Apologetics

Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

by Steve Ray on June 18, 2018

I posted an article I wrote about St. Paul praying for the dead HERE. But I thought you would appreciate Dave Armstrong’s recent article about the same passage with confirmation and a new set of eyes on the text and the reasons for many Protestants to reject the claim…

St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who Was Dead

7_sept_onesiphorus_apostle“May the Lord grant Onesiphorus to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18 (RSV): “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, [17] but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me – [18] may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (cf. 4:19)

Catholics pray for the souls in purgatory, in order to aid them in their journey through purgatory to heaven. In praying for the dead, it’s very reasonable to contend that an intermediate state is presupposed, because it would be futile to pray for those in hell (prayer can no longer help them) and unnecessary to pray for those in heaven (they have everything they need). This verse offers biblical support for this belief.

Protestant commentators have been hopelessly confused about the passage and cannot offer a coherent, unified testimony as to its meaning. Consulting their conflicting opinions makes for fascinating reading indeed.

The well-known evangelical Protestant work, The New Bible Commentary (3rd edition, 1970) takes the astounding position that Onesiphorus is probably dead (citing 2 Tim. 4:19), yet holds that Paul was praying for his conduct during life. The prominent  Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary (1864) also holds that Paul was praying, but obviously not for a dead man because, after all, “nowhere has Paul prayers for the dead, which is fatal to the theory, . . . that he was dead.” This is circular reasoning: merely assuming what it claims is proven.

BMJonahSarc1Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1930, Vol. IV, 615) concedes that Onesiphorus was dead, but desperately describes Paul’s prayer for him as a “wish” (a distinction without a difference). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939) makes the same (what can only be described as) rationalization, using the description, “pious wish” (Vol. IV, 2195). Famous Presbyterian commentators Matthew Henry (1662-1714) and Albert Barnes (1798-1870) casually assume that Onesiphorus was not dead, since Paul prayed for him – again making prior assumptions about what is possible in the first place, which amounts to eisegesis, or reading into Scripture notions that are not there. But John Calvin denied that he was dead.

The “game” and conundrum for all these commentaries is to refuse to accept both things together: a dead man, and someone praying for them. Thus, if they think he was dead, they deny that he was prayed for. And if they acknowledge prayer, they deny that he was dead.

But all is not lost. I have located several Anglican commentaries and a few others (thanks largely to Google Books!), that accept both factors together and state that Paul prayed for a dead man. The Anglican commentaries include Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), in The Expositor’s Bible, James Maurice Wilson (1836-1931), Sydney Charles Gayford (in 1905), John Henry Bernard (1860-1927), Charles John Ellicott (1816-1905), and J. N. D. Kelly (1909-1997), in A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (London: A&C Black, 1963, p. 171). The latter states:

On the assumption, which must be correct, that Onesiphorus was dead when the words were written, we have here an example, unique in the N.T., of Christian prayer for the departed. . . . the commendation of the dead man to the divine mercy. There is nothing surprising in Paul’s use of such a prayer, for intercession for the dead had been sanctioned in Pharisaic circles at any rate since the date of 2 Macc 12:43-45 (middle of first century B.C.?). Inscriptions in the Roman catacombs and elsewhere prove that the practice established itself among Christians from very early times.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.45.45 AMWilliam Barclay (liberal Presbyterian: 1907-1978) concurs in his Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. So does the well-known Reformed Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff (1819-1893) in The International Illustrated Commentary on the New Testament (1889, Vol. IV,  587). Other commentators who agree include W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament (1951) and the renowned Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (1958).

What are we to conclude from all this jumble of various Protestant opinions? I’m always happy to present the information and let readers make up their own minds, but I conclude (for whatever it’s worth) that the passage is pretty straightforward. Therefore, when a commentator decides that Onesiphorus is not dead or that he was and wasn’t prayed for, it’s an example of eisegesis and letting denominational bias interfere with objective Bible commentary.

It’s always ironic to note such an occurrence among Protestants, since our separated brethren are very fond of frequently pointing out that they go by the Bible alone, as their only infallible source of authority and rule of faith. They will habitually claim that they merely let it speak for itself.

Yet when it comes to an issue like this, where the biblical text seems to run contrary to a tenet of Protestant denominational dogma (i.e., that prayer for the dead is impermissible), all of a sudden there is plenty of “explaining away” and denial of what seems to plainly be present in the passage.

Bias should never surprise us. It’s natural to the human mind, and we all (including Catholics) have it. We all bring prior traditions to our Bible commentary, too, no matter how much we may try to deny it. It’s not a matter of “whether,” but which tradition is present.

I maintain that Catholics are as free as anyone else (if not more so) to simply let the Bible speak for itself. If it indeed teaches prayer for the dead in this passage, we accept that, as part of God’s inspired revelation. It corresponds to Catholic doctrinal/dogmatic teaching, tying into purgatory. In my experience of over 26 years of Catholic apologetics, the Bible always does that. This may be little-known and frequently denied by Protestants, but it’s true, and I’ve shown it with many examples in my own work, such as this present one.

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

by Steve Ray on June 17, 2018

rembrandt_apostle_paul217x275St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his martyrdom. He spent the last days of his life in the Mammertine Prison in Rome, north of the Roman Forum. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for a man dead man.

“It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. Here is my short article that gives a pretty clear example of St. Paul praying for a dead man, a man named Onesiphorus.

This will be interesting for those who deny prayer for the dead and must find supposedly find everything explicitly in the Bible before they are willing to believe it.

Does the Bible record St. Paul praying for a dead man? Does the New Testament relate an incident of prayer for the dead? It seems quite certain that it does.

Let’s begin with Onesiphorus—a faithful Christian who cared for St. Paul while he was in prison and who took great personal risk to serve the apostle. He was such a good man that Paul writes, “[Onesiphorus] often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains” and “he searched for me eagerly and found me” and “you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Tim 1:16-18).

But from all indications—certainly from the words Paul uses—Onesiphorus has died or been killed before Paul wrote Second Timothy. Almost all commentators concede that Onesiphorus had probably died—maybe even martyred during Nero’s persecution.

Paul speaks of him in the past tense and strangely asks for God’s mercy on his “household” without mentioning him, as though he was no longer here. Because Onesiphorus had served so well and was no longer alive, Paul prays for God’s blessing on his surviving family.

All implications are that Onesiphorus has died. But Paul prays for him!

In 2 Timothy 1:18, while in prison awaiting his death, Paul prays for the dead man and it is recorded in the Bible. Here is what St. Paul writes, “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.” This is not just an expression of sentimental emotion—this is a prayer for a man who has died, it is prayer for the dead.

Paul, who was earlier known as Saul the Pharisee, was well immersed in the teaching and tradition of the Pharisaical Jews. The Jews prayed for the dead and Paul would not have seen the practice as egregious or unbiblical; rather, he would have viewed prayer for the dead as a proper practice for a Jew, and also now for a Christian who believes in the afterlife.

Here is what the widely respected six-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary writes……”

To read the article, click Prayer for the Dead: Did St. Paul Do This?

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I compiled a list of Catechism, Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers and even archaeology to assist in understanding the Communion of Saints.

You can download the source material here.

Sample:

Graffiti found in Catacombs of St. Sebastian

Who should carry the most weight—Protestant pastors protesting Catholic theology today or pastors from the early Church who have the words of the Apostles still ringing in their ears?

From earliest times Christians went to the gravesites of saints and asked them to pray for them. This picture shows graffiti from the Catacombs of St. Sebastian in Rome with inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek and Latin imploring the prayers of Peter and Paul. “Petrus and Paulus, pray for us!”  “Peter and Paul, pray for victory.”

St. Cyril

“Peter and Paul, pray for us”

In 350 A.D., St. Cyril wrote a remarkable and exquisitely detailed description of the Mass, which clearly corresponds with today’s Mass. In it we find this beautiful statement on the family of God which we all belong to, and which even today we pray for in every Mass:

“Upon completion of the spiritual Sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that propitiatory victim, we call upon God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted, and in summary, we all pray and offer this Sacrifice for all who are in need.

“Then we make 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 also 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 of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn Sacrifice is laid out.”           (The Faith of the Early Fathers,’ Vol. 1, William A. Jurgens, [Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1970] p. 363.). 

The faithful in heaven and on earth are united in the Mystical Body of Christ through the Person of Jesus. This is the meaning of the Communion of Saints.

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Greetings Baptists at the Door – A Friend’s Fun Story

June 3, 2018

Hey Steve, it’s Bronson from Ohio. A new Baptist church opened up in my area and this couple came to my door. They said are you interested in coming to our church? No thank you. Then they asked if I went to church. I said I’m Catholic and they fired away I guess you could […]

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Today is St. Justin Martyr’s Feast Day – Free Apostolic Fathers Timeline

May 30, 2018

Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr, June 1 Download a Free copy of the Apostolic Fathers Timeline This amazing Timeline drives home the point of how close these men were to Jesus and the Apostles. It demonstrates how Catholic the first Christians really were!  The Apostolic Fathers faced Emperors, heretics and lions but these heroes of […]

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Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

May 23, 2018

Sola Scriptura and the Canon When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses […]

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History of the Bible Chart

May 21, 2018

For a larger image on PDF which you can see better, click here. Two items I consider errors: 1) The Gospel of John was not considered spurious, and 2) there was no such things a “The Jewish Council of Javneh (or Jamnia)”. This is a fallacy as I wrote about here. Just so you know, […]

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Dear Protestant: Where Did You Get Your Bible?

May 20, 2018

From Little Catholic Bubble website Leila@LittleCatholicBubble Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament? At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following: “Where did you get your […]

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Quiz: Did Jesus Found a Church on Pentecost and If So, Where Is It?

May 19, 2018

I am sharing this from John Martignoni’s e-mail and website at www.BibleChristianSociety.com. Thanks for your good work John! 1) Did Jesus found a church?  A) Yes; Matt 16:18  2) How many churches did Jesus found?  A) One; the church is the Body of Christ and there is only one body of Christ – Rom 12:5, […]

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Tremendous Commencement Speech by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

May 16, 2018

Don’t know that I’ve ever heard a better speech. This should be heard by every single graduating student this year. If you have young people I would make some popcorn and sit down and watch this together. Yeah, he read the speech and he bumbles it at times – but wow! What a moving, inspiring […]

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Is Peter the Peg of Isaiah 22 that will be Broken Off?

May 14, 2018

A Protestant friend who is currently splashing in the Tiber and scrambling out on the Catholic side wrote and asked about the Peg of Isaiah 22:23?25. Below is his query and my response. He wrote: >>>The only issue which has unsettled me scripturally which I have not been able to find an answer that suits […]

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Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

May 11, 2018

Audio Link I know it shows Tim Staples and Jerry Usher, but the first half of this video is my show Q & A for Non-Catholics. For other listening options, click here. From those who oppose the Catholic Church to those who are thinking about entering, in this show, we take a break from talking […]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

May 2, 2018

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

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Is DOGMA an Oppressive Catholic Word?

April 29, 2018

When I was an Evangelical Protestant, I thought DOGMA was a dirty word. It had bad connotations. It represented unbiblical teaching forced down people’s throats by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They invented new doctrines not found in the Bible and then called them dogmas and told Christians if they didn’t believe them — […]

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Why Can’t Evangelicals See the Eucharist?

April 24, 2018

I was recently asked why Evangelicals cannot see the Eucharist and Real Presence in the Bible. This person said that when they read the Bible it seems so clear — especially John 6 where Jesus says “Unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood . . .” and at the Last Supper when he […]

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What Do We Mean by “Unanimous Consent of the Fathers”

April 19, 2018

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers By Steve Ray The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by […]

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