Asleep in Godliness: 2 Maccabees 12

Source: Göttingen Septuagint



A common argument raised against the Ancient Churches utilizing 2 Maccabees 12 to show proof of post mortem loosing of sins is the argument (mostly from the Protestant camp) that the men died in mortal sin, thus meaning they’d be damned to hell and unable to receive any pardon. A reading of 2 Maccabees 12 can be found below(Greek and English provided):



NRSV:

44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.

The key portion that we should be keying in upon is “godliness”, because this would then indicate that the men did NOT die in mortal sin.

For this, we must turn to the most reliable Septuagint texts we can find (thank you Göttingen)

And indeed, as the screencap shows, the author of the text indicates in verse 45 that the men died in GODLINESS!



The very Greek term, EUSEBEIAS is clear proof that these individuals died in GODLINESS--but with vestiges of sin STILL on their souls. Interestingly enough, the ancient Catholic interpretation of this verse is indeed found as early as Origen and Ephrem the Syrian. It’s interesting how Ephrem, in talking about guilt being cleansed in the afterlife, speaks of this verse as if common knowledge that it was part of the Canon of Scripture. One can understand, in part perhaps, just why Eck was so enraged at Luther’s “desperate dodge” in debate when he did NOT deny purgatory, but denied the canonicity of this text in order to prevent from losing the debate. Luther lost to Eck, but the real losers were the Christians that lost a valuable piece of the word of God.


-William