DOES 2MACABEES 12:39-45 SPEAK OF PURGATORY?
The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, says the following about Purgatory:
1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.
WHAT IT MEANS
What it says in a few words, is that those who are not perfectly free of sin at the moment of death, pass through a ‘purifying fire’ that will consolidate their salvation, making them pure before entering God’s presence. This imperfection is understood as being the accumulation of ‘venial sins’ and other minor faults that will be ‘forgiven’ after death.
Section 1031 speaks of ‘certain texts of Scripture’, and one of them is deuterocanonical book of 2Macabees 12:39-45, that it is used to support this doctrine.
The text quoted from this deuterocanonical book written in Greek, it says this:
“39 And upon the day following, as the use had been, Judas and his company came to take up the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen in their fathers’ graves. 40 Now under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the law. Then every man saw that this was the cause wherefore they were slain. 41 All men therefore praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid, 42 Betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain. 43 And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: 44 For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. 45 And also in that he perceived that there was great favor laid up for those that died godly, it was a holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.”
2 Maccabees 12:39-45
The event describes how Judas Maccabee goes to bury the bodies of his dead soldiers after a battle, and it was discovered that these dead men had pagan idols with them. They had died in idolatry.
Judas and his men offered prayers to God asking for the forgiveness of these dead soldiers and sent an atoning offering to Jerusalem for the forgiveness of their sin.
1 – The Jews do not believe in Purgatory. To alleviate the suffering of their dead countrymen for the sin committed was not their intention.
2 – The Jews believe that all men, good and bad reside in Scheol, or grave. Some think that they are awaiting their final judgement and the resurrection from that grave, others that men are judged immediately after they die (1)
3 – The prayers and offering that Judas Maccabee and his men did for their dead countrymen, were done in the hope of attaining forgiveness for their sin, prior to their judgement, in Judas’ mind, at the time of the resurrection (2Maccabees 12:43-44).
2Maccabees 12:39-45, lacks all the elements that the doctrine of Purgatory claims for itself.
The offering was done for the forgiveness of sins after death, for men who otherwise would be condemned. Purgatory is for ‘not so perfect’ saved men.
The offering was for forgiveness of sins, not through personal suffering in a conscious state, but by God’s mercy alone. Purgatory is a purifying conditioning for saved men through self-suffering.
Purgatory is a strange idea in Judaism, it was never in their minds when they offered prayers and offerings for their dead. To say that men can purge their sins through personal suffering is declaring null the need of the sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
Purgatory is a foreign idea to Christianity.
(1) Kaufmann Kohler, Eschatology, Jewish Encyclopedia, 2011.
BBC, Key Believes in Judaism, Life After Death, Judgement, 2020. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zh9vgdm/revision/2#:~:text=According%20to%20Jewish%20belief%2C%20the,obey%20all%20of%20God's%20rules.
Eliyahu Kitov, Day of Judgement, Chabad.org, 2020.
Hollye Dexter, The Jewish Beliefs on Judgment Day, https://classroom.synonym.com/jewish-beliefs-judgment-day-7624.html