding mine)

I just did a quick search and found these.

The most famous biblical example of someone getting an indulgence is when Jesus, from the cross in Luke 23:43, gave the good thief complete remission for his sins, promising him that he would be in paradise that day. This power of binding and loosing sins and punishment was given to the Church by Jesus, in Matthew 18:18, when he said “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” “Whatever” means anything, including punishment for sins.
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2 Machabees 12: 41-46
[41] Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. [42] And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. [43] And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, [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.

[45] With godliness: Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death.

[46] It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead: Here is an evident and undeniable proof of the practice of praying for the dead under the old law, which was then strictly observed by the Jews, and consequently could not be introduced at that time by Judas, their chief and high priest, if it had not been always their custom.
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Hope this helps

“Binding” and “loosing” were rabbinical terms meaning to impose or lift an obligation. Jesus refers to this in Matt 23:4:

They tie up [bind] burdens that are heavy and unbearable and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they refuse to lift a finger to remove [loose] them.

In many translations (such as the KJV) the word “bind” is used instead of “tie up,” and, indeed, the same Greek word (δεδεμένα) is used in both passages.

Jesus places no restrictions on this authority.

I think the following passages indicate that it is okay to fast and pray for the dead: Psalms 35:13-14, 2 Tim. 1:16-18, 2 Samuel 1:12, 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 3:34-35, 2 Macc. 12:43-45, Jeremiah 16:5-10, Tobit 4:17, Sirach 7:33-34.

To me, those passages indicate that the living can relieve the dead through prayer and suffrages in this life. That seems to correspond to what your friend asked about.

Regarding indulgences, I think the passages I cited give support to the doctrine of indulgences, because indulgences just formalize that process: that make it formal that you can do X amount of suffrages for whoever you want. However, indulgences have other supporting passages that are less related to the dead. For example, anytime someone is undergoing a penalty for their sins, but someone in the Church decides to reduce that penalty, I think that meets the definition of an indulgence. (Look it up.)

In Scripture, I think there are several examples of that. The thief on the Cross seems to have deserved a lot of time in purgatory, but Jesus blessed him by saying that he would be with Him in paradise that day. Also, the Corinthian sinner in 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 seems to have been given an indulgence by St. Paul, because St. Paul seems to tell the Corinthians to cancel the remainder of the penalty for whatever sin he had committed. He seems to tell them to admit the man back into the community because he has shown enough sorrow for his sins. (verses 7-10) Since an indulgence (if I understand the definition correctly) is any remission of the temporal penalty for sin, what St. Paul did in those verses seems to qualify.

Anyway, I hope that helps. God bless!

Thanks so much for the information and passages, Pete, David, and dmar! I’m learning as much as my friend is on this one! :stuck_out_tongue:

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