Believer's Baptism. An Early Church Father's compialation

Before taking the step in bringing a compelling and historical account for Believers Baptism I wanted to give a disclaimer that I’m not used to writing up essays contrary to Catholic beliefs. I love defending Christianity more than anything, in fact Islam is a faith that I enjoy more than anything writing against. I feel that I only help cause confusion and separation when I write opposing beliefs against Catholics and Protestants alike to read; however it’s also important that I am able to reasonably hold a position without bias when questioned on, “Why in the world would you believe what you believe, you silly Evangelical.” I take my position very seriously, because to me it’s truth, just like to you Catholicism is truth. I think we are passionate about our beliefs and it causes anger, confusion, aggression, and outright negativity; but we know that when Christ is present there is no need for that. I don’t for an instant want to claim that, “I’m right, you’re wrong because my Church says so.” And I’m expecting the replies to be aggressive and often belittling, but I want us to remain Christ-like; Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Evangelical, etc. Perhaps such a disclaimer was unneeded but I know the passion that is within each and every poster representing their own beliefs, and it’s never my intention to step on that.

Finally, the reason I am writing this (besides constantly getting questioned on the historicity of believers baptism when I defend it from a Biblical perspective) is that I’ve found a library of books that touch on this topic from an Evangelical perspective and yet there is barely anything on the internet regarding the Early Church Fathers. I’ve looked, it’s hard to find; so I would present this to CAF and hopefully this can be a resource for fellow Evangelicals and for myself to look back on when other Catholics question my beliefs. Read with an open mind, and accept that my position is indeed historical but still contrary to yours, which is equally historical. The big book that I used to support my beliefs is, “Believers Baptism” by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright. The Patristic Writings section defends against the writings of Joachim Jeremias but does so using maturity and is written on a scholarly level.

This is not meant to be a debate on authority, as I know this is a hot button when the CC is questioned. So I hope it doesn’t go that way. Enjoy.

If we look at the earliest writings in the first and second century of Christianity we’ll find that any instructions for infants are completely absent. In fact, each instance of instruction regarding baptism supports a conclusion that the baptism of believers only was the normative practice in the second century, with the possible exception of emergency baptisms of mortally ill infants later in the century. The debate over the innovation of infant baptism continued into the fourth century when Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus, allowed infant baptism in emergency situations but otherwise rejected it on the grounds that infants have no sins to confess and therefore do not need baptism since baptism is properly related to repentance. That isn’t to say that he would be entirely against the idea of infants being baptized, but he certainly thought it would be better they wait until they can at least understand the outline of what is being performed:

Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus Oration 40:XXVIII. Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses. For it is better that they should be unconsciously sanctified than that they should depart unsealed and uninitiated.
A proof of this is found in the Circumcision on the eighth day, which was a sort of typical seal, and was conferred on children before they had the use of reason. And so is the anointing of the doorposts, Exodus 12:22 which preserved the firstborn, though applied to things which had no consciousness. But in respect of others I give my advice to wait till the end of the third year, or a little more or less, when they may be able to listen and to answer something about the Sacrament; that, even though they do not perfectly understand it, yet at any rate they may know the outlines; and then to sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of our consecration. For this is how the matter stands; at that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers.

As you can see here, Gregory writing 340-380 thought infant baptism could be acceptable, but would prefer that such a child reach at least some age of reason before being baptized unless such a child was in imminent danger. However, even though this was on the brink of the fifth century I feel we should go earlier, in fact we’ll go exactly one generation earlier to Gregory’s father. From Wikipedia:

Gregory was born in the family estate of Karbala outside the village of Arianzus, near Nazianzus, in southwest Cappadocia.[3]:18 His parents, Gregory and Nonna, were wealthy land-owners. In AD 325 Nonna converted her husband (an Hypsistarian) to Christianity; he was subsequently ordained as bishop of Nazianzus in 328 or 329
Gregory’s father was ordained a Bishop in the same year that Gregory was born and yet, when we look into Gregory’s life, we find he was Baptized shortly after his famous trip that almost had him killed:

Catholic Encyclopedia newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm
Setting out by sea from Alexandria to Athens, Gregory was all but lost in a great storm, and some of his biographers infer — though the fact is not certain — that when in danger of death he and his companions received the rite of baptism. He had certainly not been baptized in infancy, though dedicated to God by his pious mother; but there is some authority for believing that he received the sacrament, not on his voyage to Athens, but on his return to Nazianzus some years later.

When this incident happened, Gregory was on his way to learn advanced rhetoric and philosophy, putting him at approximately the age of thirty. Likewise St Basil the Great was raised in a devout Christian family approximately the same time as Gregory in the fourth Century. Take a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia again:

  • St. Basil the Elder, father of St. Basil the Great, was the** son of a Christian of good birth *and his wife, Macrina (Acta SS., January, II), both of whom suffered for the faith during the persecution of Maximinus Galerius (305-314), spending several years of hardship in the wild mountains of Pontus.

One would expect that such a person would have been Baptized as an infant if was as much of an emergency as Catholicism makes it out to be now, however read further:

Fortunately, Basil came again in contact with Dianius, Bishop of Caesarea, the object of his boyish affection, and* Dianius seems to have baptized him,** and ordained him Reader soon after his return to Caesarea.*

Again, this was well into his years… But let’s go earlier.

You will not find much from the third century or earlier that debates the age of Baptism, rather a consistent agreement that Baptism comes after repentance. It seems in every manual for Baptism, it is assumed that the recipient comprehends what is happening and why one receives such.

*Catechetical Lecture 19/ 20 Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386AD) newadvent.org/fathers/310119.htm newadvent.org/fathers/310120.htm

  1. First ye entered into the vestibule of the Baptistery, and there facing towards the West ye listened to the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan ye renounced him. 4. But nevertheless you are bidden to say, with arm outstretched towards him as though he were present, I renounce you, Satan.

20:2. As soon, then, as you entered, you put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds. Colossians 3:9 Having stripped yourselves, you were naked; in this also imitating Christ, who was stripped naked on the Cross, and by His nakedness put off from Himself the principalities and powers, and openly triumphed over them on the tree.*

No instruction for infants anywhere. Now, I’m not cherry picking, for it is impossible to find similar Church instructions that also include provisions for infants. That is the crux of my argument, all declarations in how we ought to practice Baptism only associate with those who can reason. Now, we’ll look into the Apostolic Constitutions:

Apostolic Constitutions (375-380) chapter 7.2.22
Water is sufficient both for the anointing, and for the seal, and for the confession of Him that is dead, or indeed is dying together with Christ . But before baptism,
* let him that is to be baptized fast;** for even the Lord, when He was first baptized by John, and abode in the wilderness, did afterward fast forty days and forty nights.

7.3.41
Let, therefore, the** candidate for baptism declare thus in his renunciation:** I renounce Satan, and his works, and his pomps, and his worships, and his angels, and his inventions, and all things that are under him. And after his renunciation let him in his consociation say: And I associate myself to Christ, and believe, and am baptized into one unbegotten Being, the only true God Almighty

3.2.18
But let him that is to be baptized be free from all iniquity; one that has left off to work sin, the friend of God, the enemy of the devil, the heir of God the Father, the fellow-heir of His Son;** one that has renounced Satan,** and the demons, and Satan’s deceits; chaste, pure, holy, beloved of God, the son of God, praying as a son to his father, and saying, as from the common congregation of the faithful*

Notice how in all of these documents there is never any mention of infants? Rather only that of an older person who is capable of comprehending what is happening. Let’s continue to go back through history.

We’ll take a look at Hippolytus, born 170 and living until 235 living in Rome, before moving onto Tertullian:
In The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, he states:
bombaxo.com/hippolytus.html

17 Catechumens will hear the word for* three years.** 2Yet if someone is earnest and
perseveres well in the matter, it is not the time that is judged, but the conduct.
*

  • 2If any catechumens are apprehended because of the Name of the Lord, let them not be
    double-hearted because of martyrdom. If they may suffer violence and be executed with
    their sins not removed, they will be justified, for they have received baptism in their own
    blood.
    20 When they are chosen who are to receive baptism, let their lives be examined,
    whether they have lived honorably while catechumens, whether they honored the widows,
    whether they visited the sick, and whether they have done every good work… 2If those who
    bring them forward bear witness for them that they have done so, then let them hear the Gospel.
    …5Let those who are to be baptized be
    instructed
    that they bathe and wash on the fifth day
    of the week. 6If a woman is in the manner of women, let her be set aparta and receive
    baptism another day….
    …7Those who are to receive baptism shall fast on the Preparation of the Sabbath

Now, after giving instructions on what such a person receiving Baptism should do, he even goes as far to mention children. One group who can answer for themselves and one group who cannot:

4The children shall be
baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there
are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or
someone else from their family.

However, nothing on infants. Surely such detail on adults and children (even those who do not have the capability to answer for themselves) but not infants. One may argue that the children who do not answer for themselves were also infants, but Hippolytus was clear that there shall be a three year waiting period prior to Baptism. So here we see that Hippolytus takes the same position that Gregory of Nazianzus argued in that it should be the norm that a candidate waits three years.

Next, and the earliest who spoke contrary to infant baptism would be Tertullian (160-225)
On Baptism Chapter 18

newadvent.org/fathers/0321.htm
But they whose office it is, know that baptism* is not rashly to be administered.** Give to every one who begs you, has a reference of its own, appertaining especially to almsgiving. On the contrary, this precept is rather to be looked at carefully…
…. And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary— if (baptism itself) is not so necessary — that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, Forbid them not to come unto me. Let them come, then, while they are growing up; let them come while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come;** let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ.**
Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the remission of sins? More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to ask for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given to him that asks.*

And he ends with a very firm:

If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay

Tertullian in the following chapters explains heavily into how a candidate shall act, all assuming the individual is of age to comprehend what is happening. Not an infant.
Interestingly enough, Tertullian also relates to Baptism and the early practice of the Church considering it Tradition:

The Chaplet Chapter 3
If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted, if no cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter of custom, affords us any precedent.
* To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism.** When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the Gospel.*
newadvent.org/fathers/0304.htm

For Tertullian to relate the Traditions handed down and reject infant Baptism is certainly something I encourage you to ponder.

Going back, I want to take a look into a passage in the “Apology of Aristides” for a second century look at Baptism. Chapter 15:

Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction.

This is immediately after Aristides explains the superior conduct of such Christians, contradicting the belief that “households” include that of young children. Here Aristides is arguing that children ought to be convinced of Faith before being called brothers without distinction. Aristides argues that only those who are convinced to become Christians are truly brethren, including servants and children.

Moving back further to Justin Martyr (100-165) we find that he would describe candidates for baptism as those who “choose and repent.” Consistent with, “The Didache” which will give us the earliest attestation to Baptism after the New Testament we find that Justin Martyr believed those who are Baptized ought to be persuaded and believe:

Justin Martyr First Apology, Chapter 61 (On Baptism)
I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are* persuaded and believe** that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are** instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting,** for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. *

Again, we are given guidance as to what someone should do before Baptism, never touching on what shall be done with infants; rather assuming that Baptism shall be done with those who comprehend what is happening. Continuing:

…And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe

Here we see that it is the choice. Those children and adults make the choice and knowledge, moving them to repentance and forgiveness of sins through Baptism. Finally, Justin finishes by explaining those who are “illuminated” by their understanding:
And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus,* he who is illuminated is washed.***

Now that we have worked our way back from the end of the Patristic writings to the beginning, of course I must end on the famous non canonical document, “The Didache.” The Didache is often considered to have been written in the first century, although some argue for an early second century dating. Regardless, for the sake of this argument I have included it last due to it being the closest to the New Testament yet not canonical.
Just like Justin Martyr, the Didache confirms that the standard Trinitarian Baptism shall be used when administrating the act of Baptism. The Didache also puts “flowing water” ahead of sprinkling such water, as well as using a pool as acceptable. Now, again we have the Didache covering what shall be done for an adult. The Didache as ancient as a document that it is, covers almost every issue in the Christian spectrum, but ignores infants making it again unacceptable to assume infants were included in Baptism for the first and second centuries.

Chapter 7 (Concerning Baptism) And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19 in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to* fast one or two days before.***

As obvious, the idea that a baby can be ordered to fast and then partake in fasting is ridiculous. Obviously the author of the Didache had only that of adults in mind, completely ignoring the existence of infants when it comes to Baptism. In fact, the Didache says** “after explaining all things”** or “instruct in this regard” which would infer comprehension; that which an infant has none.

For the Theologians and historians reading this, I suppose you have Cyprian of Carthage in your head? I would applaud one who was reading this entire essay wondering when I would bring him up, but disappointed if I would ignore him. It is obvious that the Church leaders in North Africa around the year 253 believed in infant Baptism. The Synod that was held affirmed that Baptism ought not to be hindered from anyone. We see here that Tertullian (160-220) would have been opposed by Cyprian (200-258) in regards to Baptism.

I am not here to say that Baptism of infants was considered an absolute fallacy in Early Church history, nor am I here to claim that it was absolute truth. What I am trying to convict you of is that there certainly is historical reasoning to reject infant Baptism, if only such comes from the first and second century. Infant Baptism started gaining weight in the third century and caught on; from there it took off. By the sixth Century it was undeniable, and wasn’t challenged until Peter Waldo in the 12th Century (among others), and for that among other things he and his followers were persecuted. There is no doubt if we go only by the first two centuries alone, infant Baptism made less sense than the idea that one must comprehend Baptism before partaking.

Apart from all that I have presented, there is much more debate within the books that I have read. I focused only on the Early Church Fathers, but there is plenty of Biblical and logical analysis on behalf of Evangelicals that conclude a person must ”Repent and be Baptized.” I did not feel the need to go into Biblical interpretation, for I feel such has been discussed at length and yet the Father’s have not been addressed as frequently by those who see the Bible as the greatest authority for Christianity. Thank you for reading.

I pray for unity. How it will come about; I do not know; but I pray.

I in no way intend this to be a comprehensive reply, but a quick response before heading off to Mass.

  1. You seem, based on the book you have read, to conclude that some early Christians recommended waiting (outside emergencies) for a child to be 3, so that they can reply when Baptised. You conclude, based on this, that the rejection of infant Baptism is a historically justified one. But I can think of no congregation which follows “believer’s Baptism” which would accept Baptising as young as 3 (when a child can reply, but not understand), nor see the need for emergency Baptisms of younger children in danger of death

  2. I think you are very much seeing what you want to see in some of these quotes, especially the Hippolytus. I mean, Hippolytus talks about waiting 3 years or until a catchumen has the appropriate disposition, which is judged by whether they are visiting the sick and such like, and then you conclude based on this that they would not Baptise a child until the age of 3. But what child of 3 would have demonstrated their commitment and disposition through visiting the sick? The three year wait was not some automatic thing, and also does not fit with Baptising children who cannot speak for themselves.

I also think you do not understand how small Christianity was in its early years, and how most Baptisms would be of converts. The instructions Hippolytus gives allows for the conversion of whole families and households, with the speaking children speaking for themselves, and the non-speaking children (by definition, infants. That’s what infants are) spoken for by a member of the household. In this way, a whole family could be received together, when the parents had demonstrated that they were ready.

Certainly, you seem to acknowledge that the earliest mentions of infant Baptism assume that it is already an established and common practice that the reader would be familiar with. I assume you are familiar with the debates over whether one should wait 8 days (like circumcision) or Baptise immediately, and with the later popular belief that one should delay Baptism because it provided for the remission of all sins and so would be useful just before death? Which was the reason for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) being made more accessible and private, with less lengthy penances, because people were choosing not to Baptise until danger of death, which is risky.

Finally, anyone who is intended to quote the Church Fathers as evidence of early Christian belief and practice should be aware of the dangers of using Tertullian especially, given his later shift to Montanism.

You cite St. Basil, Gregory, Justin Martyr and other church fathers. Do you view these as valid witnesses to what the practice of the early church did ? If so you will find them to be very very catholic. There is no way to reach any other conclusion.

Regarding your topic at hand…

catholic.com/tracts/early-teachings-on-infant-baptism

Cheers!

interesting

4The children shall be
baptized first. All of the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there
are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or
someone else from their family
.

Is this how you do it in your church group?

If you read Justin Martyr’s *Apology *carefully you will see that he is describing the baptism of people who “were brought up in bad habits and wicked training.” This seems to perfectly describe the situation of mature non-Christians, the target audience of his Apology. Well and good but what about those individuals in Christian families where we would expect them to be brought up in good habits and righteous training from infancy? What does Justin Martyr say about them? Nothing. And why not? Probably because he did not think that subject was particularly relevant to his target audience of mature non-Christians. He certainly did not condemn the practice of infant baptism in Christian families! Thus, I think it would be wrong to draw any conclusion about the practice of infant baptism in the early Church based on Justin Martyr’s silence on the matter.

On the other hand, Irenaeus of Lyons, writing about A.D. 189, only a few decades after Justin Martyr, suggests that infants are just as suitable candidates for being born again in baptism as children, youths, and older people:
Being a Master, therefore, He [Jesus Christ] also possessed the age of a Master, not despising or evading any condition of humanity, nor setting aside in Himself that law which He had appointed for the human race, but sanctifying every age, by that period corresponding to it which belonged to Himself. For He came to save all through Himself—all, I say, who through Him are born again to God—infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness, and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord. So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. (*Against Heresies *2:22:4)Any essay against the practice of infant baptism ought to address these objections.

Who do you think Hippolytus of Rome was referring to when he wrote about children who could not speak for themselves? Which group is Hippolytus more likely to have in mind in his short work on common Christian practices, all infants or that extremely rare group of children who previously expressed their wish to be baptized but when the time came were comatose and incapable of communicating their own wishes, even through the nod of a head or the blink of an eye? If this second group, why does Hippolytus not include similar instructions for adults who cannot speak for themselves?

The pastoral advice of Gregory of Nazianz that, except when there is a danger of death, the baptism of children ought to be delayed until they are about three years old is not a denial of the validity of infant baptism anymore than the current pastoral practice of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church of delaying the reception of the Eucharist and Confirmation until children are older is a denial of the validity of the practice of the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church of giving the Eucharist and Confirmation (Chrismation) to infants.

Similarly, the current pastoral practice in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church of delaying the baptism of children until such time as there is a well-founded hope that they will be raised in the Christian faith, except when there is a danger of death, is not a denial of the validity of infant baptism.

Thank you Dronald for releasing this early, I was not expecting it until this afternoon. I must not be the only insomniac here :). Reading your words kept me company when the forum had mostly shut down for the night.

I would agree that the first Christians were baptized as adult believers, maybe because they were after all the very first Christians.

But we read in the Didache that they baptized their children very soon. The Didache is dated by many to the first century when some of the original Disciples were still living. The surviveing Disciples did not disagree with, or correct the Didache. If they had their words would still be around.

I was raised and baptized as a teen believer by submersion in another Evangelical denomination. They called themselves a New Testament church. They said that all practices of the church should be exactly as it was in N.T. times. But the church developed since, we are not stuck at the day of Pentecost. Just food for thought.

  1. *Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus *- Is just giving advice… In other words, an opinion. He did not prohibit the practice (Which has been in effect since the beginning of the Church). As to his personal baptism, he was indeed baptized later in his life. Baptism is not a magical incantation. It is a Sacramental means of Grace, a seal into Christ. Not that grace is impossible to be found outside the Sacrament, but how this Sacrament brings more grace abound. (The same goes for Basil.)

  2. You said: “It seems in every manual for Baptism, it is assumed that the recipient comprehends what is happening and why one receives such.” It is an outrageous claim to say that every manual for baptism… Every single one? Can you produce all of them, from competent authority and with conclusive evidence that you have all of them?

  3. On Hippolytus - He said Catechumens. So what is a Catechumen? It is not an infant or a child that does not answer for himself. So when Hippolytus is talking about the 3 years, he is talking about the Catechumens. He goes on to talk about what is referenced as the Baptism of Blood, by being martyred in the name of the Lord. Separately, and not in the same breath as Catechumens, he talks about children. And from what he is talking about, it is obviously consistent with the practice of the Church and the baptism of infants and those children that can’t answer for themselves.

I am baffled at the stubborn insistence of some branches of Protestantism to exclude infants from households… not even the secular government does such a thing. To an extreme, I find it insulting.

  1. Tertullian - he argues from the point of view: sin after baptism. And his argument is more for the practice than against, being that he is obviously arguing against it.

  2. As for Justin and the Didache. None of them argue against the baptism - but on how it should be done to those who are not infants or children who can’t answer for themselves. IOW - Catechumens. For why should they give these instructions for them? None of them say - Do not baptize infants. If they went through the trouble of being so specific - Do you not think they would have included such an exclusion?

While I am happy that you read and spent what seems a good deal of effort. I have to, in all honesty, offer you my most sincere criticism:

You went into the research with a conclusion in mind. It seems you did not read to inform and then draw a conclusion but that you reached a conclusion and then read to support it. That is not the ideal way to go.

God Bless you brother,

I have three questions.

(1) What is your thesis?
Is it, to paraphrase, the following? “Baptism of infants was not considered an absolute fallacy in extra-biblical Early Church history (1st-2nd c.), nor was it considered absolute truth. Instead there is historical reasoning to reject infant Baptism, if only such comes from the first and second century.”

The first sentence merely asserts that in the 1st-2nd c we find no evidence that infant baptism was expressly required, and, at the same time, none that it was forbidden. No writer bore witness to a teaching that there was a (lower) age limit on baptism, yet they do not describe infant baptism clearly, if at all, either.

What exactly does your second sentence mean? There are historical grounds for maintaining that, despite the facts stated in your first sentence, the early church really did (a) proscribe infant baptism? (b) never practice infant baptism? Or are you saying, in accord with your first sentence, that the early church © did not really pronounce definitively either way on the subject, but an argument can be made for believers’ baptism?

Given that © only seems likely, the most you can say is that given ©, some other (historical? biblical? theological?) argument can be made for rejecting the practice of infant baptism and accepting only believers’ baptism?

OK, what is the argument?

(2) What is your thesis reacting against? Are Catholics and/or EOs (both of whom teach infant baptism) telling you that you are violating a mandate from God by not baptizing infants?

(3) What book by Jeremias? And how does the raw data you present refute his claims about–I presume–the same data?

As for 1st c biblical data I would argue that the NT authors certainly do not proscribe infant baptism and there is good reason to conclude that they include it.

I argue as follows regarding the well-known NT passages about household baptisms.

Joachim Jeremias, The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1962 notes the following:

(1) Paul and Luke would not have used phrases like “household” (oikos) and “his whole family” if they wished to exclude infants from those baptized. (p. 12)

(2) Neither Hellenistic Greek nor Jewish literature restricted oikos [household] to adult members of the family. It means “family.” In the NT the child (paidion) in Jn 4:49 is part of the royal official’s “whole household” (hole oikia). (14, 17-18, 24)

From Gerhard Kittle, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm R. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968 (=TDNT), vol. V we learn.

(3) Paidion means “little child” : “growing child” : “up to 7 yrs. of age” : and “of undeveloped understanding.” (TDNT, V:638)

(4) In the same article we read: “Recent research [Jeremias’ work above among others] makes it fairly certain that when households joined the Church existing children would be baptized. This is supported by all the religious analogies [in secular pagan society], but especially by proselyte baptism of children.” (TDNT, V:650)

(a) analogies - “The family and tribe were an objective cultic fellowship in the ancient world. The newborn child was incorporated in this fellowship from the very first days of its life.” (TDNT, V:643)

(b) proselyte baptism of children - “The [Jewish] proselyte baptism which developed in pre-Christian times was a rite for receiving ‘those not born in holiness’, and it applied to existing children as well as their parents.” If a pregnant non-Jewess is converted the child does not need baptism. “But if the son was born before the mother’s baptism, he would be baptized too.” (TDNT, V:648)

To be clearer, let me spell out (2).

(2) What is your thesis reacting against? Are Catholics and/or EOs (both of whom teach infant baptism) telling you that you are violating a mandate from God by not baptizing infants?
Or are you simply reacting against the known teaching of the CC and EOC regarding infant baptism with the claim that they are mistaken about it and infant baptism should be rejected as against divine revelation (the word of God).

However, since the CC draws its faith from the word of God handed down in history by the combined and interrelated processes of Scripture and Apostolic Tradition in the Apostolic Church and not from the historically newer position of sola scriptura nor from the private individual interpretation of the ECFs, the issue of Church authority sooner or later will have to come up–as well as the development of doctrine–if you are going to challenge the CC’s and EOC’s teaching and practice effectively. They are inescapable factors in the equation.

I don’t know about other posters, but I can discuss any of these rationally.

Also

For the Theologians and historians reading this, I suppose you have Cyprian of Carthage in your head? I would applaud one who was reading this entire essay wondering when I would bring him up, but disappointed if I would ignore him. It is obvious that the Church leaders in North Africa around the year 253 believed in infant Baptism. The Synod that was held affirmed that Baptism ought not to be hindered from anyone. We see here that Tertullian (160-220) would have been opposed by Cyprian (200-258) in regards to Baptism.

I think Origen bears mentioning too. Why? Three times he mentions infant baptism among them calling it the custom of the church and of apostolic origin.

It’s clear his witness takes it back at least to the second century. He didn’t make this up: he reports an established custom. Neither he nor Cyprian see infant baptism as an innovation of their time. Along with it is the claim in Origen that it is of apostolic origin.

[re Lk 2:21-24] Thus, it was fitting that those offerings that, according to the law, customarily cleanse stain, should be made. They were made for our Lord and Savior, who had been “clothed with stained garments” (Zech 3:3) and had taken on an earthly body. Christian brethren often ask a question. The passage from Scripture read today encourages me to treat it again. Little children are baptized “for the remission of sins.” (AA 2:38) Whose sins are they? When did they sin? Or how can this explanation of the baptismal washing be maintained in the case of small children, except according to the interpretation we spoke of a little earlier? “No man is clean of stain, not even if his life upon the earth had lasted but a single day.” (Job 14:4-5) Through the mystery of Baptism, the stains of birth are put aside. For this reason, even small children are baptized. For, “unless a man be born again of water and spirit, he will not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Jn 3:5)
[Origen, *Homilies on Luke, 14, 5] ~240 AD

[citing Ps 51:7] “. . . by which he indicates that every soul that is born according to the flesh is tainted with iniquity and sin.
. . .
Why is it that, according to the Church’s established custom secundum ecclesiae observationem], baptism is administered to infants also, when the Church’s baptism is administered “for the forgiveness of sins?” For, if there be nothing in infants that in any way demands remission and forgiveness, then the grace of baptism would indeed be superfluous.
[Origen, *Homilies on Leviticus, 8,3,5] ~240 AD

The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Holy Spirit.
[Origen, *Commentaries on Romans, 5,9] ~244 AD

Thank you everyone who contributed with some thought provoking replies.

My intentions were questioned, and I thought I made them clear but I will reiterate. The reason I wrote out what I did was to provide evidence that Believer’s Baptism can be defended historically. It has been my experience here that some Catholics think there’s no way it can be.

Unfortunately the stress of school work will prevent me from quoting every point and coming up with concise arguments for each one. Rather, most of my posts will be from my phone in my spare time. I had promised to write something after being challenged a few times and finally found the time to do so.

I have conceded and shall again that Cyprian was in favour of infant Baptism, and I will also concede Origen’s position as well.

  1. What I will not concede is the writers of the Didache felt it necessary to give instructions on infant Baptism, as such was ignored. This is going back to perhaps the 1st Century.

  2. Aristedes felt that children must be convinced of the truth before being considered, “brothers without distinction.”

  3. Justin Martyr speaks of “children of choice” in regards to Baptism and completely disregards any information on infants. Again, for such an important Sacrament for this day, it was certainly being ignored by the absolute earliest.

  4. (new point) Irenaeus speaks of Jesus passing through each age including infancy; whether or not he is speaking specifically of Baptizing infants is unclear. No obvious evidence is presented any any speculation is just that. Rather, Irenaeus was speaking out against Gnostics who believed that Jesus was never an infant. No where can we truly presume this has to do with Baptism.

Irenaeus even writes:

“We are made clean from our old transgressions by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord. We are thus spiritually regenerated as newborn infants, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Is he saying newborn infants are regenerated as newborn infants as well? He equates those Baptized being regenerated as newborns. I don’t see how this would work for one who is only a newborn.

  1. Someone should really break down what Tertullian said on infant Baptism, because he seemed strictly against it.

I will come back for some more points tomorrow (I think). But it’s going to be really rough for me.

I also ask that you all please forgive me for a lackluster response, I just know this is the last night before it’s back to the school books; so I had to leave with something.

God bless, and thank you.

Very interesting essay, Dronald! I do have one question… do you hold that baptism is a regenerative event (rebirth) or only symbolic (as a public expression of faith)?

I ask because I’ve had discussions with folks (evangelical/pro believer’s baptism) with some viewing baptism as necessary/regenerative and others viewing it as only symbolic. I’d rather not assume which position you hold. I do not intend for my reply to steer the discussion off course. But, it would be helpful for me to understand how you view the effects of baptism (or lack thereof) in this discussion. I apologize in advance if you’ve already addressed this and I overlooked it.

Thanks!!

dronald.

You said:

Aristedes felt that children must be convinced of the truth before being considered, "brothers without distinction.

Hold it dronald. Wait a second. I think you are reading into this text something that just isn’t there.

Aristides (of Athens) was merely talking about Christians who persuade their servants (and their families) to also become Christians . . . and when they DO become Christians (and when their kids become Christians) they refer to them as Christians without distinction.

That’s all. Let’s take a closer look in larger context . . . .

Quote:
Now the Christians, . . . . are pure as virgins, and their daughters modest: and their men abstain from all unlawful wedlock and from all impurity, in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world: but as for their servants or handmaids, or their children if any of them have any, they persuade them to become Christians for the love that they have towards them; and when they have become so, they call them without distinction brethren: they do not worship strange gods: and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another: and from the widows they do not turn away their countenance: and they rescue the orphan from him who does him violence . . . .

Catholic Christians today likewise persuade their neighbors (or relatives, or employees, or whatever) to become Catholic Christians. And when they DO become Catholic Christians, we Catholics likewise refer to them as Catholic Christians too. FULLY Catholic Christians.

We make no distinction. Even if they were our employees (they are still “Christians”).
We EVEN refer to their Baptized kids as Christians.

They are brothers without distinction.

But this does NOT argue against infant Baptism in any way.

It does not argue for substituting being born again (born of water and the Spirit) with an invented “sinners prayer” accompanied by an emotional experience (the so-called “believer’s baptism”).

Nor did any of the other quotes.

The St. Gregory of Nazienzen quote in Oration 40, section IX-X, is only non-specific as he uses pronouns and I cannot be sure if St. Gregory was alluding to the infants themselves or those “asking for mercy” (the catechumens).

The “others” St. Gregory may be alluding to here, are the others who personally ASK for Baptism (with your interpretation, you must assume 3 year olds are going to the Bishop and asking to be Baptized).

He may very well be talking about the Catechumens themselves here for the three year wait (“But in respect of others”). Not necessarily the infants per se. Possibly even the catechumens and their children (he is not going to Baptize the kids if the parent(s) aren’t themselves ready for Christianity).

St. Gregory IS talking about people who approach him and ask about these things (quite unlikely 3 year olds).

And listen to what St. Gregory DOESN’T say in section XI:

NOT St. Gregory of Nazienzen XI Let us then gather round the camp fire, and pray the sinners prayer that we may win the victory; let us partake of accepting Jesus into our hearts. What is believers baptism but not a complete taking away of sin; for if once purged by this prayer, why should they need further purification? Let us adults make an altar call today!

No. Here is what St. Gregory really said:

St. Gregory of Nazienzen section XI. Let us then be baptized that we may win the victory; let us partake of the cleansing waters, more purifying than hyssop, purer than the legal blood, more sacred than the ashes of the heifer sprinkling the unclean, and providing a temporary cleansing of the body, but not a complete taking away of sin; for if once purged, why should they need further purification? Let us be baptized today, that we suffer not violence tomorrow; and let us not put off the blessing as if it were an injury, nor wait till we get more wicked that more may be forgiven us; and let us not become sellers and traffickers of Christ, lest we become more heavily burdened than we are able to bear, that we be not sunk with all hands and make shipwreck of the Gift, and lose all because we expected too much. While you are still master of your thoughts run to the Gift (he is writing to adults).

Incidentally. When Moses sprinkled the people with a hyssop branch the Scriptures suggest Moses did not sprinkle the people MINUS the infants. But rather Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice upon ALL “the people” including infants (see Hebrews 9:19). St. Gregory’s Moses-context includes infants.

The fact that St. Gregory himself wasn’t Baptized as an infant is irrelevant. His father was a Hypsistiani (basically an older version of a Unitarian with a pagan slant). St. Gregory’s mom although a Christian, may not have been when he was small. Or St. Gregory’s father may have insisted on no Baptism just like the Unitarians often do today. St. Augustine wasn’t Baptized as an infant either as were many other Saints.

Also as Cross Roads Initiative points out:

Quote:
Gregory (St. Gregory of Nazienzen), one of the greatest preachers of the Early Church, points out that Christ was baptized not for his sake but for ours, sanctifying the waters of baptism for all generations to come . . .

Yes. Irenaeus says, “For He came to save all through Himself—all, I say, who through Him are born again to God—infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men.”

With respect to the personal sins we have committed, “our old transgressions,” we can be spiritually regenerated in baptism as newborn infants, who have committed no personal sins. With respect to Original Sin, even infants can be born again to God in baptism.

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