Jon and his articles are quite good, and I don’t know how much more “thourough” my answer will be as much as just a few random thoughts to add to what he has written, I do tend to be longwinded, and in this case will cover several topics.
As Catholics we have held to teachings and practices that have remained unchanged for almost 2000 years, Established by Jesus, and taught by the Apostles before a word of the New Testament was written down, and before a Council of the Catholic Church decided officially what books would constitute the Old and New Testament. Some of these teachings and practices were inherited from the Jews, others revealed by Jesus, or the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
The Jewish Canon of the Bible: In Judaism the books of the Bible are still a matter of Contention. All Jews accept the Torah, (First five books of our Old Testament) as Scripture. The Torah or the Law, is usually attributed to Moses. Then there is Nev’eim and Ketuvim. Nev’eim is also called the Prophets, consisting of 8 books, and Ketuvim are the “Writings”. Most Jews you meet today follow what is called the Masoretic Text which has removed from it those books or parts of books that were originally written in Greek and Aramaic, and not Hebrew. The books that were not accepted into the Canon because of the Language were still held to be a part of the Second Canon, or Apocropha.
Apocropha: Most Protestants will tell you that Apocropha means books rejected from the Bible, but to the Jews, it was not so much that they were disputed or rejected, but given a second place as Scripture, they are considered sacred texts, but of lesser importance than Tanakah.
Not all Jews accept the Massoretic texts, some Jews from the time of Christ have accepted all the Biblical Books in the Catholic editions of the Old Testament. Jesus and the Apostles use the Septuagent, (abbreviated LXX) when quoting the Scriptures in the New Testament. The LXX contained all the books that the Catholic Old Testament includes. Now the LXX was the accepted Jewish Bible translated into Greek. Most Jews had forgotten or rarely used Hebrew, it had become like Latin was in the Roman Catholic Church before 1965, a language used in worship or liturgy, but most Jews spoke and read Greek, those in Israel spoke and read Aramaic and Greek in everyday life. If Jesus and the Apostles used the LXX, it would be good enough for me, even if the Catholic Church had not defined what books are in the Bible. It was not until the Catholic Church had officially defined what books belonged in the Old and New Testaments that a council of Jewish Rabbis and Scholars finally determined what for most Jews would be contained in the Tanakah. Some contest that it was a response to the Catholic definition of what books the OT contained.
New Testament: Just like the questions that came up among the various Churches, and Fathers was what writings constituted the New Testament. There were many more epistles (letters) from St. Paul, St. Peter, and other books that were referred to as Gospels. Some that survive today were written later than 300 and are rejected by nearly all groups, except the modern re-invention of the Gnostics. Others were disputed by some and accepted by others.
What to do? Well we read in the New Testament in many places that Jesus in establishing His Church gave us officers in that Church that had both Authority over the Bretheren, and a promise that they would be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Authority and promise of guidance did and does have limits, and the Catholic Church is careful to distinguish what those limits are. One of those limits is that a Council when united with Peter, or his successor, which defines a matter of Faith or Morals, is guided by the Holy Spirit when it defines for all Christians a matter of Faith or Moral. The Canon of the Bible is one of those things that was very early on defined, and has been re-stated time and time again.
Maccabees: Oh finally, Robert is getting to the point!!! Well we had to cover the above before we jumped into Maccabees. Maccabees is accepted as a part of the Second Canon of Scriptures by most Jews, and as Scripture by some. All accept it as authentic history. We know that Judas Maccabeas collected funds for Sacrifice to be offered for those who had died in battle, and that prayers were offered for the dead that they “May be loosed from their sins.”
We know that if we die without being sorry for our sins, we have rejected God. However Jews and Catholics alike have always held that while we have been forgiven of our sins by God when we are sorry and ask for forgiveness, we still have to make restitution for the sin. If I steal $100 from you, and say, I’m sorry, but never restore the $100 dollars how sincere is my apology, and have I fulfilled all my obligations as a Christian? No. If I sin against my neighbor or God and say I’m sorry but do not make restitution for my sin, it may be forgiven, but there is still a debt to pay.
Protestants say that the debt was paid in full by Jesus on the Cross, and all you have to do is say “I accept Jesus and His cross” or some variation of that idea, and both the guilt and penalties of that sin is wiped away, past, present and future. Nice thought but not Biblical at all. Jesus speaks of us being purified by a refiners fire, St. Paul of running the good race, other Old and New Testament verses give evidenc of Purgatory, (see below for verses) While Catholics do truly believe that our sins are only forgiven by Jesus, and we cannot be forgiven by any other Name, we do also accept our own responsibility for our personal sins, which while forgiven we still have to make restitution for.
If we die, sorry for our sins but do not make restitution what happens? Well if we die in friendship with God, we will not be damned to hell. We also know that nothing unclean can enter into heaven. Purgatory is a state where the soul is made ready to enter into the Glory of God. Purgatory is also outside of the confines of Time and Space. As we do not have a clear consept of eternity here on earth, Purgatory has been described in a way that makes sense to us on earth. How restitution is made and we are purified is not something we know fully. Just that God in His mercy does it. We aslo know from the Scriptures that Death is not the end, that the soul goes on, and one day our bodies and souls will be reunited, and glorified, as Jesus body and soul were reunited and glorified. So death does not break the bonds we have with God, nor with our Christian Brothers and Sisters. As the Church is not just of those living on earth, but also Members who have died, and in Rev. we read that the prayers of the martyrs are offered up to God on our behalf, we know that the relationship continues between us on earth and those who proceed us in death is also not cut. So it is only reasonable, and would be reasonable even if the Church had not defined it that we can and should pray for the dead. We have it in Scriputre and in the ongoing practice of the Church from the time of the Apostles. I’ll stop here, as I’ve probably already put you to sleep, but I’ll also post this link to Dave Armstrong’s, webpage. He wrote among other books, “Biblical Evidence for Catholicsim” [url:2u5qa3r3]http://socrates58.blogspot.com/[/url:2u5qa3r3]
Where the Bible give us clues to Purgatory, (Dave Armstrong) Ps 66:12, Ecc 12:14, Is 4:4, Is 6:5-7, Mic 7:8-9, Mal 3:1-4, 2 Maccabees 12:39-45, Mt 5:25-6, Lk 12:58-9, Mt 12:32, Lk 16:19-31 (cf. Eph 4:8-10; 1 Pet 3:19-20) 1 Cor 3:11-15, 1 Cor 15:29, 2 Cor 5:10, 2 Cor 7:1, Phil 2:10-11, 1 Thess 3:13, 1 Thess 4:7, 2 Tim 1:16-18, Heb 12:14, Heb 12:29, Rev 5:3,13, Rev 21:27