Does the Bible have a loophole to go to heaven?

Even if you are not a Christian, you probably know about baptism. Baptism, for all denominations, is the entrance to Christianity. As Pope Francis said last September, the day of our baptism “is the day we are saved, it is the day we become children of God”. Without it, Dante and many modern evangelists say, you can’t go to heaven, which means you go somewhere else. But perhaps there are loopholes.

One of the best passages in the Bible is the mention of “Baptism for the Dead.” In a passage about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul argues that of course people must have a physical afterlife because if they are not resurrected why would people die? baptize the dead? (1 Cor 15:29). Paul doesn’t necessarily endorse the position but his reference to this practice suggests that something curious is going on. Today, ‘ordinary’ baptism includes not only immersion in water or water dripping on the forehead, but also some form of consent or profession of belief. Such consent is provided by the person himself or, if they are too young, by a child’s parent or godparent.

In the early church, baptism was more exclusive. Admission to full participation in the Christian community requires meeting a number of high standards and completing a program of initiation known today as catechesis. In the early church, the preparation phase was lengthy and required a modification of one’s lifestyle. Ideally, one would be admitted to full church membership after three years of preparation, an exorcism, and an all-night vigil. How does a dead person do this? Is it some kind of honor ceremony? A false scene from Weekend at Bernie’s which ended up on the cutting room floor? It’s hard to understand.

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Dave Lincicum, a professor at the University of Notre Dame told me, that 1 Corinthians 15 is the “unique sighting” of baptism after death in the New Testament. It leaves the interpreter scratching his head. The most likely choice, says Lincicum, is a passage that refers to the indirect baptism of a living Christian on behalf of those who have died. The reason it was done, says Lincicum, was a desire to help loved ones: “Recent converts made to the early Jesus movement and its saving interests want to open up. extended those perceived benefits to their deceased family and friends and found a way to do so. being baptized in their stead. “

In a fascinating paper on the subject published in FalseLincicum argued that the second century text The Acts of Paul and Thecla contains an example of indirect baptism. According to the story, Thecla, a respected attached aristocrat, falls in love with the spiritual charms and ascetic messages of the blue-collar Apostle Paul that are comparable. In the story, Thecla performs her baptism until the last possible moment. She was sent to the arena at Antioch to die at the feet of wild beasts but was baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” by diving into a puddle of man-eating seals (why, yes, you) read it right and, yes, swimming with seals sounds like what VIPs do at SeaWorld. But I digress).

It’s clearly a self-baptism scene that ruffles later generations of male commentators, but it could also be something else. Lincicum notes that the story is intertwined with that of a wealthy but upright woman named Tryphaena, whose daughter Falconilla had died some time earlier. He told me that earlier in the story “Falconilla appeared to her mother in a dream and took the name Thecla instead (‘in my place’).” The point was that Thecla would pray. “Tryphaena agreed and confirmed that Thecla would be his replacement by calling her ‘my second child.’” However, it is important that we only know that prayer works after Thecla’s automatic baptism. Then, Tryphaena announced that her baby was alive. Of course, she meant Thecla, the survivor who miraculously escaped the arena, but the story also suggests that the baptism worked on Falconilla. You can call it two-fer.

The fact that someone wrote a story like this is not only an indication of the practice of baptism for the dead, but it also shows how compelling the reference in 1 Corinthians is to readers. ancient pseudo. “The ‘baptism of the dead,’ throwback line,” says Lincicum, “is begging for a fallacious explanation, and I think [the] author [of the Acts of Paul and Thecla] gave it that – in a sense also taming it, by portraying it as a particular practice related to the arena and martyrdom. ”

In addition to these somewhat peculiar examples, we learn a little more about baptism after death from the heretics who condemned it. Relatively quickly, baptisms for the dead became stigmatized by groups becoming orthodox. They associated baptism with heretical or heretical groups such as the Montanists (a prestigious person who practiced incubating dreams and allowed women to prophesy), Marcion (a Roman teacher) does not use the Hebrew Bible) and Cerinthus (who believed that the resurrection would be a culinary and sexual delight).

We don’t really know if these groups practiced indirect baptism for the dead, but the descriptions have opened your eyes wide. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Antioch stated that when a minister died before receiving baptism, the Marcionites would have a living person hidden under the body and answer questions about baptism for the dead. They will then be baptized on their behalf. This makes a lot of sense: if hiding under a corpse playing belly sounds makes you not want to go to the bathroom, what will you do? His crude contemporary Filaster, Bishop of Brescia in Northern Italy, said that Montanists did not practice indirect baptism but instead baptized the dead directly. This sounds like a modified funeral rite.

Taking a completely different approach, Valentinian Gnostics seems to have read 1 Cor. 15:29 as an allusion to angels being indirectly baptized on our behalf so that we can become like angels through our own baptism. However, most ancient interpreters took the more mundane view that “Baptism for the dead” refers to our living and breathing but spiritual bodies, which come to life by baptism. name.

The only Christendom that interprets 1 Corinthians 15 as a license to practice delegated baptism today is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism). In Mormon theology, baptism for the dead is understood as an act of love toward deceased family members, but it does not necessarily bring salvation to the deceased. People who die in the spirit prison must agree to their baptism for it to be effective. Baptism after birth is not limited to immediate family members. The practice of baptizing victims of the Holocaust drew criticism in the 1990s, and in 2012 the Church had to apologize when it was reported that it had baptized Anne Frank.

Protective measures to prevent baptisms after the victims of the Holocaust have been put in place, but it is clear that young members of the Church especially enjoy being baptized on behalf of famous people in history. and nearby celebrities. Marilyn Monroe, Carrie Fisher, grandparents of Donald Trump and Steven Spielberg, and mother of Queen Elizabeth II (and presumably now Prince Philip as well) have all been christened by proxy. Church authorities blocked an attempt to christen serial killers Charles Manson and Stephen Paddock.

In orthodox Christianity, people often choose to follow the rules of baptism only after death under the most heartbreaking circumstances. Stories about this often involve infant deaths. A study of medieval miracle stories involving pregnancy and childbirth described by medieval writer Barbara Newman found that most prayers for stillborn babies were for washing. sin instead of being resurrected. These miracles are often told in books: The newborn baby opens his eyes for a moment, some water splashes, a prayer is quickly given, and the child dies. Parents can take comfort in knowing that their child can at least go to heaven.

The tragic circumstances in which people perform baptisms for the dead reveal its potentially relevant central core: It is about transmutation of grief. It not only reassures people that their loved ones who have passed away are mentally safe, but it also helps ease the helplessness of loss. After the death of a loved one, when all the funeral arrangements and ceremonies are completed, the possessions are packed away, leaving only memories, nothing left to do. Baptizing loved ones offers a positive (if heretical) outlet for those feelings of helplessness. It is an active form of prayer that is of spiritual value to the living, if not the dead. Does the Bible have a loophole to go to heaven?

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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