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Author Topic: The Historicity of Infant Baptism  (Read 1111 times) Average Rating: 0
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NucleicAcid
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« on: October 31, 2010, 12:01:18 PM »

Hi Everyone,

One issue that I am having difficulty with is the notion of infant baptism.  I have seen some persuasive arguments against the practice, and would just like to learn more about the arguments for infant baptism, especially since it is very interesting that all of the most ancient Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc) practice it. 

Does anyone know the earliest mention of infant baptism from the Church Fathers?  What is the Biblical basis for the practice?  Is there any correlation with Old Testament practices?  From what I understand, Orthodox practice baptism by immersion as the standard with pouring as the exception, correct?  This seems to be more in line with what the Bible states, as well as what the Didache states as well (pouring being done if immersion cannot).

Also, what do Orthodox believe infant baptism does?  Perhaps this ties into a question of "original sin".  From my understanding, Catholics believe that if an infant dies without baptism, then they may not go to Heaven, though they hope for that, hence why Limbo of Infants was speculated on, and why the Catholic Catechism leaves that question up to the mercy of God.  How do Orthodox view that situation (a question that seems to be related to what Orthodox believe baptism does to an infant (though I also assume that what it does is the same thing that it does to an adult)).

Thank you for your answers!
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2010, 01:20:33 PM »

Welcome to the forum Smiley Here’s my 2 cents on a couple of your questions… Regarding the biblical basis for infant baptism, I'm under the impression that the main passages brought up are the ones that talk about entire households being baptized (Acts 16:33; 1 Cor. 1:16). The earliest Father that I'm aware of that talks about infant baptism was St. Hippolytus in the early 3rd century, who said:

"The 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." - Apostolic Tradition, 21

If there's anyone before that, I don't know. Regarding unbaptized infants, I've seen different opinions on that, but nothing definitive from an Orthodox perspective. The Church Father that I have thought about as it relates to this subject is St. Gregory of Nyssa, who said:

"The premature deaths of infants have nothing in them to suggest the thought that one who so terminates his life is subject to some grievous misfortune, any more than they are to be put on a level with the deaths of those who have purified themselves in this life by every kind of virtue…" - On Infants Early Death

This sounds sensible to me, if I am reading it correctly… such deaths will not result in damnation, but neither will they be rewarded as much as a saintly person. Or perhaps rewarded is the wrong word. St. Gregory of Nyssa also taught that salvation (or theosis) stretches into eternity, with those in heaven forever growing closer to God. Thus such deaths do not result in God giving them less rewards, but rather results in them just not being along the spiritual path as far as some others. (A note, though… after that passage I quoted Gregory goes on to talk about the premature deaths preventing someone living wicked lives, which is an argument that doesn’t really make sense to me).
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Dan-Romania
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2010, 03:14:26 PM »

The biblical basis is the Abrahamic covenant.. Baptism is considered the circumcision of the heart(Col 2:11-12)..

Infant baptism washes away the Original Sin, gives the birth from the Spirit, a spiritual perspective on things and confers the grace of Christ which is needed for salvation..

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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2010, 09:51:12 AM »

Hi Everyone,

...all of the most ancient Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc) practice it.  

There's your answer!  Wink

(Oh, and btw, the Lutheran and Episcopal churches also practice it. So that's the "oldest" Protestant churches as well.
"Believer's baptism" alone is actually a fairly recent innovation.)
« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 09:54:24 AM by katherineofdixie » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2010, 10:27:40 AM »

"Blessed be God, who alone does wonderful things! You have seen how numerous are the gifts of baptism. Although many men think that the only gift it confers is the remission of sins, we have counted its honors to the number of ten. It is on this account that we baptize even infants, although they are sinless, that they may be given the further gifts of sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance, that they may be brothers and members of Christ, and become dwelling places for the Spirit"

~ St. John Chrysostom, Third Baptismal Instruction, no. 6

Saint John Chrysostom died in 407 AD
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ialmisry
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2010, 10:29:31 AM »

Hi Everyone,

One issue that I am having difficulty with is the notion of infant baptism.  I have seen some persuasive arguments against the practice, and would just like to learn more about the arguments for infant baptism, especially since it is very interesting that all of the most ancient Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, etc) practice it.  

Does anyone know the earliest mention of infant baptism from the Church Fathers?  What is the Biblical basis for the practice?  Is there any correlation with Old Testament practices?  From what I understand, Orthodox practice baptism by immersion as the standard with pouring as the exception, correct?  This seems to be more in line with what the Bible states, as well as what the Didache states as well (pouring being done if immersion cannot).

Also, what do Orthodox believe infant baptism does?  Perhaps this ties into a question of "original sin".  From my understanding, Catholics believe that if an infant dies without baptism, then they may not go to Heaven, though they hope for that, hence why Limbo of Infants was speculated on, and why the Catholic Catechism leaves that question up to the mercy of God.  How do Orthodox view that situation (a question that seems to be related to what Orthodox believe baptism does to an infant (though I also assume that what it does is the same thing that it does to an adult)).

Thank you for your answers!

The earliest questioning of the practice does not happen until St. Cyrprian time, the 3rd century: some questioned if one could be baptized before the 8th day after birth, when the OT circumcized. Before that, it was taken as a given, as all households included the children (the children of proselytes to Judaism, for instance, were circumcized and baptized at the mikvah when the head of the household was received).

Somewhere here someone posted catacomb inscriptions, which included references to infants being made Christians, i.e. baptized.

"Believer's baptism" so called (infant baptism in Orthodox Church is True belief baptism) wasn't invented until the 1530's.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 10:31:52 AM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2010, 10:35:31 AM »

Thank you everyone for all of the answers.  I have a sort of related question:  what was the purpose of circumcision?  Also, since circumcision is only done on males, then how was/is whatever circumcision is supposed to do applied to females? 

I also found an interesting article on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website on infant baptism that is helpful.
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2010, 11:25:59 AM »

The purpose of circumcision was consecration to God (Luke 2:21-24).. These are the first-fruits of God, the first-fruits of life consacrated to God.. The male circumcision represents the spiritual side,as Origen allegorically interprets the openening of Exodus.He says that the girls stand for sin,pleasure, the earthly, the physical while the boys stand for the spiritual.. The circumcision of male babies foretells the "spiritual circumcision" which is baptism.. As it is written we are circumcised in Christ`s circumcision(Col 2:11).. And this spiritual circumcision is given to both male and female because there is no male or female in Christ..


Heb 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

Heb 2:13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2010, 01:27:55 PM »

Fwiw, I recently ran across this quote in the book Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (p. 146) and thought of this thread...

"If the only meaning of baptism were the remission of sins, why would we baptize newborn children who have not yet tasted of sin? But the mystery [of baptism] is not limited to this; it is a promise of greater and more perfect gifts. In it are the promises of future delights; it is a type of the future resurrection, a communion with the master's passion, a participation in His resurrection, a mantle of salvation, a tunic of gladness, a garment of light, or, rather, it is light itself." - Bl. Theodoret of Cyrus, Compendium of Heretical Accounts
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2010, 02:13:58 PM »

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Mt. 19:14

Same applies for infant communion.
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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2010, 07:38:06 PM »

Origen allegorically interprets the openening of Exodus.He says that the girls stand for sin,pleasure, the earthly, the physical while the boys stand for the spiritual..
This is one of those instances where Origen is essentially Gnostic.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2010, 07:39:41 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2010, 03:19:03 AM »

Origen allegorically interprets the openening of Exodus.He says that the girls stand for sin,pleasure, the earthly, the physical while the boys stand for the spiritual..
This is one of those instances where Origen is essentially Gnostic.

No.This is one of those instances when Origen is right.

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