Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

23. Origin and Early Development
of Infant Baptism

Tertullian provides the first certain literary reference to infant baptism, and that because he opposed the practice (chap. 21).1 Efforts to find the practice in the New Tes-

1. Older scholarship was represented by Jules Corblett, Histoire dogmatique, liturgique, et archéologique du sacrement de baptême, 2 vols. (Paris, 1881), Book VII. The twentieth-century discussion featured Joachim Jeremias, Die Kindertaufe in den ersten vier Jahrhunderten (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1958) = Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries (London: SCM, 1960), who made the strongest case for the practice originating in apostolic times; Kurt Aland, Die Säulingstaufe im Neuen Testament and in der Alten Kirche (München: C. Kaiser, 1961) = Did the Early Church Baptize Infants? (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), who refuted Jeremias’s historical arguments but supported the practice on theological grounds; Joachim Jeremias, Nochmals: Die Anfänge der Kindertaufe (München: C. Kaiser, 1962) = The Origins of Infant Baptism (Naperville: Allenson, 1963), which grants that there is no direct provable evidence before Tertullian but responds to Aland’s criticisms; Kurt Aland, Die Stellung der Kinder in den frühen christlichen Gemeinden — und ihre Taufe (München: C. Kaiser, 1967); idem, Taufe und Kindertaufe (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1971). Michael Gärtner, Die Familienerziehung in der Alten Kirche (Cologne: Böhlau, 1985), pp. 64–86; a recent survey with an ecumenical interest is A. S. Yates, Why Baptize Infants? A Study of the Biblical, Traditional and Theological Evidence (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 1993); Anthony N. S. Lane, “Did the Apostolic Church Baptise Babies? A Seismological Approach,” Tyndale Bulletin 55 (2004): 109–130, who argues that infant baptism and believers’ baptism co-existed in the early centuries. Significant contributions to the study of infant baptism in the early church by David F. Wright include: “The Origins of Infant Baptism — Child Believers’ Baptism?” Scottish Journal of Theology 39 (1987): 1–23; “How Controversial Was the Development of Infant Baptism in the Early Church?” in James E. Bradley and Richard A. Muller, eds., Church, Word and Spirit: Historical and Theological Essays in Honor of Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pp. 45–63 (apart from Tertullian it was not controversial, and Tertullian never states that he is opposing a novel practice); “At What Ages Were People Baptized in the Early Centuries?” Studia Patristica 30 (1997): 389–394; “Infant Dedication in the Early Church,” in Stanley E. Porter and Anthony R. Cross, eds., Baptism, the New Testament and the Church (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), pp. 352–378; “The Apostolic Fathers and Infant Baptism: Any Advance on the Obscurity of the New Testament?” in Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, eds., Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 123–133, returns a negative answer; What Has Infant Baptism Done to Baptism? An Enquiry at the End of

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