Malankara World

What Shall I Do To Be Saved?

By Rev. Dr. Curian Kaniyamparambil


Question 111. Isn't prayer for the dead a later addition by the Church?

No. There are evidences in the Bible.

(2 Maccabee 12:39-45): "On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets (in the Peshitta version the word - gold - is used) sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen, He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice."

In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not excepting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray and offer sacrifice for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

This book (Maccabee) is not in the Protestant Bibles. This book is one of eleven canonical books originally included in the Old Testament used by Jews living outside Palestine, but not by the Jews in Palestine. In the 4th century when the church fathers decided which books were canonical to include in the New Testament, they decided that these eleven books were also canonical and that they should be included in the Old Testament, as was done by Jews outside Palestine. But in the 15th century and later when the Protestants printed the Bible, they omitted these eleven books saying they are apocryphal (i.e. not inspired scripture). However the universal Church still considers these eleven books as canonical.

Who is Maccabee? In BC 333 -167 Alexander the great invaded Jerusalem. Later the Ptolomis of Egypt invaded and ruled Palestine. The Septuagint was made during that period. A Greek king by the name Antiochus captured the reign from the Ptolomies. His son Eppipaniyas tortured the Jews. But later, Mattathias son of Simeon, a Jew, captured the reign from the Greeks. His son was Juda Maccabeus. He was God fearing and very powerful. He conducted a Feast of Dedication of the Jerusalem temple (John 10:22). After Juda, Jonathan Simon invaded and captured the Zion fort in BC 144. Later John Hircanos Aristhabalos I became the king. But his successors fought each other for power and subsequently in BC 93 General Pompy (Roman) became the ruler of Jerusalem.

The books termed as Apocrypha are:

1) Tobit
2) Judith
3) Ester ( Continuation)
4) Wisdom
5) Bar Assere
6) Epistle of Jeremiah
7) Baroch I
8) Baruch II
9) Daniael (Continuation)
10) Maccabees I
11) Maccabees II

(All these books are included in my Malayalam Translation of the Pshetha Syriac from the second century).

The book of Maccabee is a book filled with History, just like the Book of Judges and the Book of Exodus. Protestants decided to not include this book. The reason why they decided not to include this book could be for the following reasons:

Judas Maccaabi was defeated in a war and he soon found out that he was defeated because his soldiers were wearing amulets sacred to the idols of Tamnia, forbidden to Jews. He exhorted his people to keep away from sins and he penalized them for 2000 silver coins. This money was sent to Jerusalem as an offering for a compensatory sacrifice to absolve the deeds of the sins of the dead. This act was out of genuine faith and was according to the Jewish practices. That is why he celebrated the sacrifice for absolving sins of the dead.

The Jews had a practice of praying for the dead at the end of their festival. Neither Jesus Christ nor the apostles banned or criticized this act. In addition, we saw the apostles praying for the dead. The liturgies used during the 2nd century also had prayers for the dead.

What is quoted from Maccabees does not agree with the belief of Protestants and therefore was excluded from the Bible.

Quote from Hoodaya Canon (Chapter 6:1)

Paul: -The third day of the death should be celebrated with prayers and reading of psalms, because our Lord resurrected on the third day. On the ninth day for the memory of the alive and dead, and the 40th day as the people mourned the death of Moses. And then on the anniversary

Adai: -The apostles have decided that the memory of those departed martyred in persecution in good witness to the name of our Lord should be celebrated on the date of death.

Tertullian (AD 155-240): - We offer the sacrifices for the dead on their anniversaries (367). A woman, after the death of her husband, is bound not less firmly but even more so, not to marry another husband. Indeed she prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice. (382)

St. Cyprian (AD250) (In describing the martyrs of the church) says that during their death anniversary, we should remember them and offer for them the Eucharist. (586b)

St. Cyril (AD 315-386) In describing the celebration of Eucharist, Then we mention also of those who have already fallen asleep; first the patriarchs, prophets, Apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next we make mention of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep; for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn Eucharist is laid out (853)

St. John Chrysostom (AD 344-407): Not in vain was it decreed by the Apostles that in the awesome Mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that in this there was much gain for them. (This is a statement made approximately 200 years after the death of St. John. Therefore, praying for the dead is an apostolic practice)

The early churches follow these apostolic practices even today, though there are some literary differences between the prayers. Claude Beauefort Moss in his book, "The Christian faith - An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology" states: (p 440)

"Prayer for the dead has been practiced in every age. It has never been rejected by the Church of England. It is found in the Epitaphs in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The objections raised to it in some quarters are the result of the eschatological theory of Calvin."

TOC Section 1 (Q 1-26) | Section 2 (Q 27-56) | Section 3 (Q 57-81) | Section 4 (Q 82-115) | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter

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