Justin Martyr on Infant Baptism


This reference from Justin Martyr seems to present the impression he did not believe in infant baptism, and worse, that the apostles own teaching is not completely consistent with the idea. From chapter 61 of his first apology:

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; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. 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.

Note that he contrasts natural birth, in which there is no consent on the part of the born, with spiritual birth, the consent of which he says is the entire reason for its necessity, and this is according, he says, to the apostles.

Any thoughts?


So if we understand right and Justin Martyer did not understand infant baptism, does that mean that baptism was not necessary for the salvation of infants who died prior to being able to make a choice for or against God? Does it mean that it was assumed that children who died in utero would not need baptism.
What about the idea that if parents are baptised then if a child dies in utero it is covered by the baptism of the parent/s?
Grace Angel.


As I explained in our private conversation, I’ll put here briefly for the edification of others.

Justin Martyr was not giving an exhaustive theological treatise, but was explaining Catholic rituals because of serious criminal allegations being brought against them by the pagans. This can be seen from the opening passages of the work.

In the section quoted, Justin is focusing on the ritual of Baptism as included in the Liturgy (read the next few paragraphs and you’ll see that he goes on to explain what they do after this ritual, including the Eucharist). Since this is a defense of adults being accused of crimes, there’s no reason to include any mention of the peculiar theology behind Baptism, except to say that it’s a remission of sins and to explain why the Trinity is invoked and such.

It’s a very brief explaination and defense of those who would be accused of crimes by the Romans, and those would be adults in this case.

Peace and God bless!


We are all sinners, and imperfect, as was Justin Martyr. The New Testament calls (us) to “…go forth and baptise the nations”. I have never been in any nation that didn’t include babies… and finally, God’s living Word in His Church today calls for infant baptism. It removes the baby from the condemnation of original sin…thats all. Later comes the sacrament of Confirmation. Its all natural and it all makes sense if you pray and ask for the presence and Grace of the Holy Spirit. God Bless Joseph



Justin Martyr did not believe in infant baptism from his records. His entire focus in this section is personal consent and knowledge.

That is his whole point.

Notice Justin always says “we” and “our” all through his explanation and contrast. The person to be baptised CHOOSES so, as opposed to the infant who is born and raised without their choosing.

Justin spoke about baptism many times in his writings but never mentioned baptising Christian infants during any mention.

This is extremely significant.


III. Infant Baptism
Gen. 17:12, Lev. 12:3 - these texts show the circumcision of eight-day old babies as the way of entering into the Old Covenant - Col 2:11-12 - however, baptism is the new “circumcision” for all people of the New Covenant.

Job 14:1-4

Psalm 51:5 - we are conceived in the iniquity of sin. This shows the necessity of baptism from conception.

Matt. 18:2-5 - Jesus says unless we become like children, we cannot enter into heaven. **So why would children be excluded from baptism? **

Matt 19:14 - Jesus clearly says the kingdom of heaven also belongs to children. **There is no age limit on entering the kingdom, and no age limit for being eligible for baptism. **

**Mark 10:14 - Jesus says to let the children come to Him for the kingdom of God also belongs to them. **

Mark 16:16 - Jesus says to the crowd, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” --AND-- “He who does not believe will be condemned.” This demonstrates that one can be baptized and still not be a believer.

Luke 18:15 – Jesus says, “Let the children come to me.” The people brought infants to Jesus that he might touch them.

Acts 2:38 - Peter says to the multitude, “Repent and be baptized…”

Acts 10:47-48 - Peter baptized the entire house of Cornelius, which generally included infants and young children. There is not one word in Scripture about baptism being limited to adults.

Acts 16:15 - Paul baptized Lydia and her entire household. The word “household” comes from the Greek word “oikos” which is a household that includes infants and children.

Acts 16:15 - further, Paul baptizes the household based on Lydia’s faith, not the faith of the members of the household. This demonstrates that parents can present their children for baptism based on the parents’ faith, not the children’s faith.

Acts 16:30-33 - it was only the adults who were candidates for baptism that had to profess a belief in Jesus. This is consistent with the Church’s practice of instructing catechumens before baptism. See Acts 16:15,33. The earlier one comes to baptism, the better. For those who come to baptism as adults, the Church has always required them to profess their belief in Christ. For babies who come to baptism, the Church has always required the parents to profess the belief in Christ on behalf of the baby. But there is nothing in the Scriptures about a requirement for ALL baptism candidates to profess their own belief in Christ (because the Church has baptized babies for 2,000 years).

Acts 16:33 - Paul baptized the jailer (an adult) and his entire household (which had to include children). Baptism is never limited to adults and those of the age of reason. See also Luke 19:9; John 4:53; Acts 11:14; 1 Cor. 1:16; and 1 Tim. 3:12; Gen. 31:41; 36:6; 41:51; Joshua 24:15; 2 Sam. 7:11, 1 Chron. 10:6 which shows “oikos” generally includes children.

**Rom. 5:12 - sin came through Adam and death through sin. Babies’ souls are affected by Adam’s sin and need baptism just like adult souls. **

Rom. 5:15 - the grace of Jesus Christ surpasses that of the Old Covenant. So children can also enter the new Covenant in baptism. From a Jewish perspective, it would have been unthinkable to exclude infants and children from God’s Covenant kingdom.
Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2 - Paul addresses the “saints” of the Church, and these include the children he addresses in Eph. 6:1 and Col. 3:20. Children become saints of the Church only through baptism.

Eph. 2:3 - we are all by nature children of wrath, in sin, like all mankind. Infants are no exception. See also Psalm 51:5 and Job 14:1-4 which teach us we are conceived in sin and born unclean.

**Matt. 9:2; Mark 2:3-5 - the faith of those who brought in the paralytic cured the paralytic’s sins. This is an example of the forgiveness of sins based on another’s faith, just like infant baptism. The infant child is forgiven of sin based on the parents’ faith. **

Matt. 8:5-13 - the servant is healed based upon the centurion’s faith. This is another example of healing based on another’s faith. If Jesus can heal us based on someone else’s faith, then He can baptize us based on someone else’s faith as well.

**Mark 9:22-25 - Jesus exercises the child’s unclean spirit based on the father’s faith. This healing is again based on another’s faith. **

***1 Cor. 7:14 – Paul says that children are sanctified by God through the belief of only one of their parents. ***

Joshua 5:2-7 - God punished Israel because the people had not circumcised their children. This was based on the parent’s faith.

INFANT BAPTISM IS VALID. IF YOU DENY IT THEN YOU DENY SCRIPTURE!!! :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad:


It’s only significant if he was actually addressing the issue of infant baptism.



I agree with Ghosty, this is not an exhaustive treatise on Baptism. If it were, Justin would specifically mention his supposed belief that infants were not to be baptised.

The Saint is explaining correct Catholic faith insofar as regards adults and their conversion/Baptism.

Especially notice that it is by Baptism where one “accepts” Christ and has remission of sins: “and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed” It is not the “Sinner’s Prayer” that some mistakenly supplant in place of scriptural Baptism.

Since it is the Baptismal waters that remit all prior sin, the Saint’s view is against pretty much all Protestants except for Lutherans and perhaps Episcopalians/Anglicans and some others.


This is relatively meaningless.

As has been pointed out repeatedly, the Fathers were not infallible and doctrine was being “worked out” as the Church listened to all of her sons before infallibly choosing the correct path. It’s okay for a Father to miss one or two questions on their systematic theology finals.

Let’s put Justin on your side of the scale, okay? Here are mine:

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 (infancy in some translations), remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years” (Apology 1: 15).

Hippolytus (170-236 AD)

**“And first baptize the little ones; and if they can speak for themselves, they shall do so; if not, their parents or other relatives shall speak for them.” (*The Apostolic Tradition ***21:16 [A.D. 215]).


“The Church has received from the apostles the custom of administering baptism even to infants. For those who have been entrusted with the secrets of divine mysteries, knew very well that all are tainted with the stain of original sin, which must be washed off by water and spirit” (Commentary on Romans, 5.9).

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (*Homilies on Leviticus *8:3 [A.D. 248]).

“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (*Commentaries on Romans *5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Council of Carthage (254 AD)

“We ought not hinder any person from Baptism and the grace of God… especially infants. . . those newly born.”




“Should we wait until the eighth day as did the Jews in circumcision? No, the child should be baptized as soon as it is born.” (To Fidus 1: 2).

“In respect of the case of infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after 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 within 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… Spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision… we ought 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” (Letter 58 to Fidus).

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (*Letters *64:2 [A.D. 253]).

“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

Gregory of Nazianz

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (*Oration on Holy Baptism *40:7 [A.D. 388]).

“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly *, if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

John Chrysostom

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (*Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian *1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

Council of Carthage (418 AD)

“If any man says that newborn children need not be baptized . . . let him be anathema.”


“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (*The Literal Interpretation of Genesis *10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).

“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (*Letters *166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).

“If you wish to be a Christian, do not believe, nor say, nor teach, that infants who die before baptism can obtain the remission of original sin.”

“Whoever says that even infants are vivified in Christ when they depart this life without participation in His sacrament (Baptism), both opposes the Apostolic preaching and condemns the whole church which hastens to baptize infants, because it unhesitatingly believes that otherwise they cannot possibly be vivified in Christ.”

Guess which way the infallible Catholic Church ultimately went? :clapping:

This is extremely significant.:dancing:*


I think you’re over-interpreting. Note that he talks about being brought up in “bad habits and wicked training.” He is clearly not talking about children of Christian parents here, one way or the other!




If infant baptism had to be “worked out” as being taught and commanded by the Apostles, then that is worrisome for the doctrine today, IMV.

If such doctrine was still up in the air over a century after Pentecost, especially considering that Justin was from the Holy Land itself, then we can rest assured that such teaching was not dictated by the Apostles.

And I guess what ECF testimony one considers “meaningless” depends on what they are trying to prove at any given moment. I don’t suppose you consider all those other quotes you posted are “meaningless”…


Thanks for all the replies.

Note, I am not looking for defenses of infant Baptism or the like; I am on board :stuck_out_tongue: . I just wanted people’s thoughts on Justin’s comments and how one might handle them in discussions with Protestants or what people think Justin really thought.

I think the difficulty with the words is not that he is talking about infants, but that he is defining the need for Baptism based on what is possible to adults but impossible for infants.


First of all, you are assuming that everything the Apostles did and taught was passed down with equal clarity to all later Christians. This is a big stretch.

In the second place, I don’t have a problem with the idea that the Apostles did not “dictate” the teaching but that it developed as Christians grappled with the question of how to initiate the children of Christian parents. Given the account in Acts 16, I’m inclined to think that infants were baptized in the NT. But my belief in infant baptism does not depend on that.

We know that by the end of the second century it was a common practice, because Tertullian attacks it without claiming that it was an innovation (which he surely would have done if it were something a few people were starting to do, since in the early Church calling something an innovation was the best way to kill it). But it was still “up in the air” in the sense that Tertullian could attack it while still (if I’m not mistaken) a member of the Catholic Church.

Finally, I can’t see that this passage from Justin has anything to do with infant baptism, except to indicate that it wasn’t the first thing one would think of in defining baptism. That is not surprising.



As usual, you miss the mark. I did not say that this particular doctrine was still up in the air…this happens to be one of the doctrines that I believe scripture itself is sufficiently clear on. Obviously, the numerous Fathers I quoted disagree with you and Justin Martyr. The Church listened to Justin - and decided against his perspective. She continued her ancient practice just as she had done all along. Thanks, Justin, but no thanks.

My comment was speaking generally to the bigger issue of why some of the Fathers disagreed with one another on doctrines. You Protestants seem to think that each of the Fathers had to be infallible and completely in lock-step with one another in order for a doctrine to be valid. This is not the case.

You pick on Justin here, Augustine there…all the while ignoring the umpteen other Fathers who taught the very doctrine that you seek to deny. You’re eager to hold on to this ONE Father on this one issue because he preaches “what your itching ears want to hear”, but you completely ignore the fact that he was orthodox down the line on every other Catholic doctrine. If he is really worth listening to, Atemi, then by all means YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM. By golly, if you think Justin Martyr is so praiseworthy, then I beg you to study and embrace all of his theology you can. He’s telling you the truth! And don’t stop there…keep reading, keep studying, keep embracing. I want you to be as much like the ECF’s as you possibly can. I want you to believe exactly what they believed: there is one true Church, and it’s the Catholic Church. Honestly, how can you be so oblivious to the witness of what these Fathers are telling you? Perhaps those Protestant lenses you read them with are not so clear, after all.

Then when we Catholics point out that Calvin taught the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, or that Luther taught the Real Presence in the Eucharist (though he denied transubstantiation), you dismiss them out of hand. You insist that your “proto-Protestant” Early Church Father is “very significant”, but you won’t stop for a moment to consider the significance of true proto-Protestants who taught doctrines that you and your brothers are no longer willing to accept. You’re now in Protest against the original Protesters. At every fork, you take the wrong road, and you’re wandering further and further from the Truth Himself and His Body, the Church.


Frankly, I think there were some (if not many) issues that the Apostles themselves never even considered during the course of their lifetimes what with impending imprisonment, martyrdom and all that.

But as certain key building blocks of theology were put into place over time, the second tier of doctrine could be put down, then the third and so on.

Think of layers of an onion being slowly peeled to reveal deeper and deeper truths. Or consider how an acorn contains the fullness of the mighty oak tree without resembling one in any way - it grows and develops over time, but the essence is there all along.


Finally, I’m curious…does the Bible give any specific instructions for the believer concerning artificial birth control? Is contraception permissable or not? As a Catholic, I believe there is a biblical basis for condemning this, but I’m looking for your perspective as a non-Catholic. Would you say that there is no prohibition from the Apostles on contraception? So, it’s acceptable because there is no prohibition, right?

Would you also acknowledge that there is no prohibition from the Apostles on infant baptism? I’m not talking about “believers baptism” or having faith or any of that. I want a verse that says “Thou shalt not baptize infants.” Do you have anything even remotely resembling that? 'Cause apart from that, I see nothing in scripture that specifically prohibits the baptism of infants just as you see nothing that prohibits contraception.

I just want to make sure that we use the same logic in all cases and avoid any hypocrisy when justifying our beliefs…I’m sure you want to avoid the same.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


It seems to me St. Justin Martyr was addressing non-Christian adults and so he was presenting Baptism in a way geared to their specific situation.


Precisely. Given the context, infant Baptism simply wasn’t relevant.


If I can put my two cents in, the whole debate on infant baptism is irrelevant. People didn’t get baptised out of fear of their Children going to hell - they did it because they knew what original sin was and they loved God and their children. If someone says that Baptism isn’t necessary for children, I would remind them how necessary and practical for the parent. If God himself cleaned my child, don’t you think I would do all I can to keep the child clean?


They did it because, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

To demand that a child abide by the New Covenant and yet to refuse to bring him into it is utterly ridiculous. To think that I would be a member of the New Covenant, but my child would not, is likewise ridiculous.



Yet that is exactly the “ridiculous” situation we find for many an early Christian, including a number of ECFs.

Many, many early Christians were born to Christian parents but were not baptised until later in life, some not until their deathbed.

This was the teaching and practice of the church.


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