A lot has been written about how certain rituals found in Catholicism may have their origin in Judaism. However, I’ve been thinking about certain beliefs in Judaism and whether they have perhaps been influenced by Catholicism. One is the idea of Purgatory, which many Jews believe in. Unlike Catholicism, it is not an indefinite period of time (or what we think of as time) but rather a period no longer than one year, the function of which is similar to that found in Catholic teaching: that is, the purification of the soul of the deceased from the personal sins they have committed prior to their entering heaven. I wonder whether this is an original Jewish teaching, perhaps based on the “bosom of Abraham” concept, or whether Jews incorporated it, consciously or unconsciously, from Catholic doctrine. There are other teachings as well regarding which I question whether the Jewish belief predated or postdated the Catholic belief. Has anything been written about this topic and does anyone know anything about it? All comments are welcome.
Hi meltzerboy - I have always considered the idea of Purgatory to be of Jewish origin. I guess I was right!
This is from the **Catholic Encyclopedia **about Purgatory:
The tradition of the Jews is put forth with precision and clearness in 2 Maccabees. Judas, the commander of the forces of Israel,
making a gathering . . . sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (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). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Maccabees 12:43-46)
At the time of the Maccabees the leaders of the people of God had no hesitation in asserting the efficacy of prayers offered for the dead, in order that those who had departed this life might find pardon for their sins and the hope of eternal resurrection.
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, 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.611
I don’t know whether this is within the scope of what you are asking, but I have read a suggestion that the evolved practice of the Passover (as being primarily an unleavened bread feast, rather than a sacrifice of a lamb) may have been adopted in part from the early (ethnic) Jewish Catholics’ celebration of the Eucharist.
I don’t doubt that there should be a dispute on that. I read it in David Stern’s (a “Messianic Jew”) commentary on the New Testament.
You certainly would not be the first to speculate about this. For example, there has been quite a bit written about the Seder Haggadah being influenced by Catholic ritual rather than the other way around, which is usually the assumption. See books such as Jewish Pesach and the Origins of the Christian Easter: Open Questions in Current Research and Passover and Easter: Origin & History to Modern Times.