Prayers for the departed
In the year 168 BC the pagan King of Syria tried to force the Jews to give up their religion and, when they refused, launched a terrible persecution against them. But the Jews were fortunate in having the greatest warrior in their history to lead them, Judas Maccabaeus, that is, Judas the Hammer. After one successful battle, when the Jews were taking up the bodies of the fallen in order to give them a proper burial, they found that they had been wearing, hidden secretly under clothes, little charms made in the form of pagan idols.
Judas was horrified, and made a collection from his soldiers of 2,000 silver coins which he sent at once to Jerusalem to offer there a sacrifice for sin. And the Jewish writer, who tells us this, adds that this was a “…fine and noble action, in which he took full account of the resurrection. For if he had not expected the fallen to rise again it would have been superfluous (unnecessary) and foolish to pray for the dead”. You can read all about it in the 2nd Book of the Maccabees (Jerusalem Bible, 12:43-45).