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Since the time canon was formed, when did the teaching that salvation can still be obtained by people after their physical death first appear in Christianity?

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The idea shows up very early on, dating back to apostolic times. We see Paul talking about baptisms on behalf of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29) as if it were a familiar, non-controversial practice, and in Peter tells how Christ went to preach to "the spirits in prison" while he was dead, (1 Peter 3:18-20) and saying that they were sinners who had been disobedient in their lives. So it's safe to say that the concept has been around since the beginning of Christianity.

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If it were really that simple this question wouldn't even be such an issue. The problem is, those verses have simple and widely acclaimed alternative interpretations that take the subject a whole different direction from the belief that you hold to about them. Depending on your hermeneutics, these verses might be no evidence at all. You would need corroborating evidence from the time to show that is how they were understood, which is lacking or there wouldn't be a debate on the meaning of these in the the first place. Summary: I don't think this answers the question at all. –  Caleb Sep 26 '12 at 19:02
(1) I agree with Caleb on this one. Perhaps, I should've said "since the canon was formed" - I'll edit my question.Those verses can hardly be described as well-formed teachings, especially the first one. 1 Corinthians 15:29 could probably serve as a kind of basis (rather shaky one) for a teaching, but –  brilliant Sep 27 '12 at 6:55
(2) in no way can it be considered a teaching. 1 Peter 3:18-20 looks more like an evidence of a teaching already existing at that time, but my! the matter of how to interpret these verses is so debatable! Just ascribe "souls" there to humans, and "spirits" to angels, and you'll make it totally irrelevant to my question. –  brilliant Sep 27 '12 at 6:56

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