Monday, October 08, 2007

The Didache on Baptism

Quoting from: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

Here is what the Didache (circa 100 AD) says about baptism:

7:1 But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize.
7:2 Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water.
7:3 But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water;
7:4 and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm.
7:5 But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
7:6 But before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able;
7:7 and thou shalt order him that is baptized to fast a day or two before.

It seems to be saying that immersion is preferred since the pouring is a secondary option. However, the point needs to be made that it explicitly allows for pouring if the other options are not available or practical. The Greek word for “baptism” can mean immersion or carry undertones of immersion but don’t necessarily.

Also of note is the fact that regardless of the method, we see explicitly that the first century considered the act - “baptism”. Therefore we can not link the word ‘baptism’ solely with ‘immersion’. The baptism was performed whether by pouring or (presumably) by immersion. Consequently any denomination that rejects non-immersion baptism is decidedly disconnected with the early roots of Christianity.

Regarding the Didache, my personal opinion is that this document and the epistle of Barnabas were both composed in the late 1st century and share a common source: a no longer extant document which compiled the findings of the council of Jerusalem from Acts 15. Here is an excellent source on Barnabas & the Didache.

10 comments:

Kenny said...

Actually, most Baptists hold precisely this view: that immersion is preferable, but sprinkling or pouring is legitimate when the circumstances call for it. In fact, as far as I know, even Anabaptists don't rebaptize people simply because they have been sprinkled (though some Baptists and all Anabaptists rebaptize people who were baptized as infants). The word baptism originally meant "immersion," but later (already by New Testament times) it came to mean "washing" and specifically "ritual washing" by extension. It is, however, of note that Paul's discussion in Romans 6:3-4 seems to assume immersion. I would, therefore, categorize baptism by sprinkling with cremation: it's bad symbolism, but it's not really that important.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I don't remember mentioning the Baptist faith.

But while we're on the subject, it might be true that some Baptists and Anabaptists accept various forms of baptism, I know many Baptist ecclesial communities do not accept it.

My sister was forcibly re-baptized entering her Baptist community from Presbyterianism because she was sprinkled (not as an infant).

It's really hard to pin down any official "baptist" teaching seeing as how they generally don't believe in creeds and even so far as they have limited authoritative structure, it is marginalized in many cases (as far as I understand). For example, I believe the Southern Baptist convention rejects women ordination but many of their communities do ordain women and there's little they can do about it. (This is just what I've heard, I've never been baptist so I don't know)

Since infant baptism extends to the first century as well (at least we can be 95% confident) anyone who rejects infant baptism is also decidedly disconnected with Christianity.

Also for the record, the Catholic Church doesn't recognize sprinkling as a proper way to baptize but does accept it as licit baptism. (I was sprinkled).

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Correction - decidedly disconnected with 'early Christianity'

Kenny said...

Well, you didn't mention Baptists specifically, but I assumed you intended to be criticizing someone, and they seemed like the most likely candidate. That is, you said "any denomination that rejects non-immersion baptism is decidedly disconnected with the early roots of Christianity," and I assumed you thought there was such a community.

I'm not that surprised that some Southern Baptists have rebaptized people who were sprinkled, but it would be a matter of contention within the SBC; I'm nearly certain it's not the norm. (For the record, I grew up in a church loosely affiliated with the American Baptist Convention, which is much more liberal than the SBC.) It is also true that Baptists don't have much central governing authority, so just about anything goes.

As far as infant baptisms in the first century, I think you've posted on that before, and I think I wasn't convinced. Furthermore, your Didache quote in this very post assumes that the person baptized is old enough to be ordered to fast. You could easily chalk that up to the fact that the church was still mostly made up of first-generation Christians, but that, at best, puts you back where you started - namely, uncertainty.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I threw out the SBC as an example of the ordination of women. My sister is in a Baptist community in Detroit. I have no idea which branch of Baptism it is but have a strong suspicion that it's not SBC.

There is no strong evidence for 1st century infant baptism - i.e. nothing definitive. But by the second century it gets pretty objective as a historical fact (so lets just forget about the 16th and 17th centuries when the Protestants started rejecting it).

The only evidence I know (aside from the NT baptizing of "households") is that St. Polycarp during his martyrdom claimed he had served Christ for 86 years (the entire duration of his life). I will admit that this isn't solid evidence, but it sure doesn't lend itself to the Baptist center of theological gravity either.

The issue with infant baptism is also a theological one, not just historical. Aside from the fact that it replaces circumcision (performed on infants) it also makes perfect theological sense given the orthodox Christian understanding of Baptism.

John came 'preach a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins'. That is why Jesus' baptism is so odd - because at the core of the rite is forgiveness of sin. John's Baptism sets the baptismal rite against the temple cult of 1st century Judaism. Suddenly, there is a prophet proclaiming an alternative way to be forgiven of sin (as opposed to the temple ritual). See Wright, Jesus & the Victory of God for more on that.

Ive said it before and I'll say it again (because this is so critical to understanding orthodox Christianity) the early Christians didn't agree on everything, but they did agree on two: The Real Presence and the regenerative nature of Baptism.

Which is why when they asked Peter 'what must we do to be saved?' he said "repent and be baptized" and later in his epistle said "and this water [flood waters] symbolizes baptism that now saves you".

It comes as no surprise then that the great theologians (Augustine, Thomas Aquinas) have come to the conclusions of the utter necessity of Baptism even for infants. John Knox, piggy backing on Augustine said that unbaptized infants go to Hell. Although I'm not sure of the full context of Augustine's particular belief on the subject, I know that the Church has never adopted this teaching as her own.

St. Thomas Aquinas saw such a theological dilemma with this question that he taught "limbo" (not to be confused with Purgatory) although the Church did not accept this teaching either.

The Church's official stance on the question is that (my own paraphrase here) - we don't know what happens to unbaptized babies and we can't pretend to understand the extent of God's boundless grace.

I'm saying all this to show that an theologically orthodox understanding of baptism (forget history) lends itself to infant baptism (not merely lends but drives one to do so). That is why the Church has always baptized infants.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

And this post wasn't an attack on Baptists - it's an attack on re-baptizing because of method. I don't know which denominations or groups of denominations do so but as the Baptist theologian Charles Spurgeon was so fond of saying:

If the shoe fits -- wear it.

Gretchen said...

My old Calvary Baptist-affiliated mega-church insisted on full immersion baptism. In a swimming pool at the local Baptist university. Thanks, GFF, for your always insightful and inciteful posts. :-)

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thanks for the backup.

Acts2and38 said...

Within the scriptures from Acts 2:38 until 22:16; nobody whether Peter, Paul, or Philip ever mentions or does any baptism except in Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ, or simply Jesus in baptism. Read Galatians 3:27, Colossians 3:17 and Romans 6:1-6. Titius 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, and 2 Timothy 3:5; all point to baptism by faith (Mark 16:16, Luke 24:47, and Acts 2:38) in the powerful and regenerative name of Jesus. No where was anybody baptized three times by a sprinkling method! The Greek word "Baptizo' means to dip, immerse, or overwhelm in a liquid, specifically water here. Philip baptized the Eunuch in Jesus name by immersion in Acts 8:26-40. Jesus, our great High Priest who did all things that we would have to do, (Hebrews 4:15) was immersed by John in the Jordan and the Holy spirit in dove form lit upon him. Just as Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2;12 shows that we must be baptized by faith in the likeness of his death, burial, and rise in newness of life; having the Holy Spirit in us. And to baptize in titles (Jesus is the family name in Ephesians 3:15. Jesus is the name of the father, (John 5:43) son, (Matthew 1:21) and the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26) Jesus has all power and authority in Matthew 28:18. His name alone can save in Acts 4:12. It is commanded for all things, both in every word and deed, in Colossians 3:17. So, we can believe either the Holy scriptures (The witness of God) or the Didache, (The witness of man) by the name called in our baptism. 1 John 5:8-10 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. When one is baptized in water, the blood of Christ now covers him, and the spirit enters in. Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, (Jesus is Lord of all in Acts 10:36!) shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (All except batism in Jesus name!) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Acts 2:37-38,41 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Here are Jews from every nation hearing God's knock on their heart's door. As Luke 24 stated that the Apostles would preach remission and repentance to all nations, to begin at Jerusalem. Let's see what they told these guys to do to be saved. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Remission means or is equal to forgiveness. So to be forgiven, all need repentance and by belief, baptism in Jesus name. And not because they already were forgiven, as some falsely report! Then they that gladly received his word were baptized. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If there is only one Lord, (Jesus) faith (We are saved by faith in action through his grace shown at Calvary. Not by our efforts yet we must obey his word in faith. Read Ephesians 2:8-10/James 2:15-26. 2 Kings 5:1-15 Naaman was healed by his faith and dipping himself in the formula, as given to him by God through the man of God.

Tim Troutman said...

Acts sorry for the brevity I'm overseas right now. Sprinkling is not a tradition of the Church but as you can see from the text of the didache, pouring was. Live water immersion baptism was preferred (again like the text said) but it was not always available.

The traditional roman house would have a pool of water called an Impluvium which would be used as a baptismal font.

Thanks for stopping by.