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The Saving Efficacy of the Burning Process in Didache 16.5

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Chapter Summary

This chapter revises the notion that the medieval concept of purgatory had its beginnings within the speculations of the third-century Fathers. Taking as a point of departure a troublesome text which is found in the apocalypse of the first-century Didache, the author shows that, once extraneous interpretations are peeled away, Did 16.5 offers an overlooked testimony to the dual function of eschatological fire more than a century prior to Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. Further instances of the dual process of burning are illustrated within the Jewish prophetic writings and the early Christian apocalyptic literature, thereby demonstrating that "purgatorial fire" was not an invention of the Didache but the expression of a minor stream of thought which had a long development prior to the third century.

Keywords: Didache 16.5; dual process of burning; eschatological fire; medieval concept of purgatory; purgatorial fire



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