Christians speaking to the dead

trueseek1's picture

Had never thought of it this way, until I found a book on the shelf expounding on one of the well known passages of the Holy Scriptures: The Transfiguration passage. Jesus has a live visit from Moses and Elijah and in the presence of the other fallible men, a couple of apostles, he enters into conversation with these two "dead saints". The author also highlighted another instance when God rose the dead and they went into the cities to show themselves as alive in Christ. I had read these passages many times before, and heard countless evangelical sermons on them, but in all my previous readings of the last couple of hundred years of evangelical commentaries, I had never heard of the reality that these visitations represented. Does anyone know how did the faithful early Church fathers who honored God, in the nonheretical Church, view these passages?

Also, the author differentiated clearly between using a medium to reach the dead as Saul did to talk to Samuel, and both these passages, with the understanding that Christ revealed clearly that it is not sinful to have a conversation with a live saint, but evil if one tries to use mediums as the ungodly do.

Thanks for all insights on these passages.

trueseek1's picture

1 tim 2:1-5 one mediator, CHRIST, but many intercessors

Looked up 1 Tim 2:1-5 and it is interesting:

Amplified translation says:
1 Timothy 2
1FIRST OF all, then, I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men,For kings and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that [outwardly] we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life [and inwardly] a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way.For such [praying] is good and right, and [it is] pleasing and acceptable to God our Savior,Who wishes all men to be saved and [increasingly] to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the [divine] Truth. For there [is only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,...

Contextually this famous passage used to speak against asking those perfected in Christ from praying for us, is actually admonishing and urging us to pray and intercede for one another and at the same time reminding us that there is only one mediator between God and man, our LORD Jesus Christ. So, only one who can redeem us, and win the victory over the devil with his precious God-blood, paying for our sins and at the same time, we are asked to obey God's command to intercede and pray for one another.

If part of prayer is about talking to God and receiving God's answers and blessings, then it does make sense that the righteous prayers of saints avail much.

On the passage in James 5:16, context speaks of Elijah being a man just like us and yet receiving incredible miraculous answer from God for stopping rain for many years and starting it for many years. The context would be better suited for the fact that "common man, who is righteous by trusting in our Savior" can and should pray, rather than asking for "saints in heaven" who are "more righteous" than us to pray for us.

Revelations 5:8 is an awesome passage, clearly letting us know that saints in Heaven are praying for us, just as Ignatius said he was planning to pray for us also.

Biblically, communion of the saints must be for both the living saints in Christ's presence as well as those who are being perfected on this side of Heaven; otherwise, we would become like sadduccees not practically believing in the resurrection, which some in our Apostle's days had entered into this kind of heresy and had to be called back to God's Truth in 1 Cor 15.

I am up to the 5th letter of Ignatius, and although I continue to see great admiration on Ignatius part for Paul and the churches the Apostles ministered to, I do not find any places where he calls on a saint (Paul, Peter, Stephen, James, ...) to pray for him, but he does have a lot of entreaties for believers in various churches on this side of Heaven to pray for His Strength.

I cannot imagine a modern Orthodox or roman catholic bishop writing a letter asking for many intercessions and prayers without mentioning requests to the Theotokos and/or other saints in Christ's presence for their prayers as well. It has been said that the absence of these requests for prayers were probably due to its lack of need in the context of the letter, but when the context is clearly intercession, if the believers truly asked for saints in Heaven to pray for them, it would seem that they would have at least mentioned the Mother of God!?

All I can think of is that maybe this was a developed doctrine later in the Church and it was not part of the early Apostles and faithful Christians' practice. While they acknowledged the saints in Heaven praying for us, I have not found active prayer requests to be made for intercessions from the holy ones in Christ's presence. The question becomes whether the later church (not sure when, 4th-7th centuries) received knowledge of these practices from sources of later thought, or logically deduced that it must be ok to ask for believers in Christ's presence to pray for us. Even if it is not against God's Word to do this, it does seem it should be a lot less practiced than the great emphasis it is given in almost every Church service and letter that covers prayers in the modern orthodox and roman churches.

Could it be that the case is not strong against it but also not strong for its overuse and abusive practice or is it that it should take one of the side of either doing it all the time or not at all? Obviously if there is no 1st or 2nd century document that was trusted by believers and pastors of those churches from around the world, it is going to be hard to make a case for practicing it without believing that God's Church under the Holy Spirit was allowed to start major emphasis changes in practice away from the early church towards a "new" consensus in the 4th-7th centuries (?).

humbly in His Service

humbly in Christ,