a Lutheran discussion re prayer for the faithful departed
- 2 Timothy 1:18a "The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy from the Lord on that day.
Prayers for the faithful departed. [from the web site of the: Arthur Carl Piepkorn] Center [for Evangelical Catholicity] Director [Dr Philip Secker]: I remember Piepkorn saying that when he was called to the Seminary someone questioned his position on prayers for the dead, which the Lutheran Symbols are unwilling to say are "useless" (Apology 24: 96). Piepkorn said that he went to the library, canvassed the commentaries on 2 Timothy 1:18 and reported that the majority of them asserted that Onesiphorus was dead or probably dead at the time referred to in this verse, and that resolved the matter. A letter that Piepkorn wrote on March 14, 1952, probably tells the details of this story: On that date Piepkorn wrote an 11 page letter to [LC-MS] President Behnken in which he mentions that someone had written to Behnken in the fall of 1951 attacking Piepkorn on several matters, including his position on prayers for the faithful departed. (Piepkorn Papers 91/429) The letter was
apparently shared with Piepkorn, who wrote a reply on October 8, 1951. His March letter also mentions a second letter from the same person, sent on October 31, and a letter that Behnken wrote to Piepkorn on November 12 (I have not seen any of these three earlier letters). Piepkorn spoke to Behnken about the matter over the phone on one or more occasion, but due to his move to St. Louis and his new responsibilities did not reply until March 14. In the letter he states: "Last Friday ... I spent three hours in the Pritzlaff Memorial Library going over the commentaries and Bible encyclopedias on the shelves of the reading room and in the stacks ....I am certain that this summary is thoroughly representative. It should be noted that none of the authors were Roman Catholics." Here is my quick count: 12 say Onesiphorus was alive, 10 leave the question open, 17 say he was probably dead, and 6 say he certainly was dead. (These sources also cite cross references to 2 authors who say
he was probably alive and 8 who say he was probably dead.) Piepkorn says elsewhere that "The thrust of this passage is eschatological. St. Paul prays that the Lord will grant to Onesiphorus to find mercy (eleos) with the Lord on that Day. We have here a parallel to the petition of the Litany of our [Lutheran] rite, 'In the day of judgment, Help us, good Lord.' Since the prayer contemplates the Last Day as the locus of its fulfilment, it is finally almost immaterial if Onesiphorus is alive or dead. But by the same token, since the locus is the Last Day this kind of prayer for the faithful departed can hardly be criticized." (11/21/62 Letter to Paul M. Bretscher, p. 2. 100/615) --The Director
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