Where Did the Catholic Church Get the Idea of Purgatory?


Q. Where did the idea of Purgatory come from?

A. From Sacred Scripture and our elder brothers in Faith, the Jewish Faith. Please see my post: Where is Purgatory is Scripture? for the evidence of Purgatory in Sciripture. The quotes below are from Kaddish,Religion Facts: Judaism and Judaism 101 .

Religion Facts: Judaism

Judgement

Traditional Judaism includes belief in both heaven and hell, as we will see below. How is one’s destination decided? The School of Shammai offered this description:There will be three groups on the Day of Judgment: one of thoroughly righteous people, one of thoroughly wicked people and one of people in between. The first group will be immediately inscribed for everlasting life; the second group will be doomed in Gehinnom [Hell], as it says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence” [Daniel 12:2], the third will go down to Gehinnom and squeal and rise again, as it says, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name and I will answer them [Zechariah 13:9]… [Babylonian Talmud, tractate Rosh Hashanah 16b-17a]

Judaism 101: Life, Death and Mourning

Kaddish

Kaddish is commonly known as a mourner’s prayer, but in fact, variations on the Kaddish prayer are routinely recited at many other times, ….
Why, then, is Kaddish recited by mourners?

After a great loss like the death of a parent, you might expect a person to lose faith in G-d, or to cry out against G-d’s injustice. Instead, Judaism requires a mourner to stand up every day, publicly (i.e., in front of a minyan, a quorum of 10 adult men), and reaffirm faith in G-d despite this loss. To do so inures to the merit of the deceased in the eyes of G-d, because the deceased must have been a very good parent to raise a child who could express such faith in the face of personal loss.

Then why is Kaddish recited for only 11 months, when the mourning period is 12 months?

According to Jewish tradition, the soul must spend some time purifying itself before it can enter the World to Come. The maximum time required for purification is 12 months, for the most evil person. To recite Kaddish for 12 months would imply that the parent was the type who needed 12 months of purification! To avoid this implication, the Sages decreed that a son should recite Kaddish for only eleven months.

Judaism 101: Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife

Gan Eden and Gehinnom

The place of spiritual reward for the righteous is often referred to in Hebrew as Gan Eden (GAHN ehy-DEHN) (the Garden of Eden). This is not the same place where Adam and Eve were; it is a place of spiritual perfection. Specific descriptions of it vary widely from one source to another. One source says that the peace that one feels when one experiences Shabbat properly is merely one-sixtieth of the pleasure of the afterlife. Other sources compare the bliss of the afterlife to the joy of sex or the warmth of a sunny day. Ultimately, though, the living can no more understand the nature of this place than the blind can understand color.

Only the very righteous go directly to Gan Eden. The average person descends to a place of punishment and/or purification, generally referred to as Gehinnom (guh-hee-NOHM) (in Yiddish, Gehenna), but sometimes as She’ol or by other names. According to one mystical view, every sin we commit creates an angel of destruction (a demon), and after we die we are punished by the very demons that we created. Some views see Gehinnom as one of severe punishment, a bit like the Christian Hell of fire and brimstone. Other sources merely see it as a time when we can see the actions of our lives objectively, see the harm that we have done and the opportunities we missed, and experience remorse for our actions. The period of time in Gehinnom does not exceed 12 months, and then ascends to take his place on Olam Ha-Ba.

Only the utterly wicked do not ascend at the end of this period; their souls are punished for the entire 12 months. Sources differ on what happens at the end of those 12 months: some say that the wicked soul is utterly destroyed and ceases to exist while others say that the soul continues to exist in a state of consciousness of remorse.

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32 Responses

  1. There was a Place called paradise that is the in between however, it is not pergatory. The paradise place existed before Jesus came. It was for rightious Jews that was maintained until Christ ascended whereby he took them to heaven. There is no sex on the afterlife as some islamic people(havin so many Virgins.)There is no purification process.

  2. Dear Dennis,

    How do you know the place in between Heaven and Hell, formerly called Paradise, is NOT the place of purification?

    Since there WAS a place in between by whose authority does anyone know it is not now, Purgatory, the place of purification that even the Jews believed in?

    How do you know there is no purification process?

  3. I’ve been reading about the Catholic Church and its stand on “outside the Church there is no salvation”
    I just read a website from th Society of St. Pius – X, South Africa and this is what it said:
    No, if a Protestant is a good Protestant he can save his soul?

    NO, absolutely not! It is not because he is a pagan, or a “good” protestant, that he saves his soul, but that he is a Catholic without knowing it. Neither can anyone save his soul in virtue of any other religion but in the Catholic faith alone. All other churches are concoctions of the devil.

    My response to them:
    All other churches are concoctions of the devil? Give me a break. How can any priest make that assertion?

    What gives the Catholic Church or any church that assumption? I use to be Catholic until about 16 years old, now 58. I was taught by my mother, of all people, that the Catholic Church is good at making up false doctrine. She gave me good insight about the Catholic Church and all its false doctrine.
    Now I’m an agnostic. I believe, if there is a God, how could he have produced the world and the mess we are all in now. The Supreme Being could care less about or existence and how we handle things.
    If we are lost, ten its are own fault.

    Too bad for our souls, if we indeed have one. With that, I remain, Steve

    • I know that we cannot save ourselves ever. Jesus said, No one comes to the Father except through me. Now that says it all,Only through
      Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection can we be saved. There is nothing we can do to be saved. No amount of “good” things we do will save us. Read the Book of John 3rd chapter verse 5, 6 & 7. So this
      explains about being born again to be able to enter the Kingdom of God, nothing about works that we can do. If it depended on works from us, then why would Jesus have to suffer and die a horrendous death on the cross, which He willingly did, because He knew that was the only way, for God to accept us. Not by anything we can do.

      • Dear Judy, All that you say Catholic Church agrees with. Purgatory, the good works that we do, and the suffering we endure in this life for Christ, are not for our salvation. Only Christ can do that. But these things are for our purification. For more information about purification before we enter into the Holy Presence–>Where is the Biblical Evidence for Purgatory?

  4. Dear Steve,
    Thanks for your comments. I have responded to them in two posts. Please follow the links

    Concoctions of the Devil

    AND

    I am an Agnostic

  5. Can you tell me if the word used in Lk calling Mary full of grace is used anyother place in scripture. I was told the same wrod was used in Eph 1:6

  6. Dear Jim,
    No the word is not used anywhere else in Scripture. You might be interested in this post HERE

  7. Wow! I got to this place trying to reconsile my beliefs as a Catholic w. that of the Churchs’ view on purgatory.Who could have known that the Jewish faith had it’s own ( and probably earlier!)wrestlings on this subject to deal with?!

  8. So, how is it going? Are you OK with the Church’s Doctrine of Purgatory?

  9. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  10. Purgatory

    Lk 12:59; 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7; Mt 5:25-26 … temporary agony.
    Heb 12:6-11 … God’s painful discipline.
    Mt 12:32 … no forgiveness … nor in the age to come.
    1 Pet 3:19 … purgatory (limbo?).
    Rev 21:27 … nothing unclean shall enter heaven.
    Heb 12:23 … souls in heaven are perfect.
    Col 1:24; 2 Sam 12:14 … “extra” suffering.
    2 Mac 12:43-46 … sacrifice for the dead.
    2 Tim 1:15-18 … prayer for Onesiphorus for “that Day.”
    1 Jn 5:14-17 … mortal/venial sins

    This is from Christopher Wong website.

  11. Unfortunately none of these posts hold any water. To put it in the words of Yeshua(Jesus); “you are mistaken because you don’t understand the Scriptures or G-d’s power”. You cannot possibly understand the “new testament” without having an intricate knowelege of the “old testament” and first century Jewish culture. The “new testament” was written by Jews, and can only be understood by reading it from a Jewish mindset. And it can no way no how be understood without having a concrete understanding of the “old testament”. For that, you will have to look to the Jewish people, because 99 percent of non-Jews unfortunately have not known what they are talking about for centuries, even though they are “scholars” some of which have doctorate degrees in theology/divinity/biblical studies. You need to learn from a Rabbi, not a priest/preacher/pastor/minister.

  12. David,
    Your comment is a fact-free ad hominem attack. If you have something substantive to say we would love to hear it.

  13. You better look up what the meanings of Gehenna and Sheol are- Sheol is the common grave and Gehenna was a trash dump outside the city walls. The dead bodies were thrown there and burned.
    People do not die and go anywhere. If all people died, and were resurrected to heaven or hell upon death, then who is in the great crowd of resurrected ones?

  14. Nancy,

    Most of the references in the post about ghenna and sheol are from Jewish sites. I know that the garbage dump was called ghenna. Perhaps it was named after the place of eternal torment. Sheol was the place of the dead.

    When we die our bodies are dead and rest in the grave but our souls go immediately to judgement. At the end of time our body will be reunited with our soul in our eternal destination–Heaven or Hell.

    What great crowd of resurrected ones are you referring to? Is it something is scripture?

    • Hello to whomever may be concerned,

      I tried to follow the link to reply to the following blog post and was not able to. Here is the post:

      Becca: I find it truly sad that you would think that your father who was a born again believer would be in a place like Purgatory.

      BFHU: No need to be sad. Purgatory is a place where we are totally purified of all residual sin and reparation of sin, in order that we may enter into the Holy Presence of God. I want to be totally pure, don’t you? I don’t want to be a pile of dung for eternity that has been merely whitewashed, as Martin Luther opines.

      It is a time when we, as St. Paul said,

      Col 1:24 “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.

      Becca:The Bible is very clear when it states that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2Cor.5:8).

      BFHU:You will be shocked to know that you are actually misquoting scripture. No translation says what you have been taught it says. It does not make a doctrinal type statement that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” The actual verse simply is making the statement that St. Paul is willing to be absent from his body (dead) because then he would be with his Lord.

      2 Cor. 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

      If I say I am flying out of LA tomorrow and going to New York, that statement does not absolutely rule out a stopover in Denver. The Bible is just not a book of systematic theology. Colossians is a letter to a church. Doctrine is not systematically stated, only alluded to. Mutally understood but unwritten doctrine underlies what St. Paul writes here.

      A great deal could be said about these things, but let it suffice for now to hear the words of the apostle, “6If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we decieve ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.(1John 1:6-10)”

      First we see from the context that he is speaking to Christians who have already obeyed the gospel since he is speaking of those who walk in the light (see also 1John 5:13). We can not interpret this passage to justify unbelievers simply asking for forgiveness in order to attain salvation. The Scriptures as a whole teach that we must first obey the gospel in order to recieve the salvation of God. Once we are Christians we must continue to walk in the light (walk after the spirit [Romans 8], obey the truth [Galatians 3], be faithful until death [Revelation 2:10], etc.).

      If we who have obeyed the gospel make mistakes or stumble in our walk we may repent and ask for forgiveness. If we are walking in the light the blood of Christ cleanses us of ALL SIN. What need then for some “purgatory” to cleanse me of sin that Christ’s blood has already cleansed me of? He says in verse 9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Remember, this is for those who have already obeyed the gospel, and notice that if one who has obeyed the gospel sins he or she may repent and confess his or her sins and we may trust Him that He will forgive us AND CLEANSE US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, because He is faithful to His Word. This is done by the blood of the Lamb of God if we repent and confess our sins to Him. How can there be any place for Purgatory?

      Please note Isaiah 53: 5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, AND BY HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED.” But BFHU said that

      “Purgatory is a place where we are totally purified of all residual sin and reparation of sin, in order that we may enter into the Holy Presence of God”

      If “by (Jesus) stripes we are healed” how can there be any place for Purgatory?

      Notice also Ephesians 2: 4-7But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and MADE US SIT TOGETHER IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST JESUS, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

      Yes, this is figurative, but it is figurative of us being one with Christ and receiving all of the blessing that He is receiving by virtue of that. If we are one with Christ, then we will in no way suffer for our sins. This would dishonor and disgrace the work of Christ. God will never look on one of His FAITHFUL children and conclude that all of the suffering that Christ endured is not enough to atone for their sins. Because I am one of His faithful children, God sees me as one with Christ and thus I am already seated with Christ in the Heavenly places. I will not go to Purgatory, since there is no place for such a place.

  15. The Catholics got that idea from the Second Book of Maccabees, where the soldiers died in a holy war for Yahweh while wearing the amulets of the idols in which their souls are being prayed so that they might be said, though there’s one leak from that verse though, it just said that “he made an atonement for the dead” Note: the “he” that is referred there is Judas, not Him, and still, there is no purgatory.

    • Dear Believe me or Not,

      Great point! I am not an expert on the books that the Roman Cahtolic faith added to the Bible, but I have hear other Scholars point out that if you read Maccabees in context, it does not actually teach the idea of Purgatory. Also, the Jews added much human tradition to the true faith as noted and condemned by Christ; therefore, it does not help their situation to point to the beliefs of some Jews to support this fallacy.

      I appreciate your accute observation of the passage in Maccabees and your wise conclusion.

      Joe

    • What is the Second book of Maccabee? It is not in the Bible

      • Maccabees is one of the seven Old Testament books from the Greek Septuagint. From these books the Jewish holiday Hannukah has its historic origin.

        Martin Luther removed these and seven NT books from his German translation because they contradicted his theology. He was later persuaded to include the NT books

        Sent from my iPhone

  16. Dear Believe Me or Not,

    I do no believe you and here is why. Protestants get their beliefs from their personal interpretation of the Bible. Protestants read the Bible, decide what they believe, and then teach it to others. Many Protestant laymen don’t read the Bible so much, but accept the teaching of pastors and teachers who do read the Bible, decide what it means, and then teach it to others.

    This is how Protestants derive their doctrines it is not how Jews and Catholics derive theirs. Catholics were taught the beliefs of our Faith by Jesus to His apostles, who then wrote some of them down, but taught all that they had been taught to others. This is why all of the doctrines of the Catholic Faith are not spelled out in Scripture…which by the way never teaches the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

    • Dear BFHU,

      You continue to insist that we cannot understand the Scriptures because they must be interpreted; however, if you read the Bible you see over and over again the writers themselves indicate that they expect their readers to understand when they read! You make the error of thinking that because two read the Bible and conclude differently that the Bible cannot be understood. This makes the assumption that both of those individuals are sincere and well studied. If they are not then they will likely make a mistake. This in no way indicates that the Bible is not able to be understood. If we read with true sincerity and study with diligence, we will understand Him.

      As an example of reading the Bible without sincerity I point you to 1 Timothy 3: 1-2. You say that passage allows you the authority to command men to swear oaths of celibacy in order to qualify to be Bishops. How can one truly reach that conclusion?? You really can’t. You simply trust what men say more than what God says.

      Additionally, how can you understand the writings of your Traditions? Your Catechism? Do you not have to interpret them? How can your uninspired human leaders write so that men may understand when the inspired Apostles and prophets could not do so (according to your claim), when they had the express intent to give understanding with their writing (I will try to give you the verses that prove this as soon as I can)?

      Joe

      • Dear Joe,
        The Bible does NOT interpret itself. If it did there would be only ONE Protestant Church b/c all would understand it exactly the same. The thousands of different Protestant denominations prove that the Bible MUST be interpreted/understood by the individual. That is why the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is so wrong and why it has led to the splintering of Christendom.

        St. Paul taught us to cling to all that he taught both oral and written. He taught us to cling to the TRADITIONS he taught them. These were not the condemned “traditions of men” but the very teachings of Jesus to His apostles.

        The reason I converted to the Catholic Church was primarily because NO PROTESTANT denomination was able to make cohesive sense of ALL Scripture. They all had to ignore or explain away many scriptures. These included, the John 6 pasages where Jesus taught over and over and over that we must EAT HIS FLESH AND DRINK HIS BLOOD in order to have eternal life. And all the passages about the necessity of obedience that the Once Saved Always Saved crowd ignore. And here we clearly see that your personal little denomination rejects the teachings of St. Paul and Jesus regarding the gift of celibacy and Oral Tradition.

        I found that only the Catholic Faith was sublimely cohesive and made perfect sense of every single scripture. Even the ones Protestants accuse them of breaking. I LOVE BEING CATHOLIC! It has been eleven years. I can rest in 2000 years of Christian teaching and wisdom. I no longer have to reinvent Christianity for myself.

      • Hello Joe,

        You are a keen student of the bible and that’s good and well. But the bible is a family book of the Catholic Church and has to be understood and explained within the familial and critical historic, linguistic and cultural context. Just try to imagine me (a total stranger) gatecrashing your family party and attempting to pass off as an expert in your family history, genealogy, heritage and affairs! It shows by the off-the-wall and outlandish interpretation you have derived by yourself without proper guidance. It is not unlike the Ethiopian eunuch who exclaimed: “How can I (understand what I am reading) unless someone explains it to me” (Acts 8:26-31). I can’t begin to count all the silly and ridiculous assertions by (post-reformation) Protestants about blood siblings of Jesus, call “no man father”, adultery as exception to the prohibition of divorce, or that a bishop must be married, etc. … because they are so far removed from the apostolic faith.

        What did the good book tell you to do when you have a dispute ,,, something about proper interpretation perhaps? It never says to take out your bible and compare bible verses … but instead, we are instructed to take it to the CHURCH as the final arbiter (Matt 18:15). You have a problem because you don’t have a church and your pastor has not been “sent” (Acts 13:1-4).

        The bible warns of the perils of private interpretation and disobedience. In Pet 3:16, there is a stern warning from the first Pope: “(Paul’s) letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” If I am you, I will be trembling because the bible is talking precisely about all the self-congratulatory bible “experts” who think they can think outside the mind of Christ and is wiser than the Church established by Christ which alone is commissioned to teach (Matt 28:20): “He who hears you, hears me: (Lk 10:16).

        It’s said that it is hard to appreciate the beauty of the stain glasses of a cathedral from looking on the outside. It is only when you come inside (and “come home”) when you see the shininess, brilliancy and splendour of Christ’s church. Many a convert will relate the same wonderful and joyous experience. For a keen bible student like yourself, Joe, you will find all the parts of the bible now fit and come together finally … no more shelving away difficulty passages or conjuring up strange and contorted interpretation just to avoid the obvious truths like “Real Presence” because of “traditions”of your dubious faith background. Think about it.

        Regards,

  17. Firth thing I noticed on this site is there are a lot of Catholics. And some bashing of other religions, The word protestant simply means they protested some of the catholic teachings such as the word and idea of the pope (which means god on earth which is totally against Bible teachings) Professing your sins to a man (priest) praying to false gods (Mary) and so on. There are so many religions with different beliefs Christian based and otherwise. Why bad mouth or judge them when you can not even prove yours is the RIGHT one?

    • Mark,
      The purpose of this site is to explain and defend the Catholic Church. There are many people who have been taught lies and misunderstanding about our Faith. And you also have been taught the lie: “the pope means god on earth.” Who told you that? Have you ever asked a Catholic if that is what they think?

      Another lie that you have been taught is that we think Mary is a god also. That is also not true. It is blasphemy to believe that Mary is a god or goddess. We pray to her but not as to a goddess. We simply ask her to join her prayers with ours. Please take a look at Why Do Catholics Pray to Mary?

      Confessing our sins to a priest is Biblical. Please take a look at this post–>Confession to a Priest

      I do not bad mouth other religions. I correct the errors Protestants have about the Catholic faith and I point out that they too believe things that are not found in Scripture because that is always their accusation about Catholic beliefs. And of course that their Doctrine of Sola Scriptura is a Protestant Tradition and found nowhere in Scripture.

      I know you have trusted what your teachers have taught you. But so have they and thus, lies, misunderstandings, inaccuracies etc. are now a part of Protestant Traditions about the Catholic Church.

      • i was raised a protestant and never heard of Sola Scripta I will look into that, however if you look up the word worship, praying to anyone other then Jesus or God is a form of worship. Mary was a human being and there is nothing in the Bible that says she went to heaven as a matter of fact it say “Jesus said to one of his followers that she is now your mother and you shall take care of her as so. Any way I do not wish to argue with you as I am still learning and studying. I had a bad experience years ago with a Catholic church so maybe I am resentful or maybe I just want to know the truth.

  18. Mark,
    Where do you find the definition that “praying to anyone other then Jesus or God is a form of worship”?

    Because Protestants only pray to the divine they jump to the conclusion that all praying IS Worship. Therefore, since Catholics “pray to Mary and the Saints” they are therefore worshiping them. But we are honoring them as heroes of the faith alive in Heaven and we are asking them to pray for us. They cannot by their own power answer our prayers. We believe God answers our prayers in response to prayer, theirs and ours. It is the same thing as Protestant Prayer Chains.

    Also, please take a look, if you haven’t seen it–>Another Protestant Tradition: Catholics worship Idols.

    I am sorry if you had a bad experience in a Catholic Church. But Catholics are sinners just like everyone else. And the priest scandal is a prime example. Just remember Our Enemy targets priests and Protestant pastors b/c he can do the most harm to the faithful through the fall on any Christian leader. So, sin happens.

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