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

By Everett Ferguson | Go to book overview

46. Greek-Speaking Syria

Theodoret

Theodoret was born in Antioch in 393. He became bishop of Cyrus in 423 and died sometime around 460.

His Fables of Heretics (Haereticarum fabularum compendium) contains a section “On Baptism” that expresses the same line of thinking as John Chrysostom.

Instead of the Jews’ vessels for sprinkling, there suffices for believers the gift of
most holy baptism. It not only gives forgiveness of old sins, but it also inspires the
hope of good things promised. It establishes participants of the Lord’s death and
resurrection; it grants a share of the gift of the Holy Spirit; it declares the sons of
God, and not only sons but also heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ. For it is
not as the mindless Messalians [chap. 47] think that baptism is only a razor re-
moving previous sins. It grants this out of its abundance. For if this was the only
work of baptism, why do we baptize infants, who have never tasted of sin? The
mystery [sacrament] promises not only this but also greater and more perfect
things. For it is the down payment of good things to come — a type of the future
resurrection, fellowship of the Lord’s passion, a sharing of the Lord’s resurrection,
a garment of salvation, a clothing of joy, a luminous cloak, or rather light itself….
[Gal. 3:27 and Rom. 6:3-5 quoted] The divine apostle taught us to think this way
about most holy baptism, because having been buried with Christ we shall share
in his resurrection. (Fables of Heretics 5.18; PG 83.512A-C)

Theodoret, like Chrysostom, separates infant baptism from the forgiveness of sins. Both of these Greek theologians speak only of actual sins; they show no concept of an inherited Adamic sin, nor do they relate infant baptism to such a concept. They rather justify the practice from the many other blessings associated with baptism. This approach reflects a quite different perspective from that championed by Theodoret’s contemporary Augustine in North Africa.

-715-

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