24 Mar


WILLIAM TYNDALE photo: William Tyndale HF-89_tn20William20Tyndale20Origina.jpg
Purgatory is a really neat concept. If you were a ruler of men, a king or queen, even a dictator, you’d really want your people to believe in a place where they must linger in agony while their earthly sins are dissolved by time.

And it was like that once. Rich men left endowments in order to provide a living for monks or priests to pray for their release from purgatory sooner than their sins suggested they might be released – and who knows more about those sins than the sinner?

So where did purgatory come from? Clearly, it’s part of Christian dogma, so you’d expect that it had its birth in that books of the Christian bible, – but no, there’s no mention of it there.

Maybe we can recall, from history lessons in school, that there was a time when the one and only denomination of Christianity objected when it was mooted that the bible should be translated into the language that the common man could understand. It was in their interests to keep the book obscure, only available to those with a classical education and a working knowledge of Latin. We may even recall the name of William Tyndale who worked on translating the good book into English, and who as a consequence was accused of the really serious crime of heresy and executed by strangulation before being hanged.

Heresy, or the belief in a religious construct contrary to that which is accepted by church and state, was responsible for quite a few learned men being victims of this or that kind of judicial murder.

The reason why providing a true understanding of religious teaching by making the religious texts understandable to all who could read their own language was such a crime lay in what they didn’t say rather than what was in the original gospels and allied books.

Over the centuries the Church in Rome had added bits and pieces to Christianity and would have preferred it if the masses believed that those additions were all part and parcel of the original concept of God in his heaven surrounded by angels all adoring him and Satan in his hell gnashing his teeth amongst sulphurous fumes and eternal torment for unbelievers.

Note that: hell was for unbelievers rather than sinners, but then not believing was the worst of sins anyway.

It wasn’t long after William Tyndale’s demise that the English king shook Christendom by establishing the church of England and separating from the papal powers in Rome. His motives had more to do with a personal divorce than a religious quarrel, but he did suggest an English-language bible, and Tyndale’s work was used as a basis for what is known as the Tyndale Bible. He would have been pleased had he not been executed beyond pleasure!

But thoughts of purgatory slowly slipped away when the original texts were shown to make no mention of the place. It was one of those little additions that had been dreamed up by Rome.

And I should imagine that it’s perfectly fair to suggest that all the rest of the Christian dogma was made up of little additions dreamed up over hundreds of years preceding the new testament. But additions to what, you might ask. Well, I would suggest there were stories back in the beginning that were told to children at night, lovely stories about a Prince Adam and a Princess Eve and a nasty, nasty snake. And over time additions were made.

Purgatory might have all-but disappeared, but there are still ancient additions to snare us, and they’re in black and white in millions of copies of that evil book.

© Peter Rogerson 23.03.15


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