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S/O where does the idea of purgatory come from?

are there Bible verses to back it up or is it a traditional belief? where does it originate from? is it a Catholic belief or do some Protestant denominations teach it too?

i ask b/c i was raised in Christian churches my whole life but never heard of the idea of purgatory till we studied Dante's Divine Comedy in high school.


Asked by okmanders at 9:21 PM on Jan. 18, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 42 (152,217 Credits)
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Answers (25)
  • This page (from a Bible study group) seems to have several other Bible verses and general information about purgatory:

    "The doctrine of purgatory was first established by Pope Gregory I in 593 AD. He declared that souls of believers enter purgatory for purification before passing into heaven and that prayers were needed to help those who were in purgatory enter into heaven. The Catholic Church officially adopted this teaching at the Council of Florence in the year 1459."

    Bible Class: Purgatory

    Answer by pam19 at 10:14 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • I've never come across the teaching in any bible I've ever read. And I was always taught there was no such thing when I was growing up... I do believe it's purely a Catholic thing...

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 9:24 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • I have to go to work so I'm doing the quick lazy way of explaining sending you to a link. . Play nice while I'm away. Hopefully I can be back later.


    Answer by oldermomof5 at 5:56 AM on Jan. 19, 2011

  • I think Catholics usually refer to 1 Corinthians 3:15:
    “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

    I think the idea of purgatory may predate Christianity, but I'm not sure of its origins without looking into it more.

    Answer by pam19 at 9:49 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • It sounds like it may have originated in Persia and India with ideas of purification by fire after death. Which makes me wonder if its origins are related to Zoroastrianism. There are many parallels between Christianity and Zoroastrianism, but there is much debate about why that is.

    Answer by pam19 at 9:55 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • @jsbenkert--I'm really not sure if he 'borrowed' the idea from other traditions or where it came from for sure. I came across a couple references to a 'place' (not necessarily call purgatory) in some Jewish traditions and in the OT (in addition to some Persian and Indian traditions about purification by fire). There are also references to graffiti in catacombs during the first 3 centuries that reference 'prayers for the dead'. Maybe it was always a tradition in some sects, but not all? I don't know.

    Concerned Catholics: Purgatory

    These are the verses I've seen referenced the most: 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 (apocryphal); Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Revelation 21:27

    Definitely interesting stuff. I hadn't thought about it much before, but I had heard of it.

    Answer by pam19 at 11:01 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • Pam listed good scriptures. Catholic Encyclopedia

    It lists Macabee.



    Answer by 2tinyhineys at 10:17 AM on Jan. 19, 2011

  • salvation by grace and works, and many other concepts.


    You mean they teach what Jesus said about salvation? He said belief alone is not enough. You have to follow commandments according to Jesus.

    Jesus said to love God and love your neighbors (and enemies) to attain eternal life. And he said that belief alone is NOT enough (so our actions and how we treat others matter), when he said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” in Matthew 7:21.

    Matthew 12:29-30: “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

    Answer by pam19 at 9:45 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • I thought it was just a Catholic thing ... mind you, the only knowledge I have is based on hearsay from others. Being Catholic never interested me so I never dug any deeper into their rites or beliefs.

    Answer by SpiritedWitch at 9:28 PM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • Was it Wesley?
    I remember the discussions in Phil and Theo in college, moreso a suggestive theory than a biblical teaching

    Answer by jewjewbee at 9:35 PM on Jan. 18, 2011