I understand that many Jews today perform ceremonies and prayers for the dead. This is surprising to me, especially since many evangelicals believe that praying for the dead is a bad thing. I’m just wondering if Jews have always prayed for the dead, or if it’s just a recent development. I’m especially interested if the Jews prayed for the dead when they decided upon a canon around 100 A.D.
Not only do Jews pray for the dead, but apparently they even have an understanding of a purgation process after death, though they don’t nail it down the way Catholics do. You can follow this very interesting discussion on this thread:
stolen… err… borrowed from CERC…
This practice is very ancient. It goes back to Judaism, and is mentioned in the second book of Maccabees (2 Mac. 12,43-46). The author tells how a number of Jews, who had fallen in battle, were found with idolatrous amulets, forbidden by the law, and how Judas Maccabeus took up a collection and sent the money to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice offered for their sin.
The writer praises his faith in the resurrection and his action; “If he had not expected the fallen to rise again it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. This was why he had this atonement sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin.”
Protestants do not accept the books of Maccabees as Scripture, but even so it bears witness to the faith of pious Jews.
No doubt the Apostles, pious Jews most of them, shared this faith — especially Saint Paul, who posed as a Pharisee and a champion of the resurrection (Acts 23,6). In the New Testament itself, there is only one allusion to some kind of purification after death (1 Cor. 3,11-15) , and another reference to some of pious practice in favor of the dead (1 Cor. 15,29) . But we have abundant evidence of faith in a state of purification after death in the earliest ages of the Church.
There are sepulchral inscriptions in the Catacombs, which are prayers for the deceased or ask prayers for him; there are prayers for the faithful departed in the most ancient liturgies; there are many texts in the Fathers on the value of these prayers, and on the necessity of a perfect purification to enter into heaven.