I was having a discussion with an athiest colleague of mine, and he put forth a seemingly Protestant arguement about the Catholic Church.
He claims that the practice of intercession of the saints was introduced to appeal to pagans, who were often polytheistic. I researched this,(of course I found much a-C material) and I found an article that basically stated the same thing. It even quoted a Catholic bishop in the year 430 who warned that Mary may become a sort of goddess to them.
Now I guess they lose some credibility because they claim that there were so called “apostolic Christians” at the time who were true Christians which is obviously ludicrous.
I don’t currently have a link because this was a couple of weeks ago, but it would be great if some one could put these accusations to rest.
Also I’m at school so I apologize if I cannot respond to any posts.
I guess it would all come down to the validity of the sources they’re attempting to use to “prove” this assertion. After all, intercession of the saints can be found in the Bible.
Now, there is something that can be said about this question, but it doesn’t come close to proving his assertion: for those who might have been polytheistic before converting to Christianity, one could envision a missionary explaining that, while there aren’t many gods, we Christians know that the communion of saints includes those in heaven, and we pray that these saints might in turn pray for us to God. Naturally, just as we go to an expert for advice, we turn to various saints who had various experiences and competencies in life.
Your friend’s claim is that intercession of the saints isn’t a part of our religious tradition, but merely something tacked on (illegitimately) in order to increase the appeal of Christianity to prospective converts. He’d need to show something that makes that case in order to prove his point. Merely showing some sort of correlation in the directing of prayers for specific causes – that is, between the notions of prayers to a pantheon of gods and intercessory prayers to saints – doesn’t demonstrate causation of the practice of intercessory prayer.
Some of the early quotations in that document demonstrate that the saints were known to intercede for us as early as 80 A.D., 208 A.D., 233 A.D., 253 A.D., 300 A.D., and 305 A.D. All of these were periods when Catholicism was still illegal and Catholics were “enemies of the state,” so there’s no way we were trying to convert them by appeasement. It would be a horrible deal: yes, you might get tortured and killed for your faith, but look! We made it so you don’t have to give up invoking your grandma!
Most anti-Catholics don’t claim this “appeasing the pagans” stuff started creeping in until 318 A.D., when Constantine converted. Therefore it’s a good practice to ask anti-Catholics what changed after that point. When they bring up stuff like the intercession of the saints, just point out to them that this practice was just as common Before 318 as it was After 318. This is just a specific example of a general principle: whatever religious beliefs the Church had After 318 A.D., it had them Before 318 A.D. as well. We can demonstrate this through the Early Church Fathers. And it logically follows that there was no Great Apostasy of the Church at that point, and the Church didn’t gradually “morph” into Catholicism when Constantine came along. Before Constantine, we can demonstrate from the Early Fathers that the Church already had all the same beliefs it has now.
On my website, I’ve collected the various documents demonstrating the early Fathers’s Catholicism at this link:
The notion that the dead intercede for the living can be found in the New Testament story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, where Jesus says the dead rich man interceded for his living brothers. Even before that, in 2 Maccabees 15:11-16, the righteous dead (Onias and Jeremiah) are described as interceding for the living. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, miracles are attributed to the intercession of the righteous dead (dead Samuel prophesied, 1 Samuel 28:16-19 and Sirach 46:20; dead Elisha raised the dead, 2 Kings 13:21 and Sirach 48:13-14). Also, just as the angels are prayerfully addressed directly in the Psalms (Psalms 103:20; 148:2) and asked to praise and bless the Lord, so too in the deuterocanonical verses of Daniel both the angels (Daniel 3:58) and the spirits and souls of the just (Daniel 3:86) are prayerfully addressed directly and asked to praise and bless the Lord.
Given that the righteous dead already intercede for the living and perform miracles and given that it is ok to prayerfully address the righteous dead and ask them to praise and bless the Lord, it is only a short logical step to prayerfully addressing directly the righteous dead and asking for their Christian intercession.
It goes back a bit earlier…to the scriptures themselves.
Praying to Saints and the Communion of Saints Proved from Scripture**
**1. Every Christian is a member of the Body of Christ **
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
2. We are joined with Christ through baptism
“having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)
“for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
**3. All Christians are connected through the Body of Christ **
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”(1 Corinthians 12:26)
“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you” (2 Corinthians 2:5)
**4. Physical death does not separate us from the Body of Christ **
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
**5. There is only one Body of Christ in Heaven and on Earth **
“by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:15-16)
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-5)
**6. The Church is the Body of Christ **
“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18)
**7. Just as we can pray for one another, we can suffer for one another because we are all connected in Christ **
“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)
8. If you can ask a member of the Body of Christ on earth to pray for you, then you can also ask someone who is a member of that same Body of Christ in heaven to do the same for they are not “dead” at all.
“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." (Luke 20:38)
The first real blow to this interpretation came when I read Peter Brown’s book, The Cult of Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity.
Brown challenged my view that the place of saints and relics in the church was a mere holdover from paganism, and that the practice was somehow peripheral to true Christianity. Instead, Brown painted a picture of ancient Christianity and paganism in which relics were indispensable to the former, and repulsive to the latter. Far from a holdover from paganism, the place of relics in the Church appeared as something intensely Jewish, Hebraic, and Old Testament. Pagans, like Julian-the-Apostate, found the practice revolting and legislated against it. (Paganism, with its notions of ritual purity, had strictly delimited the realm of divine worship and neatly separated it from the realm of corpses and the dead.)
On this point, the rise of Christianity in the pagan world was met by deep religious anger. We can chart the rise to prominence of the Christian church most faithfully by listening to pagan reactions to the cult of martyrs. For the progress of this cult spelled out for the pagans a slow and horrid crumbling of ancient barriers.1
Is it okay to ask a deceased tzaddik to pray on my behalf?
By Tzvi Freeman
I was always under the impression that Judaism firmly believed that there are no intermediaries between man and G d, and to pray to the deceased is blasphemous and outlawed by the Bible. If so, why is it permissible to ask theRebbe to intercede on one’s behalf at the Ohel?
Yes, Jewish customs can be perplexing. Judaism is all about having a direct connection to G-d. An intermediary is a form of idolatry (see “Unidolatry” for more explanation of why this is forbidden.). Yet for as long as there are records, Jews have been in the habit of asking righteous men and women to have a chat with G-d on their behalf.
We see that the Jewish people asked Moses to intercede many times and he accepted their request. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here–so G-d obviously figured it was okay. The Talmud (Baba Batra 116a) tells us that “If there is someone ill in your house, go to the wise man of the city and ask that he should pray for him.” Of course, this person also needs to pray for himself, as his family should as well–and any Jew who knows that another Jew is ill should pray for him. But you need to go to that wise man as well.
We petition them to pray on our behalf–and they do and often their prayers are more effective than our own. After all, we often don’t fathom the seriousness of these problems from our limited perspective as much as they might from their much more lofty view.
Just how ancient and popular is this custom? The Torah tells us that Caleb, one of the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the Land of Canaan, made a personal detour to Hebron. What was his interest in Hebron? The Talmud (Sotah 34b) tells that he wished to pray at the cave where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are buried. He prayed there for mercy on his soul and he was saved from the fateful decision of the other spies.