Infant Baptism / When did it first start?


Peter called for parents and children to be baptized in his first sermon @ Pentecost. But, what is the Church’s EARLEST historical record in regards to INFANT baptism ?

Catholic Answers has a paper on this [Early Teachings on Infant Baptism] … and the earliest supporter would appear to be Irenaeus, who wrote in 170-180’s AD. In Against Heresies [189 AD], he supports the idea.

Many other Church Father’s in 200-400’s period supported the idea.

However, Justin Martyr in 130’s wrote even earlier on Baptism within the Church … and there is no mention of it being the practice for infants. Justin writes very precisely about the Churches practices/traditions regarding both the Eucharist & Baptism in his Apologies Vol. 1. [chapter 61 for Baptism]

He spoke of Baptism as being a sacrament desired by the individual, which followed faith, prayer & fasting, and an expressed desire by the baptismal candidate to be ‘born again’. First the candidate would confess and repent of their sins … and then the baptism with Trinitarian formula would be conducted.
It was for the removal of sins formerly ‘committed’ by choice in this life.

"And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated spiritually. But also in the name of J.C., who was crucified under P.P., and in the name of the H.S., who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed. "

Justin was a convert in Ephesus, just after time of John … and learned under Polycarp no doubt. For him not to speak directly to Baptism of Infants, and recount only of adult baptism is telling.

Perhaps Infant Baptism was not commonly practiced until the later times of Irenaeus ??

Anyone aware of historical accounts from other Church Fathers in support of baptism for infants at / before days of Justin ?


Christian baptism has its origin in the Jewish rite of Mikveh, a ritual bath.

Orthodox Jewish women visit the mikveh after childbirth and their periods.

But it’s also part of the reception of converts from among the Gentiles.

So important is it that the conversion of a proselyte–even an infant–is NOT considered valid and complete until immersion in the Mikveh.

Actually, it’s a TRIPLE immersion! What does this suggest to you?

So you see, infant baptism was not something invented by that nasty ole pope feller. It was something quite familiar to the first generation of Jewish Christians.


Plus, you can read in Acts of the Apostles about whole households being Baptized together.
Somewhere, and of course, I lost the source for it, I read eons ago, that women carried their babies in their arms and had them Baptized along with the rest of the household.
We, as Catholics don’t just make things up as we go along, all this is handed down to us from Apostolic times.
They walked with Jesus and we are still walking with Him.


One of the earliest references to bringing children to Jesus:

Matt 19:13-15

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.


In the whole households of Acts there is no reference to those homes having children at all, within having an infant. So, it is an argument from silence that is usless one way or the other. The Jailer for example, would have to be a senior officer in status and age, who’s children would be grown and moved out – we know this via roman law, see Sozo’s Roman law for documentation.

Infant Baptism in Early Church History
by Dennis Kastens

refutation of infant baptism in early church


St. Polycarp, was baptized as an infant in or about 69 AD.

Irenaeus in 180 AD. wrote “He came to save all persons by means of Himself - all, I say, who through Him are born again to God - infants, children, boys, youth, and old men.”

In 250 AD. it seems there was a controversy over infant baptism - not over whether or not infants should be baptized, but whether we should wait until the infant is 8 days old so as to conform more fully to circumcision as a type of baptism in Christ. Cyprian wrote:
“But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified with in the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man.”
“But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted–and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace–how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins–that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another.”

So we can see that the early Church practiced infant baptism long before Constantine (in case anyone was going to mention him).


Polycarp spoke of his own baptism as an infant around AD 155. If you do the math, you will see that he was probably baptized around AD 69…in other words, within the lifetime of John the Apostle making the baptism of infants undeniably Apostolic in origin.

Early Church Fathers on Infant Baptism

Polycarp (69-155 AD)

“Eighty and six years have I served the Lord Christ” (*Martyrdom of Polycarp *9: 3)


“For He came to save all through means of Himself all, I say, who through Him are born again to God, infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men” (*Against Heresies *2:22:4).

“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, 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’ [John 3:5]” (*Fragment *34 [A.D. 190]).

**Justin Martyr (100 – 166 AD) **

“Many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples since childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years” (Apology 1: 15).

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


Yes … Jesus welcomed children to come to him at early ages. But, I don’t think your verse above refers to 8 day old infants.

Again … Peter called for baptism for children & adults. Its the infants I’m curious about … regarding early Church baptismal practices.


This is what I’m interested in. Did he specifically say he was baptized as infant …or are we just taking his statement about how long he had been Christian and inferring he was perhaps an infant.

Referrences on this ?


Justin talks of many Christians since their childhood. He doesn’t say infancy. I take it he is talking about 4-6 y.o. children … who clearly can have a concept about God and Christ.


Perhaps you ought to go back and re-read it more carefully, as it does address just that.
Also, what makes anyone think that whole households would NOT include infants?


this link states infant baptism does not have any good early documentation from historical literature. It even states the Irenaeus quote in support is not legit … and says the first Father to speak of it was Origen in 3rd century.

Thus, it would appear to be a late Church tradition w/o good biblical or early historical written support.


38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39

Now St. Peter was speaking to the adults there, and tellling them that the promise was for them and their children and anyone else that the Lord would call to Himself. Not just them, but everyone the Lord called, even their children. Now as far as I know, when my infants were born, they were called my children. When they were baptized as infants, they became God’s children.


The parallel passage in Luke (Luke 18:15-17) specifically mentions infants.


Interesting !! Good find. :thumbsup:

Quoting here from RSV 18:15-17 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Now … it starts off saying infants … but, then Jesus says children… and later like a child. I’d be curious why the change here from infants to children. Perhaps the word for infants and children is the same.


since Acts tells of entire families being baptized, including children, with no reference to an exception for infants, we assume infant baptism began with earliest days of the Church. since no opponents of the practice have ever produced evidence that the practice was NOT part of early Church practice, we leave them to their own devices and continue the 2000 yr old practice.


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